LONDON - It used to be enough when all else failed to simply run away and join the circus. And in today's mediocre hiring environment, it turns out the circus may still be a reliable source of job openings.
“There’s lots of employment opportunities in this field. It’s an unusual field, admittedly, but we offer a very unusual training,” said Marc Lalonde, the executive director of the National Circus School in Montreal, one of North America’s top schools for the “circus arts.”
Lalonde said the National Circus School has an extremely high success rate in finding work for its graduates because there are more jobs available than the industry can find suitable applicants for. “In some years,” he said, “nearly 100 percent of our students find work within the first few months of graduating.”
Still, the life of a circus artist isn’t always easy. Pay will vary widely by discipline, and it can be a short-lived career.
Lalonde said that he has not noticed any decrease in the number of available jobs for his graduates as a result of the recent recession. “There are very few schools training circus artists in the Western world right now,” he said. “And there simply aren’t enough performers to meet the demand at the moment. It’s as simple as that.”
With the U.S. jobless rate hovering near 9 percent, is it worth becoming a fine study in Chinese hoop diving? One complication is that there are few, if any, repositories of information that track the size of the industry, or that are capable of describing it in terms that accurately reflect its various career prospects.
U.S. census data are helpful, but only to a point. They indicate that in 2007 there were just 31 – very narrowly defined – circuses in the United States employing a total of 1,174 workers, and generating gross revenue receipts in the region of $184 million annually.