Performing arts courses within the university sector retain a necessarily strong practical focus as they prepare graduates for work within a highly competitive environment. However, the reality for graduates is a world in which performance is only one component of the myriad activities required to build a sustainable career. This article reports findings from two studies which investigated work patterns, education and professional development of practising and intending musicians and dance artists. Data gathered using a questionnaire, focus groups and interviews reveal disparity between undergraduate curricula, the career expectations of students and the realities of professional practice. Alignment between the results of the music and dance studies suggests the potential for the collaborative delivery of both initial and lifelong education. The findings are discussed within the context of protean careers, and the article advocates the potential for practising artist academics to engage students in career development and the formation of their professional identities.