Career Information for a Degree in Visual and Performing Arts

Degree programs in the visual and performing arts generally combine classroom instruction with practical experience in the field. Continue reading for an overview of these degree programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

Degree programs in visual and performing arts include Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees or Bachelor of Arts degrees. Areas of study can include dance, painting, photography, acting or sculpting, and a degree in visual and performing arts can prepare individuals to pursue a career in dance or photography. Postsecondary art teachers need to have a master's or Ph.D. in their fields.

Essential Information

Degree programs in the visual and performing arts teach students the history, theory and technique of specific art forms, such as painting, sculpting, dance, musical performance or acting. Degrees that prepare graduates for these fields include Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with concentrations in students' areas of interest, or Bachelor of Arts degrees, which complement art training with general education courses in other disciplines. These programs typically combine classroom study with hands-on training. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for many careers in these fields, but some individuals, especially those who wish to teach, may require study at the graduate level.

Career Titles Dancer Photographer Postsecondary Art Teacher
Education Requirements Formal training; some complete degrees in dance High school diploma; degree in photography is optional Master's or Ph.D.
Job Growth Projections (2014-2024)* 5% 3% 11% for postsecondary art, drama, and music teachers
Median Wage (2015)* $14.44 per hour $31,710 annually $65,340 annually for postsecondary art, drama, and music teachers

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Options

Individuals with performing arts degrees may use their training and skills to perform for audiences or to work with other performing artists as acting coaches, dance choreographers or vocal teachers, either privately, with performing arts schools or through college programs. While there are opportunities in many areas, dancers in large cities may have the best chances of success. Some graduates with degrees in the visual arts create art through sculpting, painting, photography or other means. They, too, can work for others, pursue their careers on their own, or teach. Below find information on three career options for graduates with visual and performing arts degrees.


Dancers can perform in many venues, including casinos, theater, cruise ships and in music videos. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about half work in performing arts companies or schools. The job is physically taxing, and many dancers must retire before they are 40.

The BLS predicts that the job growth rate for dancers will be average from 2014 to 2024. Positions for choreographers will grow more rapidly than for other occupations, the BLS noted. The median wage for dancers in 2015 was $14.44 an hour, according to the BLS, with those in the colleges, universities and professional schools category making the highest wage, of $26.58 per hour.


A degree is not mandatory for photographers, but many of these professionals choose to pursue postsecondary studies as a way to learn techniques and gain experience. The BLS noted that in 2012, about 60 percent of all photographers were self-employed, while more than a quarter worked for news services. The job can be physically taxing, and travel may be required.

Growth in photography jobs will be slower than average for all occupations from 2014 to 2024, the BLS predicted. This is due to many jobs being assumed by amateur photographers. The median hourly wage was $15.24 in 2015, the BLS noted.

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students after the high school level and can work in professional schools, colleges, universities or vocational schools, among other settings. A master's degree may be sufficient, but many universities require doctoral degrees. Some schools may prefer someone with experience in the field they are teaching.

The BLS predicted good job growth in this industry from 2014 to 2024, but said there might be fewer full-time positions at state schools due to budget restrictions. The median salary for full-time postsecondary instructors was almost $65,340 in 2015, the BLS noted.

Careers in visual arts include painters, photographers and sculptures, while the performing arts professions include dancers, actors and choreographers. Although it is not always necessary to have a degree to pursue these professions, postsecondary education can help develop skills that appeal to employers. Postsecondary art teachers must have a master's or doctoral degree in their field to be qualified to teach at the postsecondary level.

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