Students may pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A) and/or Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A) in directing. Students will need acting experience, and an audition may be required for admission. Bachelor's programs in directing focus on foundational theater history and production skills. Master's degree programs focus on practical training.
Applicants to a B.F.A. program must have a high school diploma or the equivalent and previous theatrical experience in high school or regional theaters. Some schools also require an interview or audition as part of the application process. For an M.F.A. program, applicants need to hold a bachelor's degree and have extensive experience in acting and directing acquired in high school and during undergraduate study. They must also complete an interview.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Directing
Students can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Directing or Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre with a concentration in directing. Programs instruct students in the components of theatrical production, which covers acting, playwriting, stage management and technical roles. Learned principles are applied in labs, workshops and school productions, with student cast, crew and directors. Students develop creative thinking skills and the ability to work in a collaborative environment while defining a personal directing style and production aesthetic. Students also take classes and attend lectures in the following:
- Theater history
- Analysis of written scripts
- Stage movement
- Stage voice and diction
Master of Fine Arts in Directing
Students in Master of Fine Arts in Directing programs undergo intensive practical training in the planning and carrying out of directing duties, first through assisting roles under other directors' guidance and, by the final year of the program, serving as the primary director of a production. They also continue to master production leadership, design application and acting skills through theater labs and workshops, as well as studying theater history and design theory. Some programs may require completion of a thesis project.
Students have some latitude in tailoring the directing program to meet their interests. Programs stress hands-on practice with some more structured coursework in the following topics:
- Scene design
- Costume design
- Stage combat
- Production processes
- Advanced acting
Popular Career Options
Given the interrelated nature of theater disciplines, graduates of bachelor's degree programs in directing are prepared for employment in a number of occupations within the industry. Some popular career options include:
- Assistant director
- Stage manager
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that directors generally work on productions of variable length (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that producers and directors across various mediums could look forward to a 5% increase in employment between 2018 and 2028, which is as fast as the average, and they earned median annual salaries of $71,680 in 2018.
Both B.F.A. and M.F.A. in Directing programs provide relevant training for students who want to become directors or pursue similar careers within the entertainment industry. While both programs include hands-on training, master's programs are usually geared towards students with professional film-related experience.