Graduate Degrees in Musical Theatre: Program Options

Oct 13, 2019

Essential Information

Students wanting to pursue a graduate musical theatre degree have the option of choosing a Master of Fine Arts or a Master of Music. Master's degree programs in musical theatre are relatively rare in the U.S. and are usually found at universities on the coasts. In addition to developing their performance abilities, students in these programs may learn about topics such as choreography, producing, directing and educating.

In order to get accepted to these programs, students will typically need a bachelor's in theater arts with a minimum GPA and GRE scores, music or acting experience, introductory courses in directing and theatre history, a performance video, dance audition and a headshot. Master of Music in Musical Theatre applicants usually need an undergraduate degree in music, strong vocal and music theory skills, a vocal audition and completion of a music theory test. These programs are generally not found available to study online.

Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre

An MFA in Music Theatre, typically a two- or three-year program, includes significant training in singing, acting and dancing. Students are also expected to mentor and direct students working toward their bachelor's degree. Most programs have a very low teacher-to-student ratio, which allows for significant individual instruction in performance skills. Graduates may be found in all aspects of the theatre industry, including writing, education, performance and choreography. The MFA in Musical Theatre curriculum includes didactic training in the theory and history of musical theory, along with regular lessons in performance skills. Specific course topics include:

  • History of musical theatre
  • Voice instruction
  • Stage direction
  • Script and score analysis
  • Dance instruction

Master of Music in Musical Theatre

A Master of Music in Musical Theatre program emphasizes vocal skills and performance abilities. It is less focused on the theory and history of musical theory than the MFA programs. Coursework is focused on practical training. A Master of Music in Musical Theatre program often requires graduate students to perform lead roles in musicals staged by the school's drama department, in addition to taking music and acting courses. Specific course topics include:

  • Voice
  • Speech
  • Script and score analysis
  • Acting
  • Movement
  • Directing

Popular Career Options

Graduates of MFA in Musical Theatre programs go on to teach drama and work in live stage productions. Specific professions include the following:

  • Actor
  • Professor
  • Director
  • Scriptwriter

Graduates of Master of Music in Musical Theatre programs are generally focused on developing or performing in Broadway-style musicals. Generally, they work as one of the following:

  • Actor
  • Dancer
  • Director

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that acting positions are predicted to grow 1% from 2018-2028. Theatre and other performing arts actors can expect stiffer competition for roles compared to film actors. Actors earned a mean hourly wage of $29.34 as of 2018, but there was a huge variance in possible salaries. Dancing and choreography jobs are expected to decrease by 1% from 2018-2028, and these professionals made an average hourly wage of $20.70 in 2018, reported the BLS. As with actors, wages varied quite a bit for dancers, and many workers face periods of unemployment that can affect their earnings.

In a master's degree program in fine arts or music, students receive thorough training in all forms of performance and creative expression. Graduates can find work in many different areas of the performance and entertainment industry and should expect a wide range of salaries.

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