I WANT TO BE AN ACTOR. SHOULD I GO TO COLLEGE OR AN ACTING CONSERVATORY?
What is an acting conservatory program?
How is an acting conservatory different from college?
Should I attend a theatre conservatory or become a theatre major in college?
If I go to college, what degree should I pursue to become an actor?
If I don’t go to college, can I still become an actor?
Should I take acting classes or enroll in a conservatory?
How do I find a good acting school with a conservatory program?
Why study at T. Schreiber Studio
The choice between college and an acting conservatory is a nuanced one, but the right answer is ultimately whichever one is right for you. You can become a working actor regardless of the path you choose. But unfortunately, you could also have the world’s best education and never book a single acting job. So how do you make the choice?
Wait. Let’s back up. What is a conservatory program anyway?
A conservatory is a school providing instruction in the fine or dramatic arts; a place nurturing growth. More specifically, an actor conservatory is a program that trains actors in all the aspects needed for their success in the field, from acting methods to audition techniques to the business of acting, personally guiding students during their growth into fully-developed actors. The idea is that, upon graduation, actors who attend a conservatory are ready to begin their acting career immediately, because they have the technique, training, and industry know-how to thrive in the business.
So how is that different from college?
It comes down to education vs. training. If you want a theatre education, you should attend a 4-year college or university and major in theatre. You will get a comprehensive academic experience and graduate with a well-rounded depth of knowledge. If you want theatre training in the practicum of acting and the industry, enroll in a conservatory program located in a major city. You will graduate with skill, technique, and an understanding of the business and how you fit into it.
Let’s break it down.
An Acting Conservatory will give you:
- Rigorous, immersive professional training in a structured, comprehensive program
- Complete focus on your art
- Individualized attention and feedback
- Collaboration opportunities with your peers; other serious artists who likely mirror your drive and commitment to the craft
- Refined skill, technique, and an understanding of the business and how you fit into it
And, if your conservatory is located in a major city:
- Guidance from excellent faculty with professional experience and practical insights into the industry
- The opportunity to be in the thick of things, making connections with other professionals in an area that actively casts theatre, film, TV, commercials, and voiceover
College will give you:
- A well-rounded education
- A degree
- A pathway to careers outside of acting
- A varied, diverse experience
- The ability to change your mind, focus, and major at any point
What are you passionate about?
Okay…so which is right for me?
Getting a theatre degree at a regular college or enrolling in a theater conservatory?
Do you want to focus solely on your art, or have the opportunity to study other subjects as well?
Do you want to eat, sleep, and breathe acting all day every day, or do you want a more wide-ranging education with extracurriculars?
Do you want to be surrounded by only fellow aspiring artists or by a more varied group of students?
If you’re unsure of your true passions and not ready to fully dedicate your life to acting at this point, that’s perfectly okay. Conservatories are highly structured programs that require a major commitment and laser-focused ambition. If you decide that acting isn’t your life’s purpose after enrolling in a multi-year conservatory, it’s not always easy to change course (or major) midway through.
Luckily, there is a third option for actors in training, aside from 4-year colleges and conservatories. You can enroll in a shorter conservatory program to get professional acting training after (or even before) pursuing your degree at a college or university. In other words, you can get your education from academics and your training from acting professionals. Committing to a professional training program that’s separate from your formal education is not only a more flexible option, but more affordable as well.
Don’t be afraid to commit to a conservatory program.
I’m going to college, but I can’t be a Theatre Major. What degree should I get to be an actor?
It takes more than acting skills to be a good actor. Being a well-rounded person with other interests, hobbies, and unrelated education is helpful too! If your college or university doesn’t offer acting classes (or you can’t fit them into your course load), don’t worry; there are plenty of great acting studios to help you develop those skills and get into the acting field after you finish your formal education. You don’t need to major in theatre or take any required courses to become an actor. While you’re still in school, sign up for the courses that interest you, especially those that help you see the world through someone else’s eyes. Courses in subjects like sociology, psychology, philosophy, politics, and religion can be just as helpful in developing an actor as more obviously creative classes like art, music, writing, and literature.
I’m not going to college. Can I still become an actor without a degree?
Of course! You don’t need to get a degree or even go to college to become an actor. In fact, nothing is required to become a working actor except hard work and a lot of luck. But quality training is always a good idea. Click HERE for our article on actor training.
Denise Simon, NYC-based Acting Coach & T. Schreiber Studio Faculty Member:
“Many well-known actors have “made it” in the business without a theatre degree, but what they did get is proper training. The industry is looking for smart, well-rounded actors. Where you learn that is up to you.”
So should I enroll in a conservatory program or just take part-time acting classes NYC-based?
That depends on your timeline and availability. If you crave an intensive experience, have the ability to commit 20+ hours a week to your training, and want to jump-start your career within the next year, a conservatory program sounds right for you. But if you have more time over which to stretch your training and only have 3-7 hours a week available to commit, you may want to start taking foundational classes and seek advice from your teachers regarding the areas in which you most need improvement. Your training journey will lack the structure of a conservatory, but you’ll have the flexibility to take classes and make improvements to your craft as your schedule allows.
How do I find a New York conservatory or acting school? Searching for drama schools NYC is overwhelming.
Finding the right school for you certainly can be overwhelming. But with a little online research, you can easily find reputable, well-established studios in major cities with vibrant acting communities. Once you’ve identified a few schools that stand out to you, reach out to get your questions answered. If you’re considering their conservatory, ask to speak with a faculty member or graduates of the program.
When selecting a place to study, consider the reputation of the Studio. You want the faculty to be comprised of professionals who are actively working in their fields directing, writing, acting, producing, and thriving. Working professionals will be familiar with current industry standards and will understand the business part of show business, and respected institutions will not only provide high-quality training, but also stand out on your resume.
Invest in your training; invest in your dreams; invest in yourself.
Why study at T. Schreiber Studio?
- Essential training that prepares students of all backgrounds to confidently work at a professional level
- Small class sizes that provide space for individual attention and focused feedback
- High expectations and standards with the support to help you rise to the challenge
- A culture that encourages, nurtures, and affirms the whole artist in their journey of self-discovery and growth
- Membership in a close-knit community of like-minded artists
- A foothold in the theatre capital of the planet
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