Performing Arts Schools

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Updated November 2, 2022

A ranking of the best bachelor's in studio art programs. Programs fall under the liberal arts category.

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Enriching a Passion for the Arts with a Solid Education

Establishing a career in performing arts requires special training. Even though some talents are innate, honing those talents is crucial to establish a career in the competitive world of performing arts. As a result, many schools have been established to teach students the specialized skills in singing, dancing, acting and other various forms of expression. This guide will provide an in-depth background for students on what to expect, as well as expert advice on attending a performing arts school.

Performing Arts Snapshot

  • The Julliard School is one of the worlds' most preeminent performing art schools. Famous names such as John Williams, Val Kilmer, Kevin Spacey, and Wynton Marsalis honed their talents at Julliard.
  • Performing arts includes more than just acting and singing; it is involves all forms of artistic expression such as opera, ballet, circus, ventriloquism, stand-up comedy, theater, motion pictures, orchestra and magic.
  • Actors, on average, have a higher level of education than the standard US worker. Between 2011 and 2013, more than 33% of actors had a bachelor's degree.

Best Performing Arts Schools and Degrees

While many who pursue careers in the performing arts are born with innate talent, to truly master their field a degree from an institute of higher learning is essential. A good performing arts program will allow students to work toward perfecting their craft; a great one will offer supportive services, financial aid and program specializations as well. We've ranked the top online and on-campus art programs. Find the school that will allow you to make the most of your performing arts education below.

#1 Performing Arts Schools

Harvard University

  • Cambridge, MA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

A leader in higher education, Harvard University provides educational opportunities to Cambridge, Massachusetts-based students and distance learners. The college's programs equip students with industry-relevant knowledge, preparing them for the demands of their chosen career. Enrollees benefit from learning opportunities within and beyond the classroom. They can pursue collaborative projects such as faculty-driven research, internships, and more.

Degree-seekers can complete programs in person or online. Learners can access institutional resources and receive personal and professional guidance.

Harvard University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 375

Number of Online Programs: Data not available

Admission Rate: 5%

Graduation Rate: 97%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 73%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 2%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,978

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$47,730
Out-of-state
$47,730
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
5%
Students Enrolled
31,655
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#2 Performing Arts Schools

University of Pennsylvania

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Pennsylvania is a private college located in Philadelphia. The college's programs equip students with industry-relevant knowledge, preparing them for the demands of their chosen field. Degree candidates benefit from rigorous coursework. Learners can collaborate with faculty through research and more.

Degree-seekers can often take advantage of online and hybrid offerings, which add flexibility for working students. Leading in online education, the college supports seven online programs. Both in-person and remote students benefit from institutional resources, like academic advising and career services.

University of Pennsylvania at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 355

Number of Online Programs: 7

Admission Rate: 8%

Graduation Rate: 96%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 59%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 13%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $7,087

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$51,156
Out-of-state
$51,156
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
26,675
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#3 Performing Arts Schools

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor provides diverse learning opportunities from its main campus in Ann Arbor. The school's programs build theoretical and practical knowledge, preparing candidates for many careers in the field. Learners benefit from an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, with many chances to interact closely with professors.

Degree-seekers can complete coursework on campus or pursue remote learning. The institution notes that 1% of its programs enable online study. Enrollees can make use of campus resources, such as academic advising and library services.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 433

Number of Online Programs: 5

Admission Rate: 23%

Graduation Rate: 93%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 65%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $12,854

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 29%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,089

Average Price After Aid: $17,357

Average Tuition
In-state
$16,212
Out-of-state
$52,669
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
23%
Students Enrolled
48,090
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
1% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 Performing Arts Schools

Carnegie Mellon University

  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Carnegie Mellon University reaches learners worldwide through its flexible academic programs, available in person and online. Students hoping to deepen their knowledge can collaborate with faculty members on research projects and other endeavors.

Prospective applicants seeking remote study should know that 3% of the college's programs support fully online study. All enrollees can access institutional resources and receive personal and professional guidance.

Carnegie Mellon University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 321

Number of Online Programs: 9

Admission Rate: 15%

Graduation Rate: 90%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 58%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 38%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,939

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$55,816
Out-of-state
$55,816
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
15%
Students Enrolled
14,180
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 Performing Arts Schools

Duke University

  • Durham, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University offers a variety of academic programs in person and online. Enrollees prepare for professional advancement through industry-relevant coursework, lectures, and projects. Students can also pursue experiential learning opportunities such as faculty-driven research projects and internships.

Of all its degrees, 1% are online. In-person and remote students can access campus resources like career services and academic advising.

Duke University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 242

Number of Online Programs: 2

Admission Rate: 8%

Graduation Rate: 95%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 63%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 29%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,408

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$55,880
Out-of-state
$55,880
Retention Rate
98%
Admission Rate
8%
Students Enrolled
16,686
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 Performing Arts Schools

New York University

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

New York University reaches learners worldwide through its flexible academic programs, available in person and online. Students gain a well-rounded education through rigorous curriculums. The college boasts a 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, enabling personalized study and close collaboration through faculty-driven research projects.

Enrollees can attend classes at the college's New York campus or pursue fully online learning. Prospective applicants seeking remote study should know that 9% of the college's programs support fully online study. Career services and academic advising are just two of the many campus resources available to learners.

New York University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 564

Number of Online Programs: 48

Admission Rate: 16%

Graduation Rate: 85%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 52%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 29%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,497

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,684
Out-of-state
$50,684
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
52,885
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#7 Performing Arts Schools

Tufts University

  • Medford, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students looking for a competitive, flexible education should consider Tufts University. Degree-seekers can pursue experiential learning opportunities, such as faculty-driven research projects and internships.

Learners benefit from dual-enrollment formats. Degree candidates can learn in person or remotely. The institution notes that 4% of its programs enable online study. Career services and academic advising are just two of the many campus resources available to learners.

Tufts University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 220

Number of Online Programs: 9

Admission Rate: 15%

Graduation Rate: 94%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 45%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 21%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $4,924

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$57,324
Out-of-state
$57,324
Retention Rate
96%
Admission Rate
15%
Students Enrolled
11,878
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
3% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#8 Performing Arts Schools

Lehigh University

  • Bethlehem, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A private institution, Lehigh University operates a main campus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Learners complete foundational and advanced coursework, gaining a well-rounded education preparing them for the demands of the field.

Students benefit from dual-enrollment formats. Enrollees can learn in person or remotely. Degree-seekers can choose from 14 fully online programs through the college. Throughout their program, students can access institutional resources, benefiting from academic and career advising, library services, and more.

Lehigh University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 187

Number of Online Programs: 14

Admission Rate: 32%

Graduation Rate: 90%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 69%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 38%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,867

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,790
Out-of-state
$54,790
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
32%
Students Enrolled
6,953
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#9 Performing Arts Schools

Drexel University

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Drexel University supports numerous programs from its main campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Enrollees develop industry-specific knowledge, transferrable skills. Many learning experiences prepare them for the demands of their field. Students benefit from a supportive learning community, customizable study, and an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Degree candidates can pursue in-person or online study. At the college, 25% of all programs accommodate remote learning. Enrollees benefit from academic and professional guidance through academic advising, career services, and other campus resources.

Drexel University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 360

Number of Online Programs: 89

Admission Rate: 75%

Graduation Rate: 69%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 100%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 51%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,763

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$52,146
Out-of-state
$52,146
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
75%
Students Enrolled
24,205
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#10 Performing Arts Schools

Georgetown University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Georgetown University connects learners with competitive educational opportunities through in-person and online programs. Students gain a well-rounded education through rigorous program curriculum. The college boasts an 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, enabling personalized study and close collaboration. 

To date, the college supports eight online programs. Career services and academic advising are just two of the many campus resources available to learners.

Georgetown University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 184

Number of Online Programs: 8

Admission Rate: 14%

Graduation Rate: 95%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 55%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 25%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $4,745

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$55,440
Out-of-state
$55,440
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
14%
Students Enrolled
19,593
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#11 Performing Arts Schools

Purdue University-Main Campus

  • West Lafayette, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Purdue University-Main Campus supports numerous programs, both in person and online, from its main campus in West Lafayette, Indiana. Enrollees benefit from a robust program curriculum and supportive learning community. Students seeking supplementary study can benefit from faculty-driven research projects and other collaborative learning opportunities.

With the college supporting in-person and online study, degree-seekers can pursue their studies at their own pace. The institution notes that 9% of its programs enable online study. Regardless of learning modality, distance learners can access institutional resources, such as career services, geared toward student success.

Purdue University-Main Campus at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 382

Number of Online Programs: 35

Admission Rate: 60%

Graduation Rate: 82%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 65%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $9,883

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 29%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,907

Average Price After Aid: $12,684

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,208
Out-of-state
$28,010
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
60%
Students Enrolled
45,500
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#12 Performing Arts Schools

Providence College

  • Providence, RI
  • 4 years
  • Campus

A private institution, Providence College operates a main campus in Providence, Rhode Island. Students gain a well-rounded education through rigorous program curriculum. Learners can benefit from programs' collaborative nature. They can pursue research projects and other learning opportunities while enrolled.

Students benefit from dual-enrollment formats, learning in person or remotely. Learners seeking academic and career guidance can benefit from the college's many resources, such as career services and academic advising.

Providence College at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 110

Number of Online Programs: Data not available

Admission Rate: 47%

Graduation Rate: 87%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 74%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 51%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,542

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$51,490
Out-of-state
$51,490
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
47%
Students Enrolled
4,618
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
2% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#13 Performing Arts Schools

University of Miami

  • Coral Gables, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A leader in higher education, University of Miami provides educational opportunities to Coral Gables, Florida-based students and distance learners. Students can pursue collaborative learning opportunities, such as faculty-driven research projects, to supplement their learning.

Enrollees benefit from dual-enrollment formats, learning in person or remotely. Remote students can choose from one of 13 fully online programs. Degree candidates benefit from academic and professional guidance through academic advising, career services, and other campus resources.

University of Miami at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 309

Number of Online Programs: 13

Admission Rate: 27%

Graduation Rate: 83%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 74%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 26%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,332

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$50,400
Out-of-state
$50,400
Retention Rate
93%
Admission Rate
27%
Students Enrolled
17,811
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#14 Performing Arts Schools

George Washington University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

George Washington University, a private college based in Washington, provides competitive educational opportunities to learners from all walks of life. Degree-seekers benefit from a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, with many chances to interact closely with professors.

Working professionals and busy students benefit from the programs' flexibility, studying in person or online. At the college, 25% of all programs accommodate remote learning. Regardless of enrollment format, participants can access campus resources including academic advising, library services, and tutoring.

George Washington University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 462

Number of Online Programs: 117

Admission Rate: 41%

Graduation Rate: 82%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 77%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 35%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,574

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,453
Out-of-state
$54,453
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
41%
Students Enrolled
27,814
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#15 Performing Arts Schools

University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Madison, WI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in Madison, Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin-Madison provides a flexible, competitive education to students near and far. Enrollees can pursue collaborative learning opportunities, such as faculty-driven research projects, to supplement their learning.

Degree candidates seeking further opportunities for study can pursue internships or collaborate with faculty on research projects. Leading in online education, the college supports four online programs. Students can make use of campus resources, such as academic advising and library services, while enrolled.

University of Wisconsin-Madison at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 492

Number of Online Programs: 4

Admission Rate: 54%

Graduation Rate: 88%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 61%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $9,754

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 29%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,082

Average Price After Aid: $16,103

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,273
Out-of-state
$36,333
Retention Rate
95%
Admission Rate
54%
Students Enrolled
44,257
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#16 Performing Arts Schools

University of Denver

  • Denver, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Denver provides diverse learning opportunities from its main campus in Denver, Colorado. Enrollees hoping to deepen their knowledge can collaborate with faculty members on research projects and other endeavors.

Degree-seekers can pursue online and in person study depending on their scheduling needs. When considering remote study, learners should know that 10% of the college's programs support online learning. Degree candidates can access numerous campus resources throughout their studies, ranging from academic advising to career services.

University of Denver at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 230

Number of Online Programs: 23

Admission Rate: 59%

Graduation Rate: 77%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 90%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 34%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,301

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$51,336
Out-of-state
$51,336
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
59%
Students Enrolled
12,931
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#17 Performing Arts Schools

Bradley University

  • Peoria, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Bradley University connects learners with competitive educational opportunities through in-person and online programs. The school's programs prepare students for future careers through foundational and specialized coursework. Enrollees benefit from a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, enabling collaborative endeavors such as faculty-driven research projects.

Learners seeking further opportunities for study can pursue internships or collaborate with faculty on research projects. Online programs make up 6% of the college's programs. In-person and remote students can access campus resources while enrolled, including career services and academic advising.

Bradley University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 161

Number of Online Programs: 9

Admission Rate: 70%

Graduation Rate: 77%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 100%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 66%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $6,530

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$34,200
Out-of-state
$34,200
Retention Rate
85%
Admission Rate
70%
Students Enrolled
5,929
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#18 Performing Arts Schools

University of Florida

  • Gainesville, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Florida is a public college located in Gainesville. Its programs foster learning through a robust program curriculum and supportive learning community in person and online. Students can benefit from programs' collaborative nature. They can pursue research projects and other learning opportunities while enrolled.

Students benefit from dual-enrollment formats; learning in person or remotely. Approximately 16% of the college's programs include online options. Students can make use of campus resources, such as academic advising and library services, while enrolled.

University of Florida at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 433

Number of Online Programs: 68

Admission Rate: 37%

Graduation Rate: 88%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 92%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $10,673

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 22%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,997

Average Price After Aid: $10,457

Average Tuition
In-state
$4,477
Out-of-state
$25,694
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
37%
Students Enrolled
52,407
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#19 Performing Arts Schools

University of California, Los Angeles

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A public college, University of California, Los Angeles offers programs that build theoretical and practical knowledge, preparing candidates for many careers. Enrollees benefit from an 18-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, enabling collaborative endeavors such as faculty-driven research projects.

Learners can attend classes at the college's Los Angeles campus or pursue fully online learning. Both in-person and remote students benefit from institutional resources, like academic advising and career services.

University of California, Los Angeles at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 333

Number of Online Programs: 1

Admission Rate: 12%

Graduation Rate: 92%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 61%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $18,613

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 29%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,712

Average Price After Aid: $15,718

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
12%
Students Enrolled
44,371
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#20 Performing Arts Schools

Northeastern University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

A leader in higher education, Northeastern University provides educational opportunities to Boston, Massachusetts-based students and distance learners. Enrollees receive a world-class education and benefit from learning opportunities within and beyond the classroom. Learners can pursue collaborative projects such as faculty-driven research, internships, and more.

Students can learn online or on campus depending on their scheduling needs. In-person and remote students can access campus resources while enrolled, including career services and academic advising.

Northeastern University at a Glance:

Total Academic Programs: 186

Number of Online Programs: Data not available

Admission Rate: 18%

Graduation Rate: 89%

Percent of Students Awarded Aid: 78%

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: Data not available

Percent of Students Awarded Loans: 33%

Average Amount of Loans Awarded: $5,934

Average Price After Aid: Data not available

Average Tuition
In-state
$52,420
Out-of-state
$52,420
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
18%
Students Enrolled
22,207
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

Performing Arts Schools and Programs

A performing arts education can be obtained at a wide variety of educational institutions. Even though completing a program or obtaining a degree from a performing arts school isn't usually a requirement to work in the arts, it can be extremely helpful in establishing a career and negotiating higher pay. Not only will students receive training and instruction in the performing arts, they will also be surrounded by fellow creative minds and mentors in the field. The section below lists a few performing arts school possibilities and what students can expect from a particular type of school.

  • Vocational Schools

    Most performing arts programs found at vocational schools are at the high school level. Open to high school students, these vocational programs prepare them to continue their performing arts education at the post-secondary level, although some focus on training students to enter the performing arts workforce immediately upon graduation.

    The typical curriculum focuses on college prep, honors and/or college level classes in order to provide a complete high school education and prepare students for continuing study at a two- or four-year college. These vocational schools are usually tuition free, as they are affiliated with public high schools serving a given geographical area. However, acceptance is not guaranteed; students must go through a competitive admission process that includes an audition.

  • Art Schools

    Performing arts are typically seen as those that include dance, music, acting and the like. However, some art schools – those that cater to aspiring graphic designers, fashion designers, illustrators, and animators– also offer degrees or certificates in the performance-based arts. These schools offer students the unique opportunity to hone their skills in performing arts while obtaining the skills and knowledge they might use to enhance their future career. For instance, an actor might learn about theater and voice projection, but might also take courses in film editing and scene composition.

  • Community Colleges

    Many community colleges offer associate degrees in subjects related to performing arts, such as drama, music, dance, and theater. Depending on the school, the associate degree can focus on one area of performing arts, such as theater, or take a broader approach and train students in various areas of the arts genres.

    The typical associate degree in performing arts takes about two years to complete if attending full-time and consists of approximately 60 credits. Most classes are major-oriented, such as music theory, introduction to acting, and contemporary dance. However, some core classes are still required, such as English composition and physical science. Depending on the curriculum, students can be prepared to move into the workforce immediately upon graduation, or use their degree as a stepping stone to the bachelor's program.

  • 4-Year Schools

    Obtaining a performing arts degree from a four-year college or university usually means graduating with a bachelor's degree. A large number of colleges and universities offer a four-year bachelor's degree in performing arts related subjects like dance, theatre, and music. Some also have a degree program dedicated to performing arts; students can specialize in one particular arts genre.

    Most bachelor's degrees take four years (or eight semesters) to complete if attending full-time. Accelerated programs might cut down on the time required. Depending on the school, most bachelor's degrees take about 120 credit hours to complete with a mix of major related courses and foundational classes required for all students.

  • Performing Arts Schools

    Schools that specialize in performing arts can be referred to as conservatories, especially if they focus on music or dance. The Julliard School is a very well-known example of a school that focuses on performing arts only; in the case of Julliard, the focus is on dance, drama, and music.

    Depending on the school, a bachelor's or master's degree is awarded upon completion of the program. Other non-degree possibilities include a diploma, certificate, or simply reaching a certain level of proficiency. For example, some dance schools do not award degrees, but instead have the goal of students reaching a certain level of expertise in their specialty.

    In order to be admitted, prospective students must submit an application, which requires an audition or submission of a portfolio. The vast majority of consideration for admission focuses on the prospective student's desire to pursue the performing arts and their level of talent and future potential. As a result, most performing arts schools place only a little (or no) emphasis on traditional academic metrics, such as standardized test scores and GPAs.

Advice from a Performing Artist

The degree means nothing if you cannot play!

The best part – the gig, the music, the performance and all that jazz is the easy part! It's getting there that's tough. If you are ready for that, then you should look into schools.

For the actual schools, go where your field is at the forefront. Do not blindly walk into a school which has a good name but a weak department for your path. Don't apply to a school renowned for music theory and education if you want to go for jazz performance. Do not look to a school that has an amazing composition program if you're only looking to do opera.

If you do not know what you want to do, be it theory, opera, jazz, composition, etc., then you need to find a school that has something attractive to you and the credibility to teach it. I made the mistake of going to school A with a good reputation when I need school B without the glamorous name. For example, you must know a degree in music education means you will teach K-12 but you cannot teach at University, unless you want to teach Music Education.

Kunal Singh, Jazz Musician

Choosing the Right Performing Arts Program

Choosing the right performing arts school can be a difficult task. There are many options available, whether it's to attend a traditional four-year college or university or enroll in a more specialized performing arts school. The following is a list of questions to consider when choosing a performing arts program.

Q. Does the school offer a particular type of technique or method in the performing arts genre?

While most schools offer a wide range of methods and techniques, some schools tend to prefer one over the other or have a stronger reputation in one over the other. Students with a preference should do research to find which schools can accommodate their learning needs.

Q. Which is more important: a traditional college experience or the advancement of talents?

Some students may be interested in a career in the performing arts, but would like to live on campus, join Greek life, attend college football games, etc. For those who crave the college experience, attending a traditional four-year college or university may be a better decision than attending a specialized performing arts school or conservatory.

Q. How certain is a career in the performing arts?

Entering a conservatory can be considered as going “all-in” for performing arts. If a student changes their mind or wants a back-up career option, choices may become limited. However, by going to a traditional four-year college, students can double major, with the second major unrelated to performing arts.

Q. What is the school's geographic location?

For performing arts, urban schools tend to be more ideal, all else being equal. This is due to the fact that more performing arts facilities, such as theatres, symphonies, and the like are focused in urban locations. This translates to closer and more numerous opportunities for performers.

Q. What are the faculty like?

Faculty bios can tell a lot about the instructors and how renowned they are. However, all of that means little if the faculty can't connect with students. Therefore, potential applicants should visit the school and talk with as many professors as possible. Then do some research: How active are the faculty members in their respective areas? The more active they are, the more likely they'll have up-to-date industry information and connections that can help students with their future performing arts career.

Q. What kind of performing opportunities does the school have?

Most performing arts schools are bound to have events where students can perform. However, more well-established programs are going to have a greater number of opportunities, both domestic and internationally.

Q. Is the school accredited?

Most schools will be accredited, whether it's by a regional organization, such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education or a national organization, such as the National Association of Schools of Music. Accreditation is important because it shows a given school has met a certain level of quality as confirmed by an independent third party.

Q. Who are some of the recent guest lecturers or performers at the school?

The more recognizable and frequent the number of guest performers or lecturers at the school, the more opportunities to network. Additionally, schools with greater recognition, clout, and alumni networks are more likely to have well-known guest lecturers and performers.

Performing Arts Degrees and Certificates

For those seeking a performing arts degree or certification, there are several options available: from certificate or associate up to doctorate. Of the bachelor's, master's and doctorate level degrees, there are several options of each type.

Performing Arts Certificates

Performing arts certificates provide an opportunity to students to gain training, instruction, and information about the performing arts without obtaining a formal degree. At most schools, especially conventional four-year colleges and universities, the certificate must be obtained concurrently with another degree, such as a bachelor's. At performing arts schools, the certificate may be a standalone program that graduates can use to obtain additional professional training and become more marketable.

There are prerequisites for most certificate programs; however, these prerequisites are applied to the particular classes taken and not the program as a whole. There are usually no electives offered in a performing arts certificate curriculum. Instead, students will choose three or four related classes from a larger pool of classes.

Each school has its own requirements, but a typical performing arts certificate consists of 10 to 25 credit hours. The typical curriculum includes a variety of performing arts classes in order to impart a general level of knowledge in performing arts.

Lastly, there are undergraduate and graduate diplomas that allow students to pursue further education in performing arts without committing to a full degree. Depending on the school, students need to complete 25 to 75 credits to earn the diploma. Graduate diplomas usually require fewer credits that undergraduate diplomas.

Examples of Real-Life Certificate Level Courses

  • Introduction to Theatre

    The three components of theatre are analyzed: directing, design and acting. The history of plays will also be examined.
  • Introduction to Dance

    The historical and theoretical aspects of dance are studied in this course. How dance conveys artistic information will be reviewed as well.
  • Orchestra

    Various types of music and instruments will be studied. This class also includes instruction and public performance.

Performing Arts Associate Degrees

The typical associate in arts program is approximately 60 credits and takes two years to complete when attending full-time. Community colleges typically offer two types of associate degrees: the applied degree and the general degree. Those who earn the applied degree in performing arts take more targeted classes that prepare students for immediate work in the performing arts industry. Those who earn the general degree take a variety of performing arts classes as well as general education courses, and are prepared to move into their bachelor's degree program upon completion.

Many associate degree programs have no prerequisites beyond that of earning a high school diploma. However, some programs, such as dance or music, require students to take basic dance or music classes before starting their associate in arts curriculum, or demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in their performing arts category.

Examples of Real-Life Associate Degree Courses

  • Ballet I

    A progression from basic dance, this course teaches students the fundamentals of classical ballet, including theory and technique.
  • Music Theory

    This course is intended for students with prior musical knowledge and will expand on theoretical concepts such as harmony and chord identification. Musical instruments and musical composition will also be introduced.
  • Theatre I

    An entry level course, the use of the human body and voice to convey information is studied. Acting and improvisation concepts will also be taught.
  • Dance in America

    How dance has developed and evolved within the 20th and 21st century is explained. Political and cultural influences, as well as influential dance figures will be discussed.

Performing Arts Bachelor's Degrees

Performing arts bachelor's degrees come in three primary flavors: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (BM) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). For music related subjects, students can usually choose between a BM or BA. For other performing arts subjects, students can generally choose between a BA or BFA.

Compared to a BA, the BFA or BM degrees tend to be more performance or studio-oriented and are designed for those who want to become a professional performing artist. The BFA and BM degree also have a smaller liberal arts component compared to the BA degree. In short, BA degrees can be thought of as a liberal arts degree with a major or concentration in performing arts. BM and BFA degrees can be thought of as professional degrees.

While most bachelor's degrees in fine arts don't have formal prerequisites, most departments require an audition in order to be accepted. The typical four-year bachelor's program requires 125 to 165 credits to complete the degree. Also, most traditional colleges and universities have general education requirements.

Examples of Real-Life Bachelor's Degree Courses

  • Music History and Literature

    This course examines musical styles and practices from the Baroque era to present day
  • Harmony and Form

    Music theory concepts of harmony and musical structure will be covered in this class.
  • Jazz Theory

    This class looks in detail at the background of jazz and the form and style that makes this genre unique.

Performing Arts Master's Degrees

For those seeking a master's degree in performing arts, there are three main possibilities: Master of Music (MM), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or Master of Arts (MA). Similar to the bachelor's degrees, a MM or MFA degree is more performance or technically-oriented while the MA is more academically or scholarly-oriented. There's also a Master of Music Education (MME) for those who desire an even more academically-oriented master's degree in the field of music.

Most master's degrees take two to three years to complete and consist of 30 to 60 credits. Depending on the program, there is also a performance and/or thesis requirement. As with most other graduate programs, there are no general education class requirements, only classes related to the performing arts specialty.

Examples of Real-Life Master's Degree Courses

  • Art of Combat for Actors

    In order to provide believable fights scenes, students learn safe, effective techniques for multiple acting contexts including film, television and stage.
  • Popular Arranging

    Popular melodies and common chord progressions and methods of arrangement are reviewed in this class
  • Directing Methods

    The basics of stage directing are provided, along with steps taken to develop a theatre production from start to finish.

Performing Arts PhD or Dual Degree

At the doctorate level, the predominant degree in the performing arts is the PhD. A PhD can usually be obtained in a variety of areas, including theatre, musicology, music theory, and music education.

Another doctorate level performing arts degree is the Doctor of Musical Arts. Compared to a PhD in music, the Doctor of Music Arts is generally more practical or performance-oriented, while the PhD is more research-oriented. However, depending on the school, this distinction may be minimal.

Dual degree options are sometimes available for the bachelor's degree. A traditional four-year university can partner with a local conservatory so that students may obtain performing arts degree along with an unrelated degree.

Performing Arts Toolbox/Checklist

It takes a lot of talent and hard work to make a career as a performing artist. However, there are other skills and tools to assist anyone pursuing a performing arts career.

  1. 1

    Persistence

    Not only are thousands of hours of practice required to master a performing arts skill, whether it be dancing, singing, acting or playing a musical instrument, persistence is also needed to get through all the rejection that is often received by performing artists. Even highly talented and gifted performing artists will be rejected more often than accepted.

  2. 2

    Networking

    Succeeding as a performing artist means getting noticed. Networking provides greater opportunities to perform, which means more eyes and ears will notice, which in turn leads to even more opportunities – it is a constant cycle of building a reputation.

  3. 3

    Thick Skin

    The arts are highly competitive fields which require a lot of hard work and innovation. Performing artists are bound to fail at times, and that can lead to a great deal of criticism. Being able to handle it and bounce back are very important attributes.

  4. 4

    Physical Stamina

    Whether standing, speaking or dancing on stage for hours, enduring rigorous stunt scenes or playing an instrument for dozens of songs, physical stamina is required. A performing artist must be in proper physical shape in order to perform for the audience.

  5. 5

    Good Memory

    From remembering lines, chords in a song or specific footwork, performing artists must be able to remember directions without referring back to notes or a script. If last-minute changes are made, they must be able to remember those changes with little time for rehearsal.

  6. 6

    The Desire to Learn

    To stay relevant in a highly competitive field, performing artists in all genres must always strive to improve and add to their skills and repertoire. The desire will also facilitate creativity.

  7. 7

    Creativity

    The performing arts are driven by creativity. Coming up with new routines, shows, acts, melodies or ways of playing a familiar work adds to a performing artist's chances of professional success. Doing something no one else has can be a huge help in standing out amongst the fierce competition.

Performing Arts Specializations

In order to succeed in performing arts, even the most talented individuals must specialize to some degree. This need for specialization is most pronounced in music.

Notice how Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, and Charlie Daniels are known for playing one instrument (cello, trumpet, and fiddle, respectively). Granted, they can play other instruments, but they have specialized in just one. Even with immense talent, in order to be one of the best, performing artists are forced to limit themselves to a select few areas, whether it's a musical instrument, type of dance, or comedic style.

Not surprisingly, performing arts schools reflect the drive for specialization, especially in music. For example, a masters or doctorate degree in music can have any number of specializations: keyboard, cello, clarinet, violin, jazz, voice, orchestra, education, music theory, and composition.

Options for acting specialization can refer to where the actor works, such as film, television, or theatre. Dancing specialization can refer to a type of dance or where the dancing takes place, but there is also the opportunity to go into a slightly different area, such as choreography.

Interview with a Performing Artist

Kunal Singh talks about being a professional performer.

Q. Why did you choose music as your profession?

I believe I chose music for all the right reasons. It's my passion. It is what I enjoy the most in life and it is what I do that also brings the most joy to others around me. I have had a long list of jobs from finance and banking to mechanic and live sound engineer. Music was always calling me.I chose this life because in all honesty, med school sounded too easy and a cop out. I know that sounds bad, but to me, the challenge of solidifying a career and the unwritten laws have always been more engaging. I say that, as both my father and sister are doctors in one regard or another – like the rest of my family.

Q. Tell us about your performing arts degree.

I believe I chose music for all the right reasons. It's my passion. It is what I enjoy the most in life and it is what I do that also brings the most joy to others around me. I have had a long list of jobs from finance and banking to mechanic and live sound engineer. Music was always calling me.I chose this life because in all honesty, med school sounded too easy and a cop out. I know that sounds bad, but to me, the challenge of solidifying a career and the unwritten laws have always been more engaging. I say that, as both my father and sister are doctors in one regard or another – like the rest of my family.

Q. What are the greatest rewards and challenges for you as a musician?

Well, in my case, the challenge is the reward. I love a challenge. I rise to it and I always come out wiser. The challenge for most is getting over the hurdles of performing and getting gigs. I never look at it that way. I believe sharing your craft is the only responsibility you have as an artist. What the craft is worth is up to you. What your time is worth is also up to you.Aside from a performer, band leader, and all around busy guy, I am also a music teacher. I can tell you this, I love the gig. Gigging is really fun as a band leader. Yes, I'm the first to arrive, the last to leave, and the one with the early mornings, but it's all worth it. To inspire other great musicians to be part of your band, part of your vision and part of the team is nothing short of amazing.I love the idea of playing for an audience. You never know who's listening. It's so true. You will find that someone had their entire day, week, or life turned around by your playing. It's a feeling words cannot describe. It's overwhelming to know your passion and your craft made someone else happy or inspired. In the words of my favorite musician of all time, “It's a kind of magic.”

After Performing Arts School: What's Next

Once the certificate or degree is in hand, it's time to go out into the world with the talent, skills and knowledge gained through education and hard work. Make no mistake: earning an education in the performing arts is much easier than making a career out of it. The best option for those who want to immerse themselves in the music, dance, acting or other performing art is to consistently practice, rehearse, study, and work toward the goal every single day.

Those who do enter the performing arts will need to constantly update their skills and keep honing their craft. The actor on stage should work on his or her memorization skills; the dancer should always strive to stretch farther and move faster. The musician should try out new methods, themes and sounds, taking their time to become as good as they can be.

For those who decide that being on a stage isn't for them, there are numerous other options that make good use of a performing arts degree. Working as a teacher in a performing arts school, stepping into a management role for a theater or dance company, becoming a talent agent, or even working in booking or merchandise can keep a graduate close to the action but not require them to perform.

Actor

An actor is someone who portrays a character to an audience through various forms of media, such as television, motion picture or theatre. While the final “product” of an actor usually consists of the delivery of certain lines from a script, much of what an actor does includes learning more about the character they're trying to convey in order to give a more effective portrayal. This can include background research, consulting with the director or fellow actors, and rehearsing.

  • Median Salary: $39,640
  • Hourly wage: $19.82
  • 2012-2022 estimated job growth: 4%
  • Numbers employed (2014): 59,210
  • Minimum education required: There is no formal educational requirement, although many actors have a bachelor's degree in drama or a related field. Additionally, most actors have at least some form of formal instruction, whether it's a bachelor's degree, taking a few classes or completing an acting program at a conservatory.

Dancer

Dancers convey artistry through the physical actions of their bodies, usually accompanied by music. All dancers spend much of their time training and practicing. Depending on the specific type of dance, a dancer can perform in many different contexts, such as with a dance company or for the production of a larger work, like a movie or theatre production.

  • Median Salary: $28,620
  • Hourly wage: $14.31
  • 2012-2022 estimated job growth: 6%
  • Numbers employed (2014): 11,240

Minimum education required: Formal training is required. Training usually begins at an early age and continues on through high school. Many dancers receive much of their training during their high school years, either at a school specializing in a dance curriculum or extracurricular programs and classes outside of school. Some dancers may seek additional post-secondary training, although that is usually not required.

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