The Top 10 Non-BFA Drama Programs

Pursuing a BA in acting or drama, as opposed to a BFA in acting or drama, means that you will be focusing on many of the same things, but with a slightly different scope. A BFA degree is highly technical and does not stray from acting content and technique. If you are interested in studying about the concepts and theories behind acting, as well as other fields of the industry, then a BA is for you. It provides you with a much more solid set of generalized knowledge about acting, including the skills required for voice training, movement, improvisation, auditioning, stage performance. You will be trained in the techniques of the art and skill of acting in addition to learning about the entire industry and the importance of critical thinking in the context of a liberal arts or interdisciplinary education setting. Graduates go on to become actors and directors in theater, film, and television, as well as editors, literary agents, marketing and business professionals, educators, and change-makers in countless other creative industries.

  1. Northwestern
    The acting program at Northwestern is housed within the Theater Department. Each year in the program has a different focus: freshman year, students focus on voice and movement; sophomore year, students select an instructor to study with for the remainder of their time in the program, and focus on the “Principles of Characterization”; the theme of junior year is “Analysis and Performance,” with an emphasis on Shakespeare and Chekhov, among others; senior year, students focus on a range of practical acting skills, including acting for the screen, contemporary scene study, comedy, style, and the professional aspects of acting. Students perform in acting showcases in both New York and Chicago throughout their time in the highly career-oriented program.
  2. NYU Tisch
    The Tisch School of The Arts at NYU is a world-renowned, prestigious school that graduates students who go on to have incredible careers. The BA in Performance Studies offered through TIsch is no exception to this trend. The central goal of the program is, powerfully put, to help students “understand how embodied actions create social meanings.” With a lesser emphasis on the technical aspects of acting, this program focuses on the importance and meaning of performance, with options of taking acting classes and incorporating the content into your coursework in the Performance Studies program. Separate from the school’s BFA Drama program, this course of study investigates the complexities and importance of performance throughout history and how we can impact the industry and art form overall. Additionally, NYU’s location in New York should not be overlooked as a clear benefit.
  3. University of Indiana Bloomington
    The UIB College of Arts and Sciences offers a BA in Theater and Drama that is incredibly well-regarded and competitive. Students interested in acting can choose the concentration Acting, Directing, Movement, and Voice and Speech and get a well-rounded understanding of acting and all that goes into a successful actor or director in the industry. Students enrolled in the program can also choose from the other three concentrations: Dramatic Literature, Theatre History, and Dramatic Theory; Scenic Design, Stagecraft, Lighting Design, Costume Design, Sound Design, and Stage Management; and Playwriting.
  4. Stanford
    Stanford’s TAPS program is highly unique and compelling. Housed within the Department of Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS), students interested in acting can choose the Acting concentration (alternatively, students can choose Theater Making). To complete a BA in TAPS, students must complete 60 units total: 4 in intro classes; 16 in theater and dance studies; 18 in their practicum/concentration; 10 in electives; and 4 in their capstone project. The practicum classes include courses such as “Acting I: Fundamentals,” “Movement For the Actor,” “Movement Through Song,” “Intermediate Improvisation,” and more.
  5. University of Southern California
    USC’s School of Dramatic Arts is known through the nation for graduating some of the industry’s best actors and filmmakers of our time. With an emphasis on combining a liberal arts education with a technique-based study of drama, USC’s BA in Dramatic Arts requires students take 8 courses in six different Core Literacies, 2 courses in global perspectives, and 2 writing courses.
  6. PACE University
    PACE School of Performing Arts offers a BA in Acting program that gives its students a dynamic and diverse education in the craft of acting, as well as the industry, and understanding of performance as a whole. With courses in everything from “Vocal Production” and “Performance Ensemble” to “Script Analysis for BA Actor and Director,” students get a good sense of the skills involved in being an actor or director, whatever they decide to pursue. In addition to the major requirements, PACE students are required to complete the core academic requirements within the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences. The benefit of attending a strictly performing arts school is that you have incredible access to creative resources and other mediums of art.
  7. University of Washington
    The University of Washington’s School of Drama’s BA in Drama Program is rooted in a liberal arts context. The school believes that any successful actor, regardless of the medium (theater, film, television, etc.) should begin by learning about the art of acting and drama within a liberal arts setting where they can observe diversity of thought and sharpen their critical thinking skills. The program is designed to fully prepare students for the possibility of a graduate conservatory education. Students are required to not only take the core acting, theater history, and design & technical theater courses, but are additionally required to acquire “lab credit” by participating in running crews, which count as Theater Technical Practice Labs.
  8. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    The BA in Dramatic Arts program at UNC Chapel Hill emphasizes the skills required to excel in the dramatic arts and how they can be applied to a number of other industries, including business, arts management, journalism, PR, and more. This career-oriented Bachelor of Arts degree is unique in that sense, and its lack of an audition requirement for students makes it highly accessible. UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of Dramatic Arts also offers an array of some of the most unusual courses, including “Psychology of Clothes: Motivations for Dressing Up and Dressing Down,” “Spectacle in the Theatre,” “Studies in Dramaturgy and Criticism,” “Issues in Arts Management,” and more.
  9. Barnard
    Barnard’s Acting Concentration within the school’s undergraduate Drama and Theater Arts BA is worth mentioning on this list because of its resources and the competitive and world-renowned education associated with a Barnard/Columbia University degree. The two universities share a theater department and provide students with a vast amount of support, resources, and opportunity to participate in a diverse array of performances and projects. Students interested in acting can concentrate on that with their Acting Concentration, which requires participation in production season, a written research casebook, and supervision by a member of the acting faculty.
  10. Hofstra University
    Hoftra’s BA in Drama degree program is wonderful because of its location and placement within the largest private college on Long Island, NY. Its proximity to New York City and access to resources are ideal, and the career-oriented structure of its curriculum is undoubtedly beneficial for its more creative students. The program requires 39 hours in drama, in addition to the completion of the Hofstra Liberal Arts Studies core requirements.

It can be hard to sort through BA Drama programs to figure out which one might be the best program for you. Particularly because they are often associated with the theater departments at the school and the curriculum may be affected by that. We understand that it can be overwhelming or confusing. Don’t worry, just give us a call or send us an email.