Affordable Drama/Theater Degrees

Scroll down to see the most affordable theater degrees, as well as info on the different types of theater degrees and theater program accreditation.

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Nobody needs to tell you that life upon the wicked stage is challenging. In order to become a union member with Actors’ Equity Association and SAG, you need several years of work experience. What’s more, most members of these unions are periodically unemployed. To commit yourself to theater is to accept that periods of fame and glory will be interspersed with economic instability and frustration. At least it makes for good drama!

If you’re intent on earning an academic qualification, check out our guide to affordable theater/drama programs. In addition to exploring common theater majors, we lay out what you can expect with each degree, including your choices (e.g. BA vs. BFA) and career options. Finally, we cover the importance of regional accreditation and the meaning of acronyms like NAST and NASM.

Note: For advice on subjects other than theater, check out our profiles of affordable Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Music and Film, Video & Photography degrees.

School Selections

University of California-Irvine

The University of California-Irvine's Department of Drama helps connect academics with the world of professional theatre. The department offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre, preparing students for leading roles on stage, with honors programs in acting, directing, design, stage management and dramatic literature, history and theory. Students have the opportunity to take part in the New York Satellite program, spending four weeks living in New York, attending workshops with Broadway directors and actors and immerse themselves in the theatre culture. A Master of Fine Arts is offered in acting, directing, stage management and design. Scholarships include the Steve Lyle Memorial Scholarship ($2,000), Bette and Steven Warner Scholarship (varies) and H.B. and Isabelle Yolen Memorial Scholarship ($2,000).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

30,836 Students

University of Minnesota-Duluth

Individual mentorship and high-quality productions are the cornerstone of the University of Minnesota-Duluth's Department of Theatre. The school offers a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, both with ample opportunities to create extensive portfolios and resumes. From standing in the spotlight to running the spotlight, there are ample opportunities for practical training. Students may specialize in acting, musical theatre, stage management or technical areas. In addition to the UMD Theatre, students have organized Stage II to foster production experience for students. The department also takes part in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival each year, with two of the school's five festival productions written by students. The department offers a new student talent scholarship (awards vary).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

10,878 Students

Texas A & M University-College Station

The Department of Performance Arts at Texas A&M-College Station integrates performance production with its theatre curriculum, with students taking the role of theatre apprentice throughout their studies. The department offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts, with courses in all areas of theatre performance and production. The Blueprint Theatre Company is a student-run summer theatre that allows students to apply what they've learned in the classroom on the stage, with an annual Student New Works Festival each spring semester. The department frequently collaborates with other areas of the campus to produce new works and creative reimaginings of classic works as well.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

63,813 Students

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Department of Dramatic Art at the University of North Caroline-Chapel Hill collaborates with the PlayMakers Repertory Company, a professional theatre, to enhance its comprehensive Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts, Master of Fine Arts and interdisciplinary minor. Students focus on performance, design, production, dramaturgy and writing for the screen and stage. Students in the professional MFA acting program train with resident instructors and guest professionals and serve as the core members of the PlayMakers company, which presents six shows each season in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art. The school presents the Lillian Chason Scholarship to undergraduates (awards vary).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

29,084 Students

University of California-Los Angeles

The UCLA School of theater, Film and Television develops storytellers to entertain and inspire through its Bachelor of Arts in Theater, Master of Fine Arts in acting, directing and playwriting, Master of Arts in theater and professional programs. The comprehensive bachelor's program provides a base in all areas of theater, while allowing students to specialize in areas of interest. Students take part in a Summer Undergraduate Theater Laboratory and the theater internships that offer immersive field experiences. The Arts Bridge program pairs students with teachers in under-served schools to expand arts programs. More than 300 scholarships are awarded by the department each year, including the Justin Matthew Carmack Memorial Scholarship, the Dorothy Bock Memorial Award, and the Hal Kanter Comedy Writing Award.

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

41,908 Students

University of Illinois at Chicago

Dramatically inclined UIC undergrads have three options: a BA in Theatre and Performance; a BA in Theatre Design, Production and Technology; and a BFA in Acting. Majors can benefit from summer internships with the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company (co-founded by Gary Sinise) or Lookingglass Theatre Company (co-founded by David Schwimmer). Back on campus, the department offers six awards, including the Michael Gross Scholarship, so named for a prominent alumni. Students with Federal Work Study awards can also score department assistantships, perhaps working in the box office or grading papers.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

29,048 Students

Vassar College

Students working toward a BA in Drama at Vassar have several facilities at their disposal within the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, including Streep Studio, named after the department's most famous alumnus. The department participates in the Ford Scholars Program at Vassar College; faculty-student research teams have won funding for two projects since the program's inception in 2004. Though the Annual Marilyn Swartz Seven '69 Playwriting Competition is not exclusive to drama students, they have an obvious advantage in winning the $1,000 award. And upperclassmen can also apply to the Friedman '41 Career Development Fund for Students of Drama, Film, Literature and the Visual Arts; money received is used for a project that fuels their professional goals.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

2,435 Students

University of California-Riverside

The BA in Theatre, Film, and Digital Production allows for a General Theatre Track. Students who take it to nurture their interests in theatre technology or management are eligible for scholarships pulled from the David Kellstrand Student Support Fund. For thespians, there's the Eric Barr Acting Award and the Chancellor's Performance Award. In terms of performing, some of the gigs pay. Undergrads accepted to the Gluck Fellows Program receive $1,000 to teach, lead workshops or perform for local, underserved communities. Graduate students won't get on stage, but the department's MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts keeps them in the game and provides funding through teaching assistantships and fellowships.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

21,385 Students

University of California-San Diego

The Department of Theatre and Dance at UC San Diego offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theatre and in dance, as well as a double major in both. Undergraduates have the opportunity to be a part of three theatrical productions each year as actors, designers, or stage managers. They can also audition for graduate productions, including those directed by eminent guest artists. On the graduate level, Master of Fine Arts degrees are available in several fields, including theatre and acting. There is also a joint Doctor of Philosophy program in drama and theatre with UC Irvine. As part of the Division of Arts & Humanities, upper division theatre majors can apply for the Gregory T. Bryan Scholarship (up to $2,000/year).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

32,906 Students

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Department of Theatre Arts and Dance helps students hone their craft through classroom work, production opportunities and one-to-one projects. The school offers six performance spaces where fully produced projects are staged throughout the year. The program's Creative Collaboration offers the chance to work with other students and faculty on research of original works or re-imagining of classic texts. Degrees offered include a Bachelor of Arts Theatre, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in actor training, a Master of Fine Arts in design and technology and a Master of Arts and PhD. Scholarships include the BA Theatre Arts Program and BFA Actor Training Program Recruitment Scholarships ($1,000 to $6,000).

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

50,678 Students

Buffalo State SUNY

Buffalo State offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theater that provides students with a background in all aspects of theater and allows them to concentrate in acting, directing/dramaturgy, design/technical, or general study. To earn the degree, students must earn at least 42 credits in the major, including classes in acting, theater history, and directing. All students must take at least four practicums, a reflection of the Theater Department's philosophy that students learn best by working in theater. Undergrads can achieve a theater minor with 19 credits. The department mounts a variety of mainstage and smaller productions annually and has use of several well-equipped theater spaces, including a 400-seat theater and a black box space.

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

10,330 Students

SUNY College at Oswego

The State University of New York-Oswego Theatre Department provides a liberal arts education and a strong foundation in the theatre. Students can concentrate their studies in acting and directing, design and technical theatre, history and criticism, and music theatre. A least four major student-led productions are staged each year, with opportunities for more experimental productions available as well. Students regularly participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and work with community arts programs through the ARTSwego performing arts series. Workshops with visiting artists, internships and study abroad opportunities supplement the rigorous curriculum. Each year, the department offers the John and Ida Mincher Scholarship ($1,000), the Diane Luckey Ouckama Memorial scholarship ($400) and the Kathleen Pendergast Memorial Scholarship ($475).

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

7,937 Students

University of California-Berkeley

The Department of Theater and Performance Studies at the University of California Berkeley grants bachelor's degrees and a Ph.D. Undergrads start with a foundation in the basics, including technical theory and design. Students can develop a specialty in an area such as directing, playwriting or acting through their choice of courses, capstone, and extracurricular activities. Students interested in the acting program must audition for entry into each course, including senior-year classes to prepare for graduate school or professional auditions. Students can also hone their skills by joining theater department productions and by taking classes and workshops with artists-in-residence. The Ph.D. in Performance Studies is a five-year program that allows each candidate to develop a custom area of emphasis.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

38,189 Students

University of California-Davis

Students admitted to the Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Art program offered by the Department of Theatre and Dance at UC Davis can choose to concentrate in either theatre or dance. Coursework covers topics such as theatre, performance, and culture, performing arts production management, principles of theatrical design (scenery, lighting, and costume), small scale film production, and principles of playwriting. The Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Art degree offered by the department can be completed with two years of study. The department also offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Performance Studies. As part of the College of Letters and Science, Dramatic Arts majors can apply for the Carolyn F. Wall Scholarship and the James & Leta Fulmor Scholarship.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

35,186 Students

Westfield State University

Students in the Theatre Arts Program at Westfield State hop onto one of three tracks to a bachelor's degree: there's the Performance track for actors, the Design/Technology track for those who aspire to off-stage roles in productions, and the Theatre Studies track for those who want to get extra creative and plot their own route. Of course, those within the department get hands-on experience - Student Theatre Association (STA) members direct and produce 2 one-act plays each year. Those stand in addition to faculty-guided department productions. For those who prefer to sing their lines, the Musical Theatre Guild has been active on campus since 1976. It gives an annual scholarship to members with financial need.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

6,496 Students

Barnard College

Students majoring in theatre at Barnard College study theater and performance as well as intellectual and critical traditions in the field. Students may concentrate in drama and theatre studies, acting, design, directing, dramaturgy, or playwriting. All majors must complete a senior thesis, which could be a written paper based on original research or an original creative work in playwriting, acting, directing or design. The college holds a senior thesis festival each spring where directing, playwriting and solo performance theses are presented. At the start of each semester, the college holds auditions for all classes that require an audition for admission and also for all stage productions scheduled for the term. Barnard grants a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

2,548 Students

SUNY College at Oneonta

The Theatre Department at SUNY Oneonta offers both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in theatre. The BA program is designed for students who want to study theatre within the context of a general liberal arts education. Students who wish to concentrate on a special area of theatre are advised to enroll in the BS program. The department also o, which can accommodate up to 487 patrons, and the Hamblin Theatre, a black box performance space. There are also well-equipped costume and scenery shops, several office, teaching, and studio spaces, and dressing room facilities. Oneonta's theatre program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

6,119 Students

Appalachian State University

Theater majors at Appalachian State can chose from four concentrations: Design/Technology, Theater Education, Performance, or a general degree that allows the student to take courses in acting, technical theater, direction, theater history and management skills. The program provides ample opportunity for students to work on productions, with the school producing four faculty-directed shows each year, two performances that tour local schools, a freshman showcase, and a showcase of student written plays. Other productions, such as shows with small casts and co-productions with guest artists, are also scheduled. The theater education program is accredited and ASU theater grads who earn a teaching license in theater education can teach in 40 states.

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

17,932 Students

University of Massachusetts Amherst

The faculty of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Department of Theater tailors courses to the needs and strengths of students, focusing on mentorship. The school offers a Bachelor of Arts in theatre, a Master of Fine Arts with concentrations in directing, dramaturgy, costume design, lighting design and scenic design, and a Multicultural Theater Practice Certificate. The school's participation in the Five College Consortium with liberal arts colleges in the area allows students to take courses from these area colleges and participate in theatrical performances outside the university. All graduate students receive full, paid assistantships worth more than $16,000, while the Susan M. and Larry G. Benedict Scholarship Endowment offers support to undergraduates (awards vary).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

29,269 Students

Saint Cloud State University

The Department of Theatre and Film Studies at St. Cloud State University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and an undergraduate minor in theatre. The B.A. in Theatre is available in three concentrations: a generalist concentration, a design/tech concentration and an acting/directing concentration. Students in all three concentrations complete 52 to 53 credits of coursework, including 22 credits of required major courses and 6 credits of electives. Theatre students can also participate in student organizations like Dramatic Action, which provides assistance to the Department during auditions, performances and festivals. Scholarships available to theatre students include the Theatre Endowed Scholarship and the $1,000 Marge Hams Memorial Scholarship for Theatre Students.

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

16,096 Students

Michigan Technological University

Michigan Tech offers two undergraduate majors related to theater. Theater and electronic media performance is for students interested in the performance side of the business, and students learn to work in various media, including on stage, in front of TV cameras, and as voice talent for video games. The theater and entertainment technology major is for students who want to work backstage, including lighting, costumes, makeup, and sound technology. Michigan Tech hass a range of performing arts talent awards that incomding students can audition for. The amount of these awards varies.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

7,218 Students

California State University-Long Beach

CSU Long Beach offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre degree with a general concentration as well as concentrations in performance and in technical theatre (scenery, lighting, and costume and makeup). The university's location at the hub of the entertainment industry in southern California gives students access to a variety of internships and professional development opportunities. The Master of Fine Arts program offers concentrations in acting and in design. There is also an MBA/MFA in Theatre Management program available. A number of scholarships (with varying award amounts) are available to theatre majors, including the Amy and Harvey Waggoner Scholarship (performing arts majors), Flora & Jerome Loeb Endowed Scholarship (MBA/MFA students), and the Fred Korbus Scholarship for Theatre Techs (stage design majors).

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

37,446 Students

McDaniel College

McDaniel College offers an undergraduate major in theater arts, as well as undergraduate minors in theater arts, interactive theater and acting. The theater arts major curriculum requires 46 major credits, including three core courses, two courses related to theater texts and traditions, lower and upper-level courses in the subjects of acting, production and interactive theater, lab courses and theater writing courses. The theater arts minor requires 24 credits of coursework, while the acting minor and the interactive theater minors require 30 and 34 credits, respectively. Theater arts students also have the opportunity to complete internships with professional theater groups or with the Theater Arts Department, participate in Department productions and complete special and directed studies courses, in which they work closely with a supervising faculty member.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

3,003 Students

Winona State University

Winona State University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre degree that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST). The curriculum consists of coursework that provide theatre majors with a well-rounded education in drama. Required courses include introduction to technical theatre, play analysis, beginning acting, design communication, play directing, and theatre history and drama literature. Theatre majors have a number of scholarship options to which they can apply. Some of these include the following: Henry March Scholarship ($2,000 per year; renewable for a total of eight consecutive semesters), Bill & Brother William Koutsky Theatre and Dance Scholarship ($1,000 per year; renewable for one additional year only), and the Thomas Leuchtenberg Theatre and Dance Scholarship ($1,500; non-renewable).

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

8,490 Students

SUNY at Albany

Theater majors at SUNY University at Albany study all aspects of theater, including acting, design, technology, history, and management to gain a well-rounded understanding of the disciple. All theater students are required to work on several productions to gain hands-on experience in producing a show and develop new skills. The Theater Department, one of the oldest in the nation, has access to six performance spaces, ranging from a 830-seat auditorium to intimate spaces that seat fewer than 200 people. Productions range from classic plays to musicals to readings of new works. All theater faculty are also working theater professionals. The department gives out several annual awards, including the Agnes Futterer Award for outstanding graduating senior.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

17,178 Students

Stony Brook University

Past and future both come into play in the Stony Brook Theater Department, where students study past traditions and the history of theater and are also exposed to the latest technology and innovative new works. Students seeking a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts study all aspects of theater, including acting, directing, stagecraft, history and theory. Master of Art students write, produce and direct their own works and serve as dramaturgs for department productions. New York City is just a short train ride away, allowing Stony Brook students to see the best of professional theater. With two black box theaters and a main stage on campus, students may take part in a variety of productions.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

25,272 Students

Castleton University

Castleton University's Department of Theater Arts grants bachelor's and master's degrees in theater. Undergrads can choose from two concentrations: acting and directing or technical theater and design. A theater education minor is also available. The Master of Arts in Theater is a one-year residential program that combines coursework with hands-on work on theater productions. Students at all levels have the chance to work on stage, backstage, in costume shops, and otherwise hone their craft. Recent productions have ranged from Shakespeare to a rock musical. Theater majors are eligible for the John F. Cross Scholarship, which is awarded based on need and talent.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

2,246 Students

University of California-Santa Barbara

The Bachelor of Arts in Theater program at UC Santa Barbara offers concentrations in design, directing, playwriting, theater and community, and theater and performance studies. A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting degree is also available. This program follows a conservatory-style format and trains students for a professional career in acting. The university offers Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in theater. There are two minors available - a minor in theater and another in production and design. Theater majors can apply for the Stanley Glenn Scholarship in Dramatic Art and the Dilling Yang Fellowship in Dramatic Art. All doctoral students typically receive a minimum of three years of financial assistance in the form of teaching assistantships and fellowships.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

23,497 Students

University of Florida

The University of Florida's School of Theatre and Dance prepares students to enter the performing arts profession with a strong background in the liberal arts and practical experience. A Bachelor of Arts in general theatre is offered, as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre and Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts in acting, costume design, lighting design, scene design and dance. Opportunities to take part in mainstage and informal student or professional productions help provide real-world experience and build a student's professional portfolio. Internships are also offered. Scholarships include the Mark W. Stoughton Theatre Scholarship Fund, ($500), Jim Richardson Memorial Theatre Scholarship Fund ($1,000) and the University of Florida Friends of Theater and Dance ($750).

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

50,645 Students

Berea College

Berea College offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, as well as an undergraduate theatre minor. The B.A. in Theatre includes four core courses in subjects like script analysis, acting and visual concepts for stage. Students are also required to complete a senior theatre project and three seminar courses. Students enrolling in the theatre major are encouraged to participate in the Theatre Laboratory, the College's play production organization, which puts on a full season of plays annually. Additionally, theatre majors can participate in Alpha Psi Omega (APO), a national honor society for outstanding students in theatrical performance, technical theatre and service.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

1,643 Students

SUNY at Binghamton

Drama students can earn a Bachelor of Arts or Master of Arts in Theatre at Binghamton University, which also offers a combined program that leads to a B.A. in Theatre and a Master of Public Administration. Students in the undergraduate program can choose to concentrate in Acting/Directing, Dance, or Design/Technical Theatre. The M.A. in Theatre is a four-semester program that allows a candidate to pursue a general degree or choose a concentration in Directing, Theory and Criticism, Performance, or Technical Production and Design. The master's thesis can be a scholarly written project, or it can be a studio production or conceptualization of a production. The Theatre Department mounts five mainstage productions and a variety of studio shows each year.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

16,913 Students

SUNY at Fredonia

SUNY Fredonia's Department of Theatre and Dance offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in general theatre studies and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in acting, theatrical production and design, and in musical theatre. The BA in General Theatre Studies program considers students for admission without an audition or portfolio review. Admission to the BFA programs requires an audition and/or portfolio review. All programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST). There are four major scholarships available to students enrolled in the department: Jack L. Cogdill Scholarship, Walter l. Gloor Scholarship, Gertrude Prushaw Maytum Scholarship, and the Georgina von Tornow Endowment. These scholarships award full tuition waiver for a semester or a full year to qualified students.

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

4,842 Students

Michigan State University

Students wishing a broad overview of theater can pursue a Bachelor in Theater at Michigan State to prepare for an entry-level job or graduate school. Students who are sure they want a career in the field can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Master of Fine Arts in either acting or design. BFA and MFA students are admitted based on an audition or portfolio. Along with campus productions, MSU students can be involved with the Williamston Theatre, an Equity theater run by an MSU grad in Williamston, Michigan. The College of Arts and Letters offers a number of scholarships and awards, including the Ryder Scholarship for study abroad and the Outstanding Senior Achievement Award ($1,000).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

50,538 Students

CUNY Queens College

Drama majors at CUNY Queens College get a well-rounded overview of theater and the dramatic arts, taking courses in theater history, literature, acting, directing, stage management, design and technical theater, leading to a Bachelors degree. After learning in the classroom, students can put their skills to practice on the university's three stages, where at least five complete productions are presented each year. In addition to performing in classic and modern comedies, dramas and musicals, students also have the chance to produce and direct the work of others under the supervision of Queens College faculty. Drama students are eligible for financial awards such as the John Darren Scholarship in Technical Design, which is given annually as a stipend.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

19,520 Students

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The theatre department at UNC - Greensboro offers several degrees: a B.A. in Drama; B.F.A.s in Acting, Design and Theatre Technology, Technical Production, and Theatre Education; as well as M.F.A.s in Acting, Design, Directing, and Theatre for Youth. Students in the theatre department are able to obtain professional connections, and acting and drama students participate in an annual New York Showcase. Almost all participants in the Showcase are signed by talent agencies or theatrical producers. Scholarships and assistantships are given to some undergraduate students within the theatre department. The theatre department has three different venues on campus where students participate in professional-level productions through the school year and summer months.

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

19,393 Students

Towson University

Towson University's Department of Theater Arts offers a B.F.A. in Acting, a B.A. or B.S in Theater Arts, an undergraduate minor in theater arts and an M.F.A. in Theater Arts. The B.F.A. in Acting requires 28 credits of core courses, 58 credits in theater and 30 credits in acting. The B.A./B.S. program in theater arts offers two tracks of study: a design and production track and a theater studies track. The M.F.A. in Theater Arts is a cohort program that requires 60 credits of coursework, which can be completed in 24 months. Curriculum coursework is completed in performance, design/tech, theory, writing, entrepreneurship, synthesis and also includes thesis/project requirements. All three theater arts programs at Towson are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre.

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

22,284 Students

California State University-Fullerton

The Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts program at Cal State Fullerton has three areas of concentration: applied studies in theatre, specialized studies in theatre, and teaching. Students who choose the specialized studies in theatre concentration can further select a field of emphasis in design and technical production, directing, or playwriting. There is also a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts degree available with a concentration in either acting or musical theatre. Cal State Fullerton offers a Master of Fine Arts degree with concentrations in acting, design and technical production, or directing. Students can apply for a number of scholarships, including the Jerry and Merilyn Goodwin Musical Theatre Scholarship ($650) and the Kennedy/Zeballos Scholarship in Design & Technical Theatre ($500).

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

38,948 Students

Northwest Missouri State University

The Department of Fine and Performing Arts at Northwest Missouri State University offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in theatre, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in speech/theatre education. B.S. students can choose from concentrations in performance or technical theatre and design. Students in the theatre B.S. program are not required to complete a minor, while students in the theatre B.A. program are required to complete a minor. Theatre students have the opportunity to participate in numerous theatre productions each year, including the Freshman-Transfer Showcase, which is a mainstage production for all first-year students. Students can also participate in student-run lab series productions, as well as musicals that take place every other even year.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

6,593 Students

CUNY City College

City College of New York offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre that allows students to choose a track to guide their electives within the degree. Available tracks include acting, design and technical theatre, directing, musical theatre, playwriting, and theatre history and dramatic literature. To earn the B.A., students must take at least 40 credits in theatre classes. CCNY theatre majors have many opportunities to be involved in theatre at the university, which produces four to six stage productions annually and sponsors a one-act play festival for productions headed by advanced directing students. Students also have the opportunity to act in films produced by students in the film program and to submit their plays for possible production.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

15,778 Students

CUNY Hunter College

Theatre majors at Hunter College take classes in all aspects of the field, including history, theory, acting, directing, playwriting, and children's theatre. To earn their degree, undergraduates also must work on college theatre productions. Thanks to the college's location, the Theatre Department has links to many local theatres, and undergrads may be able to work as an apprentice or intern for a professional theatre group. At the graduate level, Hunter offers a Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting and a flexible Master of Arts in Theatre that students can tailor to meet their needs and interests. Master's level theatre classes meet on weekday evenings. The department awards the LoBianco Scholarship ($2,500) to two undergraduate students each year.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

22,918 Students

The Drama Department at Texas Woman's University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Drama along with a Teaching Certificate in Theatre Arts, a Master of Arts in Drama, and an Online-Hybrid Master of Arts in Drama. Drama majors also have the opportunity to earn a Music Theatre Certificate along with their degree. This requires them to participate in directing, performance, and history courses which will prepare them to work in both educational and professional music theatre setting. Students may qualify for scholarships like the Drama Program Scholarship, the Charles E. Harrill Endowed Scholarship, the Betty King-Drama, the Joan Rutledge McDaniel Scholarship, and more.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

15,286 Students

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

The Department of Theatre at the UNC Charlotte offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre degree with three concentration areas - design and production, theatre studies, and theatre education. The theatre education concentration requires additional coursework available through the College of Education. The curriculum includes specialized courses that qualify graduates for K-12 teacher licensure in North Carolina. Theatre majors have access to the university's premiere performing arts venue - the Robinson Hall for the Performing Arts. Within this venue are two smaller performance spaces - the Anne R. Belk Theatre, a proscenium-style stage that seats 340 patrons, and the Lab Theatre, a black box space that can seat 125 patrons. Qualified students are considered for the Department Merit Scholarships ($500-$2,000) and the Ira Yarmolenko Scholarship ($1,000-$2,000).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

27,983 Students

CUNY Brooklyn College

With its location in New York City, Brooklyn College is able to secure internships for its theater students with prestigious organizations such as the New York Shakespeare Festival, and many theater faculty members also work in Broadway or off-Broadway theaters. Undergrads may earn a Bachelor of Arts in Theater or a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting or Design & Technical Theater. Graduate students can earn a Master of Arts in Theater or specialize with a Master of Fine Arts in Acting, Design and Technical Production, Directing, Performing Arts Management, or Theater History and Criticism. About 80 percent of graduate theater students receive scholarships. Scholarships include the Marvin Kaplan Scholarship ($1,000), for a student involved in comedy entertainment.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

17,410 Students

SUNY College at Plattsburgh

The State University of New York-Plattsburgh's Department of Theatre encourages students to get involved with all aspects of theatre production. The Bachelor of Arts program is a generalist program, providing a strong foundation in all areas of the theatre as well as critical analysis and historical perspective. Coursework is augmented by participation in the mainstage shows produced each year, with students earning credits for onstage and behind-the-scenes work. A senior project serves to highlight skills and knowledge, with projects that include an original script, recitals, directing or scholarly research. Scholarship opportunities include the Alpha Psi Omega honor society scholarship, the Dr. Charles and Ruth Kline Theatre Arts Scholarship and the Excellence in Theatre Award (amounts vary).

  • Advanced Placement Credit

5,718 Students

University of North Texas

The University of North Texas offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with a concentration in performance, and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with a Concentration in Design/Tech. Admission to the school does not guarantee admission into the theatre program, and students who enter as freshmen are considered pre-majors. In order to become theatre majors, students must have a 2.5 GPA at least, and students must complete specific courses with a grade of a B or higher. Students may join such student organizations as University Players and Alpha Psi Omega.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

37,299 Students

California State University-Stanislaus

Stanislaus State University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts program with a well-balanced curriculum that gives students the opportunity to work on all aspects of production. Students have the option of mounting productions for a 300-seat mainstage theater or a 100-seat studio theater. Coursework includes classes in the history and traditions of theatre, script and character analysis, foundations in scenography, stage movement, directing, and the practical and theoretical aspects of technical theater and design. Students pursuing a liberal arts program can elect to have Theatre Arts as their area of concentration. Each year, one qualified student majoring in theater, music or art is awarded the Dr. Carol Channing School of Fine & Performing Arts Scholarship (amount varies).

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

9,282 Students

California State University-Fresno

The Theatre Arts Department at Fresno State is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST). Students accepted to the Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts program can choose a general emphasis or an emphasis in acting or design/technology. The program prepares students for careers in professional theatre or in teaching. A BA in Theatre Arts with a dance option is also available. Students have access to the theatre complex which consists of the John Wright Theatre (370 seats), the Dennis & Cheryl Woods Theatre (150 seats) and the Lab School Theatre (100 seats). The most outstanding student for the academic year in the theatre arts program is awarded the Raymond Ensher Creative Achievement Theatre Arts Scholarship (variable amount).

Accreditation: National Association of Schools of Theatre, Commission on Accreditation

  • Advanced Placement Credit

24,136 Students

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

The Department of Theatre and New Dance at Cal Poly Pomona has a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre program with five tracks: general, acting, design and production, dance, and theatre in education and community. Classroom instruction in areas such as acting, movement, stage lighting, playwriting, scenic design and theater management are structured to go hand-in-hand with the development of artistic and performing skills. Several scholarships of variable amounts are available, including the Morse Family Scholarship (design and technical theatre), the Renaissance Scholarship (excellence across multiple disciplines), and the Lou Fossum Best Dedication to Performance Scholarship (acting). Students can also apply for a Center Theatre Group internship, which gives them the opportunity to work and study alongside professionals in the field.

  • Advanced Placement Credit

23,717 Students

Types of Theatre -Drama Degrees

Associate’s Degree in Theater/Drama

An associate’s degree in theater/drama is a 2 year undergraduate program focused on the fundamentals of theater. You’ll find a variety of associate programs in community colleges and technical schools. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required to apply. AFA students usually need to audition before they are accepted in a program.

The associate’s degree is often used as a stepping-stone for students who want to earn a BFA, BS, or BA. If you’re thinking about a bachelor’s degree, make sure your associate course credits will be transferable to the program of your choice.

Degree Choices

  • Associate of Arts (AA): A general liberal arts degree with classes in theater/drama theory and technique.
  • Associate of Fine Arts (AFA): A skills-focused degree that emphasizes performance and training.
  • Associate of Science (AS): Often a more technical degree orientated towards theater design & production.

Sample Coursework

Please see our list of Common Theater Majors for info on coursework.

Career Opportunities

You don’t need a degree in order to become an actor, a director, or a person working behind the scenes. However, you may find that an associate’s degree from a strong school with well-connected teachers can be helpful in advancing your career. For example, an AS in a field such as costume design or technical production will give you a solid set of professional skills.

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Bachelor’s Degree in Theater/Drama

A bachelor’s degree in theater/drama is a 4-5 year undergraduate program (BFAs may take 5 years) focused acting, theater, and performance. You’ll find them in traditional universities, colleges, conservatories, and even technical schools. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required to apply. Some programs will expect you to provide samples of your theater work (i.e. a high school portfolio) and pass an audition.

Degree Choices

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA): A skills-based “professional” degree that concentrates on intensive training and performance. BFAs come in a variety of career flavors, including acting, directing, and playwriting. Although training predominates in the BFA, students are also expected to complete conventional coursework in academics.  
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA): A traditional liberal arts degree that mixes skills and training (acting, movement, speech, etc.) with academic coursework in both theater and liberal arts (e.g. science, English, math, etc.). On the whole, BA programs tend to be less performance-focused than BFA programs, but each school is unique, so please check the curriculum carefully.
  • Bachelor of Science (BS): A degree that often includes more science and technical courses than a BA. BS programs may appeal to students interested in technical aspects of theater and behind-the-scenes work.

Sample Coursework

Please see our list of Common Theater Majors for info on coursework.

Career Opportunities

You don’t need a BA or a BFA to work in the theater, although many professionals have them. If you go to a strong school with great teachers, and work hard at building your list of professional contacts, you’ll be in a solid position to apply for jobs as a:

  • Set designer
  • Lighting crew
  • Makeup artist
  • Costume designer
  • Actor
  • Director
  • K-12 teacher
  • Stage manager
  • Casting assistant
  • Journalist

Only remember that you’ll be competing against thousands just like you. If you’re interested in theater management, you’ll probably need to start at a lower level (e.g. administrative, assistant, etc.) to build up real-world expertise.

Master’s Degree in Theater/Drama

A master’s degree in theater is a 2-3 graduate year program focused on professional training in theater or performance (the MFA) or theater research (the MA). For the MFA, a bachelor’s degree is usually required, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a BFA. A critical part of your application for MFA programs will be your portfolio or performance audition.

Degree Choices

  • Master of Fine Arts (MFA): An MFA is focused on practice. The “core” of your work (e.g. acting, design, directing, theater technology, theater management, or a similar concentration) is combined with regular public performances and occasional classes in liberal arts. This is a program designed for students serious about becoming theater professionals.
  • Master of Arts (MA): The MA is concerned with critical study and scholarship. The curriculum is more “academic” (e.g. 50% liberal arts courses and 50% fine arts), and oriented towards research. Many students use this as degree as preparation for the PhD or to enhance their teaching in secondary schools. Others serve as dramaturgs.

Sample Coursework

Please see our list of Common Theater Majors for info on coursework. In addition to passing their classes, master’s students are usually required to complete a thesis or a capstone project. Acting and directing students may be asked to write their thesis on performance or production projects. The thesis for a playwriting student is typically based on a script they have written. 

Career Opportunities

MFA and MA graduates become playwrights, directors, actors, and more. They may also take up management and directorship positions in their particular field. What’s more, the MFA is generally considered a terminal degree. That means MFA graduates can become full-time professors at the university level.

Doctoral Degree in Theater/Drama

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in theater/drama is a 3-7 year academic program focused on high-level research and theory. It is the highest academic credential you can achieve in the field. Unless you enroll in a combined master’s/PhD program, you will need a master’s degree in theater or a closely related field in order to apply.

Sample Coursework

PhD candidates typically spend their first few years concentrating on advanced coursework in theater and research methods. After they’ve gone through this gauntlet, they have more time to focus on original research, studying a particular area of interest (e.g. theater in Soviet Russia). The degree culminates in a dissertation – a book-long summary of your research and findings.

Career Options

Many PhD graduates earn this degree in order to become tenure-track professors at a university or college. However, some schools are happy to let seasoned professionals with an MFA teach at the same level.

Other options for PhD holders include:

  • Consultant for non-profit organizations and art agencies
  • Administrator for state and federal organizations (e.g. National Endowment for the Arts, state arts councils, etc.)
  • Researcher
  • Curator
  • Librarian
  • Dramaturg

Aspiring professors can check out the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE). This is the umbrella organization for theater professionals involved in higher education.

Certificate in Theater/Drama

A certificate in theater/drama is an academic, non-degree program that generally takes less than 1 year to complete. Certificates are intended to provide students with an introduction to the field or train them in specific skills (e.g. acting in Hollywood).

Certificate Choices

  • Undergraduate Certificate: Targeted at current undergraduates who wish to enhance their knowledge of an area of theater or students interested in eventually applying to an undergraduate theater/drama program.
  • Graduate Certificate: Aimed at bachelor’s graduates who are thinking about master’s or professionals who wish to focus on certain areas (e.g. lighting techniques, directing youth, etc.).

If you wish to earn certificate credit hours for a future degree (bachelor’s or master’s), make sure your certificate credits will be transferable.

Note: An academic certificate is not the same as an add-on certificate/licensure program for aspiring schoolteachers. If you’re interested in these kinds of programs, check out our article on K-12 Education.

Common Theater Majors

Theater & Drama Production

This is usually a general “all-purpose” major that covers every aspect of theater, including acting, script analysis, set design, speech, directing, production, and other important skills. Theater majors also study dramatic styles/types, dramatic literature, and performance history.

Theater Design & Stagecraft

Students in theater design & stagecraft concentrate on the technical work (“tech”) involved in staging theater. Classes in this major can cover lighting design, costume design, sound effects & theater acoustics, property management, set design, stagecraft, computer applications, and technical direction/production.

Acting & Performance

Acting & performance majors are common in BFA and MFA programs, degrees which focus on skills and techniques. In most cases, actors study areas such voice training, movement, improvisation, auditioning, stage performance, and theater history. Performances are an integral part of the program.

Playwriting & Screenwriting

In addition to finding this major in BA and BFA programs, you’ll also discover a number of MFA programs that concentrate solely on writing. Unsurprisingly, playwriting majors concentrate on areas such as script development, creative writing, stage instruction, production, and collaboration.

Costume Design & Stage Makeup

Students who major in costume design focus on both skills and theory. As well as sketching, designing, crafting, and adjusting costumes, they also study theater history and criticism, costume history, and period dress. The costume design major frequently includes stage makeup.

Musical Theater

Like the acting major, musical theater is usually a skills-based major focused on performance. Students are trained to act as triple threats – all singing, all dancing, all acting. This means classes in all three disciplines, with lots of rehearsals and performances.

Directing & Theatrical Production

Directing majors are expected to study all aspects of planning and producing a play. As well as directing, students also take classes in actor coaching, casting, script interpretation, set design, theater management, and business.

Theater Management

Theater management majors are interested in running their own commercial theaters or performing arts organizations. That requires classes in theater development/production, financial management (e.g. accounting), fundraising, human resources, public policy, marketing, and contract law. Internships are common. Some students choose to combine it with a business major for a joint degree.

Theater Education for K-12 Teaching

The theater education major is specifically targeted at students who wish to teach drama and/or speech to K-12 students or groups such as the elderly. In addition to studying theater and education techniques/theory, you’ll be expected to participate in student teaching.

If you’re interested in public school jobs, you will need a teaching license from your state. There are plenty of theater productions that can prepare you for licensure, just check that they’re accepted by your State Board of Education. We talk more about the licensure process in our article on K-12 Education.

Important Accreditations

Regional Accreditation

Whether you’re considering an AS, a BA, or an MFA, we recommend you look at schools with regional accreditation. This is a “seal of approval” granted to non-profit and public institutions by one of six regional accrediting bodies (e.g. New England Association of Schools and Colleges).

You can learn more about the difference between national accreditation, regional accreditation, and diploma mills in Accreditation: Understanding the Difference Between Real Schools and Diploma Mills.

Benefits of Regional Accreditation

A degree with regional accreditation will make it much easier for you to:

  • Transfer credits (many regionally accredited institutions will not accept course credits from nationally accredited schools)
  • Apply for student loans, scholarships, tuition reimbursement, and funding opportunities
  • Be accepted to regionally accredited graduate schools
  • Look good in the eyes of headhunters and recruiters

Regional accreditation only applies to the institution, not individual programs. For theater degrees, you can also look for program accreditation from NAST (general theater) and/or NASM (musical theater).

NAST (General Theater)

The National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) is an organization of schools, conservatories, colleges, and universities that establishes national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees and other credentials in theater. You don’t need to go to a NAST-accredited program to get a good education – some very well-known schools (e.g. NYU) don’t bother with it. But you may wish to consider it when you’re drawing up a shortlist.

Search for NAST-Accredited Institutional Members

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NASM (Musical Theater)

If you’re thinking about a career in musical theater, you have the option to look for programs that are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). Like NAST, NASM is an organization of institutions that establishes national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees in music. Lots of great schools don’t worry about pursuing NASM accreditation. But you may find it useful if you’re comparing smaller programs in your state.

Search for NASM-Accredited Institutional Members


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