Live and breathe the arts? Consider a Master’s in Theatre Studies

SOURCE: Ronny Hartmann / AFP
German dance student Lola Camille Kessner performs as she follows an online class given by her instructor Andrea Hermann during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Aisyah Liliana 

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If you love the theatre and performing arts and have built several years’ worth of experience in this field, a Master’s in Theatre Studies might just be the right thing for you.

Master’s degrees in creative fields such as dance and theatre, just like their more-traditional counterparts are designed for professionals in the creative industry who have spent many years making your mark in the specialisation or industry.

These master’s degrees allow professionals in the creative industry to develop leadership skills and broadens your understanding of the business.

A good master’s degree in the creative field will allow you to develop managerial capabilities and does not require you to put your active careers in arts, dance, or theatre on hold.

There are three main common graduate degrees specialising in this field, they include the graduate degrees offered for theatre are the Master’s of Fine Arts (M.F.A.), Master’s of Arts (M.A.), and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) qualifications.

Some schools have also introduced a Master’s of Science in Theatre programme for theatre graduates who have plans to explore the research aspects of this field.

The Master’s of Arts programme is often referred to as a research degree and provides students with a strong background in theatre history, dramatic literature and theory and criticism. Students also explore creative areas of special interest including dramaturgy, playwriting, design, and directing.


The Master’s of Arts in Theatre is designed as an advanced education for theatre professionals who have a substantial background in this industry who wish to expand their knowledge and skills in theatre and drama.

It is designed to equip students who are preparing for their doctoral-level studies in this field and also for those who are training for their Master’s of Fine Arts programmes with the right knowledge and skills.

In contrast, the Master’s of Fine Arts programme is a terminal degree in many areas of theatre. The most common areas of study for the Master’s of Fine Arts are directing, drama and theatre for youth, playwriting, theatre technology, theatrical design, and theatre management.

A Master’s of Arts in Theatre generally usually takes one to two years to complete while the Master’s of Fine Arts programme can take up to three years to complete.

Both programmes will require students to submit a completed thesis prior to graduation while a Ph.D qualification in this field can take up to six years of full-time study.


What you will learn from a Master’s of Theatre Studies

There are many specialisations to consider for both the creative types who might enjoy roles in directing, playwriting, or theatre design and for the more practical individuals who prefer roles as lighting technician or stage crew members who all dream of a career in theatre.

A master’s level qualification in theatre studies will ideally equip creative professionals with knowledge and skills to manage the entire process of developing and executing a theatre production.

Through these programmes, theatre professionals will have the opportunity to gain contemporary theory, practical experiences, and exposure to artists with their own careers.

These master’s level courses typically involve opportunities to perform, direct, observe, and learn through seminars or personal tutorials and may focus on dramaturgy, advanced acting, advanced directing, theoretical perspectives, historiography, and theatre research.

A master’s level education in this field will prepare you with new skills and knowledge on top of your existing skills and knowledge in costuming, theatre culture, scriptwriting, directing, production, and stage effects.

Ideally, a good master’s in theatre studies will expose you to a variety of aspects including stage design, directing, societal impacts and the culture of the theatre, and even dramaturgy.

A solid programme will also teach you directing skills, that translate to leadership skills that will open new possibilities for your career in theatre.

Additionally, theatre professionals also have the option of pursuing a master’s of science in theatre qualification which will focus more heavily on research into the theory and history of theatre.


What can you do with this master’s qualification?

Creative arts graduates are commonly in a variety of jobs, often related to their degree on a part-time or freelance basis, as well as having employment elsewhere in order to secure a steady income.

The most common employers for graduates from the creative field, including theatre studies include the local government, arts organisations, education institutions, leisure companies, and voluntary organisations.

Upon graduation from a master’s in theatre studies, you may have the opportunity to explore a variety of career paths including a chance to work behind the scenes as a stage director; or even embark on a career as a dramatherapist.

Master’s of Theatre Studies graduates will have the right skills to take on roles as directors, actors, playwrights, producers, designers, and teachers in the field. You will also have the option to go on to pursue either a Ph.D. or a master’s of fine arts in theatre.

Some graduates with master’s in theatre go on to work with private theatre groups while some also find employment by working in movies or television.


A master’s degree in theatre opens many possibilities for graduates that they would not have accessed without this advanced course of study.

Students who opt to pursue a Master’s of Science in Theatre qualification will not only have the option of being employed in traditional stage, television, or live productions but can also find employment as researchers or instructors in theatre studies.

The theatre and performing arts field is heavily centered around how you present yourself and hence, a student who graduates from this field should understand the importance of developing a network at every opportunity.

The Ph.D. in this field can lead to a wide variety of career options such as working as a consultant for an arts agency or non-profit organisation, or even working as an official in a national or state arts policy organisation.

Additionally, it is crucial to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and be able to find opportunities for employment in the most unusual places by keeping an open mind.