California Performing Arts Masters Programs
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
- San Francisco, CASan Francisco, CA
University of California - Berkeley
UCB offers the M.A./Ph.D. and Ph.D. degrees in composition and scholarship, the latter with options in the history and literature of Western music and in ethnomusicology.
- San Jose, CASan Jose, CA
San Jose State University
The Master of Arts degree in music is a 30-unit program. Applicants must be accepted by the School of Music and Dance, as well as by the Graduate Scho...
- Oakland, CAOakland, CA
Holy Names University
Graduate School for the Working Adult.
- San Francisco, CASan Francisco, CA
American Conservatory Theater
The M.F.A. in acting degree may be conferred upon a student who holds a bachelor's degree from an accredited college and who successfully completes th...
- Stanford, CAStanford, CA
- Hayward, CAHayward, CA
California State University, East Bay
M.A. in Music prepares students for pursuing careers as teachers, professional performers and composers.
- Santa Cruz, CASanta Cruz, CA
University of California - Santa Cruz
The Master of Arts degree with emphasis in composition, ethnomusicology or performance practice integrates theoretical and historical background with practical experience in diverse performance traditions and creative practices. The Doctorate of Musi...
- Santa Cruz, CA
- Mill Valley, CAMill Valley, CA
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary
- Stockton, CAStockton, CA
University of The Pacific
A professional school of the University of the Pacific dedicated to the teaching of the art and discipline of music in six major areas: Performance, M...
- Davis, CADavis, CA
University of California - Davis
The Department of Dramatic Art offers a Ph.D. in drama, theater, and performance studies, and an M.F.A. in acting, choreography, directing and design. These graduate programs train highly skilled and talented individuals to pursue careers as research sc...
- Davis, CA
- Sacramento, CASacramento, CA
California State University, Sacramento
- Chico, CAChico, CA
California State University, Chico
- Fullerton, CAFullerton, CA
California Union University