Which performing arts careers don’t require a degree?

One key thing to know about the theatre industry is that you don’t need a degree or professional qualification to pursue a performing arts career! 

If college and university isn’t an option you’d like to take, there are various ways for you to learn new skills and find the creative career path right for you; from backstage to costume, admin to acting!

In this blog, we’re going to highlight a handful of performing arts careers as well as a brief overview of what each role is.

Wardrobe and Costume

The wardrobe and costume departments are key parts of any production. Below are just two of the performing arts careers within this department that don’t require degrees

A costume designer will be responsible for designing all the costumes for a production, ensuring they are from the correct time period and more. They will work closely with the director to ensure the director's vision is shown through the costumes. This role requires a lot of research and a creative mind, as well as knowledge of period fashion and what outfits work well on stage.

Useful skills for a costume designer:

  • Organisational skills
  • An eye for detail
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment
  • Competent in sewing
  • Ability to work alone as well as with other
  • Ability to communicate and present ideas

A dresser will assist with the maintenance of costumes and ensure quick changes happen with ease. Dresser responsibilities may also include storing costumes and returning hired items, ensuring items fit performers and ensuring costumes are where they need to be at the correct times. Shows across the country rely on Dressers to ensure things go smoothly and without them, shows with multiple costume changes or large ensembles, wouldn’t go ahead.

This role does not require a degree, however, having experience in the following will help:

  • Fashion
  • Dressmaking
  • Textiles
  • Costume design
  • Academic or personal sewing experience

To find costume and wardrobe opportunities, click here.

Stage Manager and Deputy Stage Manager

These two performing arts careers are crucial to the smooth running of any theatre production. A stage manager will:

  • Support and organise everyone involved in a production from rehearsals to post-show
  • Create a rehearsal schedule
  • Manage props
  • Arrange costume and wig fittings
  • Supervise the get-in and get-out
  • Cue lighting and sound

A deputy stage manager (also known as a DSM) will often be required to assist the stage manager. They will ensure technical cues are correct, that props and set are where they need to be and they will also make note of any changes made to the script during rehearsals.

Neither of these roles requires a degree but it is useful to have these skills:

  • Technical training for lighting and sound
  • Good leadership skills
  • Awareness of how productions run

This role is particularly important on tech-heavy shows like Wicked where not only is sound and lighting involved but there are multiple special effects cues.

If you would like to discover stage management and deputy stage management opportunities, click here!

Graphic Designer

A performing arts career many may not consider is a graphic designer. From branding, logos, poster design and print ads, graphic designers play a vital part in ensuring a show's marketing looks good and attracts audience members. 

To follow a theatre graphic design career path, you don’t need to have a degree, however, having these skills will help you: 

  • Design skills and knowledge
  • Thorough attention to detail 
  • A creative mind are skills that will increase your chances of securing this role
  • Knowing how to attract audiences with effective poster and flyer design 
  • Colour theories
  • Knowledge of computerised design systems such as Photoshop 

Arts Admin

If you are looking to be involved within the theatre industry but don’t want to pursue such a creative path, then this career could be for you! Arts admin is a very varied role and includes responsibilities such as:

  • Planning and organisation events
  • Arranging performances
  • Selecting and training new staff
  • Providing administration support to managers and directors

For this performing arts career, you don’t need a degree but it is helpful to have good communication and teamwork skills, as well as knowledge, interest, passion and experience in the performing arts industry. 

Click here to read our blog with more information on art admin careers.

Other training options for performing arts careers

Many theatre companies and theatres offer internship schemes. The Young Vic Theatre runs a work experience and internship programme every August, allowing young people interested in wardrobe, stage management, sound and lighting to gain high-quality placement experience.

Check out some opportunities on our website here and if you don’t see anything listed from your local theatre, get in contact with them via their contact page on their website!

Another great way to gain experience is by participating in workshops. The Get Into Theatre website has a range of free and paid workshop opportunities from all over the country for many roles within the industry, including writing workshops in Cardiff, make-up workshops in Leeds and dance workshops in London.

Want to do a degree? 

Despite the performing arts careers mentioned in this blog not requiring a degree, there is always an option to get a qualification in your chosen area to boost your skills and knowledge. On our website, we have a  wide range of courses from performing arts schools and universities across the country. Whether you’re looking for a foundation degree, BTEC, Ba or MA, you can see all of the courses listed here. Want to find out more about the training routes you can follow, check out our blog for more information!

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