Graduate Degrees in Musical Theatre: Program Options

Learn about graduate degree programs in musical theater and what students learn in them. Find out about prerequisites, potential career options and how much people in this field earn.

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Essential Information

Students wanting to pursue a graduate musical theatre degree have the option of choosing a Master of Fine Arts or a Master of Music. Master's degree programs in musical theatre are relatively rare in the U.S. and are usually found at universities on the coasts. Both programs combine classroom study with practical training in musical theatre performance, including acting, directing, choreographing and educating.

Students hoping to go into one of these degrees will need previous music or acting experience, a bachelor's degree in a related field and will need to go through an audition. Students should also expect to perform while pursuing this degree.


Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre

Both 2- and 3-year programs are available leading to an MFA in Music Theatre, which includes significant training in singing, acting and dancing. Students are also expected to mentor and direct students working toward their bachelor's degree. Most programs have a very low teacher-to-student ratio, which allows for significant individual instruction in performance skills. Graduates may be found in all aspects of the theatre industry, including writing, education, performance and choreography.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants to graduate musical theatre programs must have substantial experience, and a baccalaureate in theatre arts is almost always required. Course prerequisites include an introductory course in directing and theatre history. A video of a performance, a dance audition and a headshot are required parts of the application package, and students must also complete the GRE and meet minimum GPA requirements.

Program Coursework

The MFA in Musical Theatre curricula includes didactic training in the theory and history of musical theory, along with regular lessons in performance skills. Specific course topics include:

  • History of musical theatre
  • Voice instruction
  • Stage direction
  • Script and score analysis
  • Dance instruction

Popular Career Options

Graduates of MFA in Musical Theatre programs go on to teach drama and work in live stage productions. Specific professions include the following:

  • Actor
  • Professor
  • Director
  • Scriptwriter

Master of Music in Musical Theatre

A Master of Music in Musical Theatre program emphasizes vocal skills and performance abilities. It is less focused on the theory and history of musical theory than the MFA programs. Coursework is focused on practical training.

Education Prerequisites

Master of Music in Musical Theatre program applicants must participate in a vocal audition and generally must have an undergraduate degree in music and very strong vocal and music theory skills. Entering students often are tested on music theory to determine areas of deficiency.

Program Coursework

A Master of Music in Musical Theatre program often requires graduate students to perform lead roles in musicals staged by the school's drama department, in addition to taking music and acting courses. Specific course topics include:

  • Voice
  • Speech
  • Script and score analysis
  • Acting
  • Movement
  • Directing

Popular Career Options

Graduates of Master of Music in Musical Theatre programs are generally focused on developing or performing in Broadway-style musicals. Generally, they work as one of the following:

  • Actor
  • Dancer
  • Director

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that acting positions were predicted to grow only 4% from 2012-2022. Theatre and other performing arts actors could expect stiffer competition for roles compared to film actors. Actors earned a mean hourly wage of $41.94 as of 2013, but there was a huge variance in possible salaries. Dancing and choreography jobs were expected to increase 13% from 2012-2022, and these professionals made an average hourly wage of $20.00 in 2013, reported the BLS. As with actors, wages varied quite a bit for dancers, and many workers face periods of unemployment that can affect their earnings.

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      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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    Areas of study you may find at Northwestern University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate
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      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
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      • Non-Degree: Coursework
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