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What Careers Can You Pursue With A Musical Theater Major?

Degrees in musical theater typically cover performance skills and production management. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for musical theater graduates.

A musical theater major can lead to a career as an actor, singer, musician, dancer, choreographer, director or self-enrichment teacher. Musical theater programs prepare graduates to perform in musical theater productions. These graduates are trained in acting, singing, and dancing, and have experience working with choreographers and directors.

Essential Information

A musical theater major is trained in the basic principles and performance skills necessary for a career in the theater or entertainment industry. These skills are then developed and refined through performance opportunities. Career possibilities include working as an actor, singer, musician, dancer, choreographer, director or fine arts teacher.

Career Actor Singer/Musician Dancer/Choreographer Director Fine Arts Teacher
Education Requirements None None None None Bachelor's
Other Requirements Training Training Training Experience Certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% 3% 5% 9% for producers and directors 15% for self-enrichment teachers
Median Hourly Wage (2015)* $18.80 $24.20 $14.44-$22.09 $32.91 for producers and directors $17.64 for self-enrichment teachers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Actor

A musical theater major prepares graduates to work as actors in musical theater performances. Other employment opportunities for actors include television programs, movies, radio broadcasts, cruise lines and amusement parks. Actors research and depict characters in order to entertain and inform audiences. Some acting, like a Broadway musical, requires singing and dancing, while other acting roles require only talking, such as voiceover work and informational training videos. Rehearsal is necessary, but actors must also be able to improvise in impromptu circumstances.

Employment Outlook

Acting jobs tend to be competitive and short-term, so actors are continually auditioning for roles and are sometimes unemployed between assignments. Because of this, many actors hold other jobs to supplement their income. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median hourly wages for actors were $18.80. The BLS predicts that jobs for actors will only increase by 10% between 2014-2024.

Singer and Musician Career Information

Singers and musicians make music for television and radio, films, nightclubs, theaters, theme parks and video games. Some performances may be live and require some dancing and stage presence, as in theme park shows, while other performances are recorded as backgrounds for video games or television shows. Singers' and musicians' ability to perform in different musical styles or play multiple instruments is a plus.

Employment Outlook

Many singers and musicians work part-time because competition for full-time positions is intense. The BLS predicted that employment for singers and musicians will increase by 3% between 2014-2024, which is close to the average for all occupations. Singers are expected to see opportunities as backup singers or in advertising, film and television. Earnings vary greatly within this profession; the median hourly wages for musicians and singers were $24.20 in May 2015.

Dancer and Choreographer Career Information

Musical theater majors, who also have training in dance, may find careers as dancers and choreographers. By using movement to interpret music and entertain audiences, dancers and choreographers work in settings ranging from musical theater to folk festivals to television. Dancers may dance alone or as part of a group; many have the ability to perform in several styles, including ballet, tap or folk. Singing and acting talent, in addition to dancing, increases dancers' employment prospects.

Choreographers' responsibilities include creating or revising dances, auditioning dancers and showing dancers how to best express themselves. Other duties may include collaborating with others to ensure the music, sound effects, costumes and lighting are appropriate for the performance. Choreographers find employment at dance schools, theaters and film studios.

Employment Outlook

Because of competition for positions, arduous demands on the body and frequent injuries, many dancers leave the field by their late 30s. The BLS projected that employment in dancing will experience 5% growth between 2014-2024. Increased job prospects will be with theme parks, television and film productions, and casinos. The median hourly wages for dancers, as reported by the BLS, were $14.44 in May 2015. Choreographers earned $22.09 per hour during the same year.

Director Career Information

Creative decisions in film, television, musical theater and opera are made by the director. Directors audition actors, interpret scripts and lead rehearsals. This may entail cuing cast and crew for entrances and setting changes, as well as advising actors on the best ways to interpret scripts. Directors work together with the crew to make certain that the music, dancing, sets and costumes are of the highest quality. Depending on the size of the production, several directors may divide responsibilities.

Employment Outlook

Competition is keen for directing jobs, with many positions being short-term. This leads to fluctuating income and a continual search for more work. Many directors work additional jobs outside of the entertainment industry. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median hourly wages were $32.91 for producers and directors. Jobs for producers and directors are expected to increase by 9% from 2014-2024.

Fine Arts Teacher Career Information

Musical theater majors looking to share their talents with younger generations, supplement their income or leave the strenuous life of the theater may consider teaching careers. Depending on the individual's personal strengths, one may teach dance, vocal lessons or drama. Teachers can find jobs at dance studios, fitness centers, religious organizations, theaters or schools. To work as a certified teacher in a school, additional coursework and certification examinations are required; but some positions, such as a drama coach, may be available at schools without further training.

Employment Outlook

Many of those teaching fine arts enrichment classes work part-time. Wages differ depending on the type of classes taught, the complexity of the teaching and the kind of facility holding the classes. The hourly median wages for self-enrichment teachers, as stated by the BLS, were $17.64 in May 2015. Jobs for self-enrichment teachers are predicted to show a 15% increase in jobs from 2014-2024.

Musical theater majors can consider many career options after graduation. Their training prepares them to act, sing, dance or perform music, and they may work with directors and choreographers as they assume roles in musical theater productions. Some graduates with a musical theater major may take their teaching certification to instruct musical theater students, while other graduates may pursue careers in the performing arts field.

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