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Drama Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Drama schools and colleges teach acting, directing, playwriting and other aspects of theatrical production. Conservatories and advanced degree programs provide options for specialized training.

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Drama programs, available at undergraduate and graduate levels, combine training in acting, set design, directing and other theater arts with education in the theater industry. Some programs have general education requirements that fall outside the drama department.

10 Drama Schools

The schools listed below award undergraduate and/or graduate degrees either in drama or theatre arts.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered* Tuition and Fees (in-state, 2015-2016)**
Juilliard NYC 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $39,720
Carnegie Mellon Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $50,665
Tisch School of the Arts NYC 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $26,217 (12-18 credit hours)*
University of North Carolina School of the Arts Winston-Salem, NC 4-year, Public Bachelor's $8,983
Northwestern University Evanston, IL 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate $49,047
University of Michigan Flint, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's $9,936
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate $13,790
University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's $11,000
Syracuse University Syracuse, NY 4-year, Private Bachelor's $43,318
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $50,277

Source: *School Website, **National Center for Education Statistics

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School Selection Criteria

When searching for a drama school, there are a few factors one should take into consideration.

  • Look for specialties that suit your career interest, whether it be acting, directing, playwriting or technical production.
  • Conservatories focus on acting, whereas a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program offers a wider range of emphases; choose a program based on your educational path and career desires.
  • Find programs that bring in professionals to teach classes and seminars.
  • Contemplate schools that place students with externships or jobs in theater or drama companies.

Conservatory Degree

Acting conservatories offer intensive programs lasting two years. Some grant associate's degrees while others lead to certificates. Students take only classes related to drama and theater arts and frequently participate in school productions and similar experiences. Auditions form part of the entrance requirements. Many conservatories have relationships with 4-year institutions where students wishing to continue their studies may apply their conservatory credits toward earning a bachelor's degree. Curriculum may include acting, vocal production, speech, dance and theatre history.

Bachelor's Degree in Drama

Many 4-year universities have bachelor's programs for the dramatic arts, usually either a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or Bachelor of Arts (BA). The BFA program has more extensive requirements and is considered a pre-professional degree. The BA offers a general liberal arts curriculum with less emphasis placed on studio training. Some programs require auditions in order to specialize in acting. Dramatic literature, stagecraft, theatre history, directing and construction are all possible course subjects.

Master's & Doctoral Degree in Drama

Students can pursue a Master of Arts (MA) or MFA, and some colleges offer doctorates. MA programs offer a general education in drama and tend to focus on theory and education or outreach. In contrast, the MFA program prepares students to be theater professionals through intensive classroom training and work placements. Both options require a bachelor's for admission, and most also expect prior field experience. Depending on type of degree and area of specialty, students might take courses in directing, design, playwriting, theatre history and performance.

Drama programs are available from the bachelor's level up to the doctorate level. Most provide an all-around curriculum, although some are more concentrated, so one may choose a school based on their area of interest.

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