For all the reasons why “getting a liberal arts degree” is a “waste of money” (I’ve heard them all), here are 10 reasons why getting a bachelors in theatre arts is actually a smart thing to do, in terms of your career.
1. Improvisation Skills are Golden in your Professional Life
When it comes down to it, everything in life is sales — regardless of your job. First, you have to sell yourself to get the job. Then, you have to sell your ideas to move up in your career. Improv teaches you to never say “no” in a situation, and instead to say “yes, and…” and think on your feet. It’s a hugely important skill in all aspects of business.
2. Direct Actors and You Can Manage Anything
Actors tend to be among the most difficult people to work with — with egos, I’ve found, only comparable to top-level execs. By managing actors (as a director, or even assistant), you learn how to placate their egos while still getting what you want. If you can accomplish this, you’ve learned 80% of skills needed to be a good manager.
3. You’ll Learn How to Budget Wisely
Unless you’re producing Spiderman on Broadway (and even then) you’ll have a limited budget to work with, all while having to create or source costumes, set pieces, lighting and more. By working with a tight budget for a project, you’ll learn how to prioritize where to put the money, and explain why you are making these choices.
4. There’s Never Enough Time, and That’s OK
Theatre people know that from the first read through of a script to opening night is never enough time. There are always freak outs during “hell week” (the week before opening) yet somehow every time things fall together and the show opens. By going through this process a couple of times, you learn to trust how things fall together as long as you have a team that’s committed to getting something done, regardless of your time or resources.
5. You are Your Brand, Write Your Professional Character
More than ever, your professional trajectory is largely tied to your personal brand. What is that brand? It’s a combination of a few things — your schooling and resume, but also the story you present to the world through social networks and events. As a theatre major, you’ll learn plenty about character development, and how to build believable identities as a playwright and/or actor.
6. You’ll Feel at Home in Front of a Crowd
Business leaders are often skilled presenters. They have charisma (or know how to fake it) and can transfix an audience with their presence. As a theater major, you’ll have lots of time to hone your “on stage” skills, so you’ll be ready for any career that requires you to make presentations.
7. A Theater Degree is More Practical than Most Liberal Arts Degrees
The argument against liberal arts degrees is that they’re not practical. If you major in English, you may read a lot, research and write papers, but chances are you won’t be working in a collaborative environment on larger projects (unless you seek out those opportunities.) Theater is inherently a project-based degree, and a collaborative one at that. You will be forced to work with other people to build something. That gives you a lot to talk about at job interviews, even if you haven’t had a lot of other professional experiences.
8. Theatre Teaches You How to Become an Expert at Everything
When preparing for a role, directing a play, writing a play, or researching for design, you’re fast learning a lot about subjects you’ve often never heard of before. This forces you to become a quick study — perhaps a Jack of All Trades, Master of None — but you’re certainly able to pick up enough information on any topic quickly enough instead of worrying about being a super-expert before discussing a topic.
9. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Creativity
Theatre majors are required to be creative on a daily basis. In the modern business world, thinking outside the box is often a necessity to solve the challenges that are present in many industries today. While strict academics may struggle to brainstorm and come up with a lot of options for how to attack a given situation, a theatre major is likely able to use their experience of thinking on their feet to offer new insights that others could not.
10. You Can Always “Fall Back on Broadway”
For many theatre majors, a career in theatre – or a related field such as the entertainment industry – is not just a fantasy. Many of the people I went to school with are successfully working on stage and off in the industry. Making a living as an actor IS really tough, but there are plenty of jobs in design, stage management, production, and the business side of theatre. In reality a theatre degree is a lot more of a business degree than most liberal arts majors.