Top Universities with Theater Degree Programs

Learn about degree programs in theater, which typically provide training in acting, directing, stage craft and playwriting. Read about the course topics and degree options available at four leading universities, and find a list of other postsecondary institutions that offer theater arts programs.

School Information

Degree programs in theater can lead to a bachelor's master's or doctoral degree. Some programs allow students to specialize in dance, music or television work. The three schools highlighted below are national universities with past high rankings from U.S. News & World Report. While the theater programs at Pepperdine University are only available at the undergraduate level, students at Cornell and Northwestern can earn a graduate degree in theater arts or directing.

1. Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

School Highlight: Cornell has nearly 100 academic departments.

Cornell University is a liberal arts college that ranked 15th on U.S. News & World Report's list of best universities in the nation for 2015. Cornell's Department of Theatre, Film and Dance offers a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Theatre. Students study the history of theater, as well as participate in theatrical performances of their own. Hands-on instruction takes place through theater laboratories that include training in production, stage management, rehearsal and performance.

Cornell also offers a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theater Arts for those seeking careers as researchers or professors. Students have the opportunity to study at the Europe.

2. Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA

School Highlight: Pepperdine integrates faith and learning.

Pepperdine University is a private Christian University that U.S. News & World Report ranked tied for 54th among national universities for 2015. Pepperdine's Theater Department offers a B.A. in Theatre Arts, Theatre and Media Production or Theatre and Music; students can also pursue a secondary school teaching credential.

Admission requirements include an audition and an interview. Once enrolled, students receive instruction in stage craft and management, movement, musical theater and voice. They also learn how to apply theatrical makeup, improvise and research theater topics. Practicums in auditioning and assistant directing are also available.

3. Northwestern University in Evanston, IL

School Highlight: Northwestern is the Big Ten Conference's only private institution.

Northwestern University ranked 13th on U.S. News & World Report's list of national universities for 2015. The School of Communication offers a B.A. in Theatre program, through which aspiring professionals receive training in acting analysis and performance, playwriting and stage directing. They'll also learn about theatrical sound and lighting design and take courses in theater history and literature. Northwestern also offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Directing. Once they've been accepted, students have the opportunity to work with professional actors and set designers and create their own productions.

Top Theater Degree Programs

School Name Distinction Location
American Musical and Dramatic Academy Daily live and television performances Los Angeles, CA
Columbia College Theater courses feature small class sizes and hands-on instruction Chicago, IL
Emory University Large number of summer programs available Atlanta, GA
Kansas State University Land-grant university Manhattan, KS
Loyola University of Chicago Faith-based Jesuit institution Chicago, IL
New York University Among the nation's largest private universities New York, NY
San Diego State University Racially diverse institution San Diego, CA

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