Circus performers entertain audiences with displays of skills like acrobatics and clowning.
Salary range: Variable
How to become a circus performer
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- a college course
- working towards this role
- applying directly
- specialist courses run by private training organisations
You can do a foundation degree or degree in circus arts or contemporary circus. You can also study for a postgraduate master’s qualification in directing circus.
These courses are offered by organisations that specialise in circus skills, working in partnership with universities.
You’ll be expected to attend an audition before being offered a place on a course.
You’ll usually need:
- at least 1 A level, or equivalent, for a foundation degree
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
You could do a college course like:
- Level 2 or 3 in Performing Arts
- Level 3 in Performing and Production Arts (Circus)
- Level 3 Diploma in Circus Skills
These would teach you some of the skills needed for the job. Then you can try to find a trainee job with a circus company.
Studying towards a course can be useful especially if they include mime, dance, physical theatre skills or circus skills.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course
You may be able to find seasonal or casual work as a general assistant with a touring circus company. Once working, you’ll need to show you have the ability and circus skills to become part of their company.
You can apply directly to employers if you have a high standard of ability in at least one circus art. Your talent and skills are more important than academic qualifications.
You may have an advantage if you already have gymnastics and dance skills.
There are organisations who offer various circus arts activities and training.
Training may be part-time community circus courses or weekend and summer workshops.
Professional and industry bodies
You may find it useful to join organisations like the Circus Development Network for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.
You can find out more about becoming a circus performer from Creative Choices.
You can get more information on working in creative careers from Discover Creative Careers.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- knowledge of the fine arts
- the ability to work well with others
- persistence and determination
- the ability to use your initiative
- to enjoy working with other people
- to be flexible and open to change
- knowledge of English language
- knowledge of media production and communication
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day tasks may include:
- performing one circus act, or basing your act around several different skills
- developing new acts
- keeping fit
- maintaining equipment you use in your act
- travelling, if you’re with a touring company
You could work at a TV studio, at a film studio, in a theatre or on a film set.
Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time, you may spend nights away from home and physically demanding.
Career path and progression
With experience you could improve your skills and create new acts or form your own circus company.