Performing Arts

Performing Arts Image

The performing arts industry is ideal for you if you enjoy expressing your creative personality, such as dancing, drama or singing, or playing a musical instrument. However, this sector is not only about performing in front of an audience; there are also great opportunities for those who have creative practical skills who are key to staging entertainment events, such as stagehands, lighting technicians, arts administrators or community artists.

According to latest figures (2020), employment in the performing arts industry decreased by approximately 12% compared to the previous year. The number of employees in this industry reached 72,000 in 2020, dropping from 82,000 in 2019. 

What areas can I work in?

This career area includes working as a performer in dance, drama, music and other forms of entertainment, from stand-up comedy to circus acts. Jobs in arts administration, community arts, music technology and theatre technology are also included in this sector. You can also teach any of these subjects from secondary school through to university level.

To see the routes to getting into each of these sectors, take a look at our Career Pathway.


What kind of companies can I work for?

Working within the performing arts encompasses a wide range of organisations including:

What’s the job market like?

Although official figures are not yet available, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey data shows that opportunities in arts, entertainment and recreation have been hardest hit by the pandemic. In music, performing and visual arts, jobs dropped by 26%.

However, arts and entertainment venues have opened up again, so it is hoped that the sector will see some recovery and in the Scottish Budget for 2022/23, the culture and major events sector saw an increase in spending plans from £176.6 million in 2021/22 to £207.4 million in 2022/23.

Despite the glamour of this career area, the harsh reality for performers is usually years of hard work in the face of tough competition, rejections at auditions and frequent periods of unemployment or working in temporary unrelated jobs. 

It is not always easy to get into the music industry. There are some full time classical music jobs, but most popular musicians do individual gigs for which they charge a fee.

Most performers, famous or not, are usually highly trained or qualified. The majority of actors have had formal training, almost all classical musicians have qualifications and a large proportion of popular musicians are trained to a high level. Dancers usually start their training at a very young age. 

Competition for non-performance jobs such as arts administration, stage management and theatre technology is also fierce.


Facts and figures

Want to find out more?

The Creative and Cultural Skills website has information on getting into the arts – developing opportunities for young people to learn about careers in the sector. 

The Discover Creative Careers website also has information on getting into the arts.



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Career Pathway

Performing Arts Career Pathway
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