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Performance Design Degree Program Information

Aspiring performance design professionals may complete a bachelor's or master's degree program. Students of a bachelor's program may learn about various aspects of theater production, while a master's program builds upon those concepts.

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Essential Information

Modern performance design relies upon complex mechanical and electronic systems with which students must be familiar. Bachelor's and master's degree options both prepare students for careers in theater scenic design. A master's degree requires an internship and thesis prior to completion of the program.


Bachelor's Degree in Performance Design

A bachelor's degree program in performance design trains students in the technical and design aspects of the theater and performing arts. A high school diploma with background in English, math, foreign languages and social sciences is typically required for entry. This program involves study of the dramatic tradition through analysis. Students have the opportunity to becoming involved with theater productions, focusing on scenery, sound, lighting and costume design. Professional training is pivotal in this degree program. Coursework typically includes:

  • Theater graphics
  • Production and scene design
  • Contemporary and historical theater studies
  • Props construction
  • Stage management
  • Script analysis

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Master's Degree in Performance Design

A master's degree program in performance design prepares students for professional theater work. This program involves the study of set design, theater history, literature and drafting. In addition to studying playwriting and the history of cinema, students might participate in directing workshops. Training is a pivotal element to a master's degree in performance design. Some schools require students to participate in a class project or build a professional portfolio in addition to completing coursework. A bachelor's degree is typically required for entry. An internship and thesis may also be required. Common courses that can provide a student with the skills needed to work in the industry may include:

  • Stage movement
  • Directing workshop
  • Stage management
  • History of cinema
  • Scenographic techniques
  • Modern theater history

Popular Careers

Graduates with technical knowledge and a foundation in basic design principles can work in behind-the-scenes positions in the performance arts field. Common career options include:

  • Scene shop supervisor
  • Scenic design assistant
  • Set decorator
  • Art director
  • Exhibition designer

Students who earn a master's degree in performance design are prepared to teach at the university level. Other career options include:

  • Crafts artisan
  • Production designer
  • Scenic designer
  • Theater historian
  • Media consultant

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that art director jobs were expected to grow 2% from 2014-2024. Employers in this field increasingly contract out designers, so workers may need to be self employed and work job to job. Set and exhibit designers made a mean yearly wage of $54,920 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

After completing a bachelor's degree program in performance design, an individual may choose to go on to earn a master's degree. A master's degree program can further the development of a student's design and technical skills.

Individuals who complete a performance design degree program may find work as production or scenic designers, set decorators and art decorators. Bachelor's degree programs typically focus on technical and design aspects of theater, while master's degree programs prepare students for professional theater work.

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