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Handbook Appendices Forms Theatre Scholarships For Theatre Majors, Minors, and Intendeds University Theatre Handbook Table of Contents Theatre Home

C.7.b  What kind of degree? 

You need to have a strong sense of what you want from an advanced degree.  The characteristics of degrees and the institutions that offer them vary widely, and you’re making a major commitment.  Primary thinking, on this point is there­fore very important.

Do you want to work professionally in theatre production?  Reasons for this desire are rooted in financial income, satisfying career, generally good working conditions with dedi­cated people around, and a sense of small service to society.

Seattle is an excellent place to investigate this interest, ranking right up there with New York and Chicago in the number of production opportunities offered you.  If you plan to undertake graduate education, you would do well to take some employment before settling on “going on.”  Direct involvement will give you a feel for the life and measure your level of competition and skills against your co-workers.

If technical direction or theatre craft work is your interest, there may be no call to think strongly of grad work for professional purposes.  Find a job, get sponsored for the union, practice your craft with excellence.  It’s a satisfying occupation with interesting hours and moments of excitement.

If your desire lies on the “artistic” track of design, acting, directing, writing, or maybe man­agement, you probably need to think of going on—in the direction of an M.F.A.  If your need is for additional acting training, you might want to consider the “studio” route instead.  These programs were originally set-up outside of the university structure, offering strictly professional training on a master/novice level.  Lately they have taken to offering degrees of their own, and confusing things even more, some universities are now establishing their own resident studio programs.  Increasingly the M.F.A. is the expected credential for the “creative” positions in the theatre worlds.

An M.F.A. in acting, playwriting, or design will help you build necessary professional skills and can help build an important network as well; you may want to consider applying for programs these degrees relatively early in your career.  Oddly, an increasing number of M.F.A. programs in Directing prefer applicants to have significant life and professional experience before undertaking their requirements.

If you are interested in teaching at the elementary or secondary level a B.A. degree may suffice for a while if you have the appropriate teaching credentials to accompany it.  An M.A. will be necessary to propel you into the better-paying upper ranks.  An M.A. is typically oriented toward theatre history, theory and special interests, and is ordinarily viewed as oriented to “traditional” contemplative scholarship and as a “stopping-out” point on the way to the Ph.D.

The M.A. is typically thought of as one-and-a-half to two years beyond the B.A., while most M.F.A. degree— more performance oriented remember—are considered at least three years beyond.  Whereas the M.A. sets the stage for the Ph.D., the M.F.A. degree is considered terminal—which means rather that it seen as the educational culmination of applied studies and creative activity.  The Ph.D. is aimed more at scholarly pursuits, including writing evaluative work about artistic history,  theory and activities.  Some are involved in performance study and experience as well, but many are geared toward theory alone with no emphasis on performance venues.  The Ph.D. is also considered a terminal degree, and probably reflects at least four years of study beyond the Bachelor’s degree.

If your desire to teach centers on the college level, you should consider the need for pursuing a Ph.D.  But if you hope to teach in a professionally driven program—one which centers on B.F.A. and M.F.A. offerings—you may need to obtain an M.F.A., gain some profes­sional experience, look for opportunities to work professionally with a college or university (even if not full-time ), and then later pursue a Ph.D.  Such a combination can be a real winner.  If your interests are oriented toward liberal arts teaching, you may want to pur­sue an M.A. program that provides scholarship and professional opportunities and head right into a Ph.D. program, preferably one which includes opportunities in the performance venues.  An M.A. will be of minimal use in obtaining a college level teaching position unless you pursue a Ph.D.

Next Section: C7c: Finding the Where

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