United States Performing Arts Graduate Programs
Performing arts graduate programs could be a great way to develop your artistic craft and evolve as a performer. By delving deeper into the theories and methods surrounding performance and studying new techniques, you could be one step closer to becoming the artist you wish to be. Interested in how an MFA, doctorate in performing arts or graduate certificate might help jumpstart your career? Then read on. Whether your passion finds you on the stage, behind the curtain, or in the office, there may be a perfect performing arts graduate program for you!
What Are Performing Arts Graduate Programs?
Performing arts is a broad term for a wide variety of art forms, each of which culminate in a live presentation or performance. As such, performing arts graduate programs may be available in a many different concentrations, such as dance, theatre, stage managements, and music. However, all are unified by a common goal: to help students develop the skills and knowledge to perfect their craft. In addition to the opportunity to improve their performance technique, students in these programs may also have the chance to learn managerial skills potentially necessary to meet production needs. Depending on your intended course of study, subjects may include:
- Acting Performance
- Costume Design
- Musical Performance
- Arts Education
- Musical Composition
This is just a sampling of the topics that might be covered in performing arts graduate programs. There may even be more concentrations available to match your interests. For example, you might be able to focus on a specific form of dance, a certain era of music, or teaching techniques for the arts. Browse the listings below to search for performing arts graduate programs to match your passions.
What Could Life Be Like if I Earn a Performing Arts Graduate Degree?
The image of the “starving artist” might be at the forefront of your mind when considering performing arts graduate degrees. This is mainly due to the nature of employment of many artistic careers, such as that of an actor[i], dancer, choreographer[ii], composer[iii], director[iv] or musician[v].Most are essentially freelance artists , meaning financial gains could be dependent on the availability of jobs at any given time. For example, an actor may perform in several shows one month, and only a few the following. Many of these wages are also dependent on the area of performance –with cities possibly having more positions available than their rural counterparts. For that reason, an average expected yearly compensation is hard to pinpoint.
However, performing arts graduate programs could potentially help jumpstart your career. The arts is a competitive industry and while many entry level positions only require a bachelor’s degree – if they even require a degree - a performing arts graduate degree may give you a competitive edge.[vi] Performing arts graduate programs could help you develop additional skills, knowledge, and training to perfect your craft and potentially enhance your career. Let’s not forget, you may have the opportunity to build relationships and network with professional peers!
Which Performing Arts Degree Program Is Perfect for You?
As a performing artist pursuing a graduate degree program, it’s important to not only find a program that addresses your educational goals, but your lifestyle and professional ones as well. Maybe you’re looking for a shorter program to jumpstart your career as a performer. Then a graduate certificate program may be for you! Or perhaps you want to perform every day during your class time. A MFA in performing arts program may then be a great choice. Read on to learn more about masters, doctoral and certificate programs in performing arts and get a feel of how each could potentially support your needs.
Performing Arts Masters Programs : The MA Degree and Master of Fine Arts
Performing arts masters programs are typically offered in two formats: the Master of Arts (MA degree) or the Master of Fine Arts (MFA). Master of Arts programs are often more general in their coursework and may place emphasis on the business, administrative, and educational aspects of the arts. These programs could support the pursuit of artistic careers behind the scenes, as well as on stage, or managerial roles. Master of Fine Arts programs, on the other hand, typically emphasize the art itself and its production. Students might participate in the in-depth study of techniques and methods to improve their performance form and presentation. This could be a great option for those wishing to elevate their craft and pursue their art in a performance capacity post-graduation.
In terms of admissions requirements, many performing arts masters programs seek students who are both academically and performance minded. They may stress undergraduate academic performance as much as talent. Thus, students may be required to submit an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher as part of their application, as well as participate in auditions or portfolio examinations. Check with your intended programs for specific criteria regarding audition pieces.
While graduation requirements vary, most MA and MFA programs could be expected to be completed with 1-3 years of full time study. Program lengths vary by school. Some may also require a thesis project in the form of a culminating presentation of your art form. The specifics are based on your concentration but could consist of a theatrical performance, musical recital, choreographed dance piece, or self-authored play, to name a few.
Performing Arts Doctoral Programs
Performing arts doctoral programs typically focus less on the actual performance of an art form and more on the research and academic analysis surrounding it. Courses may emphasize scholastic criticism and historical context when examining art forms. This could make it a great choice for those wishing to teach or conduct research.
Since the doctoral programs are often academically charged, schools may require students to submit a 3.0 or higher graduate GPA, as well as GRE exam scores, for admission. Note that performing arts doctoral programs often require previous graduate coursework. This might make it more suited for performers that have already completed a masters program.
Similar to the masters program, doctoral programs may also have a dissertation criterion for graduation. Unlike the master’s, though, these dissertations are more scholastically focused and usually consist of a written piece based on original research. Keeping the required coursework, and dissertation, in mind, students could expect to complete a performing arts doctoral program in 2 to 4 years. Program lengths vary by school.
Performing Arts Graduate Certificate Programs
For those looking to broaden their undergraduate education without taking on the timeline and course load of a masters or doctoral program, performing arts graduate certificate programs may be a perfect choice. Many certificate programs offer coursework that could help flesh out previous studies. For example, if you have studied music, there may be a conducting program to expand your horizons. Or, you might wish to simply further develop your performance skills. With the shortened coursework, students could expect to complete a performing arts graduate certificate program in 1.5 years. Program lengths vary by school.
Certificate programs are often made more accessible to ensure that a wide range of students may be able to attend. Due to this, many programs may not set a minimum undergraduate GPA for admissions. Instead, they may require proof of previous related coursework or experience, as well as auditions as part of the applications process. Check with your intended school to learn more.
Choosing a Performing Arts Graduate Degree Format for Your Lifestyle
Choosing a perfect format for your performing arts graduate degree program could be an essential part of fitting your education into your current lifestyle, especially if you are a working performer.
If you’re pursuing a physical art form, like dance or acting, you may want to consider an on-campus performing arts graduate program. This could allow you to practice theories and methods under the supervision and tutelage of your professors. These industry professionals may offer useful insights and provide critiques of your performance. Additionally, you could have the opportunity to take part in on-campus ensembles to further train outside the classroom. Things such as orchestras, theatrical troupes, and dance performances could place you beside other industry professionals and help hone your craft.
Online performing arts graduate programs may be great for those seeking more flexibility and independence in their studies. Since these programs rely on online resources, many tend to focus more on the academic side of performing arts, such as education and music theory. Streaming lectures, textbooks, and professorial aid could all be key components of your online education. These programs may be a perfect choice for students who are actively performing or teaching and require flexible scheduling. Students could log into their classes as their routine permits – whether that’s during a rehearsal break, on the weekends, or at a different time each day! This may be especially helpful when a new job or booking might pop up in an instant. Even better, touring professionals can take their professors on the road, accessing their classes no matter their location.
Then there’s the hybrid performing arts graduate programs which combines bits and pieces of the above formats. Also known as blended-learning, hybrid programs may allow you to access the best of both worlds. Some programs are designed with the working performers in mind, allowing students to schedule their classroom studies around tour schedules or professional commitments. Perhaps you want the in-person assistance that a professor provides, but require the convenience that online programs affords. Then hybrid performing arts graduate programs may be perfect for you!
Search All Performing Arts Graduate Programs in United States
It's time to move on to Act 2 for your search for a performing arts graduate program. View programs below offered in the formats mentioned above. If you’d like to further customize the list, use the menus to select your preferred program level, concentration, and format. Your perfect performing arts graduate program could be waiting in the wings!
Colorado State UniversityKodaly Music Education (M.M.)
Liberty University OnlineMaster of Arts: Ethnomusicology
Pratt InstituteDance /Movement Therapy, M.S.
Ball State UniversityMusic
North Carolina Central UniversityMusic
City University of New York (CUNY) Lehman CollegeMusic
McNally Smith College of MusicMaster of Music in Performance
Berklee College of MusicJazz Studies
Royal Welsh College of Music and DramaGraduate program in Acting
Northern Illinois UniversityMusic Theatre Arts
Michigan State UniversityTheatre Music Therapy Music
New Mexico Highlands UniversityMusic
Indiana University Of PennsylvaniaMusic
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