Top Universities with Theater Degree Programs

Learn about degree programs in theater, which typically provide training in acting, directing, stage craft and playwriting. Read about the course topics and degree options available at three leading universities, and find a list of other postsecondary institutions that offer theater arts programs.

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School Information

Degree programs in theater can lead to a bachelor's master's or doctoral degree. Some programs allow students to specialize in dance, music or television work. The three schools highlighted below are national universities with past high rankings from U.S. News & World Report. While the theater programs at Pepperdine University are only available at the undergraduate level, students at Cornell and Northwestern can earn a graduate degree in theater arts or directing.

Top U.S. Schools with Degree Programs in Theater

1. Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

Cornell University is a liberal arts college that ranked 15th on U.S. News & World Report's list of best universities in the nation for 2012. Cornell's Department of Theatre, Film and Dance offers a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Theatre. Students study the history of theater, as well as participate in theatrical performances of their own. Hands-on instruction takes place through theater laboratories that include training in production, stage management, rehearsal and performance.

Cornell also offers a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Theater Arts for those seeking careers as researchers or professors. Students have the opportunity to study at the East China Normal University in Shanghai.

2. Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA

Pepperdine University is a private Christian University that U.S. News & World Report ranked 55th among national universities for 2012. Pepperdine's Theater Department offers a B.A. in Theatre Arts, Theatre and Media Production or Theatre and Music; students can also pursue a secondary school teaching credential.

Admission requirements include an audition and an interview. Once enrolled, students receive instruction in stage craft and management, movement, musical theater and voice. They also learn how to apply theatrical makeup, improvise and research theater topics. Practicums in auditioning and assistant directing are also available.

3. Northwestern University in Evanston, IL

Northwestern University ranked 12th on U.S. News & World Report's list of national universities for 2012. The School of Communication offers a B.A. in Theatre program, through which aspiring professionals receive training in acting analysis and performance, playwriting and stage directing. They'll also learn about theatrical sound and lighting design and take courses in theater history and literature. Northwestern also offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Directing. Once they've been accepted, students have the opportunity to work with professional actors and set designers and create their own productions.

List of Ten Good U.S. Schools with Theater Degree Programs

School Name Distinction Location
American Musical and Dramatic AcademyDaily live and television performancesLos Angeles, CA
Columbia CollegeTheater courses feature small class sizes and hands-on instructionChicago, IL
Cornell University Has nearly 100 academic departments Ithaca, NY
Emory UniversityLarge number of summer programs availableAtlanta, GA
Kansas State UniversityLand-grant universityManhattan, KS
Loyola University of ChicagoFaith-based Jesuit institutionChicago, IL
New York UniversityAmong the nation's largest private universitiesNew York, NY
Northwestern UniversityBig Ten Conference's only private institutionEvanston, IL
Pepperdine UniversityIntegrates faith and learningMalibu, CA
San Diego State UniversityRacially diverse institution San Diego, CA
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