Best Performing Arts Colleges

With the best-performing arts colleges, you can transform your creativity into a prosperous career. When searching for colleges specializing in performing arts, there are many options, ranging from theater to media studies. You’ll want to find an institution that offers academic and hands-on courses to help you refine your skills.

You might be surprised to learn there is a prime number of degrees that fall within the realm of performing arts. Whether you’re interested in performing on stage or working behind the scenes, there are multiple careers to consider.

With some of the most prestigious colleges at your disposal, your dream career is within your grasp. Using this guide, you’ll have a better idea of the top ten colleges that have a strong focus on performing arts. We’ve categorized the following best college list following three primary forms of criteria:

  • Average annual costs below $20,000
  • Median yearly salaries of no less than $42,000
  • Accredited and professionally recognized institutions

All of the data you’ll use to help you find the ideal placement has been gathered from the US Department of Education and college-specific sites. Also, our list features schools in ascending order from least to most expensive per year.

10 Best Performing Arts Colleges

1. CUNY Brooklyn College

4 Year; Brooklyn, NY

Average Annual Cost: $3,067

What better place to get your foothold in performing arts than in New York? The CUNY Brooklyn College is a top-tier performing arts college with a school specifically designed for this major. You’ll find an assortment of arts-related degree programs right at your fingertips.

You’ll be attending the School of Visual, Media, and Performing Arts for a performing arts degree. There are multiple degree maps to consider, including music performance, theater (acting), film studies, and music composition. This specialty school generally features degrees from major media industries ranging from art history to film and musical theater.

81% of students who attended CUNY Brooklyn College return after their first year, with 55% graduating. To make even better use of your degree post-graduation, the school also offers career services. Using the Magner Career Center, you can find potential placements either with full employment or internships.

Numerous companies work alongside the School of Visual, Media, and Performing Arts to place students. Reputable names, such as Nickelodeon, Warner Music Group, and Disney Publishing Worldwide, accept student placements.

2. Foothill College

4 Year; Los Altos Hills, CA

Average Annual Cost: $6,200

If you’re a student interested in theater, Foothill College is a great school to consider. Their program allows you to earn either a theater arts certificate or an associate degree as a transfer student. Although their performing arts program doesn’t encompass film or music, it’s ideal for those interested in the big stage.

By enrolling at Foothill College for performing arts, you’ll be a part of the Theater Arts Department. This center is filled with visual arts courses that help broaden your experience with literature, performance, acting, technical studies, and more. Students will be able to acquire acting program training paired with non-major and major general studies.

Another significant benefit of this degree program is that you’ll gain access to many future opportunities. Of the 24% of students that graduate annually, you can acquire a degree in teaching, stage management, directing, producing, or acting. Some graduates have even gone on to pursue careers as casting directors with their degrees.

3. Utah Valley University

4 Year; Orem, UT

Average Annual Cost: $9,955

At the School of the Arts at Utah Valley University, students can study art design, music, dance, and theater. Each program is uniquely designed to provide you with fundamental and applicable knowledge for your future career. By focusing on your talent as an artist, you’ll be able to express yourself using unique methods with access to innovative facilities and faculty.

In the Department of Art & Design, students can acquire a Bachelor of Science in Art Education or Art and Design. You can also consider a Bachelor of Art in Art History or Art and Design. Alternatively, there’s an in-depth program for a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Those in the Dance program can complete an Associate of Science in Dance or work towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. Another option is a Bachelor of Science in Dance, focusing primarily on ballroom and dance education. This program is similar to theater degrees, available as a BA in Theater Arts, a BS in Theater Arts Education, or a BFA.

The final option for performing arts students is a degree in music, and there are many to choose from. Students can acquire a Bachelor of Music, featuring commercial and performance music. Alternatively, there’s a Bachelor of Science or Arts that focuses primarily on music education.

4. Portland State University

4 Year; Portland, OR

Average Annual Cost: $12,498

Portland State University is located in the capital of Portland, nestled in one of the most culturally diverse areas of the state. With a performing arts degree in mind, students will become a part of the School of Music & Theater at Portland State University. All courses in each program help students reach their inner creativity to work towards future success.

You’ll have access to an assortment of world-renowned facilities paired with industry-leading faculty members to guide you along the way. The performing arts courses are designed to produce the world’s next generation of composers, performers, teachers, and more. There’s no doubt there’s an endless list of fantastic courses you can choose from depending on your desired major.

Compared to other performing arts colleges, this program has an impressive number of areas of study. Most of their programs revolve around music, such as composition, music production, conducting, voice, and instrument-specific courses. Alternatively, Portland State University also has a theater program.

With the theater program, you can earn a Bachelor of Arts/Science in Theater Arts, helping propel your career forward. With your studies, you’ll garner foundational knowledge in directing, acting, and theater design. By completing your course, you’ll know everything there is to know about working in theater arts.

Portland State University has a relatively good graduation rate, with 53% of students completing their degree programs. You’ll also find they have an exceptional retention rate of 73%, proving most students return to their studies after the first year.

5. Utah State University

4 Year; Logan, UT

Average Annual Cost: $13,257

Utah State University is a large university with students studying across a diverse number of disciplines. Located in Logan, Utah, it’s one of the most popular schools in the state, with a graduation rate of 55% and a retention rate of 73%. For those interested in performing arts, you’ll attend the College of Fine Arts.

In the College of Fine Arts, students can pursue a degree in dance, music, theater, film and media arts, or art and art history. Each program is filled with innovative class designs to help you gain real-world and theoretical knowledge to assist your future career. For performing arts, it’s most likely you’ll look for a degree in dance, film, music, or theater.

As one of the most competitive programs at Utah State University, you’ll experience a rigorous and in-depth curriculum per major. Students will work alongside industry-leading professionals to refine their performing skills while also gathering fundamental general studies experiences. By combining in-class instruction with real-world performances, all of their arts programs are well-rounded for creative-minded individuals.

6. Brigham Young University-Provo

4 Year; Provo, UT

Average Annual Cost: $13,474

Whether you’re interested in theater arts or media arts, Brigham Young University-Provo is great. Their programs encompass all of the main facets of performing arts, helping to diversify your skills. They also provide several graduate studies to help further your undergraduate degree.

Even if you’re not interested in majoring in performance arts, the school offers two unique minor programs. Students can opt to minor in media arts or theater arts to help with building a more robust media-related acumen. For majors, you can acquire many fantastic degrees through the multiple offered programs.

Students can acquire a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting, music, dance theater, theater arts education, or theater arts studies in theater arts. If you’re more a fan of media arts, Brigham Young University-Provo’s program helps you earn a Bachelor of Arts in Media Arts Studies. Also, there are graduate programs to make a note of as well.

As one of the 87% annual graduates, you can pursue an MA degree in Media and Performance Studies. This program is designed as an interdisciplinary program, teaching you how to mesh all areas of art together. With a combination of core and elective courses, students can find careers in museums, history programs, commercial film, web production, and more.

7. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

4 Year; Denver, CO

Average Annual Cost: $14,470

At the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus, performing arts students will attend the College of Arts & Media. It’s one of the few programs in the country that focuses on all areas of art, including media forensics, music and entertainment, and film and television. If you’re looking for a degree that turns your passion into a career, this program is quite notable.

Most students will focus primarily on the film and television or music and entertainment departments for performing arts. With film and television, you’ll learn about working the camera behind the scenes. Students will work alongside industry professionals creating short films, web series, documentaries, and more.

If your passion is with music, the music and entertainment program is a phenomenal opportunity. Your courses will assist you with turning your talents into a career, featuring four unique programs with commercial and contemporary facets. Students can major in recording arts, singer or songwriter programs, or music performance.

With a high retention rate of 71%, most UCD students return to complete their degrees. They have an impressive 50% graduation rate, proving the worthiness of their performing arts programs.

8. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

4 Year; La Crosse, WI

Average Annual Cost: $14,654

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has many courses for prospective students to consider, especially in performing arts. You’ll have three distinct options to help you express your creativity: music, theater, and general arts. By attending the School of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You can explore a minor in photography, art therapy, art history, digital media studies, design, or general arts within the Department of Art. Music students can acquire a Bachelor of Science or Art while majoring in music theory, jazz performance, piano pedagogy, or general music education. The theater program is particularly notable, as it offers six distinct concentrations, including theater and stage management.

There’s no doubt the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has some of the most in-depth performing arts programs. With a retention rate of 85%, students clearly find the programs to be of great use to their prospective futures. Also, the school boasts a 69% graduation rate, helping students find their inner performing artists.

9. University of Baltimore

4 Year; Baltimore, MD

Average Annual Cost: $17,206

Like many other performing arts degree options, the University of Baltimore offers courses through the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences. This unique department provides creative-minded students with a multitude of opportunities. Not only will you find graduate and undergraduate programs but also live performance opportunities through your studies.

The impressive number of art courses you can add to your academic planner is terrific for any student. You’ll find courses ranging from Music and Arts to The Art of Film. Whether you want a strong basis in art history or how to use technology in arts, many courses are available.

Although your degree will likely focus primarily on art courses, there are also general education courses available. Through the Yale Gorden College of Arts and Sciences, you’ll find other classes in English, Legal Studies, Computer Science, and more. There’s no doubt that upon graduation, you’ll have a well-rounded insight to assist you with finding your ideal performance career.

The University of Baltimore has an incredible graduation rate of 91%, which speaks to the quality of its instruction. Students will be taught by industry-leading professionals and gather real-world experience to help prepare them for the future. Additionally, you can refine your innate creative skills to become a better-performing artist.

10. University of Massachusetts-Boston

4 Year; Boston, MA

Average Annual Cost: $17,752

All of your performing arts dreams are housed in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Their performing arts department helps students acquire three different types of degrees. You can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts, a Bachelor of Arts in Music, or a Dance Minor.

With such a renowned program, this is one of the few performing arts schools that provides you with ample exposure. Students will get in-class instructions to help foster more diverse artistic thinking paired with real-world experience. For example, the music program assists with training in music theory while also focusing on performance pieces.

The most impressive aspect of this program is that it encompasses both traditional and modern forms of art. Students will learn the fundamentals of their major and how they can apply them to contemporary society. The University of Massachusetts-Boston has an incredible retention rate of 76% and a graduation rate of 56%, speaking of the quality of its programs.

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