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Post covid, likelihood of needing a college degree for theatre?

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Call_me_jorge
Broadway Legend
joined:1/9/15
Broadway Legend
joined:
1/9/15

Hello all, currently a college student studying business with the hope of going into the theatre management/producing after graduation. I have a predicament though, I was originally supposed to be apart of the class of 2021. After a rough first year and a transfer, I was to be apart of the class of 2022. Now after all this covid-19 and all online classes being more than a struggle for myself, I will probably have to go for another year. Fortunately, I have very supportive parents and they are willing to help me with whatever goals and/or dreams I have. I am getting to the point where I just dont see the need of a college degree anymore. Just wanted to gather some input on if you all think a college degree in the theatre world will be as important than prior to covid-19. I would rather go straight to New York and find some entry level theatre position once things open up than have to go through 2 1/2 more years of school.

Updated On: 1/10/21 at 01:03 PM
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uncageg
Broadway Legend
joined:5/13/04
Broadway Legend
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5/13/04

What do you want to do in the theatre community?

Just give the world Love.
SeanD2
Stand-by
joined:5/2/17
Stand-by
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5/2/17

If you cannot truthfully answer the question of what makes you special enough to be worth hiring over someone who does have a degree then get the degree. And a strong desire / passion isn't special. Every applicant claims to have that.

 

If you don't finish the degree then absolutely do NOT list on your resume that you took courses towards a degree. If I got a resume from a college drop-out (which is what you're saying you would be) I'd almost immediately pass since I'd wonder why you don't have the ability to finish what you started. The only thing that would make me not toss your resume into the circular file is if you had some sort of extraordinary experience that offset such an impression.

SouthernCakes
Broadway Legend
joined:7/29/19
Broadway Legend
joined:
7/29/19
Honestly you don’t need a degree now. But it helps with the connections and networking. A lot of casting relies on certain schools. Telsey is with big with Michigan alum. Etc.

But if you’re an Alex Newell then I’m sure a degree isn’t gonna be needed. But it couldn’t hurt either. It just show that you know the basics and have good training.

But that said it sounds like you’re trying to go more behind the scenes / admin type work?
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NOWaWarning
Broadway Star
joined:2/1/16
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2/1/16
To echo some of the previous posts, it really depends on what you want to do. If you’re wanting to work in some type of admin/behind the scenes type job, then I think completing your education would be important. Even the entry-level jobs are highly sought after and competitive, so the degree and any connections you can make while at your school (either through professors, alumni, internships, etc.) would be very valuable assets to have.

Also, for clarification, it says in your original post that you’re studying business? Again it depends on what aspect of theatre you’re aiming for, but I don’t know how helpful a business degree would be. But that’s just my own genuine blind spot. Like is that something an aspiring producer might want to have under their belt? Or some other type of job that relates to theatre? Maybe someone else can illuminate how that might be a helpful field to be studying (beyond the understanding of basic business principles, which would be helpful to everyone).
hayleyann
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joined:9/26/18
Understudy
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9/26/18

SeanD2 said: "If you don't finish the degree then absolutely do NOT list on your resume that you took courses towards a degree. If I got a resume from a college drop-out (which is what you're saying you would be) I'd almost immediately pass since I'd wonder why you don't have the ability to finish what you started. The only thing that would make me not toss your resume into the circular file is if you had some sort of extraordinary experience that offset such an impression."

Are you kidding?  You have ZERO knowledge of people's life circumstances that may prevent them from finishing an increasingly expensive commitment.  How privileged you must be to sit back with your arms crossed and look at a piece of paper and say "Oh he/she can't finish what they started".

JSquared2
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joined:3/23/17
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hayleyann said: "Are you kidding? You have ZERO knowledge of people's life circumstances that may prevent them from finishing an increasingly expensive commitment. How privileged you must be to sit back with your arms crossed and look at a piece of paper and say "Oh he/she can't finish what they started"."

Oh calm down dearie -- relax.  The OP wrote an incredibly vague question about "wanting to be in the theatre world" -- which could mean anything from wanting to play Mama Rose on Broadway to being an usher!  People need to resist the urge to immediately start screeching popular buzzwords like "privileged" and take a breath before hyperventilating.

Fosse76
Broadway Legend
joined:3/21/05
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3/21/05
I can't think of any job in theater that requires any type of college degree. Maybe theater management, but even then if you are able to get experience in that field you would not likely need a degree to advance.
SeanD2
Stand-by
joined:5/2/17
Stand-by
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5/2/17

hayleyann said: "SeanD2 said: "If you don't finish the degree then absolutely do NOT list on your resume that you took courses towards a degree. If I got a resume from a college drop-out (which is what you're saying you would be) I'd almost immediately pass since I'd wonder why you don't have the ability to finish what you started. The only thing that would make me not toss your resume into the circular file is if you had some sort of extraordinary experience that offset such an impression."

Are you kidding? You have ZERO knowledge of people's life circumstances that may prevent them from finishing an increasingly expensive commitment. How privileged you must be to sit back with your arms crossed and look at a piece of paper and say "Oh he/she can't finish what they started".
"

When I'm hiring for a job I typically have a stack of resumes and spend maybe 2 minutes looking at each if they're lucky when I make my first pass to whittle down the pool to who is worth looking at more closely. I often get 25-30 applications for a single entry-level position and maybe 5 will get a first round interview. The first pass is more about disqualification than qualification. It sucks to hear but it's true. 

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Sutton Ross
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Are you kidding? You have ZERO knowledge of people's life circumstances that may prevent them from finishing an increasingly expensive commitment. How privileged you must be to sit back with your arms crossed and look at a piece of paper and say "Oh he/she can't finish what they started".

Aw Hayley, you must be very, very young.

Post covid, likelihood of needing a college degree for theatre?

Updated On: 1/5/21 at 03:58 PM
ArtMan
Broadway Legend
joined:9/10/08
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joined:
9/10/08

Get your degree, so you'll have something to fall back on.  I personally never had a job within my degree, but it at least got be in the door for what ended up my field of employment.  If you have more than 50% towards final credits, you'll regret it later in life that you didn't finish.

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StardustsChild
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joined:9/6/18
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At the end of the day, real life experience carries more weight than training in 80% of the theatre (unless you're a technician. If you want to be a Lighting Electrician, please get proper training). If you gut is saying don't go back, that is a very important thing to recognize. The US puts a lot of pressure on young adults to immediately know what they want to do, and to put a huge amount of money on the line to train for it - if you aren't sure, don't fork over the money. Since you said you have supportive parents, see if you can figure out some sort of an agreement with them to allow you to figure it out.
If you're interested in just about anything but performing, send a message to any local community theatres once the world has reopened and ask to talk to someone in one of the fields you're interested in. I have known of plenty of people who have sat in the corner and watched a local stage manager call a show as a way of investigating if that was something they wanted to do for themselves.
BFA degrees are a relatively new concept - while you can't really shadow performance in the same way you can other jobs in the theatre, take heart in the knowledge that the whole idea of a degree in musical theatre didn't really catch on until the late 90's, and even then it was a slow grow until the explosion around '05. Many generations of performers have gotten training outside of the college system, and you can investigate those career paths without forking over 70,000 to decide if it is the right path for you.
"Life is already so dark. If you have got the talent to make it brighter and bring people hope & joy, why would you withhold that?"
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MayAudraBlessYou2
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As many have said, some of this depends on exactly what you want to do in the theatre world. You list management/producing. Is your ultimate goal to be a producer? A box office manager? Company manager? Front of house? Marketing?

I think it is worth asking yourself what you will have on your resume if you don’t have a degree. Do you have some other experience which is applicable for the jobs you’re seeking? When I hire entry level positions, I get a ton of submissions. No one wants to waste time calling in a bunch of people for interviews. So I’d say I try to call in no more than 5 people per position. But there might be 75 applicants for said position. In order to make it to the interview you need to have either a degree/training that shows your qualification or some type of aplicable experience.

I would also point out that a huge part of college is the connections you make. The world is all about networking. It’s one of the most valuable aspects of school because you are studying alongside folks who will also work in the industry. If you don’t finish the degree, what is your networking plan?

Ultimately there is no right or wrong way to go through life. You would certainly not be the o oh young person in the world without a degree given the pandemic. However, you must take a brutally honest look at your skills and experience and think about what will be required for prospective careers. If you choose not to get a degree you must plan for an alternate method of gaining experience and connections.
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missthemountains
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joined:9/13/11
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"I would also point out that a huge part of college is the connections you make. The world is all about networking. It’s one of the most valuable aspects of school because you are studying alongside folks who will also work in the industry. If you don’t finish the degree, what is your networking plan?"

This is 100,000% accurate.

I graduated from a pretty well respected theatre school, and in the end, the only way I've ever gotten work was through connections. Some were from school, some were for other projects. But it's true. It's who you know and the impression you make on them.

I only graduated coming up on six years ago, and so much has changed--but if I could've done one thing about school differently, I would've interned more and volunteered more. The more you can put on a resume, the better. Stack that s_ht. Get as much experience as you can. The more well rounded, the better. Volunteer at a non-profit, food pantry. Just keep your hands as many pots as you can, because as we now know, the theatre world could freeze at any moment due to no fault of our own. Also to that end, even in B.C times, writers/directors and actors have such a hard time breaking in because there's so many of us and so many people that I know who are ten- to fifteen- years older than me were able to make their mark in a much easier economy.

I would highly, highly recommend finding something within the industry that you can do that isn't creative. Lots of folks these days got into rooms as PAs or even working front of house (which was my area of interest, though it is definitely harder). If you have any tech skills and can help for load-in load-outs, I recommend that. However, in addition to the aforementioned, I'd highly, highly recommend double majoring or minoring in something else. I minored in Writing which has helped me a little bit in recent years. I sort of wish that I had either double majored or minored in Education as well, since I later learned to love teaching and a lot of artists make money by teaching.

That being said, all of this advice is take it or leave it. Who knows what the hell the industry is going to look like or resemble in the next few years. Don't lose sight of your dreams but always have other avenues to go to make money. Theatre will rarely pay your bills.

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dramamama611
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If anything, the demand for jobs will be even higher post covid....and a college degree is a leg up.
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
tmdonahue
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joined:2/15/18
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There is no degree requirement for ANY theater job.  But so many folks want to work in theater that the people hiring need some ways to narrow the pool of applicants.  A degree is one sign of seriousness, especially from a renowned school.  Union membership is aces.   Experience with a well-known producing group is another way to stand out.  Study with a well-regarded independent coach/teacher is good.  Internships can be better than nothing.

Otherwise, why would the person hiring choose to interview/audition YOU?  

I think it helps to think about the employers' situation to better understand what you need to apply.

AEA AGMA SM
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NB: I'm speaking from my own experiences within my own professional and social circle. This is not necessarily a universal phenomenon and others may have different experiences.

A very large majority of the people I hear saying "you don't need a college degree to do x/y/z in the theatre" tend to be on the older side, in their 50s, 60s, even 70s. Yes, when many of them were starting out it was a lot easier to break into the business without a college degree, or any sort of training, as there just simply weren't as many training programs in existence. The reality is that times have changed, and while it is still possible to bypass the college degree, it definitely puts you at a disadvantage. Competition for even the most basic entry level positions in the theatre is fierce and the field is overcrowded due to the very success of the proliferation of colleges and universities pumping out hoards of freshly minted BAs, BFAs, MAs, MFAs, etc, each year, all of whom have four to seven years of credits, experiences, and connections to mine.

I don't say this to discourage, but it is something that must be considered when planning your course of entry into the industry.
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hicaesar
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joined:4/9/09
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Can only speak from my own experience but I dropped out of high school and have made a great career out of Lighting Design.. well until Covid but what else is new. 

I've done some work as a promoter and producer as well.

It's really all about who you know. 

Started in 2005. 

Updated On: 1/11/21 at 10:45 PM
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David10086
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I can’t stress enough to finish school and get your degree! You may end up getting a job in theater and actually hating it and wanting to change industries. You may not need that degree for theater but most likely you will for another field. Get the degree - you won’t regret it.
Islander_fan
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I have met a few actors who do not have a college degree in theatre. They got their degrees in other subjects that they also really loved too. Reason being is, they knew that while busting their ass to be able to professionally do theatre was what they wanted, they also wanted to be realistic too. They all wanted to have a degree in another field because they felt that, if working in theatre never panned out for them, they would have a degree in a field that they could get work in and be happy in doing so as well. Now, the performers I’ve mentioned are now working on Broadway, but still. 

Thelosertakesitall1997
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Updated On: 1/18/21 at 01:57 PM
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gypsy101
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did anyone else think call me jorge was a middle aged man or was it just me
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Wick3
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gypsy101 said: "did anyone else think call me jorge was a middle aged man or was it just me"

You're hilarious! I was surprised the OP is still in college. Then again who knows... it's possible to be middle aged man and still be in college.

As to answer the OP's question, i think he's better off transferring to a school in NYC and work part-time in the theatre industry. Also, if the parents are paying for the degree, then doesn't hurt to have it. If the OP is racking up student debt like crazy, then I'd give it more thought on whether the degree is needed. Then again, I always hear Biden is thinking of student loan forgiveness.

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Wick3
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gypsy101 said: "did anyone else think call me jorge was a middle aged man or was it just me"

You're hilarious! I was surprised the OP is still in college. Then again who knows... it's possible to be middle aged man and still be in college.

As to answer the OP's question, i think he's better off transferring to a school in NYC and work part-time in the theatre industry. Also, if the parents are paying for the degree, then doesn't hurt to have it. If the OP is racking up student debt like crazy, then I'd give it more thought on whether the degree is needed. Then again, I always hear Biden is thinking of student loan forgiveness.

dangeresque49
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In the audio world if I could go back and do it again I would just spend those 4 years getting experience instead of going to college. I look at how much it costs and see a scenario where you could spend less on reliable transport and work for little to no money to get experience over that 4 years. I didn't go to school in NYC tho so maybe college is worth more there.