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Performing Arts Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

Music, dance and theater are the major areas of focus at a performing arts college. Many schools offer bachelor's and master's degree programs in the performing arts.

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A student's own talent and performance goals are central to choosing a performing arts school. Programs are varied, and provide students with an education in many different areas of performing arts, such as theater, music and dance.

10 Schools with Performing Arts Programs

Many different areas of the country have schools that will cater to the needs of performing arts students. These are ten schools that offer relevant programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)*
University of Central Florida Orlando, FL 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $6,368 in-state, $22,467 out-of-state
Mills College Oakland, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $44,258
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,856 in-state, $43,476 out-of-state
American University Washington, DC 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $43,103
The American Musical and Dramatic Academy Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Private Certificates, Bachelor's $35,600 (2016-2017)**
University of Minnesota Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $13,790 in-state, $22,210 out-of-state
Southern Oregon University Ashland, OR 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $8,145 in-state, $22,365 out-of-state
Georgetown College Washington, DC 4-year, Private Bachelor's $48,611
Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $12,485 in-state, $29,129 out-of-state
University of California Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $12,763 in-state, $37,471 out-of-state

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics and **American Musical and Dramatic Academy

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Acting
  • Artisanry and Craft Design
  • Playwriting and Screenwriting
  • Theatre Arts Management
  • Theatre Design and Technology
  • Theatre History, Literature and Criticism
  • Theatrical Production

University or College Selection Criteria

There are some things that you may want to bear in mind when making a decision about where to study the performing arts. Consider the following when looking for performing arts schools:

  • Students may wish to seek out schools that offer ample performance opportunities and venues suited to their own interests.
  • Students may want to look for performing arts schools in large metropolitan areas that have more resources and institutions dedicated to performing arts.
  • A school's capacity to provide opportunities for internships, research opportunities and part-time, off-campus jobs may offer students more chances to gain hands-on experience in performing arts.
  • Students might research the variety of extra-curricular activities available at different schools to determine which school can offer more opportunities to gain new skills outside of a student's specialty.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A major in theater immerses the student in a variety of liberal arts subjects as they relate back to the theater. Analysis of plays, the history of drama, cross-cultural, social and political studies is incorporated. A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater Studies (BFA) program is tailored to students who wish to pursue a career in the performing arts. Aspiring actors, directors and technical crew specialize in their crafts of choice.

A Bachelor of Arts in Dance program is geared to more general studies, while the Dance Bachelor of Fine Arts is expressly for performers. Auditions are typically required for BFA programs. BFA in Dance programs immerse the student in numerous styles of dance and also other aspects of the arts, including acting and improvisation.

A Bachelor of Arts in Music program provides a rounded liberal arts education with a central focus on music. Vocalists may be drawn to a major in opera, vocal performance or musical theater. Performing musicians will want to investigate programs suited to their instruments. Other programs focus more on the recording technology side of music production or on the business side.

Master's Degree Programs

A Master of Theater Studies program is suited to those interested in pursuing a teaching career in the performing arts. Coursework focuses on mastering the technical side of theater performance. A Master of Fine Arts in Dance program gives students the opportunity to work with accomplished choreographers and to gain valuable performance experience. Some Master of Arts in Music programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (http://nasm.arts-accredit.org).

The location of a school will likely be of great importance to performing arts students, as proximity to performing arts institutions and opportunities may aid their career prospects. Performing arts degrees are found generally at the bachelor's and master's level, though some doctoral programs are available, largely in the field of theatre.

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