Pursuing a degree in theater arts opens the door to numerous career paths. Whether creating a set for a play, choreographing a dance number or directing a massive production for stage and film, it all begins with a theater arts degree.
The most popular theater arts degrees
Though talent is the key to consistent employment in theater and other dramatic arts, a formal education is often seen as a significant element to advancement. The online art degree level needed depends on a student's career path. For example, performers may get by with a high school diploma or associate degree in theater arts, while agents and managers need a bachelor's or master's degree. Just over half of music and drama teachers at the post-secondary level have a doctoral degree, the U.S. Department of Labor reports, and another 40 percent have a master's degree. When choosing a degree program, look for accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Theatre.
No matter the degree, talent and experience make a significant difference when applying for jobs or moving up in the world of dramatic arts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, points out that many individuals who work in theater arts are constantly honing their craft with lessons in various aspects of the field, including voice, speech and movement, directing, writing, design, and acting workshops.
Benefits of online theater arts degrees
Online degrees in theater arts have long been a source of valuable information and skill-building for those who enjoy production, direction, film editing and design. Since much of the editing of films and audio is done via computer, online courses become tools that allow students to hone their craft as they learn. Some schools offer online degrees in performing arts technology that focus on emerging research and engineering technologies with the potential to change the face of cinema and stage.
What it takes to succeed in theater arts
All aspects of theater, from acting onstage to writing the scripts, have an atmosphere of creativity and teamwork. The hours could vary wildly depending upon the career path one takes within the field. For instance, actors, directors and producers can work very long hours for several weeks or months at a time, then have long stretches of unemployment between jobs. Those who work behind the scenes, such as writers and designers, might work more stable hours.
Those best suited to a career in theater arts are creative, driven individuals who enjoy lending their talents to create a larger work. Those who will be on stage should have poise, the ability to follow direction and a talent for connecting with the audience. Those best suited to directing or producing should be strong leaders with natural management skills. Set designers and writers should enjoy the pressure of creating something new, working under a deadline and communicating well with those around them.
What to expect from a career in theater arts
According to the BLS, about 21 percent of actors, producers and directors were self-employed in 2008. Competition for all jobs in the theater industry is expected to be keen. Although most employment is centered around the theater and movie industries of New York City and Los Angeles, smaller productions take place daily across the globe.
Those who are very successful in theater arts can make extraordinary amounts of money; however, other actors, producers, directors, dancers and other theater professionals often face erratic paychecks and supplement their income with other jobs.
The BLS reported a mean hourly wage of $22.44 for actors in 2010. The bottom 10 percent made less than $8.58 per hour, while the top 10 percent reported wages of more than $64 per hour. Producers and directors made a mean annual wage of $88,610 per year.
Theater arts at a glance
- Where the jobs are: Los Angeles and New York City, with smaller productions around the world
- Salary: Actors made an average of $22.44 per hour in 2010
- Self-employment: 21 percent
- Important traits: Creativity, teamwork, flexibility, dedication