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Performing Arts Degree and Training Program Information

Performing arts degrees provide artistic and dramatic instruction for prospective entertainers in the acting, music or dance industries. These degrees are commonly offered at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels.

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Essential Information

Degree programs in the performing arts usually focus on a specific area, such as music, dance or acting. At the associate's and bachelor's degree levels, students get an overall liberal arts education while studying the theory and techniques of their field in their major courses. Students may have to audition for acceptance into these programs and participation in school productions and recitals is required. At the master's level, performing arts students work on their area of interest, taking courses and engaging in regular public performances that will help them develop their skills and talents.

Undergraduate degrees require a high school diploma, auditions, photograph, work samples and letter of recommendation to apply. Master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree, outline of goals, letters of recommendation and interview with audition for entry.


Associate's Degree in Performing Arts

An Associate in Science or Associate in Arts in Performing Arts degree programs includes liberal arts courses in addition to performance-based classes. Students can expect to endure the physical demands of participating in regular productions at irregular hours, such as during the evening or on weekends. Associate degree programs are available at many community colleges with minimal enrollment requirements, such as a high school diploma or equivalency.

Earning an associate's degree in performing arts provides a foundation for those students working towards a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree. In addition to studies in English, science and history, performing arts students take modern drama, script analysis and theater fundamentals among the many performing arts courses available. They may also study specific types of theatre, including musicals and plays. Some typical courses may include:

  • Acting
  • Dance
  • Performance history
  • Music
  • Speech

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Bachelor's Degree in Performing Arts

Bachelor of Art, Bachelor of Fine Art and Bachelor of Science degrees in Performing Arts are typically available in specific performing arts disciplines, such as dance, music and theatre performance. Students specializing in dance learn various types of dance methods and develop skills by reading written work and studying concerts and videos. Music students learn the language of music by learning acoustics, harmonies and melodies of different types of music. Those specializing in theater may choose to focus on acting or design and technology.

General education requirements in core subjects such as English and math are also part of bachelor's degree programs. Each specialization within the performing arts program offers specific courses, such as some of the following:

  • Jazz and modern dance
  • Harmonies and voice
  • Music history and composition
  • Theater acting
  • Auditioning and stage performance
  • Voice projection and mechanics

Master's Degree in Performing Arts

The Master of Fine Arts degree is available with concentrations in acting, design, directing, drama and performing arts management. A master's degree in performing arts takes two to three years to complete. Students can expect to gain extensive and thorough knowledge in their field of study and be able to demonstrate proven experience in performing arts. Required courses are dependent on the student's concentration. Monthly or quarterly public performances are often part of the curriculum. Specific courses include:

  • Acting and directing
  • Design
  • Managing in performing arts
  • Movement and verbal use on stage
  • Writing for plays

Popular Career Options

Those who possess skills and knowledge in performing arts may choose several career paths depending on the area of specialization. Jobs available in the performing arts sector include some of the following:

  • Actor or actress
  • Ballet or modern dancer
  • Musician
  • Choreographer
  • Makeup artist
  • Set designer

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for actors was expected to increase 10% between 2014 and 2024. Additionally, in May 2015, the median hourly wage of actors was $18.80.

Courses for performing arts degrees help students develop skills such as writing, acting and directing, design, dance and composition. Public performances are typically part of the curriculum.

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