United States Performing Arts Masters Programs | Masters in Performing Arts
Earning a masters in performing arts degree might be a great way to elevate your craft to a new level and hone strengths to become the performer you’re striving to be. Whether it’s through engaging with the hands-on coursework, learning from professors who are also industry professionals, or building a network of likeminded peers, you may find this degree program pushes you to develop not only your art form, but your personal capabilities as well. With so many different formats to support your academic goals and lifestyle, there could be a perfect masters program waiting in the wings.
To continue your journey in front of the curtain (or behind it), keep reading further down this for more information about the ins and outs of masters in performing arts programs.
What Does the Phrase “Performing Arts” Mean?
Performing arts masters programs encompass several concentrations that each produce some aspect of a live, entertainment presentation. When researching potential programs, you may find popular concentrations that fall under the performing arts umbrella such as dance, theatre, stage management, and music. It is important to note that this is only a small sampling of concentrations. Check with your intended program for a full list of available options.
Performing Arts Masters Programs' Curriculum
While the curriculum of these programs may vary, each masters degree strives to imbue students with the ability to perform on stage. Depending on which areas you intend to study, you may engage with some of the following curriculum:
- Acting Performance
- Costume Design
- Musical Performance
- Arts Education
- Musical Composition
Be sure to check with your intended program for a complete list of required courses for your concentration.
Masters in Performing Arts Programs: Choosing a MA versus MFA
Typically, masters in performing arts
programs are offered as either a master of arts (MA) or master of fine arts (MFA). While these two programs both aim to prepare students for potential careers in performing arts, they differ in their instruction methods. MA programs tend to be more scholastically driven, and might focus on the academics surrounding your intended concentration. For example, theater students may study topics such as history, criticism, or even business administration as part of a MA. A MA could be a great choice for students who wish to pursue a career in the business, administration, or educational divisions of performing arts because it may emphasize these aspects of performance production.
MFA Performing Arts
MFAs, on the other hand, test students’ through practical, everyday application. Usually this consists of daily studio courses to practice and apply studied performance knowledge and skills. These courses could include anything from a trumpet player receiving private lessons to a ballet student learning a combination as part of a class. Since this masters program is devoted to giving performers new “tools” for their toolbox, it may be perfect for working professionals who are looking to enhance their career opportunities by developing more advanced performance techniques.
Completion times between these two programs may vary, as well as between different concentrations, but students could expect to earn a performing arts masters degree in 1 to 3 years. Program lengths vary by school.
Performing Arts Masters Programs: Requirements
While both programs focus heavily on performing, admissions departments also wish to ensure that incoming students are able to handle the academic course load. With this in mind, students may be required to submit a 3.0 undergraduate GPA when applying. In addition to this, students are commonly requested to provide auditions or portfolios as supplemental material to their application. Check with you intended university for a comprehensive list of admission requirements.
Masters in Performing Arts Degree: Program Formats & You
Choosing how you attend your masters in performing arts program could be as essential as picking a perfect program itself! Depending on your personal lifestyle and schedule, certain program formats may fit more easily into your day-to-day routine.
Performers who intend to pursue degrees in dance, theatre, or music might potentially benefit more from an on campus performing arts masters program. These in-person programs may allow you to engage with tutors, professors, and fellow peers and receive instant constructive criticism during class time. This feedback could then be directly applied and practiced during the same class! Not only may this be a great way to elevate your techniques, but could also prevent bad performing habits from developing unchecked. Studying on campus might also provide the opportunity for you to join campus ensembles. These extracurricular activities may grant you additional time to hone your knowledge and skills in a less class-centric way. For example, you could take part in orchestral groups, theatrical troupes, or even dance concerts. This might also be a great way to meet others in your field who might not be in your classes.
If you’re looking at taking a more administrative, production-based, educational, or theoretical role in performing arts, you might want to consider an online performing arts masters program. These programs may be a great way to study subjects such as music theory, business management, and administrative techniques because they rely more on academics as opposed to monitored instruction. Additionally, these courses could be conveniently inserted into your schedule because you could log into a class as your time allows. This might be perfect for working professionals, who might have jobs at odds hours and may not necessarily be able to attend traditional class times. Feel free to tackle your studies during a rehearsal break, on the weekends, or when you have a moment to spare!
What Could I Do With My Performing Arts Masters Degree?
Many students may be concerned about becoming a “starving artist” after graduation, but there might be a wealth of potential careers to choose from post-graduation. Depending on your chosen concentration, you might be able to pursue some of the following careers:
- Dancer & Choreographer[ii]
- Music Director or Composer[iii]
- Producer or Director[iv]
- Singer or Musician[v]
These professions typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions – if they require a degree at all – but earning a masters degree might add advanced performance techniques to your skillset that could set you apart from the competition and help enhance your career prospects.[vi]
Determining an average potential compensation for these professions is difficult due to the varying performance opportunities and differing regional demand. For example, in terms of available opportunities, an actor may audition for several shows a year, but have large gaps between each performance. Or, a musical performer might work for orchestra or concert band that requires performers to sign year-long contracts. Both performers could be highly skilled, but potentially see varying compensation. Additionally, wages may be dependent on your area of performance, with more opportunities being available in urban centers as opposed to rural or suburban. Metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and New Orleans have the highest employment level in these occupations.[vii]
Get on Stage with a Perfect Performing Arts Masters Program
No more waiting in the wings, it’s time to find a perfect performing arts masters program! Continue further down this page for a list of potential programs. To refine your list, select your preferred specialty and program type from the menus on this page. To request more information from a particular program, click through its associated link and select “request info.” Break a leg!
[i]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/actors.htm |[ii]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/dancers-and-choreographers.htm | [iii]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/music-directors-and-composers.htm | [iv]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/producers-and-directors.htm | [v]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/musicians-and-singers.htm |[vi]bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/musicians-and-singers.htm#tab-8 | [vii]bls.gov/oes/current/oes272011.htm#st
Bob Jones University
"BJU’s master of music education program combines convenience and flexibility with top-notch academics. Designed for practicing K-12 music teachers, the master of music education program meets you where you are—allowing you to furthe...
- Northridge, CANorthridge, CA
California State University, Northridge
A program unique to the Western US, CSUN's Music Industry Administration M.A. is an excellent solution for individuals seeking careers in producing, distributing, managing, and promoting music and music related business.
Liberty University Online
Colorado State University
See how earning your master's in Kodály music education can help you to become a more effective music educator. This program allows you to earn your Kodály certification online, with hands-on training in the annual Colorado Kodály Institute.
Are you ready to take your passion for theatre to the next level? Regent's online Master of Arts in Theatre will help you do just that. Designed to educate the master scholar/artist in all aspects of the art form from theory to production i...
- Emporia, KSEmporia, KS
Emporia State University
Graduate education in music at Emporia State University is based upon a tradition that nurtures scholarship, promotes performance, and encourages creativity.
- Brooklyn, NYBrooklyn, NY
By educating art and dance therapy students to become accomplished clinicians, graduates of the Creative Arts Therapy department help individuals with mental health issues reach their full potential.
- Binghamton, NYBinghamton, NY
Binghamton University (S.U.N.Y.)
Binghamton University’s nationally accredited Department of Music offers the Master of Music (MM) and the Master of Music in Opera degree programs.
- Denver, CODenver, CO
University of Denver
If the words dedication, discipline, enthusiasm and desire define your musical aspirations, then you’ll find exciting opportunities at the University of Denver.
- Dix Hills, NYDix Hills, NY
Five Towns College
Master of Music (M.M)The graduate program in Jazz/Commercial Music is offered with concentrations in Performance, Composition/Arranging, Music History...
- Chattanooga, TNChattanooga, TN
University of Tennessee - Chattanooga
The Department of Music offers a master of music degree with concentrations in music education and performance.
- Due West, SCDue West, SC
- West Chester, PAWest Chester, PA
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
The mission of the School of Music is to create a learning environment that provides the highest order of education in music.
- New York City, NYNew York City, NY
City College of New York, The
- Jonesboro, ARJonesboro, AR
Arkansas State University
- Potsdam, NYPotsdam, NY
Crane School of Music, The
The Crane School of Music (founded 1886) is one of the oldest, largest and most respected institutions in the United States. With over 600 undergraduate students and 80 faculty and staff, Crane is able to offer a wide range of programs and degrees with...
- San Antonio, TXSan Antonio, TX
University of Texas At San Antonio
- New Haven, CTNew Haven, CT
Programs through the departments of: Acting, Design, Directing, Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism, Playwriting, Stage Management, Sound Design and Engineering, Technical Design and Production, Theater Management...
- New Haven, CT
- Carrollton, GACarrollton, GA
University of West Georgia
The Masters of Music in Performance program offers the applicant a comprehensive curriculum of study designed to meet the needs of both the full-time...
- Mequon, WIMequon, WI
Concordia University - Wisconsin
Master of Church Music...