Top Acting Colleges in the United States

Read about the top acting colleges in the United States, which typically include conservatory-based classes, workshops and performances. Learn about the degree options and professional training opportunities at three leading institutions, and find a list of other schools across the country that provide training in acting.

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School Overview

Aspiring actors and actresses can find relevant programs at conservatories and traditional public and private schools, such as the three award-winning and high-ranking institutions profiled below. Students at both Purchase College and New York University can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts. A Master of Fine Arts program is available at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Unique to the Purchase Program is the chance to participate in a professional audition.

Top U.S. Schools with Acting Programs

1. State University of New York (SUNY) - Purchase College in Purchase, NY

SUNY Purchase ranked among the best public schools in 2011, according to U.S. News & World Report's list of National Liberal Arts Colleges. The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Acting program, offered through the Conservatory of Theatre Arts & Film, is a 4-year course of study that includes instruction in movement, speech and voice, as well as dramatic literature and theater history.

Designed as a professional actor-training program, the schedule keeps students busy with classes and rehearsals from early in the morning to late at night. In particular, aspiring professionals learn how to act for the camera and train in improvisational and the Lecoq techniques. At the end of the program, top students can audition for a consortium of producers, agents and casting directors from Los Angeles and New York City.

2. New York University in New York, NY

New York University was ranked 33rd overall among national universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2011. Through the Tisch School of the Arts, students can pursue conservatory training in acting and earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Incoming students are placed in one of seven primary studios, such as the Stella Adler School of Acting and the Meisner Studio, where they remain for the first two years of the program. During the second two years, students may choose another studio, such as the Atlantic Acting School, Experimental Theatre Wing or Playwrights Horizons Theatre School. Studios focus is on musical theater, design, directing and stage management. After the first year, students may audition for several performances, ranging from full-scale productions to experimental theater pieces.

3. American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, CA

The Tony Award-winning American Conservatory Theater is primarily a theater; however, it has also served as a small school for actors since 1965. The conservatory offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program to the limited number of students admitted each year. Once enrolled, aspiring professionals study both classic and contemporary works of theater and prepare for the MFA showcase. Through the Summer Training Congress, students can also pursue 2-week and 5-week intensive training sessions. Relevant facilities include ten studios and a black box studio theater for classroom instruction and performances.

List of Ten Good Acting Colleges in the United States

School Name Distinction Location
American Conservatory Theatre MFA Showcase San Francisco, CA
Boston University Boston Center for American Performance (BCAP) Boston, MA
California Institute of the Arts Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) Valencia, CA
The Juilliard School The Scholastic Distinction honors program for undergraduates New York, NY
New York University Classical Studio and six other studios for students New York, NY
Northwestern University WAA-MU Show Evanston, IL
SUNY - Purchase College Conservatory of Theatre Arts & Film includes four schools Purchase, NY
University of California - Irvine Drama/Theater Guild Irvine, CA
University of Miami Jerry Herman Ring Theatre Miami, FL
University of Texas at Austin The Performance as Public Practice (PPP) program Austin, TX
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Best Graduate Schools with Acting Programs: List of Schools

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning

    Online Programs

    • Bachelor
        • BFA - Fine Art
        • BFA in Art Education
        • BFA in Undeclared

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must be a high school graduate or have completed GED
    School locations:
    • Online Learning
    • Florida (1 campus)

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Other Schools:

  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Boston University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
        • Acting
        • Theatre Design and Technology
        • Theatrical Production
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Miami include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
        • Acting
        • Theatre Arts Management
        • Theatre Design and Technology
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Temple University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
        • Acting
        • Theatre Design and Technology
        • Theatrical Production
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at George Washington University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Certificate, Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
        • Acting
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
      • Photography, Film, and Video
  • School locations:
    • Connecticut (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Connecticut include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
        • Acting
        • Theatre Design and Technology
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Texas (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Baylor University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
        • Acting
        • Theatre Design and Technology
        • Theatrical Production
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Illinois (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at DePaul University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
        • Acting
        • Playwriting and Screenwriting
        • Theatre Arts Management
        • Theatre Design and Technology
        • Theatre History, Literature and Criticism
        • Theatrical Production
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts
  • School locations:
    • Texas (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Texas Tech University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Dance
      • Design and Applied Arts
      • Drama and Theatre Arts
        • Acting
        • Playwriting and Screenwriting
        • Theatre Arts Management
        • Theatre Design and Technology
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Musical Arts

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