Should You Really Go to College for a Theater Degree?

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    Should You Go to College for a Theater Degree?

    1. diane @smartmoneysimplelife

      April 16th, 2015 at 7:38 am

      Wow… That’s scary money! Is it just me, or is a college degree in the US seriously overpriced? I don’t know how you’re supposed to recoup those sorts of costs.

      If it were me, I’d be doing the same thing as you. Support the training and auditions and give her a chance to get out there and do the work. If she wants to perform, not teach, then the school of life will provide a far more valuable (and useful) education.

      I was going to say ‘good luck’ but I should I say ‘break a leg’, instead!?

    2. Holly@ClubThrifty

      April 16th, 2015 at 8:11 am

      My husband’s first Bachelor’s degree is in theatre arts. You’ll notice I said “first.”
      After struggling for an actor as a while, he decided to go back to school and earn another Bachelor’s degree in a different field.
      You’re so right that a Bachelor’s degree in theatre or performing arts doesn’t guarantee work, but it also doesn’t guarantee that your daughter will like the lifestyle once she grows up. That was my husband’s problem – he found plenty of work as an actor. He just hated the lifestyle- working all nights and weekends in addition to a part-time day job, auditioning and getting turned down, a fluctuating income, etc. After doing it for a while, he realized that he wanted to get married and raise a family.

    3. C@thesingledollar

      April 16th, 2015 at 8:11 am

      I think this is the right approach to any kind of theatrical/film career, personally. Having been on the tech side myself for a while, I can say with 100% certainty that my college degree had zero to do with my success there. It was all connections and doing solid work — I interned (=worked for free) for about five or six months, then gradually started getting referred to paying jobs. I could have done all that at 18 out of high school and been making a good living by 20 or so. Acting is a bit different, I think, because the right school actually can get you in doors. But with four supported years to play around with, your daughter has the time to build some of those connections in other ways. If at all possible, rather than living at home and traveling to cities to audition, she should just move to New York (share an apartment in New Jersey for the cheapest and most convenient rent — look on craigslist) and commit to meeting as many people as humanly possible: directors, casting directors, agents, etc etc. Good luck to her!

    4. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

      April 16th, 2015 at 10:45 am

      I’m sure that wasn’t an easy decision to make, but you have to do what is best for your family. The truth is there are no guarantees with or without a college degree in any field really. For my field, I could have easily gotten just technical training then hustled my butt off, but my college experience saved my life in more ways that my career, but that’s a another story. I think at the very least she can try to go this route, and hey later down the line if she doesn’t want that as a career anymore she can receive other kinds of training. Life doesn’t have to happen on this super duper linear path. Break a leg!

    5. Tim

      April 16th, 2015 at 11:44 am

      A college degree certainly has a place… I work in a engineering field and it is required by law to have my degree in order for me to practice my profession.. the same holds true for certified Mechanics, and electricians and other trade type jobs.. Also on the note an Engineering degree almost always will provide opportunity for a good job and good money to pay off those loans… Look at several of the PF bloggers who have an engineering degree…

      Most paid a good chunk for school and obtained a good job.. Then paid off the loans and socked away $1M portfolio and then quit their jobs by age 30 to 40… Just goes to show it can easily be done….

      All things being equal… and not having the burden of loans and so forth from school one can work a career and be an aggressive go getter and end up retiring by 40 as well without the overhead and hassle of debt repayment…

      The Issues comes down to lifestyle and consumer spending and how you control that will determine your outcome!

      I would advise anyone going into theater / acting to not go to college but to get a coach and gain relevant experience that way and learn the tricks of the trade and plan on doing lots of audition and most important.. Learn to NETWORK… in that industry education would have little relevance in my mind.. “A not what you know, but who you know industry”

      GREAT JOB Kym and Eric Meyer. You Daughter is going to be AWESOME!! And will thrive with out that burden of debt over her head!

    6. Sally

      April 16th, 2015 at 11:51 am

      While I do agree that college isn’t for everyone and that the figures you quoted are ridiculous, there are many excellent BA/BFA musical theater programs that don’t cost what you quoted. Community College theater programs do offer inexpensive and good training and can include an Associate’s degree. I am a community college teacher, and where I work, music majors (including MT) get one hour of free voice lessons every week and the semester charge for a full-time student is under $1300 a semester. So, for under $6000 a person can earn a two year degree. My son has a BFA in MT and his entire four years cost about what you quoted for one year, but that does include scholarship awards. He is a working MT performer and is more than able to support himself without doing side jobs. Again, I am not saying that college is for everyone and the course you chose may indeed offer the most opportunities to your daughter as it will definitely show her what that life choice means. I am only saying that if college seems important in the future, check out all aspects of the colleges to which you are applying including: courses offered; collaboration between music, theater and dance; cost; performing opportunities; exposure to the business (agents etc.); housing costs… I always tell my students if there is anything else that perks your passion, try that! MT can be a very brutal business. Best wishes for success.

    7. Deb

      April 16th, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      I think you made the right financial decision. My son is in the digital arts and is a writer. It is his passion. My advice to him is that no matter what your major degree you need a minor in business. Anyone who will be self employed in the arts needs this. For your daughter she may want to take some performance related courses but she should also have an understanding of literature, politics, culture etc. if she wants to be more marketable and have a wider scope of reference. To bring something to the screen or stage she can’t be isolated in that world. I wish her the best and hope she finds a companion passion that can fund the performance dreams.

    8. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

      April 16th, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Interesting…I just wrote something on a similar topic regarding whether what college you go to determines if you’ll be successful. I don’t know much about the acting industry but it seems that a college degree in performing arts does not guarantee a job. Well no degree really guarantees a job, but it seems like an even less of a guarantee when it comes to acting. Also, as you mentioned, many well known actors probably didn’t even get a degree in that field. The families who are mortgaging their future are the crazy ones.

    9. Chela @SmashOdyssey

      April 16th, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      Wow, what a tough call! I did a lot of community theatre when I was a kid, and love singing, but acting and dancing not so much. At some point I decided singing would be a side-thing for me for the rest of my life. Totally doable. But if she wants performing to be her main thing, well, it sounds like she can continue to get extensive training and lessons, and make connections, without having to waste time and money on subjects that aren’t going to benefit her. I think a lot of theatre parents force their kids to get a degree in something practical (like accounting, haha!) before letting them go off to pursue their dreams, so as to have a fallback plan in case things don’t work out, but I guess practicality can always come later. And hopefully she’ll make it big and never need a fallback plan! Best wishes!

    10. Denise

      April 16th, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      I thinkyou should look into Cap 21 in New York

    11. Kym Meyer

      April 16th, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      She got into CAP21 and AMDA’s programs (BFA and 2 year). Both of them are $30k+ per year plus rent/living expenses. They were her dream schools and hard to turn down.

    12. Jennifer

      November 19th, 2017 at 2:17 am

      I got accepted to AMDA and I ended up turning it down as well because of the costs, Ive been recently debating on whether to start a college journey or just get the lessons and experience at 26. From what I’ve heard the MT community is getting more strict on schooling now. I hope all turned out well.

    13. Stefanie

      December 9th, 2017 at 8:07 pm

      Formal degree/certification trainings are definitely not a requirement to be successful in this business, though taking some acting classes is always a good idea once you arrive (and much cheaper than a formal certification program) .

    14. Tracy

      September 13th, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      We are considering the same path you have chosen for our son. I see that this was posted in 2015. Would you mind sharing an update? Where has you daughter found the best training? Was she prepared to compete with kids who obtained MT degrees. Does she feel that she lacks connections others have due to college?


    15. Jennifer Lewis

      October 15th, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      We are also in the same boat! Looking for an update as well!
      Thank you!

    16. Anum @Current on Currency

      April 16th, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      Seems like you guys made a really tough call. I’ve known a few people who went to an acting college, but they always said that they learned the most from rehearsals or shows. Good luck to her! There’s nothing more valuable than experience in terms of acting, so I don’t think a college degree would have been as worth it.

    17. Kim@Eyesonthedollar

      April 16th, 2015 at 11:54 pm

      I don’t think you can justify that sort of money for any degree that doesn’t have a pretty good shot at a high paying job right out of the gate, especially if there is a good chance that your daughter might do as well or better by continuing her training without going to college. I think all you you will be very happy you made this decision 20 years down the road when you have enough money to retire and your kids don’t have to take care of you financially because you are still paying back loans.

    18. Kim@YourFinanceProfessor

      April 17th, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      I think you made a tough but wise call. My children are performers (though much younger), and all of their teachers agree that to be a professional actor, dancer, etc. you need more training in your field and opportunities to perform. You do not need a college degree in dance or theater. So, it is probably better to let her pursue that dream for a while. College will still be there later, and she can always choose to study something part time that could help her pursue her goals at that time.

    19. Chris@Rags to Reasonable

      April 17th, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      You guys deserve a medal. Seriously. Not because of the decision you made, but how you made it. Breaking it down, and figuring out the best way for both you and your daughter, to get what she needs to have a crack at this crazy profession.
      You guys aren’t nuts. The system is nuts. The cost of education is nuts and the way that we train and educate actors and performers is nuts.
      I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things I wish I would have known when I started out in the arts world, and the biggest thing is to realize there is no set path, no universal business model for performers.
      You’ve set yourself up to be far more supportive over the long haul which is going to be huge.

      Best of luck to your daughter. I wish her a ton of success, but most of all…. a whole heap of fun along the way.

    20. Kym Meyer

      April 17th, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      The crazy thing Eric and I said as we wrote this – if Kathleen had come to us two years ago indicating she wanted to move to NYC and not go to college, I’m not sure how we would have taken that news! Perspective is everything. Thank you for the kind words. (And if you’re interested, follow Kathleen’s professional FB page – the link is at the end of the article).

    21. Buffi Crouch

      May 8th, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      I would be very interested in how this turned out. I am a single mom of a daughter, who has been accepted to AMDA, and I am facing this same decision. I live in a town with not much opportunity for further training or job in musical theatre. This has been her goal fo over 10 years, and I am not sure what to do next. To further her training in voice and dance (we’ve exhausted all avenues here), she will have to move somewhere. I am feeling overwhelmed and horrible as a mom. Thanks

    22. Jennifer

      October 15th, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      I have the same issue! I wish we could get these kids together somehow and they could live close to NYC and help eachother! Would love an update on what you decideed. Mine is at home going to CC and VERY UNHAPPY ????

    23. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank

      April 17th, 2015 at 11:10 pm

      There are other workshops your daughter may get as from that of college. But getting it in college is expensive and for example acting as course, I still find it odd because everyone, who has a natural talent, can act if given a chance, experience, and training.

    24. momofactress

      April 18th, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      Yes, lawd yes. We are doing the same thing. Since graduating from hs,, she has auditioned for 3 broadway workshops, one broadway tour. She has auditioned for film, television, and Shakespeare in the Park in NYC. Since she graduated early (January) she was able to do all this, in addition to auditioning for 11 mt. college programs. She didn’t get into her favorite school, which is 65K, so she is trying again next year. We are into Plan B, since Plan A didn’t work out. I’m thinking that she is having such success at Plan B, hopefully she’s forget about ever going to college for acting/mt, come to her senses and take something that will expand her mind, not our debt ratio.

    25. Lori Smith

      April 22nd, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      My daughter attended an audition workshop with Pat Goodwin from Telsey & Co. in NY last summer and one of the questions asked was “how important is a BFA when auditioning for a broadway show being cast by Kelsey?” His answer was “we never look at your resume.” He was honest and said if you’re going to go to college, go for your back-up career. If you have the talent to make it on broadway you’re going to make it because of what you do in the room, not what your resume says. The training that helps you sell yourself in the room can come from anywhere, and a whole lot if comes from natural talent. Good luck to you and your daughter!

    26. catherine gacad

      April 22nd, 2015 at 11:52 pm

      I LOVE THIS COUPLE! they are so smart and thoughtful about their finances, investment, value, and what is best for their daughter. everyone thinks that college is the answer. wake up, people. it’s not! they are other options out there. do what the meyers have done and really assess what is best.

    27. How to Become a Six-Figure Artist - The Broke and Beautiful Life

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      […] I graduated college armed with my drama degree, I had a singular focus – auditioning. It was the only strategy I had ever considered for driving […]

    28. How to Become a Six-Figure Artist - Personal Finance Syndication Network

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