5 jobs in Performing Arts

Here are five fantastic jobs that you can apply for with qualifications in Performing Arts.

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There is more to the theatre industry than just performing on stage, with stagehands, lighting and sound engineers, set designers and choreographers all playing a vital part in putting the performance together. 

Here are five jobs that you can apply for with qualifications in Performing Arts. 

Actor / Actress

What is an actor? 

Actors use speech, movement and expression to bring characters to life in theatre, film, television and radio. 

Do I need a degree? 

In order to reach the dizzy heights of professional acting and open up as many opportunities as possible, it is preferable that aspiring actors and actresses have a university degree. In order to obtain a university degree, you would first have to study Performing Arts at college, or drama school level. There are alternative routes into university, such as foundation degrees or postgraduate diplomas in drams. The entry routes are as varied as the job opportunities. 

What will I do? 

You could:

  • liaise with actors’ agents regarding new roles and opportunities
  • prepare for and go to auditions
  • research roles
  • learn lines and attend rehearsals
  • attend fittings for costumes
  • support back stage activities such as costume or prop management
  • work as a voice over artist or as an extra

One benefit of entering a career in acting is the varied environments to which you will be working in. From recording studios to community sets, theatre shows and film sets, the work can be physically and emotionally demanding with jobs within the theatre industry taking you around the world.

What salary could I earn? 

The average salary vary in acting, with well-known actors and actresses earning millions from lucrative contracts and films, but for those who aren’t quite so lucky, the average salary for the role in the UK is around £27,367. 

Set designer

What is a set designer? 

Set designers design and create the settings for commercials, television, theatre and films.

Do I need a degree? 

Like with many roles within Performing Arts, there are a wide variety of roles which do not require a degree, however, in order to stand out in a crowd of applicants and to be able apply for roles in high-end musical theatres, production companies and television sets, a degree in any of the below is preferable. 

You can study for a higher national diploma or degree in a relevant subject, like:

  • fine art
  • interior design
  • 3D design
  • theatre design

In order to gain entry onto a dedicated degree-level course, you can study from a range of courses in either fine art and design, or performing arts at Oaklands College here

What will I do? 

A typical day as a set designer could include: 

  • study scripts and discuss ideas with the director
  • communicate your ideas to costume, make-up, props and lighting designers
  • work out problems like lighting and scene changes
  • research historical, contemporary or futuristic details to get the right look for the production
  • create effective designs within the available budget
  • sketch design ideas to produce a storyboard
  • build and photograph scale models

What salary could I earn? 

As with many roles within the performing arts industry, salaries are variable. However, for a typical set designer working from 40-42 hours a week, you could expect to earn around £25,000, which is the average in the UK according to PayScale

Studio sound engineer

What is a studio sound engineer? 

Sound engineers work in studios and make recordings of music, speech and sound effect. They play a pivotal part in the production of a set and the experience of paying customers in the audience. 

Do I need a degree? 

Yes – Although there are a variety of different avenues into the role, such as:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
  • specialist courses run by private training providers

University

You could do a foundation degree or degree in:

  • sound engineering and production
  • audio engineering
  • music production

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • at least 1 A level, or equivalent, for a foundation degree
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

What will I do? 

In your day-to-day duties you could:

  • plan recording sessions with producers and artists
  • set up microphones and equipment in the studio
  • make sure the volume and recording levels are set correctly
  • operate recording equipment and add effects
  • record each instrument or vocal onto a separate track
  • mix tracks to produce a final ‘master’ track
  • log recordings and other details of the session in the studio archive

Working environment

You could work at a recording studio. Your working environment may be emotionally demanding and you may spend nights away from home.

What salary could I earn? 

The average starting salary for a graduate sound engineer ranges from £15,000 to £20,000 – More experienced individuals could expect to earn upwards of £40,000. A typical working week ranges from 39-41 hours, across evenings, weekends, bank holidays and occasionally abroad. 

Stagehand

What is a stagehand? 

Stagehands help to get things ready on set for performances in the theatre, at concerts and in TV and film studios.

Do I need a degree?

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

University

You can do a foundation degree or degree in a subject like:

  • stage and production management
  • sound engineering and production
  • theatre and production arts

You can take a college course, for example:

What will I do? 

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • loading and unloading equipment
  • helping carpenters build and put up scenery
  • attending rehearsals
  • moving scenery, furniture and heavy equipment 
  • opening and closing theatre screens and curtains between acts
  • operating manual and automated scenery-moving machinery
  • clearing the stage or studio and backstage area at the end of a performance

One of the perks of working as a stagehand could be the varied locations and sets that you could work on. For example, you could work at a TV studio, at a film studio or in a theatre.

What salary could I earn? 

The typical salary of a stagehand is commensurate with the qualifications required to embark on the role. The average starting salary is around £15,000 and can range to £20,000 for more experienced professionals. 

Dancer

Dancers use movement to perform for live audiences or in recorded performances.

Do I need a degree? 

Yes – You will usually need a degree or advanced diploma in professional dancing and/or musical theatre. These take two to three years to complete and are offered by dance schools, some colleges and universities. 

Academic qualifications may not be essential if you show enough talent at audition.

What will I do? 

You’ll specialise in a form of dance, like:

  • classical ballet
  • contemporary dance
  • modern stage dance, like jazz, tap, and musical theatre
  • African or Asian dance
  • street dance

You’ll spend time:

  • rehearsing
  • preparing for and going to auditions
  • going to dance classes
  • promoting yourself and finding work 

What salary could I earn? 

The average salary for a dancer is subjective to who they are employed by. For example, a dancer and performer on a famous well-known theatre show could earn anywhere from £25,000 to £35,000, whereas amateur dramatic shows are usually hourly rate or voluntary, 

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