10 Best Master’s Degrees for Theater & Drama

Lights, camera, action! Here are Best Value Schools‘ 10 Best Master's Degrees for Theater & Drama in 2020! For thespians studying fine arts, earning a Master's degree in Acting, Theatre, Performance, and other related arts fields is a sure way to set oneself up for a variety of post-graduate opportunities and successful careers. It's not uncommon for graduates to pursue art teaching, work in community organizations, and more aside from the assumed entrance into professional acting.

Many actors enter the field without a college degree or with only an undergraduate, but those who have worked to earn their Master's degree receive greater and more immediate opportunities after completing a rigorous and competitive program. The following 10 Best MA and MFA programs are dedicated to the refinement of acting, directing, or playwrighting skills, as well as the development of extensive knowledge in the selected field. The mix of coursework with practical experience ensures graduates are prepared for professional settings of all kinds.

Many actors enter the field without a college degree or with only an undergraduate, but those who have worked to earn their Master's degree receive greater and more immediate opportunities after completing a rigorous and competitive program. Many universities that offer MA or MFA degrees in acting or related programs are partnered with nearby or even their own theatres or production companies, such as The University of San Diego's affiliation with The Old Globe.

Earning a graduate-level degree opens up more doors for the prospective actor, director, and playwright as they will likely have worked with established theatres and companies throughout their program— leaving them with competitive professional work experience in accompaniment to their degree. Earning an MA or MFA degree in theatre, drama, or acting is an impressive way for those with arts-oriented ambitions to enter all types of industries with long-term and exciting success.

Selection Criteria

Best Value Schools publishes college degree rankings with the belief of how one's higher education should be, both, affordable and an investment of continued value for the students who pursue them. The staff of BVS collects data from reputable sources in order to calculate Net Price and the short and long-term value of every ranked degree. Collected data is simplified into weighted categories before scoring and then scaled through a BVS Score up to 100. The weighted categories are:

  • Degree Investment Return (25%)
  • Student & Alumni Evaluation (25%)
  • Cost Value (25%)
  • Matriculation (10%)
  • Academic Success (15%)

No matter what degree you decide on, we hope our research and support has made the selection process easier. There are numerous resources BVS utilizes to collect information on degrees, and we encourage you to check them out for yourself!

Here are the 10 Best Master's Degrees for Theater & Drama for 2020!

10. Brown University - Providence, RI

Master of Fine Arts in Acting

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Students in the Master of Fine Arts in Acting program at Brown University are trained through a rigorous schedule of classes, technique work, and workshops. Students are also expected and encourage to participate in Brown/Trinity Rep or Trinity Repertory Company products throughout their time in the program. The first year is dedicated to Realism, with courses on speech, the Alexander Technique, Directing, and more. The second year, focused on Verse, draws from Shakespeare and training in the physical theater and voice and speech. The third and final year draws upon a variety of styles to refine student's skills. All students participate in a showcase their final year as well as perform a solo, 25-minute piece for their thesis.

Net Price: $25,651
Score: 77.3

9. University of San Diego - San Diego, CA

Master of Fine Arts in Acting

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The Master of Fine Arts in Acting program from the University of San Diego has a curriculum designed in conjunction with The Old Globe, an internally-acclaimed and Tony Award-winning theatre in San Diego. Students in the program benefit from an education centered around working in the Globe's professional productions. This professional experience sets the program apart from others. The program is focused heavily on Shakespeare. Classes consist of only seven actors, ensuring dedicated support and attention to individual needs. The degree can be earned in only two years, and students also have the opportunity to study abroad in London in an extensive theatre tour. Students are exceptionally prepared for successful acting careers, and graduates have gone onto careers in film, television, Broadway, off-Broadway, and regional theatres.

Net Price: $38,592
Score: 79

8. Northeastern Illinois University - Chicago, IL

Master of Arts in Communication, Media and Theatre

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The Master of Arts in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago is designed for those in pursuit of advanced corporate positions, teaching, and positions in higher education or graduate study. Required courses include Communication and Dramatic Theory, where electives offer topics like Media and Cultural Studies; Comparative Performing Arts; Theatre Management; and more. The 30-credit program is open to those who have completed at least 15 undergraduate credits in Community, Media or Theatre or other related subjects. Applicants are also required to submit a writing sample. Prior to graduation, all students must complete either comprehensive exams or a thesis project.

Net Price: $16,462
Score: 79.3

7. DePaul University - Chicago, IL

Master of Fine Arts in Acting

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DePaul University's Master of Fine Arts in Acting is a highly physical three-year program that calls on students to define themselves as an actor through questioning who they are in relation to their own body, mind, feelings, and perceptions. From there, they will follow coursework and projects that focus on questions like "What is the world of this play" and "How do I inhabit that world?". By the third and final year, students integrate their work from the previous two years into a professional application. This may include creating roles, work, and theatre company ideas, an MFA production, and a graduate showcase. Students learn from faculty who are theatre artists themselves, as well as guest artists from the Chicago theatre community. All applicants must audition and submit a resume detailing theatrical experience.

Net Price: $32,927
Score: 79.5

6. Emerson College - Boston, MA

Master of Arts/Fine Arts in Theatre Education & Applied Theatre

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Students in the Master of Fine Arts and Master of Arts in Theatre Education & Applied Theatre programs at Emerson College benefit from learning at one of the largest programs of its kind in the US. There are two tracks of study in both the MA and MFA: Theatre Teacher Education, and Theatre and Community. Coursework focuses on the integration between theory and practice in acting. Graduates from the program are prepared to teach theatre at all levels, as they will be eligible for teaching licensure in Massachusetts. They may also work as artists or education directors, or go onto doctoral work. The 48-credit MFA program can be completed in about two years at a full-time schedule or three-and-a-half years at part-time, while the 36-credit MA program can be complete about a year sooner at each full and part-time schedules.

Net Price: $42,070
Score: 79.7

5. Yale University - New Haven, CT

Master of Fine Arts in Acting

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Yale University's Master of Fine Arts in Acting uses both in-depth classroom training and extensive production work opportunities to prepare students for work as professional actors. The first of three years consists of highly disciplined training, with a concentration of realism and contemporary American playwrights. If students have demonstrated and developed their talent throughout their first year, they will be invited to return for a second. The second year focuses on verse drama with a focus on Shakespeare. The third and final year explores challenging material from the twentieth and twenty-first century. Applicants are required to submit a resume and one letter of recommendation from a director who they have worked with.

Net Price: $18,053
Score: 80

4. Pace University - New York City, NY

Master of Fine Arts in Acting, Directing, or Playwriting

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Pace University offers three different programs within their Master of Fine Arts degree in their Actors Studio Drama School. All MFA programs, regardless of track, use a curriculum focusing on the actor's craft and shared languages amongst actors, directors, and playwrights. The first year familiarizes students with methodology and language, while the second year branches off into specialized training based on the program. The final year is dedicated to a Repertory Season where knowledge and skills are used in a group of all students in all tracks from that year's MFA cohort. Applicants must submit a resume and either headshots, portfolios, or writing samples. The program must be taken at a full-time schedule; part-time enrollment is not offered.

Net Price: $31,734
Score: 80.4

3. New York University - New York City, NY

Master of Arts in Performative Studies

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New York University's Master of Arts in Performative Studies is a 34-credit program with only two required courses: an introduction and project course. The rest of the degree is spent on elective courses fit the needs and interests of the student. The curriculum is designed to cover aspects of the field that reach other disciplines, and many students come into the program trained in theatre or dance, but also in gender and sexuality studies, ethnic studies, literature, and more. Applicants to the program at NYU must have earned an undergraduate degree, and all undergraduate majors are encouraged to apply regardless if they have a predominate background in theatre or performative studies.

Net Price: $36,256
Score: 85.4

2. University of California - Irvine - Irvine, CA

Master of Fine Arts in Acting

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University of California-Irvine's Master of Fine Arts in Acting program is devoted to the training and development of its students into professional actors. Nearly all graduates from the program for the last fifteen years have gone onto perform on stages across the country, including Broadway. The three-year curriculum consists of extensive training for all three years, alongside seminars in script analysis, acting pedagogy and theory, and dramatic theory and criticism. The first year is focused on the expressive range of each actor, and developing that range in response to different roles. In the second year, students gain extensive knowledge of acting and its theory, vocabulary, and necessary skills. The third year focuses on professional preparation, and students will participate in a Showcase.

Net Price: $13,944
Score: 97

1. CUNY Brooklyn College - Brooklyn, NY

Master of Fine Arts in Performance and Interactive Media Arts

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CUNY Brooklyn's Master of Fine Arts in Performance and Interactive Media Arts is a full-time two-year program that trains students in the theory, practice, and technicalities of the conceptualization and production of artworks in performance settings. Students from all academic backgrounds enter the program, all of whom usually have career goals centered around the arts. The degree is a total of 46 credits and requires all in the program to complete a thesis with at least one other student. The thesis is completed the second year, collaboratively with many others in the program to then be presented in a professional venue. Students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA to graduate with the MFA.

Net Price: $4,144
Score: 98