Acting Courses in California with Degree Program Information

California has more than a hundred schools that offer acting and theatre programs. Learn about the courses, tuition info and program options for ten of the largest schools to make an informed education decision.

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Essential Information

Theatre departments at California schools offer acting courses as part of degree programs specifically in acting and as part of broader degree programs in the dramatic arts. Some schools also offer performance specializations. Most programs are offered at the bachelor's and master's degree levels, although associate and doctoral degree programs are also available. Some schools also offer degree program minors. Since California is a hub for acting schools, only ten of the largest colleges and universities with acting courses are discussed.


California State University - Long Beach

California State University - Long Beach offers many theatre facilities, including rehearsal rooms and performance centers with state-of-the-art equipment. The university has an undergraduate program in theatre arts, and students will be able to concentrate their studies on performance and acting. Undergraduate students aren't required to audition to get into the theatre arts program. There is also a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) full-time degree program in theatre arts with an option in acting, in which students refine their acting, voice and movement skills. MFA applicants need to audition and have at least a bachelor's degree in theatre arts.

San Diego State University

San Diego State University provides a bachelor's degree program in theatre arts with an emphasis in performance. Applicants need to audition and pass basic theatre prerequisites to be accepted into the major. Upper-division courses include acting, practicum in performance, audition techniques and acting on camera. Additionally, students have access to two theatre spaces, a scene shop, a costume shop, storage spaces and a computer lab.

San Francisco State University

This San Francisco institution offers three programs in drama, awarding a minor, a bachelor's degree with an emphasis in performance and a master's degree. Undergrad students don't have to audition. A bachelor's degree in the theatre arts is a preferred entrance qualification for the Master of Arts (MA) program. The master's degree program provides advanced seminars in performance, and students must complete a thesis or a creative project. All students have access to the four performance spaces, production shops and design laboratories.

San Jose State University

San Jose State University offers a theatre minor, in which students learn the basics of performance and entertainment. The bachelor's degree in theatre arts has an emphasis in acting, allowing students to develop their stage sensibilities. Undergrad students can also choose an interdisciplinary approach to the theatre arts, choosing additional concentrations. Students can participate in the university's stage productions, regional theatre productions, university films or internship opportunities.

Santa Monica College

Located in Santa Monica, this college has an associate's degree program in the theatre arts. Required courses in theatre history, voice development, stagecraft and acting are designed to provide students with a basic foundation in the field. Students can take additional acting electives, like stage movement or advanced voice development. Santa Monica College's theatre department also produces four to five stage productions a year, and students can participate in acting competitions.

University of California - Berkeley

The University of California - Berkeley offers a program that leads to a minor in theatre and performance studies, which allows students to take beginning through advanced acting courses. Students in the bachelor's degree program in theatre and performance studies can focus their studies in acting and participate in capstone experiences, which may include productions, honors theses, internships and independent studies. The PhD program in performance studies is an interdisciplinary scholarly degree in which candidates define individualized research plans. Candidates can participate in acting seminars and activities that promote their academic goals.

University of California - Davis

The University of California - Davis has three programs in dramatic art. Award-winning and internationally renowned faculty members teach the programs. Students pursuing a minor or bachelor's degree in dramatic art can take beginning through advanced acting courses. Students with a bachelor's degree in a related field can apply to the MFA program in dramatic art. This program uses an interdisciplinary approach, in which students explore acting, design, choreography and directing, and ends with a project and written thesis.

University of California - Los Angeles

The University of California - Los Angeles requires both undergraduate and graduate students to complete interviews and auditions for admission to its theatre programs. The BA program in theatre provides a foundation in the liberal arts, comprehensive studies in theatre and the opportunity to pursue an elective sequence in acting. The MFA program in acting prepares graduates for acting in television and digital media as well as film and theatre. Students take advanced courses in acting, voice and movement as well as perform in a variety of productions. The university houses several professional studios, working theatres, rehearsal spaces and other theatre equipment.

University of California - San Diego

The University of California - San Diego is located in the coastal community of La Jolla, within the city limits of San Diego. The Department of Theatre and Dance offers undergraduate and graduate programs in theatre. Students in the bachelor's degree program don't need to audition and take courses in design, directing, playwriting, stage management, theatre history and acting. Additionally, undergraduates can take four electives in acting or other theatre courses. A minor is also available.

The MFA program offers a specialization in acting. Graduate applicants must have a bachelor's degree and audition for the program. Advanced studio classes in movement, voice, speech and improvisation develop students' artistic sensibilities. Students perform in several university productions and participate in showcase performances in Los Angeles and New York.

University of Southern California

The School of Dramatic Arts at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, offers several minors. Minors that have acting courses include applied theatre arts, dramatic arts, playwriting, performing arts and musical theatre. The BFA and MFA programs in acting provide conservatory training, and applicants to these programs must audition. BFA students take courses like acting, voice, movement and advanced acting. The MFA program offers advanced courses in voice diction, textual studies for performance, acting and diction/dialects. Students have five versatile performance spaces in which to train.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting Acting Programs Offered Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)
California State University - Long Beach 4-year, public; large city BA in Theatre Arts,
MFA in Theatre Arts
$6,798 in-state; $18,678 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$8,232 in-state; $17,736 out-of-state (graduate)*
San Diego State University 4-year, public; large city BA in Theatre Arts $7,488 in-state; $19,340 out-of-state (undergraduate)*
San Francisco State University 4-year, public; large city Minor in Drama,
BA in Drama,
MA in Drama
$7,260 in-state; $19,140 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$8,694 in-state; $18,198 out-of-state (graduate)*
San Jose State University 4-year, public; large city Minor in Theatre Arts,
BA in Theatre Arts
$7,796 in-state; $19,676 out-of-state (undergraduate)*
Santa Monica College 4-year, public; small city Associate in Arts in Theatre Arts $1,142 in-state; $8,918 out-of-state (undergraduate)*
University of California - Berkeley 4-year, public; midsize city Minor in Theatre and Performance Studies,
BA in Theatre and Performance Studies,
PhD in Performance Studies
$14,184 in-state; $43,176 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$14,131 in-state; $29,233 out-of-state (graduate)*
University of California - Davis 4-year, public; small suburb Minor in Dramatic Art,
BA in Dramatic Art,
MFA in Dramatic Art
$14,402 in-state; $43,394 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$13,570 in-state; $28,672 out-of-state (graduate)*
University of California - Los Angeles 4-year, public; large city BA in Theatre,
MFA in Acting
$13,226 in-state; $42,218 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$12,946 in-state; $28,048 out-of-state (graduate)*
University of California - San Diego 4-year, public; large city Minor in Theatre,
BA in Theatre,
MFA in Theatre
$14,167 in-state; $43,159 out-of-state (undergraduate);
$13,397 in-state; $28,499 out-of-state (graduate)*
University of Southern California 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Minor in Dramatic Arts,
BFA in Acting,
MFA in Acting
$56,225 (undergraduate);
$45,561 (graduate)*

Source: *College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics.

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