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Article: Performing Arts


This article looks at some of the jobs related to this subject that might interest you.


A qualification in performing arts can help you to develop the understanding, knowledge and skills needed to work in a broad range of jobs in the performing arts industries.

Following this, you might be able to enter a related job. Or, you could go on to take a further education qualification such as a BTEC level 3 qualificayion, A level or AS level in performing arts. This could help you on the way to taking a relevant course at a university or college of higher education.

The world of work

Working in the performing arts can be an unpredictable and uncertain career path, especially for performers. Being successful as an Actor, Dancer or Singer depends on talent, training and a lot of commitment. Even with these three ingredients, performers also need a certain amount of luck to make a good living.

Many Performers are self-employed and responsible for finding their own work; or they have an agent who helps to find work for them in return for a percentage of their earnings. Most work is on a short contract basis.

This is a fiercely competitive business. Performers need to be adaptable, strong-minded people, who can fit into a team without losing their individuality.

Apart from performance, there are openings for those who want to work in production. Arts administration, for example, involves organising or promoting arts events.

An alternative career for trained Performers is in teaching/lecturing. Drama, Dance and Music Teachers work in schools and colleges, or offer private tuition based at their home.

Those involved in performing and production often work long and irregular hours. Conditions vary depending on the venue in which they are playing.



Actors and Actresses work in live stage performances and/or recorded media, such as film and television. Their job is to bring to life, as effectively as possible, the role they are playing. They use their own experience and emotions to help them portray characters.

Actors and Actresses usually work under the guidance of a Director, who has to make sure that the cast performs well and provides an effective interpretation of the Author's text.

Many Actors and Actresses have periods of unemployment between jobs. During these times they often take on other, temporary jobs.

There are no minimum requirements for entering this career, but many complete a professional training course at a drama school. There are many different routes into acting.


Dancers usually learn many types of dance, but specialise in one area, such as classical ballet, contemporary dance or ballroom dancing. Dancers spend hours practising and learning new steps and routines.

Because Dancers use movement to tell a story, they must be able to interpret the music and choreography effectively. They sometimes do research into their role, to help them understand the character they are portraying.

Most professional Dancers have had dance lessons from an early age, and have serious training later, to help them pass a graded set of dancing exams. Some specialist dance schools train talented young dancers.


Dedication, stamina and a capacity for self-promotion are essential for anyone aiming to become a Musician or Singer.

Popular music - as well as performing, Musicians spend a large amount of time practising, rehearsing, auditioning and planning performances.

Classical music - after a long period of training, either at a music college or at university, followed by postgraduate study at a music college, making yourself known to a festival organiser, broadcasting company, orchestra or choral society, etc, is invaluable. Entering competitions can often help you to gain recognition.


Make-up Artist

Make-up Artists do the hair and make-up of people who are appearing on television or film. They also do make-up for models doing a fashion show or photo-shoot, and for some stage actors.

In television, most of the people Make-up Artists work with only need 'corrective' make-up. This means tidying up their hair and putting some foundation on so they don't look pale under the studio lights.

Drama programmes and films require the Make-up Artist to use a wider range of techniques. They may need to make someone look older than they really are, or as if they have an injury or illness. For dramas set in a particular period in history, the Make-up Artist tries to recreate the look of the time.

Stage management

This job is about communication and organisation. In large theatre companies, Stage Managers normally lead a team which includes an Assistant Stage Manager and one or two Deputy Stage Managers, depending on the size of the production.

The stage management team carry out a wide range of tasks. At the start of a production, they read the script, make up a props list, attend production meetings, and keep detailed records of actors' entrance and exit points. With the director, they draw up a rehearsal schedule, attend rehearsals and supervise them in the absence of the Director.

They also write rehearsal notes and distribute them to the cast and Production Technicians. Using a special shorthand, they maintain a prompt book - a record of Actors' moves and lines. During performances, they cue lights, sound and Actors' entrances and exits. They are also responsible for safety matters.


Stagehands set up scenery, furniture and props, before performances and during intervals in performances. They may also raise and lower the stage curtain.

Stagehands are sometimes responsible for the basic maintenance of stage sets, furniture and props, as well as being involved in their construction.

They need good general fitness, because of the lifting, bending and climbing they do. No formal qualifications are needed for entry to this work.

Technical theatre work

Lighting work

Lighting Technicians are responsible for preparing, rigging, operating and maintaining lighting systems and electrical effects. They work closely with lighting designers who decide where the lights are to be placed, and plot their position on a lighting or rig plan.

Sound work

Sound equipment is used to amplify and balance the voices and musical instruments of Actors, Singers and Musicians. It is also used to provide sound effects and background music.

Some Sound Technicians have to find, or record and edit, suitable sound effects and background music. They can then prepare a sound plot with cues for when each is to be played during the show.

Arts administration

Arts Administrators deal with the business end of the industry. They are people with management and business administration skills. They take responsibility for, eg, financial accounting, marketing and promotion, publicity and public relations, and buildings, equipment and assets.

Some Administrators have specialist knowledge of the area they work in, for example music or dance. Administrators need to be excellent communicators with good organisational skills.

They work for a wide range of employers, including theatre companies, arts centres, and national and regional arts organisations.

Higher education courses

There is a wide range of performing arts courses to choose from, available at drama schools, colleges and universities throughout the country.

Looking at prospectuses/websites will help you make sure the course content is appropriate to the career you want to pursue. It's also important to check current course entry requirements.

Higher education courses include HNDs, HNCs, foundation degrees and first degrees.

A Higher National Diploma (HND) is a full-time vocational course which can last up to three years. Successful completion of an HND can lead to the second year of a degree course.

A Higher National Certificate (HNC) is a part-time vocational course, usually combined with employment and studied by day- or block-release.

Foundation degrees are vocational courses that can be taken at a selection of colleges and universities. They take two years full-time. After completion, it can be possible to move into the third year of a related degree. A degree is usually a three- or four-year course studied at a university or institute of higher education.

Here are some examples of course titles:

acting and performance, music, dance, stage management, theatre design.

Further Information


Skills for the creative industries



Creative Choices

Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills



Creative & Cultural Skills

Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts



Council for Dance Education and Training (CDET)

Tel: 020 7240 5703



Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)

Tel: 020 7629 4413



Worshipful Company of Musicians

Tel: 020 7496 8980



One Dance UK

Tel: 020 7713 0730



Dance Ireland

Irish enquiries

Tel: 01 8558800



National Theatre

Tel: 020 7452 3400



Stage Management Association (SMA)

Address: 89 Borough High Street, London SE1 1NL

Tel: 020 7403 7999


National Theatre Wales (Welsh Enquiries)

Tel: 029 2035 3070



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