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How Much Does a Professional Dancer Make?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

A Dancer's Pay Varies Dramatically Based on a Variety of Factors

You might think of a dancer as a young, lithe gal who hasn't yet stepped into motherhood. However, plenty of successful dancers also raise a family, so it's not an either/or prospect. Of course, as a mother, you also want to provide for your family. Therefore, interest in becoming a professional dancer also means learning how much those in this career typically make.

Job Description

Dancing is a physically demanding job. Typically, a dancer first auditions for a part in a show or for a job at a dance company. If cast (and dancers must always be prepared that they will have to go on multiple auditions before being cast), then a dancer learns choreography by rehearsing several hours a day. Eventually, the rehearsals culminate in one or more performances in front of an audience. Both the rehearsals and performances can be time-consuming and strenuous, requiring a dancer to be in peak physical condition.

Of course, this process can vary dramatically based on the type of dance a person pursues. A person who is performing in a regional ballet company will have a much different process than someone who is a dancer on a TV show or in a touring musical.

Education Requirements

Dancers typically start training at a very young age—as early as 5 for ballet dancers. The training becomes more intense as they grow up and enter their teenage years, and a professional career can begin after high school, when a dancer is 18. Even those who study ballet, though, will often also branch out to learn other types of dance, such as modern, jazz and tap, for a well-rounded dance education.

Dance education can range from intensive summer programs to training at local dance studios to high school classes. Not all dancers choose to attend a college or university; however, the National Association of Schools of Dance accredits 75 dance programs at postsecondary institutions throughout the U.S. for those interested in earning a bachelor's or master's degree.

About the Industry

Performing arts companies are largest employers of dancers in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, dancers can also work in amusement, gambling or recreation industries, such as at theme parks, in casinos or on cruise ships, as well as in private, local or state education services, or in bars where alcoholic beverages are served. Approximately 27 percent of dancers are self-employed, the BLS states.

Years of Experience

A dancer's earnings depend more on the type of production or position she's placed in than how long she's been dancing. However, some dancers can be promoted to dance captain or lead dancer, which means she will lead rehearsals or help less-experienced dancers in place of the choreographer.

According to the BLS, the dancer earns a median hourly wage of $13.74, as of May 2016. The lowest 10 percent were paid less than $8.69, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $33.34 per hour.

Dancers who work in educational services typically earn the most, at $22.41 an hour, while those who work in establishments serving alcoholic beverages usually earned the least—$9.22 an hour.

Job Growth Trend

Dancer employment is expected to grow 5 percent between 2016 and 2026, the BLS projects, which is about as fast as average for all occupations. However, dancing is a competitive career, particularly for those looking to perform with a large dance company. Those who live in large cities with performing arts opportunities, such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles or New York City, often have the best opportunities for work.