Choosing the Right College and Degree Program


SE_degrees_MAINAre you starting to look at colleges? Are you confused about the different programs and degrees? Here is some information to help you unravel the higher education riddle.

What’s the difference between a Conservatory Program and a Liberal Arts College?

  • A Conservatory places more emphasis on performing than academics. The training is focused on creating performers.   This setting is perfect for those with the talent and the passion to pursue a performing career. It’s great training, and very specialized. More than just technique, a conservatory program will also help dancers make connections in the performing world and prepare them to be a professional dancer.
  • At a Liberal Arts school the education is more well-rounded. Students are required to take a certain number of credit hours in their major, and have university requirements to satisfy. Depending on the degree one is seeking and the major, the requirements can vary slightly. A Liberal Arts degree gives you more than just technique. Cognitive and analytical thinking, writing and verbal skills, entrepreneurial studies, information literacy and technology advances are just a few of the life skills one learns when pursuing a liberal arts degree. Skills that will support and serve you well in the pursuit of any career.

AA, BA, BFA, BS – What do those letters mean?

  • An AA is an Associates degree
    • Usually a 2 year program done at a Junior or Community College. Many dancers choose to go this route to get their “requirements” out of the way, test the college scene and often still dance in their studio.
  • A BA is a Bachelor of Arts degree.
    • A BA is usually earned at a Liberal Arts College and is focused on a broad education, with many requirements across different subjects. This allows students to take courses in many related fields of study to prepare them for many career choices.
  • A BS is a Bachelor of Science degree
    • A BS degree can have several different focuses. It could be a BS in Dance Arts Administration, or a BS that has students take a strong science core, and complete requirements in arts and humanities along with their dance to prepare them for careers as Dance Therapists or in Dance Medicine.
  • A BFA is a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree
    • A BFA program is usually specifically designed to prepare students for a career as a performer or choreographer. It is very similar to a Conservatory program, but will have some course requirements in related fields of study like humanities and liberal arts.

These descriptions are in general terms, but be careful as many college dance programs use these terms differently. Be sure to read the descriptions of the different degree options, the required courses to graduate, and the focus of each department.

Double Majors or Minors

Once you narrow down your focus, you may consider earning a double major, or going for a minor in dance and majoring in something else.

The difference in these pathways comes down to requirement hours in the field of study. There are pluses and minuses to each. The benefit of a double major is gaining expertise in two fields, often complementing each other. It’s a good way to prepare yourself for parallel careers. But go this way only if you have a passion for both subjects. Dancers are the ultimate overachievers, and pursuing a double major is a time consuming but rewarding choice. Common double majors are: Dance & Applied Physiology and Sports Management, or Dance & Arts Entrepreneurial Studies or Business.

  • The downside students may have to take courses over a summer, or a 5th year to complete all the hours required for a double major.
  • The benefit of getting a minor in dance is getting technique class at least once a week. Usually those seeking a dance minor also study dance history, choreography and pedagogy, among other dance courses.
  • But the caveat is that majors get first choice for the classes, so if the class is full, minors get closed out. At some schools minors may not audition for main stage performances, and may only perform in student choreography.

No matter your choice, getting a degree in dance is rewarding and sets you up for a multitude of career choices for life. Remember: Dancers can do anything.

In a recent article in the LA Times about Rachel Moore, Executive Director of the American Ballet Theatre and retired dancer is quoted as saying “’If you want to find a good employee, hire a dancer. They’re disciplined, they know how to play well with others and they know how to meet a deadline.”

Read more of Susan’s articles on Dance Pathways!

1 Comment
  1. […] are researching getting a degree in dance and mystified by all the different choices, perhaps my article in Dance Life will help you figure out which pathway is right for […]

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