Technical Theater Training and Education Program Information
Technical theater degree-holders serve in a variety of roles in theatrical productions, including stage manager, set designer and production manager. An associate's degree in technical theater prepares students for entry-level positions in the theatrical arts industry. Bachelor's and master's degrees in theater arts and technical theater production equip candidates with skills necessary for advanced positions in theater management and stage production.
Associate's Degree in Technical Theater
An associate's degree program in technical theater provides an introduction to the technical and artistic skills used in producing modern theatrical productions. Students perform a variety of technical roles in theater performances to demonstrate possible career opportunities. A high school diploma or GED is required prior to enrolling in a 2-year associate's degree program in technical theater.
Areas of focus include production and stage management, theater and set design, costuming, props, lighting, sound and special effects. An associate's degree curriculum includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in a theatrical production. Topics covered generally include:
- Stage management fundamentals
- Scenery and property construction
- Rehearsal and performance
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the arts, design, entertainment, sports and media industries employed roughly 1,750,000 individuals, and approximately 56,400 of those worked in performing arts companies (www.bls.gov). In 2010, the BLS anticipated attendance to theatrical productions would decline, although the growth prediction for producers and directors through 2020 remained good, at 11%, due in part to the motion picture industry. In 2012, the BLS listed the median annual salary of a set and exhibit designer working for performing arts companies at $36,830.
Bachelor's Degree in Theater Arts and Technical Direction
Students in a theater arts and technical direction bachelor's degree program study advanced theoretical and practical skills in theater design, entertainment technology and stage management. Emphasis is generally placed on technical and project management applications in theatrical productions. These programs prepare students for entry into the theater performance industry, as well as provide a path for further study in the discipline.
Classes in a bachelor's program address the challenges encountered by stage and crew members in modern theatrical productions. Areas of focus include theater and shop personnel management, structural engineering, budgets and scheduling. Candidates are assigned various roles in stage productions in order to gain well-rounded, hands-on experience. Possible topics of study include:
- Crew management
- Computer-assisted drafting
- Technical direction
- Theatrical rigging practice
- Stage electronics
Bachelor's degree-holders are generally qualified to seek entry- and mid-level positions in the theatrical production industry. Students with more experience, previous management roles and exposure to larger productions may increase job opportunities. Some career options include:
- Stage manager
- Set designer
- Production manager
- Costume designer
- Scene designer
Master's Degree in Technical Theater Production
Graduate students often gain the necessary skills to serve as technical managers in a variety of stage productions. Master's programs focus on an array of leadership skills including communication, material budgeting, staffing and project supervision. A master's degree can usually be earned in 2-3 years of full-time study.
Applicants typically must hold a bachelor's degree in theater arts or a related discipline from an accredited college or university. Some institutions may require candidates to have professional work experience in theatrical production. Students may need to submit a portfolio of previous work for evaluation before admittance into a master's program.
A graduate degree program in technical theater production features classes that emphasize leadership and management skills in the production of a live stage performance. Students will be assigned multiple production roles that address individual academic and career aspirations. Subjects in a technical theater master's program or concentration include:
- Production planning
- Technical direction and theater safety
- Leadership and management
- Play production concepts
- Drafting for the theater
Career and Salary Information
Graduates of a master's degree program are typically equipped to seek senior-level management positions in theatrical productions. In 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual salary of producers and directors employed by performing arts companies was $59,090. Additionally, master's degree-holders often qualify for teaching positions at elementary, secondary and college levels. Midpoint salaries for public school teachers in 2013 was $51,645, and associate drama professors at the college level earned median salaries of $63,067, according to Salary.com.
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