Technical Theater Training and Education Program Information

Technical theater degree-holders serve in a variety of roles in theatrical productions, including stage manager, set designer and production manager. Coursework will highlight such topics as lighting for the stage, technical direction, rigging equipment and stage management.

Essential Information

An associate's degree in technical theater will prepare you for entry-level positions in the theatrical arts industry. A high school diploma or GED is required prior to enrolling in a 2-year associate's degree program in technical theater. Bachelor's and master's degrees in theater arts and technical theater production can equip you with skills necessary for advanced positions in theater management and stage production.

  • Program Levels in Technical Theater Training: associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; bachelor's degree for a master's degree
  • Program Length: 2 years for associate's; 2-3 years for master's
  • Some Program Specializations: Production and stage management, theater and set design, costuming, props, lighting, sound and special effects

Associate's Degree in Technical Theater

An associate's degree program in technical theater provides an introduction to the technical and artistic skills used in producing modern theatrical productions. You'll perform a variety of technical roles in theater performances to demonstrate possible career opportunities.

Areas of focus include production and stage management, theater and set design, costuming, props, lighting, sound and special effects. An associate's degree curriculum includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in a theatrical production. Topics covered generally include:

  • Stage management fundamentals
  • Scenery and property construction
  • Costuming
  • Lighting
  • Rehearsal and performance

Bachelor's Degree in Theater Arts and Technical Direction

In a theater arts and technical direction bachelor's degree program, you'll study advanced theoretical and practical skills in theater design, entertainment technology and stage management. Emphasis is generally placed on technical and project management applications in theatrical productions. These programs prepare you for entry into the theater performance industry, as well as provide a path for further study in the discipline.

Classes in a bachelor's program address the challenges encountered by stage and crew members in modern theatrical productions. Areas of focus include theater and shop personnel management, structural engineering, budgets and scheduling. You'll be assigned various roles in stage productions in order to gain well-rounded, hands-on experience. Possible topics of study include:

  • Crew management
  • Computer-assisted drafting
  • Technical direction
  • Theatrical rigging practice
  • Stage electronics

Master's Degree in Technical Theater Production

At the graduate level, you'll gain the necessary skills to serve as a technical manager in a variety of stage productions. Master's programs focus on an array of leadership skills including communication, material budgeting, staffing and project supervision. A master's degree can usually be earned in 2-3 years of full-time study.

A graduate degree program in technical theater production features classes that emphasize leadership and management skills in the production of a live stage performance. You'll be assigned multiple production roles that address individual academic and career aspirations. Subjects in a technical theater master's program or concentration include:

  • Production planning
  • Technical direction and theater safety
  • Leadership and management
  • Play production concepts
  • Drafting for the theater

Popular Careers

By earning a bachelor's degree, you'll generally be qualified to seek entry- and mid-level positions in the theatrical production industry. With more experience, previous management roles and exposure to larger productions, you may increase job opportunities. Some career options include:

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the arts, design, entertainment, sports and media industries employed over 1,750,000 individuals, and approximately 54,230 of those worked in performing arts companies (www.bls.gov). In 2012, the BLS anticipated that attendance to theatrical productions would decline, and the growth prediction for producers and directors was slower than average, at 3% from 2012-2022. In 2013, the BLS listed the median annual salary of a set and exhibit designer working for performing arts companies at $43,980.

After graduating from a master's degree program, you'll typically be equipped to seek senior-level management positions in theatrical productions. In 2013, the BLS reported that the median annual salary of producers and directors employed by performing arts companies was $69,100. Additionally, master's degree-holders often qualify for teaching positions at elementary, secondary and college levels. The median salary for public school teachers as of July 2014 was $52,436, and associate drama professors at the college level earned median salaries of $64,537, according to Salary.com.

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