Distance Learning Theatre Degrees: Program Overviews

Colleges and universities typically don't offer fully online theatre degree programs, but some schools may offer a portion of these programs through distance learning. Learn more about theatre program options.

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Distance Learning Theatre Programs

Some schools offer certificates through master's degree programs in theatre with some portions of the program being able to be taken as online courses. Most schools will also require students to complete some work on campus. All theatre programs can help prepare students for jobs in theatre.

There are currently just a few schools that offer theatre degree programs that can be completed entirely through distance learning. Most theatre programs require students to participate in hands-on learning experiences, which is not possible in online programs. Many programs also require students to participate in internships, projects, or theatre productions, which require on-campus attendance.

There are many 2-year and 4-year schools that may offer some of their theatre courses through distance learning. Online courses can be found in topics like:

  • Theatre fundamentals
  • Directing
  • Acting
  • Costume design and scenery
  • Theatre history

Distance learning courses may utilize online lectures, readings, and video clips of theatre and film performances. Some courses may also require students to complete proctored exams on campus or at other approved locations.

Certificates and Associate's Degrees

Students who want to explore a theatre career can begin at a community college or other institution that offers an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science in theatre. Associate's degree programs offer the first two years of courses similar to the bachelor's programs, and students can normally transfer to schools with a bachelor's program if they wish to study further.

Colleges also offer certificate programs in theatre for students who do not wish to transfer to a bachelor's degree program. Certificate programs in theatre can prepare student to work in some positions in theatre. These programs concentrate more on theatre classes and have fewer general education requirements than associate's degree programs. Some certificate and associate's degree programs offer some classes for distance learning, though much of the work will be completed on campus. Online course offerings may include history of world theatre, introduction to technical theatre, and introduction to psychology or sociology.

Bachelor's Degree in Theater

While a degree is not required for many theatre careers, a bachelor's degree program in theatre provides students with formal training and experience that can be helpful for securing work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that actors with bachelor's degrees in theatre may have a better chance at earning stage roles than those without degrees.

Students in bachelor's degree programs in theatre, also known as theatre or theatre arts programs, may take courses in theatre performance, administration, direction, writing, or design. Some programs allow students to focus their degrees on one of those areas. These degree programs commonly include general education courses, core theatre courses, and electives. Some examples of courses in an on-campus bachelor's degree program in theatre include:

  • Introduction to theatre
  • Acting and performance
  • Theatre history
  • Directing
  • Stage design
  • Costume construction
  • Theatre lighting
  • Comedic performance

Master's Degree in Theater

Master's degree programs related to theatre often result in a Master of Fine Arts degree. While some schools offer general programs in theatre, most graduate programs are available in a specific area of theatre, such as directing, acting, theatre management, playwriting, or producing. MFA in theatre programs may encompass all of these areas into one program. Students are often required to complete an internship, grad project, or thesis. Some courses in a graduate program in theatre may include:

  • Theatre performance
  • Dramaturgy
  • Sound design
  • Performance techniques
  • Musical theatre
  • Directing

Many theatre programs offer some of their classes through distance learning, but the majority of programs require attending classes and completing projects on campus. Some programs condense the on-campus portion into short, intensive sessions. A theatre degree is not required to work in theatre but it improves the employment prospects for many jobs in theatre.

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