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Musical Theater Majors

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue as a musical theater major. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary information.

What Does a Musical Theater Major Do?

Musical theater majors are individuals who focus on studies in musical theater. They complete a bachelor's degree in musical theater, and their courses may include instruction in singing, dancing, choreography, acting, set design and special effects. Musical theater majors often produce shows as part of their educational experience, and may assume roles in the production that involve dancing, singing and acting. They may also be involved in directing other performers in the production, and may also help with special effects, props and set pieces. Some career options for musical theater graduates include becoming an actor, a teacher or a choreographer. Actors assume roles and perform in commercials, plays, movies and television shows. Teachers instruct students in a specific subject area and monitor their performance. Choreographers develop routines for dancers and select music to accompany the routine.

Degree RequiredNo degree is required, but a bachelor's may help secure workBachelor's or master's Bachelor's
Key SkillsCreativity, interpersonal skillsCommunication, leadership Athleticism, teamwork
Job Growth (2018-2028)1%*4% for high school teachers*-1%*
Median Salary (2018) $50,224**$60,320 for secondary school teachers*$47,800*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

What Is a Musical Theater Major?

A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in musical theater is a 4-year performing arts degree consisting of courses in singing, dancing and acting for the stage. Your courses may include piano or other musical instrument instruction, voice lessons and various dancing styles, including tap and jazz. Elective courses cover non-performance aspects of stage productions, such as makeup, costuming and set design. Regular public performances may be required and graded.

How Should I Prepare?

Before you can major in musical theater, an audition is required to prove your proficiency in the musical performing arts. You may be asked to perform a monologue, song or dance before students and faculty members. Your audition, combined with your high school grades and college entrance exam scores, will be evaluated to determine if you will be admitted to the program. Contact the musical theater department in the school you plan to attend to find out their specific audition requirements.

What Kinds of Jobs Can I Pursue?

There are many jobs in musical theater in which you can use your singing, dancing and acting skills. If you want to appear on stage, you could work as a lead actor, member of a chorus line or a dancer. To get one of these jobs you will likely need to audition to prove your talent. To sing, dance and act in a play you will need physical stamina along with your theater skills.

Jobs in musical theater last as long as the play runs, which can be from a 1-night performance to many years of working 5-6 days a week. Some shows are touring productions and require you to travel with the show for its duration.

If you like the theater but prefer not to be on stage, you may consider being a voice, dance or acting coach or teach musical theater at a high school or college. You could also work as a stage director or choreographer and instruct actors on how and where to move on and across the stage.

Do I Need to Join a Union?

If you work in a professional theater, you may want to join a labor union, such as Actors' Equity Association (AEA). This organization represents actors and stage managers in the United States in wage negotiations and working conditions. Some jobs in major theaters, such as those on Broadway, are designated union jobs and require union members to fill the positions. Note that once you become a member of AEA you are no longer allowed to take non-union jobs.

Stage directors and choreographers are represented by their own union called the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDCS). The SDCS negotiates contracts with producer organizations and provides its members with the opportunity to enroll in health and retirement benefits programs.

What Could My Salary Be?

Musical theater actors' salaries are highly varied. If you start out in a community theater, you may not get paid at all. If you work a union job, your pay is based on a union-negotiated minimum weekly salary. Pay for voice and drama coaches may be based on experience and location.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Producers and directors may also have a background in musical theater. As part of their career they may work on Broadway or other theater productions, and they can benefit from a bachelor's degree that encompasses training in musical theater. Postsecondary teachers perform many of the same duties as high school teachers, but they work with students at the college level. They may instruct students in the field of musical theater, and would need a master's or doctoral degree in musical theater to pursue that career. Musicians are involved in putting together musical movements to create material, which is similar to the work of a choreographer. They may also need to act or dance in music videos or live performances, and although a degree is not required, they can benefit from the vocal training that's part of a musical theater degree.