Become a Professional Ballet Dancer: Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a professional ballet dancer. Learn about the education and training requirements, as well as the experience you'll need to advance your career in ballet. View article »

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)
  • 0:00 Professional Ballet Dancer
  • 0:32 Career Requirements
  • 1:19 Train at an Early Age
  • 2:25 Consider a Bachelor's…
  • 3:25 Work After Retirement

Find the perfect school

Video Transcript

Professional Ballet Dancer

Professional ballet dancing is a demanding career that requires exceptional coordination, agility, and many years of training. The most successful ballet dancers may enjoy a long career performing ballet in stage productions, instructing students, and choreographing dance routines. Ballet dancing can be physically demanding. Intense competition may exist for positions in dance companies or productions.

Career Requirements

Degree Level No formal education is required, though some dancers choose to earn bachelor's degrees
Degree Field Ballet, dance, or a related field
Experience Training
Key Skills Agility, flexibility, excellent sense of balance and physical stamina; creativity, persistence and teamwork
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 5% increase
Median Salary (2015)* $14.44 an hour (for all dancers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Train at an Early Age

Young people interested in becoming professional ballet dancers can enroll in beginning dance classes at a dance school or studio. According to the BLS, children typically begin ballet training between the ages of 5 and 8 years old through which they learn basic dance techniques. Training allows new dancers to develop flexibility, strength, and mobility. Older, more experienced students can go on to learn intermediate ballet techniques, such as pointe.

Success Tip:

Attend a summer dance program. Experienced secondary school-aged ballet students may apply for an intensive summer program at a college or university's dance school. These programs usually last for several weeks and provide students with longer, more advanced training sessions than their regular classes. Depending on the school, applicants may attend live auditions or submit recorded performances. Students typically spend most of the day training and learning new dance techniques or choreography. At the end of the program, students may participate in a public performance.

Step 2: Consider a Bachelor's Degree Program

Aspiring professional ballet dancers may benefit from completion of a bachelor's degree program in ballet or dance, which can open up additional career options. Undergraduate degree programs in ballet, such as those accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance, typically cover topics in dance history, dance techniques, and choreography. Auditions may be required, and programs often include studio and performance requirements.

Success Tip:

Complete a dance internship. Some bachelor's degree programs include the opportunity for a dance internship with a professional ballet company, through which aspiring dancers have the chance to perform alongside seasoned performers. Internships can also provide ballet students with the opportunity to make connections in the field and develop their resumes. Competition for positions in ballet companies and roles in performances is generally very strong, and the experience gained through an internship may help new dancers gain an edge in the field.

Step 3: Work After Retirement

According to the BLS, many dancers no longer perform once they reach their 40s. Retired professional ballet dancers can pursue a second career, either in dance or an unrelated field, after they've retired. Retired dancers who've earned a college degree in ballet or a related field can teach ballet or work as choreographers for a dance studio.

Let's review. Although a formal college education is not necessary to become a professional ballet dancer, aspiring dancers should begin training as children. Once employed, ballet dancers can earn a median hourly salary of $14.44 in a field that is projected to grow by 5% through 2024.

Search Degrees, Careers, or Schools