North Central College theatre students peforming a play.

Is a Performing Arts Degree Worth It?

Hannah Brauer

Jun 09, 2023

Is Performing Arts Degree Worth It? 

Do you like performing on stage? Or is behind-the-scenes work more your style? Whether you enjoy shaping the show backstage or stealing the spotlight in front of an audience, if you love being in a theater environment, you may want to consider a performing arts degree. 

With a performing arts degree, you will study all the components that make a successful show while honing your skills and interests. First, though, let’s go over the question, “What is Performing Arts?” and what a degree in the field looks like.

What is a Performing Arts Degree?

A performing arts degree or a theatre degree grants students opportunities to delve into topics such as: theatre history, dramaturgy, technical theatre, costume design, set design, creative writing and directing. Those who want to develop their performance talents can study focuses like acting, singing and dancing. A performing arts degree enables students to learn more about their field in the classroom while gaining experience to get a head-start in their careers. 

What are the Benefits of Being a Performing Arts Major?

On top of the industry experience and knowledge that a performing arts degree offers, there are several skills that theatre students acquire. Let’s consider the top reasons in answer to the questions, “Why is a theatre degree worth it?” 

While earning their degree, a performing arts student develops crucial skills in: communication, organization and management, collaboration, adaptability, creativity and the business and marketing of performing arts. 


Unquestionably, communication is a skill inherent to many roles in the theatre arts. 

If you are interested in acting, for instance, you’ll need communication skills to be able to connect with an audience and give a captivating performance. Performing arts majors help students refine these skills, particularly on stage, where performers gain experience with public speaking and interpersonal communication. According to Andrew Cutler and Amanda Fink writing for Educational Endeavors, “scene work teaches ... actors to read and interpret human behavior, to articulate what they want and need from one another, and overall builds more compassionate and attentive listeners.” 

A degree in the performing arts also fosters communication skills for those interested in facilitating theatre production. Whether you desire a career as a director, stage manager, costume or stage designer or work in theatrical technology or music production, it is important that you’ll be able to communicate with your colleagues to run a successful show. 

Organization and Management

In a theatre degree program, you’ll also develop organization and management skills. While gaining work experience in productions, you will become familiar with all the components that need coordinating for a successful show. For example, if you work in lighting design, you’ll be responsible for keeping lighting changes organized to ensure that it runs smoothly during a performance. A performing artist must keep track of lines and scene progressions organized in the case of any deviations or improvisations during a live show.

Additionally, participation in leadership roles allows performing arts majors to build up management skills. Stage managers or directors, for instance, gain management work experience by overseeing the work of others or the way a show is performed. 


An important part of management, collaboration is another skill that students cultivate while earning their performing arts degrees. Beyond collaborating on projects in the classroom, theatre and performing arts majors work with fellow students, instructors and even industry professionals to craft a performance—from start to finish. Performing arts students have the opportunity to work with their fellow students, like consulting a music major on the best way to perform a song or collaborating with a student graphic designer to create flyers and programs for a show. 

Having a strong ability to work with others is a skill that is applicable to more than just the performing arts. Per Educational Endeavors, “collaboration is central to the art form, and as such, it will impart skills that apply to a broad array of situations.”


Yet another benefit for a performing arts student is adaptability. Because the end result of work in a theater environment is a live performance, everyone must be able to adapt. Any number of variables and circumstances surrounding a show can alter at any stage, from beginning rehearsals to the last curtain call.

Imagine you are an understudy for the lead role and that actor was unable to perform. Or, what if you are a choreographer for a musical theater production, and you need to re-work the dance formations quickly to take a cast member out? How would you respond?

Since situations like these occur for in any kind of production, industry professionals must be able to adapt; notably, some would say that adaptability is what makes them professionals. 

Gaining experience with live shows, performing arts students have a chance to expand their ability to adapt. Performing arts majors learn to think on their feet to react to situations in the moment—a handy skill applicable to many circumstances in the workplace and in life.

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Studying for a degree in performing art allows your creativity to flourish. Whether you choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in theatre, musical theatre, or even a theatre minor or a dance minor, a performing arts program enables you to learn from creative experts. 

Even if you have prior performing arts experience—for example, through high school productions—a theater degree program will build on your foundation in the industry and gear you toward professional theatre. 

Moreover, the creativity developed through a performing arts degree is a strong benefit in several career paths. According to Benjamin Wolff writing for Forbes, “a rigorous creative discipline teaches patience in the face of obstacles.” Perseverance in the face of problems and the ability to think outside of the box are widely applicable skills, and a performing arts degree helps you master that skillset.

Business and Marketing of Performing Arts

One more benefit of a performing arts major is learning the “the ropes” of the business and marketing in the performing arts industry. In performing art education, industry experts teach students the practices and techniques essential to success in professional theatre. 

Performing arts programs help students prepare for their careers by providing guidance on putting together portfolios and other professional materials. Additionally, performing arts students will learn important audition skills, as well as the best way to market their skills and experience.

Is a Performing Arts Degree Worth It?

Now that we’ve gone over the benefits of a performing arts major, you may still be wondering, “What can you do with a theatre degree?”

Presenting an opportunity for broadened perspectives, a performing arts degree helps you prepare for a number of career paths. According to Laura Lodewyck, director of acting and associate professor of theatre at North Central College, “A degree in the performing arts ultimately means that you are a critical thinker who can respond in dynamic, fast-paced, collaborative environments. You are a problem-solver, a curious and creative thinker, and a confident storyteller across various contexts and mediums.” Especially with programs offered at liberal arts institutions, a student is engaged in interdisciplinary learning that introduces different ways of thinking and problem-solving. 

A broad perspective is an asset to many professions. Forbes echoes this sentiment, stating, “With the rise of artificial intelligence, machine programming, and the ever more rapid automation of technical skills, many companies are seeking just the creative and humanist thinking that emerges from a study of the liberal arts.” Definitely, the skills and knowledge you gain from a performing arts degree are useful in a variety of contexts; what’s even more certain, though, is how a theater degree propels you forward in a performing arts career. 

One way a performing arts major benefits your professional development is through audition, production, performance and directing experience. Degree programs put on multiple productions throughout an academic year, granting students the chance to add to their portfolios. With many performing arts programs, instructors offer advice to students in their applications and portfolios—even guiding students on finding internships. 

In fact, working closely with instructors is a significant benefit of a performing arts program. As experts in their field, performing arts instructors serve as key resources in building your network with industry professionals. Instructors will invite colleagues in the industry to host workshops, or they may point out important career opportunities. They also provide guidance for students that choose to pursue a graduate degree.

Perhaps most importantly, completing a performing arts degree boosts a student’s confidence. A remarkable accomplishment by itself, earning your performing arts degree brings you expanded knowledge of the art form, as well as adds to your portfolio and experience, leaving you better prepared to enter the field as a professional. 

Plan Your Path

To start your career on the right foot, you will want to find the best performing arts degree program for you. You will want to search for an undergraduate degree that offers a well-rounded foundation in the art form, such as the degrees offered at liberal arts institutions such as North Central College. From the exploration of artistic choices and criticisms in the classroom to live productions, liberal arts degree programs prepare students to take on the challenges of the theatre. 

Additionally, you will want to find a degree program that connects you with professional opportunities. Look for institutions that are well-connected, like North Central, which leverages its proximity to Chicago theatre community to enable its students to pursue opportunities with prominent theatre companies. 

Whether you prefer to shine onstage or behind-the-scenes—or maybe even both—once you find the right program for you, you’ll feel ready to begin your career in the performing arts.

Hannah Brauer is a communications specialist in the North Central College Office of Institutional Communication. She has a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University, and she has four years of experience working with college students and collegiate communications.


Cutler, Andrew and Amanda Fink. (2021, June 2). “Five Benefits of a Performing Arts Education.” Educational Endeavors. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from 

Wolff, Benjamin. (2021, April 6). “The Arts and Humanities Deliver Untapped Value for the Future of Work.” Forbes. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from