Skip to content

Best Acting Schools in California

Pursuing an acting career at the best acting schools in California is a highly competitive field. It’s important that students are proficient in their studies and attend top-ranked schools. As an industry that thrives primarily in California, you must find a school to help refine your innate skills.

This guide contains five of the top-ranked acting schools in California. Each of these schools meets the following criteria:

  • An average annual cost of no more than $60,000
  • An expected median starting salary of no lower than $30,000
  • Accredited programs by recognized bodies or government institutions
Accredited Programs That Might Interest You
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

We ranked the schools from the lowest annual average expenses to the highest.

5 Best Acting Schools in California

1. Pacific Union College

4 Year; Angwin, CA

Average Annual Cost: $21,259

Entering the acting field with the help of Pacific Union College is a unique opportunity. Instead of focusing on one specialty, their acting program combines the stage and screen.

You’ll have access to an interdisciplinary program to help you obtain careers after graduation or further your studies. This learning opportunity is unique because it’s a new degree option.

Students will gain experience with production, theater, and writing simultaneously. Upon graduation, you’ll receive an Associate’s degree to help your future aspirations.

One of the more unique features of this field of study is how it approaches theater. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how production works and its technical aspects.

However, you can also focus primarily on performance if that’s your preferred learning track.

With performance as your specialty, you’ll explore movement, voice and speech, and more. Alternatively, students can explore a production-oriented curriculum that explores sound design, cinematography, marketing, editing, and more.

2. California Baptist University

4 Year; Riverside, CA

Average Annual Cost: $26,719

At California Baptist University, their theater program is one of the most popular avenues of study. You’ll have a Bachelor of Arts in Theater and plenty of fantastic experiences and memories when you graduate.

Like many other theater programs, California Baptist University focuses on stage performance and behind-the-scenes opportunities. You’ll be able to expand on your acting skills while also learning about theater history and design.

Students will also have access to unique real-world opportunities, such as starring in the school’s award-winning productions. It’s also important to note that this is a Baptist school; faith is integrated into the curriculum.

Aside from majoring in theater, students can also opt to take it as a minor. Currently, there are three acting minors to consider:

  • Theater
  • Design or Technical Theater Concentration
  • Performance Concentration

As a student interested in acting, you’ll likely consider the performance concentration. In this learning pathway, you’ll be able to take classes like:

  • Fundamentals of Stagecraft
  • Production Practicum: Performance
  • Directing
  • Theater History

3. Academy of Art University

4 Year; San Francisco, CA

Average Annual Cost: $36,143

Academy of Art University is one of the top schools in the state to consider for an acting specialty. Instead of a generic theater degree, students will learn exceptional tenets of acting at its core.

The courses are specifically designed to help you enter film, television, and theater. You’ll expand on your acting, speech, and movement skills during your studies.

You’ll also have your knowledge refined to provide the most moving performances across an array of projects.

One of the largest benefits of this program is that it’s taught by real-world working actors, offering unique industry insights. Students will also gather plenty of professional benefits, such as developing a professional demo reel.

Their studies will also help them network with casting directors, agents, and managers to get a foot into the entertainment industry. Interestingly, the Academy of Art University offers four different degree options for acting students, including:

  • Associate of Arts Degree
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree
  • Master of Arts Degree
  • Master of Fine Arts Degree

You’ll find all of the degree options are comprehensive and diverse, helping students with several fundamentals. You’ll explore improvisation, speech, singing, audition techniques, musical theater, and stage production.

Upon graduation, you’ll have all the necessary skills to explore a professional acting career.

4. Chapman University

4 Year; Orange, CA

Average Annual Cost: $44,198

Chapman University is another well-rounded option for students in California looking to get into acting. Currently, the school offers three different degree options depending on the specialty you’re interested in. These options include:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Theater
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater Performance
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screen Acting

You’ll likely enroll in the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screen Acting degree pathway as an actor. This learning avenue helps prepare you for the film and television industry. You’ll have the foundation necessary to act either in front of a camera or on stage by graduation.

Another massive benefit of this program is that it helps students acquire a liberal arts education. This can assist you with obtaining a variety of careers outside of acting itself.

During your studies, you’ll learn about how media works by exploring different concepts, including:

  • History of Film
  • Film Technology
  • Screenwriting

A massive benefit of Chapman University’s acting program is it helps students become more employable professionals. You’ll be able to create a complete actor reel to assist with graduate studies or employment.

By the time you’re finished with the program, you’ll have technical proficiency in filmmaking, theater, and character analysis.

5. California Institute of the Arts

4 Year; Valencia, CA

Average Annual Cost: $56,876

As you would guess, the California Institute of the Arts has plenty of opportunities for creative-minded students.

For acting, you can choose between a Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Master of Fine Arts in theater. Also known as the acting program, you’ll have a more classical approach to 21st-century acting performances.

Students will have all of the necessary skills to be well-rounded theater artists, helping you work towards your carer goals. You’ll ignite the passion and creativity within you to either work in front of or behind the camera.

As one of the best acting schools in California, you can expect to explore your physical, emotional, and intellectual personality traits with their undergraduate program.

There are several fundamental skills this program offers to students, including:

  • Analyzing text
  • Developing your body, voice, and emotions
  • Learning various acting methodologies
  • Creating innovative screenplays
Accredited Programs That Might Interest You
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.