Choreographer: Job Description, Duties and Salary Info

Choreographers require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and optional education programs to see if this is the right career for you.

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Choreographers design dance routines for a variety of types of performances. Dance experience, and perhaps a degree in dance, are needed for this occupation. Choreographers earned a median salary of about $45,000 in 2015 and were expected to see job growth at about an average rate over the next few years.

Essential Information

Choreographers, who are often former professional dancers, create new dance routines and performances. They can find work in various creative venues, including ballets, musicals, parades, gymnastics and dance shows. Although there are usually no formal educational requirements for this position, some aspiring choreographers might benefit from a bachelor's degree program in performing arts or dance.

Required Education No formal education requirements, though a bachelor's degree in performing arts or dance is optional
Other Requirements Significant experience in dance
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $45,940

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Choreographers create routines for individual performers, competitions, musical performances, marching bands, ballets and other spectacles. They create dance and movement routines, sometimes by revising or combining existing routines. Former dancers sometimes transition into choreography careers after their bodies have had enough of the physical demands involved in dancing.

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Job Duties

Before creating a new routine, choreographers typically meet with the director to learn more about the production and begin brainstorming ideas. Choreographers want the dances or movements to complement the story. Directors and choreographers also might work together to select music, wardrobe, set design and effects. Choreographers also attend auditions to help select qualified candidates.

After researching the production, choreographers begin working to either create a new routine or tweak an existing one. Additional research is sometimes done as choreographers look for influential dances or performances that help them create new moves. Some choreographers write steps down or sketch out moves that they then teach to the performers.

After the routine is created, the choreographer teaches the steps to the performers at rehearsals. Choreographers often demonstrate routines by performing the dance themselves. After showing the dancers the steps, the choreographer helps them perfect the movements, technique and timing. During rehearsals, a choreographer might make changes to the routine and then instruct the performers in performing the changed routine.

Because choreographers typically need to demonstrate each routine, they must remain in excellent physical condition. Exercising, stretching and attending classes are often how choreographers keep their skills sharpened.

Salary

As of May 2015, the BLS reported that dance choreographers made a median annual salary of $45,940. Choreographers who belong to a union usually have some benefits, such as a retirement fund and health insurance. Non-union choreographers are typically responsible for their own retirement and insurance.

Choreographers are usually former dancers. They create dance routines and incorporate music and movement for performances. They are not required to have any formal postsecondary training, although a degree may increase job prospects for those entering this field.

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