Professional choreographers create dances, audition and rehearse dancers to perform them, and present their efforts to a paying audience on stage, or in such media as TV or music videos. Choreographers can specialize in ballet, tap, jazz or other types of dance. Their salaries depend on their employers and the location of their jobs.
The nation’s 7,400 choreographers earned a mean $44,930 per year, as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest earners received less than $19,560 yearly, while the highest-paid made more than $81,710. Contrast these salaries with the average $54,490 per year earned by all arts, design, entertainment and media occupations. Many choreographers start their careers as dancers.
The state with the largest population, California, which also boasts a strong entertainment industry, offered the most positions for professional choreographers. About 2,500 professionals here earned a mean $54,520 per year. The state with the best pay for the profession was New York, which is also known for its stage performances, particularly in New York City. Wages here averaged an annual $66,660. The city with the highest employment was San Francisco, California, where 390 choreographers made a mean $68,570 per year. These wages were also the highest for any metropolitan area.
Employers are a major factor in determining employment and compensation for choreographers. Topping the list for opportunities were instructors in schools of dance and performing arts. About 5,890 choreographers here earned a mean $43,670 per year. Performing arts companies were next for jobs with 720 positions. They also ranked second for salaries at a mean annual $52,840. Topping the salary list were junior colleges, with average pay at $59,770 yearly. Ranking third for pay were colleges, universities and professional schools, averaging $51,640 per year.
The BLS expects jobs for choreographers to increase by 24 percent through 2020, which is far higher than the 14 percent projected for all occupations in all industries. The rates are also higher than the 11 percent predicted for dancers. The increasing interest in dance for popular culture, such as in TV competitions and music videos, will drive the demand. The number of dance schools is growing as well, as classrooms fill up with individuals interested in emulating the moves they see in the media. Job prospects will be best for those who have attended nationally accredited college programs in dance.