Dancers and Choreographers

What Dancers and Choreographers Do

Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories.

Work Environment

Some dancers work in performing arts companies, or are self-employed. Choreographers may work in dance schools, and others may work as self-employed choreographers.

How to Become a Dancer or Choreographer

Education and training requirements vary with the type of dancer; however, all dancers need many years of formal training. Nearly all choreographers began their careers as dancers.


The median hourly wage for choreographers was $22.27 in May 2019.

The median hourly wage for dancers was $17.49 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of dancers and choreographers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. However, projected employment growth varies by occupation.

Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories. There are many types of dance, such as ballet, tango, modern dance, tap, and jazz.


Dancers typically do the following:

  • Audition for a part in a show or for a job within a dance company
  • Learn complex dance movements that entertain an audience
  • Rehearse several hours each day to prepare for their performance
  • Study new and emerging types of dance
  • Work closely with instructors, choreographers, or other dancers to interpret or modify their routines
  • Attend promotional events, such as photography sessions, for the production in which they are appearing

Dancers spend years learning dances and perfecting their skills. They usually perform as part of a group and know a variety of dance styles, including ballet, tap, and modern dance. In addition to traditional performances in front of a live audience, many perform on TV, in videos on the Internet, and in music videos, in which they also may sing or act. Many dancers perform in shows at casinos, in theme parks, and on cruise ships.

Choreographers typically do the following:

  • Put together moves in a sequence to create new dances or interpretations of existing dances
  • Choose the music that will accompany a dance routine
  • Audition dancers for a role in a show or within a dance company
  • Assist with costume design, lighting, and other artistic aspects of a show
  • Teach complex dance movements
  • Study new and emerging types of dance to design more creative dance routines
  • Help with the administrative duties of a dance company, such as budgeting

Choreographers create original dances and develop new interpretations of existing dances. They work in dance schools, theaters, dance companies, and movie studios. During rehearsals, they typically demonstrate dance moves, to instruct dancers in the proper technique. Many choreographers also perform the dance routines they create. Some choreographers work with performers who are not trained dancers. For example, the complex martial arts scenes performed by actors in movies are arranged by choreographers who specialize in martial arts.

Some dancers and choreographers hold other jobs between roles to make a living.

Choreographers held about 5,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of choreographers were as follows:

Educational services; state, local, and private 54%
Performing arts companies 22
Self-employed workers 15

Dancers held about 11,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of dancers were as follows:

Performing arts companies 30%
Self-employed workers 15
Educational services; state, local, and private 10
Spectator sports 7

Injuries and Illnesses

Dance takes a toll on a person’s body, so on-the-job injuries are common in dancers. In fact, dancers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.

Many dancers stop performing by the time they reach their late thirties because of the physical demands of their work. Nonperforming dancers may continue to work as choreographers, directors, or dance teachers.

Work Schedules

Schedules for dancers and choreographers vary with where they work. During tours, dancers and choreographers have long workdays, rehearsing most of the day and performing at night.

Choreographers who work in dance schools may have a standard workweek when they are instructing students. They also spend hours working independently to create new dance routines.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of dancers and choreographers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019



Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media.

Some college, no degree The annual wage is not available.

Art Directors

Art directors are responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, and movie and television productions.

Bachelor’s degree $94,220

Music Directors and Composers

Music directors lead musical groups during performances and recording sessions. Composers write and arrange original music in a variety of musical styles.

Bachelor’s degree $51,670

Musicians and Singers

Musicians and singers play instruments or sing for live audiences and in recording studios.

No formal educational credential The annual wage is not available.

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $79,540

Producers and Directors

Producers and directors create motion pictures, television shows, live theater, commercials, and other performing arts productions.

Bachelor’s degree $74,420

For more information about dancers and choreographers, visit


National Endowment for the Arts

National Association of Schools of Dance

USA Dance


For a career video on choreographers, visit





Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dancers and Choreographers,
at (visited ).