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Student Blog: Choose Your Fighter: BA or BFA?


The major difference, at least to my knowledge, is how focused the programs are.

Student Blog: Choose Your Fighter: BA or BFA?

When I started looking into college theatre programs about 5 years ago (I can't believe it's already been that long), I had very limited knowledge about the difference between a BA and a BFA. It has been drilled into my brain by a variety of sources that BFAs are better. I had no reasoning behind it other than hearing it from other people. In reality, BAs and BFAs are just different. Neither one is inherently better than the other. It just depends on what you are looking for. It still feels like there is a stigma around opting for a BA program over a BFA in the general theatre community though.

BA stands for Bachelor of the Arts. BFA stands for Bachelor of the Fine Arts. The major difference, at least to my knowledge, is how focused the programs are. BFAs are typically found more in conservatory settings. They are focused on a specific aspect of theatre with training based solely on that. BAs are more flexible with what the students focus on. For reference, I am in a BA program at Butler University. I chose a BA because I wanted to be able to do a variety of things outside of theatre along with acting (which is my focus within the realm of theatre.) I am someone who loves learning. I love school, so being able to enroll in core credits such as lower level math courses and history courses was important to me when it came down to committing to a school. I would get bored without being able to learn all sorts of subjects.

I totally understand the appeal of BFAs as well. I have many friends who went into BFA programs. Not everyone wants to have the distraction of core requirements while diving into the study of their craft.

I think a large factor in the origin of this stigma comes from lack of research by students and high school teachers, coaches, etc. who are counseling students as they audition for schools. If you Google "BA vs BFA," the definition that first comes up describes the BFA as more "prestigious". I don't think that is the correct word to use. The BFA is more focused but that doesn't reflect on the value of the education. Both degrees are of equal value and status. By digging into the differences more than a simple Google search, you will discover the pros and cons to both types. In auditions for professional shows or interviews for design/tech of professional shows, your degree will not be a make or break factor. The work you do is what will be most looked at. There are actors on Broadway with no degree at all. There are so many ways to train as an artist. You just have to find which way fits you best.

To a certain extent, I believe college programs play into this notion of the BFA being superior. I don't think it is on purpose by any means. It is merely an effect of our current education system. At many schools I auditioned for, the BFA program was audition based while the BA was an open program (Butler only has a BA program, and it requires either an audition or portfolio interview.) That is fine! The wording of rejection letters is what I find slightly off. Most of the schools I auditioned for but didn't get into sent a rejection letter stating that though I was unable to get into the BFA, I could "just" get a BA instead and audition again next year for the BFA. I think it would be more productive to say to students "hey if you are interested, check out our BA program as well." Don't make it sound as though the people who make it into the BFA are better. One school I auditioned for went as far as to say a BA would be best for me because "it seemed like my other passions would distract from my acting training." I said no to that school pretty easily.

Overall, I just hate when people try to compare the status of BA versus BFA. It seeps into the theatre students too, and then there are a bunch of BFA or BA students claiming to be better than one another because that's what they've been told by the attitude of their high school program or college or whatever. We should be working together to create not at each other's throats about who is the best.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Maddie Davies