Anyone who has worked toward a degree in the fine arts knows the struggle of job hunting in a tech-centric world. The pay is usually low, the employment is inconsistent and, unless you go to a conservatory, your school probably doesn’t care or even know how to help connect you with employers or job opportunities. That’s why it’s typical for theater majors to end up taking on odd jobs, side jobs or jobs that have nothing to do with what they studied, in order to make more money.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of four of the most common (and strangest) careers that some of the theater majors I’ve met have taken. (Really, this is just me planning out my future, so I hope you enjoy.)
Probably the most obvious job on this list, teaching has become a safe standard for theater majors if they don’t succeed in the field. It’s true that this happens with all areas of study (there’s a reason that “those who can’t do, teach” is a saying), and plenty of people set out to teach theater instead of doing it out of necessity, but I have recently noticed an increasing number of people who think that they have to get a teaching certification if they want to major in theater, because that’s just what you do. You’re expected to fail, so you have to prepare.
Even I thought this way when I was first starting out and, for a while, I thought I would become a teacher myself (before I realized that I do not want to spend the rest of my life in a school). It’s bittersweet; on the one hand, it really says something about our society when we have so little faith in artists that they are expected to have a “practical” backup plan, like teaching.
But on the other hand, teachers really are amazing, especially theater teachers; I was close to my theater teachers growing up and they became my inspiration when I decided to study theater in the first place. And they certainly aren’t unfulfilled or unskilled; the amount of work, love and talent that goes into teaching the arts (and, often, directing shows at the same time) is astounding. I cannot thank the people that taught me this craft enough.
So, while I admit that it is a tragedy that teaching has become a requirement in the theater world, I also think it can be a great career choice, because you’re shaping the next generation of artists and helping to keep the stage alive. I applaud all the theater teachers out there.
We’ve all heard the story of the aspiring young actress who heads off to New York or Los Angeles, only to end up in the service industry when she doesn’t get any bookings. (It’s basically the plot of “La La Land.”) But what you don’t know is that it’s actually pretty accurate. In fact, I worked as a host at a restaurant this summer, and even though I wasn’t the typical waiter, neither was Emma Stone, so does it really matter? You get my point.
And I have met a lot of theater majors who specifically became servers. Having to put a smile on your face for every person that walks in the door is a performance of its own, after all; every sort of service job is. Being a server is fitting to the study of theater and a great way to get some extra cash in a pinch. It’s no wonder that so many of us end up working these types of jobs.
3. Professional Cuddler
One of my best friends briefly moonlighted as a professional cuddler while working toward her theater degree. She just signed up on a website and was quickly able to offer her services, cuddling with a few lonely strangers on occasion in order to supplement her other income. It was a necessity for her because she was out of the country on a student visa, so she was unable to go to any auditions, and her service job wasn’t giving her quite enough to cover her expenses.
It might not have been the safest option, but it was something. She made a decent check and was able to stay afloat at least. After a while, she had to stop because of changing laws that cracked down on intimate work, but if the laws aren’t as strict where you live, professional cuddling might be for you. Or not. I don’t know your life.
4. Bus Driver
I recently took a trip to Alaska that involved a lot of bus rides, and, somehow, about three of my bus drivers (and one Lyft driver — something else to consider) turned out to be theater majors. Can you believe that? It was like the bus company had put out an ad at a play festival or something.
While that might not have actually been the case, one of them did have a surprisingly similar story: She had been working as an actress in New York City after getting her degree in musical theater, and went to a collective audition for roles across the country. On that fateful day, she was offered a part in a dinner theater production in Denali, Alaska, so she moved there for the summer. One thing led to another, and before she knew it, she had been giving bus tours of the national park for upwards of 10 years.
Theater majors pic.twitter.com/93tV0gVuva
— Kimberly Rinck (@Kimmy_Buffett) March 2, 2018
This just goes to show that you never know where life is going to take you. Just because you major in one thing doesn’t mean you’re going to do that forever, especially when you’re a theater major.
Theater is a wildly unpredictable industry, and you really never know if you’re going to go in your intended direction. You could end up becoming that Broadway star, singing and dancing your way to fame and fortune, or that Tony-winning director, lauded for your genius stagecraft and impeccable choices. Or you could end up being a professional cuddler. It’s all up in the air, folks, so be prepared.