A high school diploma or GED may be sufficient to pursue some careers in musical theater, although a bachelor's degree in musical theater can help prepare actors, musicians, singers, producers and directors for a career in this field. The studies cover all aspects of musical theater production, including auditions, acting and the history of musical theater.
Musical theater training can start in childhood and extend into bachelor's or master's degree options. Most musical theater programs at the collegiate level require an audition process as well as a standard college application. Students are often required to participate in performances as a portion of their degree program. Musical theater students may be able to specialize in show production.
|Career||Stage Actor||Musicians or Singers||Producers or Directors|
|Education Requirements||Some College||High School Diploma or Equivalent||Bachelor's Degree|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training||On-the-job training||Work experience in similar field|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||10%||3%||9%|
|Average Wage (2015)*||$37.47/ hour||$33.62/ hour||$43.11/hour|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Musical theater training can open the door to a variety of career opportunities for people who want to create, perform, or accompany musical theater pieces. Students trained in musical theater might decide to become actors, musicians, singers, producers, or directors. Below, please find an overview of each of these options including mean wages as of 2015 and expected growth in each field from 2014 to 2024.
Actors interpret written work and portray characters on stage, in film, or in a variety of live action contexts. In May of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS) placed the mean wage of actors at $37.47 per hour. Actors are expected to see 10% job growth between 2014 and 2024.
Musician or Singer
Musicians and singers are responsible for the musical portion of a performance. Many musicians play instruments to accompany acting performances, while singer may also act or dance in live performances. According to the BLS, musicians and singers are expected to see 3% job growth between 2014 and 2024. Their mean wage as of May 2015 was $33.62 per hour.
Producer or Director
Producers and directors interpret written work in order to design productions, coach actors, and communicate with an audience. As of May 2015, the average salary for producers or directors was $89,670, per the BLS. Production and directing fields are projected to grow at 9% between 2014 and 2024.
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Training for Musical Theatre
Careers in musical theater acting, directing and writing are highly demanding and competitive. Musical theater training may also prepare individuals to become drama professors or vocal coaches.
Students interested in musical theater acting must show strong acting and vocal ability, and may be required to have some dance training. Training can start as young as childhood, with individuals auditioning for community productions, taking acting classes or singing lessons. Building up a resume by performing in community or regional musical productions also provides a training ground for aspiring musical theater actors.
At the collegiate level, students take courses on production, design and audition techniques through bachelor's and master's degree programs. Courses on the business side of the entertainment industry may also be part of undergraduate or graduate programs.
Bachelor's Degrees in Musical Theater
Many universities offer options for Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Music programs with an emphasis in musical theater. Through a school's theater and music departments, students take courses on such topics as the history of musical theater, costume design, vocal training and acting. Most programs require students to audition or work on the season of musical theater productions, which provides them with hands-on experience working on a musical production. They can also apply for internships at local playhouses and work as stage managers or assistants to directors to gain further experience.
Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theater
For those who wish to further their education, Master of Fine Arts programs in musical theater are available. Most schools require that applicants to the Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theater program audition on top of the standard admissions process, which includes taking the GRE exam. Prospective students can do the audition in person or by video submission. Program length varies, with most averaging around two years.
While musical talent is a component of becoming a performer in a musical theater production, a degree in musical theater benefits all professionals in this field because most programs include practical experience. This hands-on experience prepares graduates for auditions and for what to expect when they are part of a musical theater production.