Best Undergraduate Non-BFA Musical Theater Programs

Parents regularly ask us whether or not their artistically inclined kids should forgo their creative urges to study something a bit more practical, like, say, finance. What sets us apart from some of the other college consulting services out there is that we like to encourage kids to pursue their passions. Whether it’s extra-curriculars, essays, or summer jobs, each component of the application process, and ultimately, the majors kids pursue in college, are going to end up being more impressive if the student is committed to what they’re doing. So, if you’re a show tunes junky with a voice of honey, we say go for it. But you better bring you’re A-game, because getting into the nation’s top musical theater programs is hardly as easy as spending a Sunday in the park with George. (We'll see ourselves out. Bye.) 

What Is in a Name?

When considering a theatrical program, there are two types of degrees. To BFA or not to BFA, that is the question? The BFA tends to be more technical, sending students on a track towards refining performance-based skills such as acting. The BA, on the other hand, is broader, includes more theory, and gives students education regarding the landscape of the industry. A BA also sometimes has students take class outside their major or concentration. So, whether you’re a painfully shy theater historian, a triple-threat, or a brilliant young director, there are myriad programs for you.

In this post, we focus on BA programs.


Kids who want to be in the room where it happens have a great opportunity in the nation’s capital. American is one of the few schools out there that offers a BA in Musical Theatre of its very own. Students can choose from courses in acting, stagecraft and production design, stage management, and history. Musical Theatre students are also expected to take dance practicum and vocal techniques, in addition to audition techniques. For the overly-ambitious, American also offers a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s degree.  


For those who want to razzle dazzle ‘em, Chicago is not a bad option at all. Known to some as Second City, Chi Town is full of performance art and culture.  Northwestern’s BA in theater offers an additional Musical Theatre Certificate program. Students audition their freshman or sophomore years for a spot and are subsequently placed into voice lessons and studio workshops. Musical Theatre students also take dance courses, in addition to other performance-based classes. Be sure to take advantage of all the city has to offer. Some of the nation’s top venues for open mic nights, karaoke, and improv are all available to those who want to flex their muscles on the weekend.  

Marymount Manhattan

What could be better than the flashing lights of Broadway? Studying 30 blocks north and getting to avoid the flood of Times Square performers, for one. Marymount Manhattan offers a Musical Theatre program that is recommended as a supplement to the BA in Theatre Arts major. This four-year program includes classes in history, singing, scene work, and portfolio preparation. Best of all, students will be immersed in the heart of all. New York City is the epicenter of musical theater and when you need a study break, you can stand in line for discounted Broadway tickets almost any day of the week.  


UCLA’s Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater offers emphases in Acting, Design/Production, Directing, Playwriting, Integrated Studies, and Musical Theater. The Ray Bolger Musical Theater Program’s goal is “graduating actors who can also sing and dance.” Students on this track must take a minimum of six-quarter performance classes in acting, voice/speech, dance, and singing.  But what is, perhaps, most appealing about studying musical theater at UCLA, is that Hollywood is only a hop, step, and a jump away.  It may not be New York, but after all, La La Land was filmed in LA and studio movies are always hiring extras.  


Need some help building your audition portfolio? Call us. We are experts in helping students build the perfect repertoires.