The Job and What's Involved

Entertainers appear in events and performances such as stage, cabaret and comedy shows, circuses and street theatre. Most of their work is performed for live audiences.

Different types of entertainer include:

- Children's entertainers
- Circus performers
- Comedians
- Dancers
- Illusionists
- Jugglers
- Look-alike artists
- Magicians
- Musicians
- Puppeteers
- Singers
- Street artists
- Ventriloquists

See also the related articles Circus Performer, Dancer, Popular Musician and Singer for more information on these jobs.

Some entertainers are skilled in just one area, whereas others have several skills that they combine to create an act, e.g. a comedian who sings and plays an instrument. Some work as solo performers, others as part of a group.

As well as performing, entertainers:

  • Attend auditions.
  • Maintain and transport their equipment, costumes and props.
  • Research and rehearse, e.g. new songs, acts or tricks.
  • Carry out administrative and promotional duties, particularly if they are self-employed.

Entertainers working at holiday parks or on cruise ships may be responsible for meeting and greeting guests, organising events and running children's activities, as well as performing regularly.

Some entertainers also work in film, television and/or radio, while others may teach or run workshops for adults or children.

Entertainers can work long hours. A lot of performance work is in the evenings, but there are also daytime performances, auditions and rehearsals.

Some entertainers work regularly, others work part time or just on the weekend, doing other jobs to maintain a regular income. They may be booked for one-off performances, weekly or monthly slots, or, particularly if they are appearing in a musical show, on a cruise ship or at a holiday park, for whole seasons.

Entertainment venues include theatres, nightclubs, discos, pubs, hotels, cruise ships, holiday and theme parks, circuses, halls, marquees, the seafront, streets and other outdoor entertainment areas. Venues may be hot, or cold and draughty.

Most entertainers spend a lot of time travelling between locations and may spend long periods away from home. For many entertainers, a driving licence is essential.

Most entertainers are self-employed, so are paid set or negotiated fees per contract or performance. Starting out, annual earnings for an entertainer in regular work might be around £10,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The majority of entertainers are self-employed and on the books of one or more agents, who find work for them for a fee or commission. Gaps between jobs are quite common, so some entertainers do other work to maintain a regular income. Entertainers with several skills are more likely to work regularly.

Employers include production companies, cruise ship operators, holiday and theme park operators, circuses, social clubs, local councils, and leisure and entertainment centres. Families sometimes employ children's entertainers, puppeteers or magicians for children's parties. Large companies may employ entertainers at corporate events.

Jobs may be advertised in The Stage, on Equity's website, and on the websites of individual entertainment agencies. Jobs in hotels, holiday parks, theme parks and cruise ships are advertised at www.residententertainers.com.

There can be fierce competition for work.

Education and Training

There are no set academic entry requirements, and there are a variety of routes into the profession. These include:

  • Formal training courses.
  • Taking part and being 'spotted' in talent competitions.
  • Working at holiday centres and theme parks.
  • Performing at local clubs, possibly on an unpaid basis to start.

It is an advantage to have studied music, acting or dancing from a young age and to have appeared in school shows or amateur stage productions.

Some colleges and universities offer performing arts courses leading to the following qualifications:

  • BTEC national diplomas - entry is usually with 4 GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent.
  • HNC's/HND's - entry is with at least one A level/two H grades or equivalent.
  • Foundation degrees and/or degrees - entry to a degree course is usually with a minimum of two A levels/H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent.

Entry requirements may vary, so candidates should check with individual colleges or universities.

The Magic Circle has a young magicians club for people aged ten to eighteen, with regular practical workshops. Other organisations involved in specialist forms of entertainment may run similar schemes.

'Creative Apprenticeships', covering a variety of creative fields, are being piloted in the London area from September 2006. They are likely to be available nationally from September 2007. Further information is available from Creative & Cultural Skills.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training often involves learning on the job. Entertainers develop their acts, building up skills through experience. They need to continue developing and learning new skills throughout their careers.

In addition to training in dance, drama and music, specialist training is available in areas such as:

Puppetry - the London School of Puppetry offers a two-year diploma course and other short courses. Some drama schools also offer puppetry courses.

Comedy - The Comedy School runs workshops and projects.

Circus - The Circus Space offers a range of courses, including degrees.

Many other organisations offer short courses and workshops.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An entertainer should be:

  • Lively, confident and outgoing.
  • An excellent communicator.
  • Entrepreneurial.
  • Capable of working as part of a team.
  • Hard-working and energetic.
  • Punctual and reliable.
  • Aware of current legislation in areas such as health and safety, and working with children.
  • Able to accept constructive criticism.

Your Long Term Prospects

As most entertainers are self-employed, progress depends on getting more bookings, becoming popular with audiences and working in larger, more prestigious venues.

Entertainers regularly working on cruise ships, or at holiday or theme parks, may have the opportunity to progress to entertainment manager or dance captain, for example.

Overseas work is possible.

Get Further Information

The Circus Space,
Coronet Street, London N1 6HD
Tel: 020 7613 4141
Website: www.thecircusspace.co.uk

The Comedy School,
15 Gloucester Gate, London NW1 4HG
Tel: 0207 486 1844
Website: www.thecomedyschool.com

Equity, Guild House, Upper St Martins Lane,
London WC2H 9EG
Tel: 020 7379 6000
Website: www.equity.org.uk

The Magic Circle, Centre for The Magic Arts,
12 Stephenson Way, Euston, London NW1 2HD
Tel: 01704 531614
Website: www.themagiccircle.co.uk

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