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.

Selecting a Drama College

Drama programs combine training in acting, set design, directing and other theater arts with education on the theater industry and how to become a professional dramatist. Some programs have general education requirements that fall outside the drama department. Students can find drama programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels at many colleges, universities and conservatories.

Things to consider:

  • Look for specialties that suit your career interest, whether it be acting, directing, playwriting or technical production.
  • Conservatories focus on acting, whereas MFA programs offer 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.
  • Some schools commonly place students with externships or jobs in theater or drama companies.

Drama Programs Overview

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. Coursework might be:

  • Acting
  • Vocal production
  • Speech
  • Theatre history
  • Dance

Bachelor's Degree in Drama

Many 4-year universities have bachelor's programs for the dramatic arts, usually either a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Arts. The Bachelor of Fine Arts program has more extensive requirements and is considered a pre-professional degree. The Bachelor of Arts offers a general liberal arts curriculum with less emphasis placed on studio training. Some programs require auditions in order to specialize in acting. Coursework can include:

  • Dramatic literature
  • Stagecraft
  • Theatre history
  • Directing
  • Construction

Master's Degree in Drama

Students can pursue a Master of Arts or Master of Fine Arts. Master of Arts programs offer a general education in drama and tend to focus on theory and education or outreach. In contrast, the Master of Fine Arts 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
  • Performance

Drama Schools

College/University Institution Type
Juilliard 4-year, Private
Carnegie Mellon 4-year, Private
Tisch School of the Arts 4-year, Private
University of North Carolina 4-year, Public
Northwestern University 4-year, Private
University of Michigan 4-year, Public
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities 4-year, Public
University of Cincinnati College 4-year, Public
Syracuse University 4-year, Private
University of Southern California 4-year, Public

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