San Diego Performing Arts Graduate Schools | On-Campus Performing Arts Programs

Why Consider Performing Arts Graduate Schools?

On campus performing arts graduate programs could provide budding performers with immediate artistic feedback as they practically apply their skills and knowledge in the classroom. As a student, you may have the opportunity to earn an MA, doctorate, or graduate certificate in performing arts under the tutelage of industry professionals who routinely test your performance techniques.  Pursuing a performing arts grad degree on campus might give you the chance to hone your craft in a way a textbook may not provide. Keep reading to see which performing arts graduate schools could be perfect for your lifestyle and educational goals!

The Basics of a Performing Arts Grad Degree Program  

Performing arts graduate schools may give students the opportunity to engage with art forms intended for live presentation in a hands-on way. Potential concentrations could include mediums such as theatre, technical design, dance, music, or writing. Each field of study draws from highly specialized skills and knowledge unique to that art form. This makes determining a general curriculum difficult. Artists don’t necessarily need to study the minutiae of each artistic concentration. For example, a dance major may not need to learn the same things as someone studying costume production, and vice-versa. Despite not focusing on the same topics, these programs each strive towards the common goal of improving students’ understanding of performance. Depending on the program, students might touch on some of the following courses:

Additionally, there may be “niche” concentration possibilities within a performing arts graduate program. While pursuing a performing arts grad degree, you could have the opportunity to study a facet of an art form such ethnomusicology, arts therapy, or songwriting. You can research prospective schools for a list of available programs.

By pursuing an on-campus performing arts grad degree you could have a great opportunity to study the physical elements of your art form. Within the classroom, you might have the chance to practically apply the performance skills and knowledge you’re studying in books or through lectures. This could entail practicing with a musical ensemble, running scenes with fellow actors, building a set, or rehearsing a new dance combination. In addition, you may have access to immediate critique and assistance from industry professionals – professors! Program faculty could be a valuable resource to not only help hone elements of your performance, but also provide insider information about your intended future industry. Who knows, they may even be your first contact out in the performing world! 

Performing Arts Career Profile

Many of the potential post-graduation careers you could pursue after earning a performing arts grad degree may possibly benefit from the specialized skills and knowledge you studied there.  Depending on your intended course of study, you might pursue a career as an actor[i], dancer, choreographer[ii], music director, composer[ii], producer, director[iv], or musician.[v] Typically, these career paths require a bachelor’s degree – or no degree – to enter the field initially, but earning a graduate degree might potentially give you knowledge and skills to enhance your career (and your resume).[vi]

When seeking future employment, you may find that occupational opportunities for performing arts careers are typically tied to urban centers. These areas often have more directors, performance spaces, and arts funding at their disposal to foster the arts. Metropolitan areas with leading employment levels in these fields include Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and New Orleans.[vii] Relocating to these areas might offer more potential career opportunities, but be sure to research other potential freelance opportunities in suburban and rural locations.

Determining a Perfect On-Campus Performing Arts Graduate Program

The variety found among performing arts graduate schools could give you the opportunity to choose how you want to engage with your intended art form! Depending on your personal education goals and career ambitions you might find a masters, doctorate, or graduate certificate program in performing arts is the perfect choice for you. Continue reading to see which performing arts grad degree type may align with your lifestyle and learning habits.

On Campus Performing Arts Masters: MA and Master of Fine Arts

Performing arts masters programs on-campus are commonly offered in the master of arts (MA) and master of fine arts formats. Both masters programs focus on improving the knowledge and skills students bring to their performances, but differ in their academic methods.  For instance, the masters of fine arts focuses on performance technique and daily practical application. The MA, on the other hand, may take a scholastic approach and require more performance research. Accounting for the differing curriculum and graduation requirements of masters degree programs, students could expect to graduate in 1 to 3 years, depending on course load.

On campus performing arts masters programs aim to establish that participating students not only are talented performers, but devoted academics as well. Even if you are seeking a master of fine arts, you may have to study the history and criticism of your art form. To ensure students are as comfortable in the classroom as they are on stage, students might be expected to submit a 3.0 undergraduate GPA in addition to an audition or technical portfolio review. Check with your preferred program for additional details and requirements.

On Campus Performing Arts Doctoral Programs

Performing arts doctoral programs on campus differ from other graduate programs in that they emphasize academic research and critical analysis more than performance techniques. These programs delve into the deep end of your chosen medium – often examining historical contexts, recent presentations, and media reinterpretations of performances.  These studies typically culminate in a dissertation project, which could act as a great starting point for a future career in research or post-secondary education. [viii] The above outlined coursework and graduation requirements contribute to the programs’ 2 to 4 year completion time.  Program lengths vary by school.

Admissions requirements usually reflect the academic demands of doctoral programs. Schools might require a 3.0 or higher graduate GPA as part of the application process, in addition to GRE exams scores. It’s important to note that these programs may expect previous graduate coursework, which might not make it a great choice for students looking for their first steps into the graduate sphere. Check with potential programs to learn more about application criteria.

On Campus Performing Arts Graduate Certificate Programs

A performing arts graduate certificate on-campus could be a great opportunity for students to expand their artistic knowledge without undertaking the lengthier masters or doctoral programs. The curriculum offered in certificate programs may be concise and highlight one specific facet of your intended art form, such as musical conducting, contemporary theatrical techniques, or dance. Due to the abbreviated coursework, students could complete a performing arts graduate certificate program in 1.5 years. Program lengths vary by school.

Admissions requirements for certificate programs are often more accessible to help provide attainable education for artists. As part of this effort, many programs do not require a minimum GPA or GRE exam score to apply. Instead, certificate programs often place more emphasis on in-person auditions or technical portfolios.  Check with your intended school for audition and portfolio reviews dates and requirements.

Getting onto Campus: Reviewing Performing Arts Graduate Schools

It’s time to go from the computer screen to the stage, and GradSchools.com is here to help. Browse the list of links below to view some potential performing arts graduate schools that may be perfect for you. To further refine this list, select your preferred degree program and educational level from the menus on this page. Once you find a program that interests you, request more information from the university’s page. Good luck finding a perfect performing arts grad degree program for you!


Sources:[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 | [vii]bls.gov/oes/current/oes272011.htm#st | [viii]bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-4

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