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 offer options for specialized training. Keep reading to find out more about drama schools in the U.S.

Selecting a Drama School or 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 of the drama department. Students can find drama programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels at many colleges, universities and conservatories.


  • Specialties
  • Award level and career goals
  • Contacts and professional opportunities


Prospective students should look for drama schools with specialties that suit their career interests; Some colleges offer programs only in select areas, like acting or directing, while others focus on playwriting or technical production. A course of study heavy in theory and analysis might lead the graduate toward a career as a theater critic or drama professor.

Award Level and Career Goals

For students who know they want to work professionally, an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) or conservatory degree tends to provide more focused training. Conservatories are often focused on acting, while MFA programs offer the gamut - from acting to playwriting to technical theatre. Some BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) programs also offer specific training in various areas of theatre. BA (Bachelor of Arts) programs will often offer the student the option of getting their feet wet in many areas, from technical theatre to directing.

Contacts and Professional Opportunities

For students pursuing theater on a professional level, contacts are one of the most important things a drama school can offer. Individuals should look for schools that bring in theater professionals to teach classes and seminars. They may also want to look for schools that commonly place students with externships or jobs in theaters 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 can expect to take only classes related to drama and theater arts and to frequently participate in school productions and similar experiences. An audition is usually required to enter these programs. 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. Some of the coursework in a conservatory program includes:

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

Bachelor's Degree in Drama

Bachelor's degree programs for the dramatic arts take place at many 4-year universities. Usually two degrees are available: the 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 students to attend auditions in order to specialize in acting. Coursework for a general BA in theatre 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 degree for admission, and most also require applicants to have some field experience. Depending upon the type of degree and their area of specialty, students might take courses in:

  • Directing
  • Design
  • Playwriting
  • Theatre history
  • Performance

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