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What is Drama and Theatre Arts?
Drama and Theatre Arts is a field of study focused on performance. The term drama comes from the Greek word meaning “action”. The two masks (black and white) that are associated with drama represent the division between tragedy and comedy. The symbols are of ancient Greek muses Thalia and Melpomene, representing the laughing muse and weeping muse respectively.
In English, the term play is the standard term used to describe drama until William Shakespeare’s time. Today, a drama performed in a theatre by actors upon a stage before a live audience includes an active mode of production often including music and dance.
Top Degrees in Drama & Theatre Arts
Drama students and theatre students have more college degree options today than ever before. From undergraduate certificate programs to graduate degrees in the field, students have myriad programs to choose from in drama. The question then become, which is the best theatre program for me? Answering these questions is a personal one that requires reflection, cogitation, and a firm grasp on your personal priorities.
To help you align your priorities, we have created an eBook titled the Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process. In the first five pages of the book, you will see a listing of questions to help you create your personal priority list. Once you have your priorities sorted and organized, selecting a degree program and college become a much easier process.
Below you will find a summary of degree and certificate programs in theatre and drama. We encourage prospective students to connect with colleges that offer programs that match you best. In fact, we have simplified the process by providing a complete list of programs on our resource page instead of looking up hundreds of college programs concurrently.
Certificate Programs in Drama and Theatre Arts
Certificate programs in theatre and drama will often require students to audition prior to acceptance. Elite programs have programs in high demand thus making the acceptance rates lower. Undergraduate certificate programs may focus on voice, acting, dance, music, or a combination of several disciplines. A certificate program will be shorter in length than a degree program, in most cases, with a focus on a particular area in the arts.
Drama Associate's Degree
Associate’s degrees in theatre arts are typically conferred as an Associate of Arts (AA). An associate degree will typically take students 2-years to complete. Programs will include a fusion of general education courses and core classes. Liberal arts classes will often include courses such as communications, psychology, sociology, history, economics, and philosophy.
Core classes will depend on the school’s offerings and area of emphasis you choose to pursue. For example, a school may offer an AA degree in theatre with a concentration in production, acting, music, singing, managing, design, directing, dance, playwriting, or stage production. To further illustrate the point, a student electing a music theatre track would take the following types of classes:
- Musicianship for Actors
- Applied Voice
- Music Theatre Techniques
- Music Theatre History
Drama Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor’s degree in theatre arts would be found in a course catalog as a Bachelor of Arts (BA). Much like the associate’s degree, a bachelor degree fuses general education courses with core classes in the arts. The primary differences between the two degrees include the depth and breadth of classes studies.
As the most popular degree in the United States, the bachelor’s degree generally takes 4-years to complete. Students will have exposure to a number of theories within theatre arts and drama to prepare them for a graduate degree or careers in the arts.
Master Degree in Drama and Theatre Arts
Master’s degrees are conferred as a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or Master of Arts (MA). Both MFA and MA degrees will take students 1-2 years to complete. Graduate students will typically specialize in a field of the arts that may include track such as producing, directing, playwriting, leadership, stage management, and sound arts. A student pursing a MFA or MA degree in stage production would take classes such as:
- Primary Design
- Space and Lighting
- Model Building
- Freehand Drawing
- Pattern Drafting
- Hand Drafting
- Secondary Design
- Computer Graphics
- Figure in Space
- Scene Painting
- Theatre Collaboration
- Costume Design
- Textile Design
- State Design
- Lighting Design
Employment in Drama and Theatre Arts
For students that earn a college degree in Drama and Theatre Arts, there are several fields of specialization that one can pursue. The options range from actors, teachers, directors, producers, communications, journalism, dancers, musicians, stage hands, and an array of performers to name a few possible career tracks.
Theatre Job Growth & Career Outlook
The job growth in the greater Drama and Theatre Arts ranges by discipline and geography. For example, a person holding a degree in acting can expect a 10% growth in employment through 2024 according to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
In terms of wages, an actor living in New York can expect to make nearly four times more than an actor living in Georgia. This fact underscores the importance of geography and demand from industry to industry as vocations in one region may vary from another region.