Best Undergraduate Theatre Programs

Best Undergraduate Theatre Programs

If you have been involved in theatre during high school or even prior to high school you may be interested in going to school for theatre. Although you can still go places in the theatre world without a degree, it is highly encouraged to have one. We will look at the best undergraduate theatre programs.

College Theatre

At college, you will get so many different opportunities and learn so many new acting techniques that you would not get unless you attend a college for theatre. It also gives you a new place to participate in shows for the next four years.

There are also so many other clubs and organizations that you could join as a theatre major at universities that can be beneficial to you. If you are interested in musical theatre and you like to sing, there are many choirs, Capella groups, and student-run musical theatre groups on campus.

There are also different clubs with public speaking and communications that theatre majors are usually interested in.

Theatre majors are different than most other majors. The first thing to understand is that normally at college you are required to be in a certain number of plays/musicals per year.

This adds a lot to the amount of time you are spending on school because you will be required to be at rehearsals. You will have to be enrolled in the correct amount of credit hours, get your homework done, and have time to fit in rehearsals between your work, academic. and social life.

Theatre Major Rules

It is also important to check the rules and requirements of theatre majors at the specific universities you are interested in. Some schools will not allow you to suspend your education to participate in professional theatre or acting where other schools will allow you to suspend your education while you are in a Broadway show or a television series.

This would mean that when your professional gig ends you could resume at the same university right where you left off. These types of things are up to each individual person and what they are looking for themselves professionally and academically.

The last thing is that you not only have to get into the university, but you have to audition and make it into the actual theatre program as well. Here is so more information about being a theatre major in college.

Audition Process

The process of getting into these types of programs are a little different than most majors. Normally you have to apply to your major, but if you don’t get in you can raise your GPA and reapply.

You can reapply for a theatre program but it is a little harder than raising your GPA because you would have to home in on your skillset. It is likely that once you get denied you won’t get accepted simply because their reasoning could just be opinions about your acting style.

Basically, if you are auditioning for just a theatre minor, you are going to have to have a memorized monologue or two prepared. Each individual school will tell you how many you need, how long they should be, and the style (dramatic, comedic, etc.).

They may also have you read which is when you act from a script that you are given at the time of the audition. Schools may individually have other specific things that you have to do as well, but this is the general order of events.

Different types of Theatre and Acting Majors

There are many different types of programs involving theatre and acting that you can be a part of in college. You can be simply a theatre minor or a musical theatre minor. The difference is that musical theatre is the triple threat.

Musical theatre majors have to audition with dance, voice, and acting and will take several classes in all three of these things throughout their time at the university. To be a musical theatre major you have to not only be a great actor but be a great dancer and singer as well.

Theatre majors will take several different acting technique classes and probably some film acting classes as well. They will focus more on plays, television, and commercials where the musical theatre will focus more on the voice, musicals, classical music, dance, and Broadway.

To be a musical theatre major, you definitely should have experience in dance and voice as well as musicals. Hopefully, you have had voice lessons and several years of dance.

Theatre majors should have at least a few years of serious theatre background and hopefully one on one or group acting lessons.

Which College Has the Best Undergraduate Theatre Programs?

There are many schools with amazing theatre programs that can lead you to wherever you want in the theatre world. Depending on who you talk to and where you look or research, the so-called “best” school for theatre differs.

It also changes year by year depending on specific classes and how successful their students and alumni are. The top school would be Julliard in New York, NY and for musical theatre, it would be New York University Tisch School of Arts or Northwestern University.

Colleges with Best Undergraduate Theatre Programs?

Here is a list of some other schools that have great theatre and musical theatre programs.

  • University of Southern California
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Rutgers University
  • Syracuse University
  • American Musical and Dramatic Academy ( New York, NY)
  • Columbia University
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Chicago
  • Duke University
  • Baldwin Wallace University
  • Boston University
  • Kenyon College
  • University of California- Berkeley
  • Emerson College

Should I go to College for Acting?

This is a question that each person can really only answer for themselves. Although people have gone on to be successful in the world of acting and theatre without a degree in it, it is still a great idea and highly encouraged by many to get a degree.

There are so many opportunities that you can open by going to college. If you go for a different major and try to keep theatre in your life still, it can be a hobby and you may become more involved with it later in life, but you will never have the time you need to dedicate yourself to it with the demanding schoolwork of another major.

You really just have to figure out what you want to do with your life and where you want to be after graduation. If you want to be an actress/actor then you should give 100% to it and go to school for it.

If you are having doubts then maybe it isn’t for you. It is possible to keep theatre and music in your life without dedicating your life to it and I think that is important to understand.

You can also end up going to graduate school for something else if you decided a career in theatre isn’t for you. Going to law school with a theatre or musical theatre degree is an option. It is possible to go back and get a master’s in education so that you could teach music or theatre in schools. Another next step is to keep going on your educational journey, to become a professor.

Overall it is really just specific to each person, their career aspirations, and education path. An alternative is to get a minor in theatre or musical theatre if you do not choose it as a major but still have an interest in it.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Theatre Degree?

Other than just being an actor in television, on Broadway, or in commercials, there are many other jobs and career paths that you can take as a theatre major in undergraduate school.

Here are some examples of popular paths that theatre majors take other than being performers.

  • Costume designer
  • Playwright
  • Light technician or designer
  • Casting assistant
  • Director ( community theatre, professional theatre, elementary, middle and high school, college, or film)
  • Choreographer
  • Dancer (musical theatre major)
  • Vocal coach (musical theatre major)
  • Music teacher (musical theatre major)
  • Dance teacher (musical theatre major)
  • Professor
  • Production Assistant
  • Events Coordinator
  • House Manager

Believe it or not, there are also many companies that will hire you for marketing or communications positions if you are a theatre major. Many companies like to see that you have a four-year college degree and are good at public speaking, they will be willing to help you learn the rest.


Overall there are many great things about going to college for theatre. There are many opportunities for you to not only flourish in college but be successful in the future as a theatre major. It is a decision that only you can make depending on what you are looking for in theatre.

Once again, it is important to remember that you can always minor in theatre or go back to school to get a master’s in something different if you do choose theatre for undergrad and it doesn’t work out. Take the time to research the best undergraduate theatre programs we gave. You should also look at different programs, different schools, and different opportunities to see what suits you best.

If you are not sure what college major to pick check out how to choose a college major.

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