Circus Performers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

There are no educational requirements for circus performers. Those who have a high school or college education, however, will have an advantage because they will be better able to manage their business affairs and communicate with others. Knowledge of foreign languages will be helpful for performers hoping to travel overseas.

Athletic training that develops one's coordination, strength, and balance is necessary for almost all circus performers and should be developed at a young age. Other training includes acting, music, dance, and for those interested in animals, veterinary care. Animal trainers usually must complete a long apprenticeship.

Postsecondary Training

Most circus performers learn their skills as apprentices to well-established acts. There are a few skills that can be learned on your own in a few weeks or months, such as juggling, unicycling, and puppetry, but most circus skills take many years to learn and perfect. Most circus performers develop skills in two or more areas, which makes them more attractive to employers.

Depending on your interests, you can receive some formal training in a number of areas. The Circus Center in San Francisco, California (, for example, is open to the public and offers classes in juggling, flying trapeze, and contortion, among other activities. The Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre (, in Blue Lake, California, while not a circus arts school, does offer classes in physical theater useful for anyone interested in clowning, miming, and relating to audiences through performance. If you would like to combine a college education with circus experience, consider attending Florida State University (FSU), home of the FSU Flying High Circus ( This circus is an extracurricular activity open to Florida State students in good standing and provides the opportunity to work in any area of the circus that interests you. The majority of circus performers begin their careers as children, as members of performing families.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for circus performers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Skill at circus-related acts is required to enter the field. It will take 10 years or more to complete on-the-job training to become a circus performer. 

Circus performers must be physically fit and must be able to withstand the rigors of their act as well as the hardships of constant travel. Some acts require unusual strength, flexibility, or balance. Others require performers to work effectively as a member of a team.