Although most dancers begin formal training at an early age, a degree in dance can provide the theoretical and technical mastery that is required for professional careers within the industry. Students enrolled in dance degree programs are exposed to many different forms of dance, as well as to dance history, kinesiology, choreography and production. Many dance programs allow students to interact with professional dancers and put on their own performances.
An associate degree program in dance combines a comprehensive dance curriculum with required general education coursework in other subjects. A student with an associate degree can transfer into a bachelor's degree program. Bachelor's programs are designed to prepare dancers for performance or education careers. Applicants to either of these programs will need a high school diploma or GED.
Once a student has completed their bachelor's degree, they can apply for a master's degree program. Master's programs focus on studio choreography and advanced technique development. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and audition or submit a professional portfolio.
Associate in Arts Degree in Dance
Associate degrees in dance are typically designed for students who plan to transfer to a 4-year degree program at a college or university. The curriculum provides basic instruction in dance and provides the dance knowledge and performance experience needed to meet selective admission criteria for upper-level programs. Students study the history, theory, technique and art of dance. A variety of classical and contemporary dance styles, such as ballet, jazz, interpretive and modern dance are included. Previous dance experience is preferred for program applicants.
The core dance curriculum usually includes the following topics:
- Dance history
- Modern dance
- Dance production
- Choreography basics
- Social dance
Bachelor's Degree in Dance
Commonly offered as a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, this program offers technique courses in ballet, jazz and other modern styles. Students also study theory, production, performance, composition and theatre.
Students are often required to perform in a variety of venues as members of the college or university's dance company or ensembles. Most dance programs provide opportunities for students to interact and study with international dance artists, instructors and choreographers through various master classes and workshops.
Program coursework in a bachelor's degree in dance allows students to tailor their learning towards their interests through the selection of electives. In addition to the dance curriculum, students are required to complete general education requirements for a comprehensive liberal arts education. A core dance curriculum includes the following subject areas:
- Dance improvisation
- Ethnic dance styles
- Dance history
- Dance kinesiology
- Rhythmic analysis
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Master of Fine Arts in Dance
This type of master's degree program is typically small and individualized, with many schools only accepting a handful of students each year. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and audition or submit a professional portfolio. Graduate-level dance programs invite guest artists to conduct master classes or direct special ensemble performances in order to give students direct access to accomplished professionals. Most master's-level degree programs require a choreographed and performed thesis project.
The graduate-level dance curriculum is comprised of approximately 60-credit hours, which usually requires 2-3 years to complete. Examples of graduate-level coursework include:
- Dancing biomechanics
- Teaching methods for dance
- Advanced ballet
- Dance technology and media
- Dance pedagogy
- Movement analysis
Popular Career Options
Although many graduates of associate degree programs will choose to transfer to 4-year bachelor's degree programs, others will pursue immediate career opportunities. Individuals who have completed a formal dance program at the associate degree level may find job opportunities as a:
- Dance teacher
- Professional dancer
- Dance coach
- Dance fitness instructor
Earning a master's degree in dance can provide advanced employment opportunities for dance professionals and help individuals prepare for long-term career options once their performance days are over. Career opportunities may include:
- Private studio ownership
- Dance critic
- Professional dancer
- Dance educator
- Dance therapist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dancers and choreographers are expected to have 5% and 6% job growth, respectively, for the years 2014 through 2024. Choreographers earned $22.09 as a median hourly wage and $45,940 as a median annual wage in 2015, according to the BLS. The BLS reported that dancers earned a median hourly wage of $14.44 that year. The median annual wage for dancers was unknown, as most dancers do not work typical year-round, full-time schedules.
By earning an undergraduate or a graduate degree in dance, students improve both their technical abilities and their knowledge of the art form. Dance-related career opportunities depend on graduates' level of education, but could include jobs as instructors, studio owners and choreographers.