Performing Arts Associates Degree Options by Specialization

Explore performing arts-related associate's degree programs by specialization. Discover the educational prerequisites for these programs as well as the courses that may be included. Check the employment outlook and salary information for performing artists.

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Essential Information

Those interested in pursuing a career in performing arts usually specialize in dance, music or theatre. Formal training can develop and enhance the skills and knowledge needed for employment in this competitive field. Aspiring performing artists can start their education by enrolling in an associate's degree program offered through many community colleges or vocational schools. Students may need to audition for admission in some cases. High school diplomas are required of applicants.

An associate's degree program in dance teaches the fundamentals of the art. Students learn to craft dance routines and they explore dance in its various forms. They may participate in school-sponsored productions and dance workshops. Associate's degree programs in music emphasize the importance of pitch and harmony as well as visual and hearing techniques. Students of theatre programs develop their acting skills and learn techniques for auditioning. They learn different aspects of theatre design and production as well as modern drama and cinema.


Associate's Degree in Dance

Associate's degrees that focus in dance may be known by different names. For example, an Associate of Arts in Dance or an Associate in Science in Performing Arts with a concentration in dance may be earned. Through dance degree programs, students not only learn the fundamentals of dance, they also learn about the human body and study the composition and structure of a routine. Graduates typically pursue one of several paths, including dancing professionally, instructing dance or planning choreography.

Education Prerequisites

Application requirements vary with schools. Some colleges may require applicants to submit a head-to-toe photo, resume and a short DVD showing dance and performance skills. To designate appropriate course placement, auditions may also be required; therefore, prior experience in dance is recommended.

Program Coursework

Classes are typically conducted in dance studios located on college campuses. Students may have opportunities to audition for on-campus productions during the semesters in which they are enrolled. As part of their coursework, students may also participate in dance workshops. Other studies may include:

  • Creating dance routines
  • Forms in dance: ballet, jazz, modern, tap and world
  • Overview and structure of dance
  • Musicals on stage
  • Perceptions and history of dance

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Many areas of employment exist for professional dancers; some dancers belong to unions in order to take advantage of various benefits and possible employment opportunities. Those who specialize in ballet or modern dance may want to join the American Guild of Musical Artists; those who dance in television, films or live performances may join the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists or the Screen Actors Guild. Dancers performing in musical theatre may wish to join the Actors' Equity Association.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for dancers was expected to increase 11% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). A May 2012 report by the BLS found that dancers earned a median wage of $14.16 per hour.

Continuing Education Information

Associate's degree graduates can pursue their Bachelor of Arts in Dance. Students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs in dance learn detailed styles such as ballet, tap, modern dance and jazz. They also study historic dance and primitive civilizations, communication through dance and various dance forms. Graduates are prepared to enter several career paths, such as directing or performing arts management.


Associate's Degree in Music

Musicians who aspire to become professionals by earning a 2-year degree can pursue degrees such as an Associate of Arts in Music or an Associate of Fine Arts in Music. These degrees develop a solid basis in the fundamentals of music. Associate's degrees in music generally include 35-40 credits in music out of the 60-65 total credits required. Some colleges may require applicants to submit an audition and pass a placement test in addition to submitting a basic application.

Program Coursework

Students learn harmonies, musical precision and pitch techniques. They also build creative skills and learn various musical styles. Some of the course topics may include:

  • Background and philosophy of music
  • Computer music programs
  • Dynamics of music
  • Music presentations
  • Visual and hearing techniques

Popular Career Options

Musicians are employed by various types of businesses and companies, and the BLS expected overall employment for musicians and singers to increase 10% between 2010 and 2020. Some musicians are self-employed. Possible occupations for music graduates include:

  • Conductor
  • Composer
  • Musician
  • Singer

Continuing Education Information

After earning an associate's degree in music, students may choose to further their education by enrolling in a bachelor's degree program. Bachelor's degrees in music are commonly offered as a Bachelor of Music in Music with concentrations in gospel, instrumental, keyboard or orchestral music or voice.


Associate's Degree in Theatre

Common associate's degrees offered in theatre are the Associate of Arts in Theatre and Associate in Science in Theatre Arts. Theatre courses provide students a foundation for later pursuing a career as an actor or set designer, or perhaps a career in producing. Some colleges may provide students the opportunity to audition for performances and productions. The associate's degree provides groundwork for those who wish to pursue bachelor's degrees in theatre.

Program Coursework

Through theatre programs, students acquire a thorough understanding of theatre arts. They gain knowledge and skills to effectively perform and to explore areas of theatre design and production. Program requirements may also include courses in communication and reading. Students learn to expand their creativity and to express themselves through acting. Theatre students will explore areas such as:

  • Acting and techniques for auditioning
  • Cinema
  • Creating stage presentations
  • Modern drama
  • Writing plays and producing theatre

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment for performing arts professionals who are interested in films, television and theatre may be better in larger cities, such as Los Angeles and New York, where there are concentrations of production and performing arts companies. The BLS predicted that employment for actors would increase by 4% between 2010 and 2020. A May 2012 report by the BLS showed that the median hourly wage for actors was $20.26. The median wage for directors and producers was $34.31 per hour in that same year.

Continuing Education Information

Those who wish to further their education in theatre may choose to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. Some bachelor's degree programs emphasize screen and stage performances. Those programs prepare students for careers behind the scenes, in theatre management or in acting. Students learn about different styles and ethnic varieties of theatre; in addition, they may study teaching in the theatre arts.

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Top Schools for Visual and Performing Arts

Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Southwestern College include:
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Michigan (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Northern Michigan University include:
      • Graduate: Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
        • Artisanry and Craft Design
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Hawaii (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brigham Young University include:
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art

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