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Theatre Graduate Schools: Theater Schools, Musical Theatre School Degree

Drama and theater programs across theatre schools and fine arts colleges allow students to develop acting, music and creative skills to perform on stage or pursue a career in the music, television and media industry. Musical theatre schools offer specialized learning programs for students to work on all areas of production and complete a comprehensive educational track to succeed in their careers. They may choose to focus on stage production, costume design, acting, stage management and other areas of show production.

What to Expect at Theater Schools

Theater schools are designed for students who want to enter the fields of acting, directing, performance and arts leadership. Theatre schools typically offer undergraduate and graduate programs where students receive individual attention in a classroom setting and have the opportunity to perform or demonstrate their skills in a highly structured learning environment.

The most common degree programs and educational tracks available at theater schools include:

  • Acting and Performance

  • Musical Theatre Production

  • Costume Design

  • Lighting Design

  • Scenic Design

  • Sound Design

  • Stage Management

  • Theatre Technology

  • Costume Technology

  • Dramaturgy

  • Playwriting

  • Theatre Arts

  • Theatre Management

Many theater schools work with working artists in the local area so that students can train with successful professionals in the industry and develop essential skills and talents for their future career. Theatre graduate schools offer even more specialized learning programs for those who have completed preliminary and foundational courses in their field, but want to strengthen their skills and gain more experience in the field of acting, directing and performing.

Musical theatre schools offer specialized courses in music and performance, allowing students to obtain firsthand experience in playing music as part of an orchestra, taking part in musical theatrical productions, and taking courses in singing and music composition.

Theatre Degree: Courses and Educational Requirements

Completing a theater degree at the undergraduate level typically involves completing a two-year liberal studies program and then selecting a specialization. The liberal studies program may involve courses such as:

  • Arts and Literature

  • Religious Dimensions

  • Scientific Inquiry

  • Philosophical Inquiry

  • History and Sociology

  • Study of the Modern World

  • Composition and Rhetoric

Students who successfully complete the liberal studies program at a theater school can then move ahead to a specialization such as costume design, stage management or acting. This allows theatre school students to obtain a well-rounded education while discovering their skills and talents along their educational career path.

Students who wish to attend musical theatre schools may also be required to complete a liberal arts educational track, but can then take specialized courses in music theory, music composition, singing and songwriting, and music appreciation.

Attending Theatre Graduate Schools

Theater graduate schools are designed for students who want to pursue a specialized degree in the fields of acting, directing or arts leadership. This involves obtaining a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, and consists of both classroom instruction and obtaining work experience in the field. Theatre graduate schools in key cities such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Miami allow students to work with theatre professionals and artists in the local community so that they can improve their skills and complete a more rigorous professional training program. Theatre graduate schools allow students to take part in complete productions so that they can demonstrate and use their skills in a working setting and learn from their experience.

Students who choose to transfer their skills to electronic mediums may find attractive career options in digital media and digital art, graphic design or even advertising. The ability to transfer creative skills to different mediums allows many graduates of visual arts schools to pursue diverse opportunities and careers in a variety of industries.

Students who pursue a MFA through a theatre graduate school may also be required to create and present their own production to the faculty. This allows students to take on the responsibility of creating, directing and presenting a show and obtaining feedback and criticisms from professionals in the industry.

Career Options after Attending Theater Schools

Theatre is a highly creative field that demands rigorous training from a theater school or arts program and years of studio and production work. Students who excel in fields such as acting, theatre and costume technology, musical theatre and production management can look forward to a rewarding and successful career in a relatively competitive industry.

Career options and employment opportunities after completing a theater degree include:

  • General Theatre Management

  • Drama Therapy

  • Public Relations Management

  • Theatrical Press Agent

  • Touring Production Manager

  • Casting Director

  • Special Effects Designer

  • Stage Manager

  • Media Relations Representative

Graduates of theatre schools may choose to work for a variety of companies and organizations such as news stations, universities, college theatres, public relations firms or movie studios. Government agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Voice of America, Freer Gallery of Art and the Institute of Museum Services also recruit and hire talented graduates and students of theater school to fill both entry-level and supervisory positions.

Theater Degree: Employment and Salary Information

Obtaining a theatre degree or completing musical theater graduate school opens up many opportunities in the field of theatre production and management as well as opportunities in the movie and television industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the median annual earnings of salaried producers and directors were $56, 310 in 2006.

Stage directors who belong to the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers or the Directors Guild of America typically earn a salary and royalties based on the number of performances and productions they create. Some regional theaters hire directors on a contract basis to coordinate and present various shows throughout the season, and fees and royalty ranges vary by region, type of show and experience of the director.

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