Acting Colleges and Schools in New York with Program Overviews

Jul 30, 2019

Research acting programs in New York, which currently has more than ten schools offering programs. Read an overview of courses, tuition and degree options for these ten schools and decide which one is right for you.

Essential Information

Students who are interested in developing their dramatic and stage skills in New York can find training at schools that offer undergraduate and/or graduate degrees in acting. While acting programs generally focus on art and technique, theater and drama programs typically combine acting classes with related studies in technical production, playwriting and direction. Admission to acting programs is often competitive, and applicants generally undergo a rigorous audition process.

The ten schools highlighted below include two public and eight private not-for-profit schools; prospective students will also find a comparison table with a summary of degree options and program costs.

American Academy of Dramatic Arts - New York

The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City is an acting conservatory that offers 2- and 3-year programs in acting. Notable alumni include Paul Rudd, Robert Redford, Kirk Douglas, Grace Kelly and Danny DeVito.

The school's Associate of Occupational Studies program is a 2-year course of study that covers topics in acting, comedy, movement, dialects, stage combat and performance. Admission to the second year of the program is by invitation only.

Upon completion of the associate's, students might be invited to attend the advanced certificate program in acting for a third year of study. Unique to the program is the opportunity for aspiring actors to participate in performances with a New York City theater company. Through articulation agreements with CUNY Hunter College and St. John's University, students also can continue their training at the bachelor's level.

Columbia University

Columbia University in New York City is located on Broadway, about 70 blocks north of the city's theater district. Through an arrangement with the theater department at nearby Barnard College, Columbia students can pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Theatre with a concentration in acting.

An audition is not required, and once accepted, students have the opportunity to participate in avant-garde acting, solo acts and Shakespearean performances. Additional concentrations include those in drama and theater, theatrical design, directing, dramaturgy and playwriting.

The 3-year Master of Fine Arts program, available through the university's School of the Arts, also offers a concentration in acting. Genre-based coursework includes the study of Shakespeare, Chekhov and Greek tragedy. Aspiring professionals also receive training in acting techniques and collaboration, voice, dance and clowning. During the third year, students participate in an acting thesis project, showcases and workshops in professional development. Third-year students and program graduates can audition for the Young Company, an opportunity to perform Shakespearean productions for children.

CUNY City College

City College is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) network and is located in upper Manhattan. A Bachelor of Arts is available through the Theatre and Speech Department.

In addition to the required acting courses, students can choose electives in acting realism, acting for the camera, the classics and professional auditioning. Related courses in theater production cover topics in design, direction and playwriting. An audition is not required for admission, but students have to try out for departmental productions.

Marymount Manhattan College

Located on the Upper East Side in New York City, Marymount Manhattan College is a private liberal arts school that offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting. This intensive course of study is offered through the school's Division of Fine and Performing Arts and includes the study of contemporary and classical acting. Unique to the program is a 1-year study of Shakespearean drama.

Course topics include improvisation, stagecraft, script analysis, dialects and audition techniques. In addition to school theater productions, students participate in a senior showcase performance.

New York University

The Tisch School of the Arts at New York University is also located in Manhattan. Through the school, students can pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama program that combines a liberal studies core with topics in theater production. Unique to the program is the opportunity to select from a number of advanced professional studio options, which could include theater, screen, experimental and classical acting.

Alumni of the 3-year Master of Fine Arts program include Debra Messing, Rainn Wilson, Christopher Guest and Michael C. Hall. This is a highly competitive course of study, and professional training begins during the first year. Second-year highlights include small theater production, and large production opportunities occur during the third year. The program culminates in a student showcase production for agents, casting directors and producers.

Pace University - New York

The Dyson College of Arts and Sciences at Pace University in Manhattan has been featured on the Emmy-nominated show 'Inside the Actors Studio,' which also functions as a classroom for Master of Fine Arts students. At the undergraduate level, Pace offers a competitive, studio-focused Bachelor of Fine Arts program taught by professional actors. Requirements include topics in musical and improvisational theater, advanced scene studies, screen acting and movement. Students also receive training in theatrical makeup and voice, participate in an internship and complete a senior theater experience.

Among the prominent alumni associated with the Actors Studio Drama School are Bradley Cooper, Paul Newman and Sally Field. The 3-year Master of Fine Arts program emphasizes the Stanislavski or method-acting technique and, in addition to major coursework, might include studies in West African dance, storytelling and creative collaboration. During the final year, aspiring actors work alongside directing and playwriting students to present a fully produced work to professionals and the public in a Manhattan theater.

SUNY at Purchase College

This Purchase-based college is located near White Plains and is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The school offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting. Noteworthy alumni include Parker Posey, Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci. In addition to acting techniques, future professionals study stage combat, improvisation, auditioning and the Lecoq technique, which focuses on movement.

Outstanding acting students might be invited to participate in the Consortium of Conservatory Theatre Training Programs, an opportunity for qualified seniors to meet with agents, casting directors and producers in both New York City and Los Angeles.

Syracuse University

Located in central New York, Syracuse University offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting. In addition to Vanessa Williams, famous alumni include Taye Diggs and Jerry Stiller.

After the freshman year, students can audition for departmental performances and the local theater company, Syracuse Stage. They also might participate in films produced by the university's film students. Coursework is similar to that of the aforementioned programs and might include modern and poetic drama, scene studies and a writing studio.

The Juilliard School

The Juilliard School, located in Manhattan, is a performing arts institute that offers an undergraduate diploma and a degree in drama, as well as a relatively new Master of Fine Arts program. Requirements for the Bachelor of Fine Arts program include method acting, vocal instruction, ballroom dancing, stage combat, point-of-view and improvisation. Students also complete two performance projects and take workshops that can help prepare them for casting calls, auditions and production reels. Through special permission from the Office of Admissions, the school offers a 4-year undergraduate diploma in drama that does not require any courses in the liberal arts.

The Master of Fine Arts also takes four years to complete, and the program is designed to accommodate students who hold a bachelor's degree from another school. Graduate students work alongside those in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program and take many of the same classes. Courses exclusive to the Master of Fine Arts curriculum include production and design, playwriting, Shakespearean texts, directing and pedagogy.

The New School

The New School for Drama is located in Manhattan and offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Arts. This interdisciplinary course of study provides undergraduates with training in acting, playwriting, directing and other creative arts. Performance classes are offered during the second and third years, and portfolio development takes place throughout the program.

Each of the three years required for the Master of Fine Arts program emphasizes a different aspect of the profession. During the first year, the focus is on discovery as students participate in storytelling, games and other exercises. In the second and third years, professionals-in-training explore the structural side of acting by presenting their own one-act plays and working on productions. Individual courses include, among other topics, auditioning for stage and camera, the Chekhov technique, theatrical clowning and vocal production.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Acting Programs Offered Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)
American Academy of Dramatic Arts - New York 2-year, private not-for-profit; large city Associate of Occupational Studies in Acting,
Certificate of Advanced Studies in Acting
$35,160 (undergraduate)*
Columbia University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Theatre Arts (Acting),
Master of Fine Arts in Acting
$59,430 (undergraduate)*
$48,390 (graduate)*
CUNY City College 4-year, public; large city Bachelor of Arts in Theatre $7,140 in-state;
$14,810 out-of-state (undergraduate)*
Marymount Manhattan College 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting $33,778 (undergraduate)*
New York University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama,
Master of Fine Arts in Acting
$51,828 (undergraduate)*
$45,426 (graduate)*
Pace University - New York 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting,
Master of Fine Arts - The Acting Studio
$45,280 (undergraduate)*
$31,462 (graduate)*
SUNY at Purchase College 4-year, public; large suburb Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting $8,698 in-state;
$18,478 out-of-state (undergraduate)*
Syracuse University 4-year, private not-for-profit; midsize city Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting $51,853 (undergraduate)*
The Juilliard School 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting,
Master of Fine Arts in Drama
$45,110 (undergraduate)*
$45,110 (graduate)*
The New School 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Arts,
Master of Fine Arts in Acting
$49,064 (undergraduate)*
$46,065 (graduate)*

Source: *NCES College Navigator.

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