Guide to an Online Performing Arts Education

by Jennifer Croley
Guide to an Online Performing Arts Education

If you are planning for a career in the performing arts and considering your online education options, it probably won't surprise you that there isn't much available. An effective education in the three main areas of performing arts – dance, music, and acting – usually involves lots of hands-on experience, something that is difficult to achieve online.

How Online Performing Arts Programs Work

The majority of online performing arts programs focus on theory, not application. For example, you could learn the history of dance, but actually learning to dance online just isn't practical. As with other online programs, online performing arts students access course information and submit their work through the Internet. The few programs that do incorporate a performance component usually require students to tape themselves and send videos to their instructors for evaluation.

Johann Zietsman, Chief Executive Officer of the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), points out that “this is an industry where most lessons are learned through experience and from experienced practitioners.” For this reason, online performing arts students should plan to supplement their education by getting practical experience wherever they can.

Marc Baylin, President of North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents (NAPAMA) and Baylin Artists Management, also believes experience is key. He advises online students to “work in the field you are interested in, even if it's an internship. Do anything to get some experience,” says Baylin.

Online Performing Arts Schools

When it comes to finding an online performing arts degree, there aren't many choices. The Academy of Arts University offers degree programs in Motion Pictures & Television with an acting concentration. There are also several online graduate programs in music education. These programs, such as Boston University's Master of Music in Music Education, require students to have prior education and/or experience in music.

Below is a sampling of other available online performing arts programs:

Paying for an Online Performing Arts Education

The cost of online performing arts classes varies depending on the school and level, but most classes will fall somewhere in the range of $600 to $1,800. Students enrolled in a degree program may be able to get federal assistance by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

All students should check with their school's financial aid office, as it will have detailed information on school, government, and private aid sources. Nonprofit art associations, such as the National Foundation for the Advancement of Arts, can be good scholarship resources. Financial aid search sites, such as FastWeb, can also help students track down scholarship possibilities.


The outlook for jobs in the performing arts industry is positive through 2014 with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting job growth to be as fast or faster than the average for all occupations.

Even though the number of jobs is predicted to increase, the competition will still be fierce. With so many people contending for a limited number of jobs, potential online students may wonder if their education will measure up. As a manager, Baylin says he is “interested only in the quality of the work the performer does. It does not matter how or where they studied unless it relates directly to what they do.”

Finding a job in performing arts can be challenging, but Zietsman offers words of encouragement. “While everybody knows this is a tough career choice, it is the only choice for those with a real passion for and commitment to the arts. I would encourage students to follow their passion and to never lose sight of it during the hard times,” says Zietsman.


There are some online performing arts education options, but they primarily offer theory, not application. Online students who want to actually learn a performance art and get practice in their chosen field will have to put in extra effort to find internships and other opportunities to gain experience.

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