Master's Degree in Theatre: Program Summary

Master's degree programs in theatre offer comprehensive training in the field so that students can pursue work as actors, directors, playwrights or design technicians in a number of settings. Learn more about the curriculum and the outcomes for graduates.

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Essential Information

Master's degree programs in theatre train students in a number of concepts, including dramaturgy, theory and history, as well as scenic, costume and lighting design. They provide a mixture of lecture, studio and production courses. Students also have the option of tailoring a program to meet their interests in areas such as puppetry or mime. Students usually must complete a practicum that may be offered over the summer to gain theatre production experience.

Online master's degree programs in the field are rare. However, some schools provide theatre graduate programs with courses available remotely. Master's degree programs require that students possess a bachelor's degree. Some programs will require supporting documentation related to an applicant's experience in acting, directing, writing plays or designing sets. Supporting documentation may include a resume, samples of written plays, photographs, reviews, sketches or sound recordings. Depending on the student's concentration, the program may require an audition.

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

Master of Fine Arts in Theatre

Students can expect to learn about art criticism and participate in group workshops that include other students with different specializations. Theatre programs provide an educational foundation in production-related concepts, such as the creative process and decision making. Students can expect to review a number of dramatic texts and take courses in topics such as the following:

  • Studio directing
  • Performance theory
  • Costume design
  • Lighting and sound
  • Drawing and rendering
  • Movement

Popular Career Options

Graduates of theatre programs have a number of career options in the performing arts, entertainment, education and production industries because of the broad range of skills they have gained - including communication, organization and creative problem-solving. Some popular career options include:

  • Drama coach
  • Special effects designer
  • Talent manager
  • Arts administrator
  • Computer design specialist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Graduates are prepared for various careers in theatre production and education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), set and exhibit designers in performance art companies earned a mean annual salary of $48,300 as of May 2015, (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported the median annual salary for all art, drama and music teachers in postsecondary schools was $65,340.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of master's degree programs may wish to continue their education by pursuing a doctoral degree program in theatre. These programs prepare students through the focused study and research of theory, criticism, history and performance. Students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to combine artistry and scholarship. The doctoral degree program can prepare students for faculty positions at colleges and universities.

Master of Fine Arts programs are available in particular facets of theatre, such as set design and playwriting. Students might also earn a master's degree in the related field of film production, which includes studies in playwriting, acting and directing, set design and film production.

Through a master's degree in theatre, students, gain an advanced understanding of theatre history and production, as well as specific expertise in a particular area of interest. This training opens up a wide variety of theatre-related career opportunities in fields including education, management and design.

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