9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree


Some of you may know this about me, some may not. Despite having spent the last 15 years as a PR & communications professional, my college degree is in theatre. I have never in my life taken a marketing class, or a journalism class, or a business class. Yet, by most measures, I’m enjoying a successful career in business.  “So what?” you ask… read on.

I was having a conversation with my friend Sara this week. She’s an actress. Like most actresses, she also has a Day Job that she works to pay the bills between acting jobs. This is the reality for most working actors in LA, New York and the other major centers of the entertainment industry. She was pointing out to me that she viewed her theatre background as a weakness in her Day Job career field, and that it was holding her back. She asked for my advice.

My advice? There IS no weakness in having a theatre background. There is only strength. Here are just a few skills that a theatre degree gave me that have served me enormously well in business:

  1. You have advanced critical thinking and problem solving skills: taking a script and translating it into a finished production is a colossal exercise in critical thinking. You have to make tremendous inferences and intellectual leaps, and you have to have a keen eye for subtle clues. (believe it or not, this is a skill that very few people have as finely honed as the theatre people I know. That’s why I listed it #1).
  2. You’re calm in a crisis: You’ve been on stage when somebody dropped a line and you had to improvise to keep the show moving with a smile on your face, in front of everyone. Your mic died in the middle of a big solo musical number. You just sang louder and didn’t skip a beat.
  3. You understand deadlines and respect them: Opening Night is non-negotiable. Enough said.
  4. You have an eye on audience perception: You know what will sell tickets and what will not. This is a very transferrable skill, and lots of theatre people underestimate this, because they think of theatre as an ART, and not as a BUSINESS. I frequently say (even to MBA-types) that theatre was absolutely the best business education I could have gotten. While the business majors were buried in their books and discussing theory, we were actually SELLING a PRODUCT to the PUBLIC. Most business majors can get through undergrad (and some MBA programs, even) without ever selling anything. Theater departments are frequently the only academic departments on campus who actually sell anything to the public. Interesting, isn’t it?
  5. You’re courageous: If you can sing “Oklahoma!” in front of 1,200 people, you can do anything.
  6. You’re resourceful: You’ve probably produced “The Fantasticks” in a small town on a $900 budget. You know how to get a lot of value from minimal resources.
  7. You’re a team player: You know that there are truly no small roles, only small actors. The show would fail without everyone giving their best, and even a brilliant performance by a star can be undermined by a poor supporting cast. We work together in theatre and (mostly) leave our egos at the stage door. We truly collaborate.
  8. You’re versatile: You can probably sing, act, dance. But you can also run a sewing machine. And a table saw. And you’ve probably rewired a lighting fixture. You’ve done a sound check. You’re good with a paintbrush. You’re not afraid to get your hands dirty for the benefit of the show. In short, you know how to acquire new skills quickly.
  9. You’re flexible: you’ve worked with some directors who inspired you. Others left you flat, but you did the work anyway. Same goes with your fellow actors, designers and stagehands… some were amazing and supportive, others were horrible and demoralizing to work with (we won’t name names). You have worked with them all. And learned a little something from every one of them.

These are the top reasons I’ve found my theatre degree to be a great background for a business career. What are yours?

(The Change Agent is Brian Sibley. Follow him on Twitter @bsibley)


215 thoughts on “9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree

  1. […] Theater Degree Trumps Business Degree article […]

  2. Hello, I hope you don’t mind but I took your excellent piece and re-framed it slightly for technical students studying Technical and Production Arts.

    I will credit you as the inspiration and original source when I use it if that’s OK with you?

    I can send you a copy if required

    Thanks again

    Great post

  3. Ӏ guess he is РERFECT at it!? ᒪauցhed Larry.

  4. […] Thanks for indulging me in this post. If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out Change Agent’s 9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree. […]

  5. […] 9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree | Change Agent […]

  6. […] Theater Degree Trumps Business Degree article […]

  7. Nyan P. says:

    Reblogged this on through the looking glass and commented:
    shall I now shift out of business and into theatre arts then? HAHA

  8. As a student going for theater, I cannot say anything even remotely close to critical of this.

  9. Joseph Perdue says:

    This made me feel better, I am a incoming freshman and I wanna major in theatre. But I’m worried that I won’t have a job when I graduate. What’s the theatre job market like?

  10. VarRy. says:

    Reblogged this on VaRry. and commented:
    I knew it is a versatile degree ! But what happens next after you graduate, that is the question. I now regretted that I didnt take much of the production sides and get my hands dirty so often while at school, but problem solving at your feet is the skills that I learned and valued about! I miss The Theatre and creating new work so much ;/

  11. […] post-show cold (lemon and honey is your friend). And if you’ve got the theatre bug, here are a few articles about how theatre can help you succeed in life, even if you don’t think […]

  12. […] 10 Ways Being A Theatre Major Prepared Me For Success 9 Ways A Theatre Degree Trumps A Business Degree […]

  13. neets says:

    Reblogged this on Neets Notes and commented:
    I think I wrote about this post a while back but I thought it would be interesting to write about it again. I have a copy of this article posted in my cubicle at work. I should mention that I don’t work in theatre but I do have a theatre background. In recent weeks there have been challenges in my work. I am grateful for my flexibility and my versatility and just being able to analyse a situation. Theatre makes one strong on and off the stage.

    I mentioned this post to a friend of mine, (another thespian) currently with no ‘day job’. Keeping calm in a crisis is a given for a theatre person. So is courage. Challenges for a theatre person is merely an opportunity. We must never forget that. 🙂

  14. Mae says:

    Thank you for this. I am taking up my business administration and a member of theater company in our city. I almost gave up theater, which is my true passion, because it consumes my time for studying but this encouraged me

  15. Favour says:

    Thank you so very much for this, it’s really wonderful. I wanted giving up theatre arts for law.

  16. Mike Folie says:

    Very true. I supported my family for 25 years writing speeches for people with MBAs, all while a working playwright (and before that, an actor). I used my theatre skills in the corporate business arena every day.

  17. So, I am in the right track 🙂 I know it that I was smart. Starting at the end of September I am going to be going to two school at the Same time (co-enrollment) I will be finishing up my ASG degree at my college and starting my studies at a University and I will majoring in Theater Art.

  18. Ashley says:

    This is wonderful! I have always greatly admired “Theatre People!” Bravery is definitely one of their strongest attributes in my onlooking opinion. 🙂

  19. Sam Robbins says:

    So today I was considering changing my major from Theatre Business to International Business. This article stopped me from doing that. So thank you. 🙂

  20. […] I wrote in an earlier post which a lot of you read, “Theatre is a BUSINESS.” Don’t forget that. Like any business, it requires a […]

  21. Wow! At last I got a web site from where I can in fact get useful
    data concerning my study and knowledge.

  22. Regan Wynne says:

    Reblogged this on For The Wynne and commented:
    I get a lot of questions about how I went from East Coast theatre to West Coast tech scene. It hasn’t been a straight line from point A to point B for sure, but I definitely didn’t just make a crazy turn. Many things I learned in school are applicable to a ton of fields (what’s a trade show presentation, but theatre of a different kind?). This post from last year really hit the nail on the head, so I repost it here as it communicates my thoughts better than I could myself. Thanks, Brian for the great piece!

  23. Toby says:

    Brian, you wrap the words around these benefits so perfectly. I have always known I was able to leverage my training, experience and skills in the business world. But you have explained the transition so eloquently.

  24. Kimmie says:

    The title to your blog was a little misleading to me because I think you are implying that a Theater degree outweighs having a degree in Business. I agree that a person gains so many valuable personal and professional skills which can be used in most any career. I do not think that having a degree in Theater trumps a Business degree, although it does make an excellent addition to having one.

    • Brian says:

      I’m not *implying* that a theatre degree outweighs having a business degree. I’m *saying* quite clearly and emphatically that it does.

    • Analisa says:

      There was nothing what so ever misleading about the title of Brian’s Blog. It was clearly & consicely written, and is a fact! Nothing was ‘implyed’; perhaps if you had had a Theatre Degree, you would have known this.
      A Theatre Degree clearly trumps a Business Degree!

  25. […] Now, I have to admit that I was influenced by a wonderful blog post I’d read recently, by Brian Sibley, titled, “9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree.” His blog, Change Agent, is available on WordPress. Here’s the link to the post I mention in case you want to read it for yourself: https://changeagent.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/9-ways-a-theatre-degree-trumps-a-business-degree/ […]

  26. lucindasagemidgorden says:

    Brian, I loved your post so much that I added the link for my acting and other theatre students. I’m also using it as a spring board for my own blog post on January 22, 2014. What you assert has certainly been true for me, though I don’t work in the business world. Thanks for your post.

  27. Callum Walker says:

    This really makes me feel sad, because you never see websites or posts about how other degrees trump drama. If you are really happy and confident with your course then there should be no need to ‘prove’ how your degree can beat other peoples. If you are doing what you love then there should be no need to make a list of skills to prove that your not wasting your time. Skills which you should already know in education or through life.

    • danielle says:

      Actually, for every one article that praises an arts degree (theatre, photography, you name it), you’ll find a slew of others that simply tell young people to “major in something practical” or will tout the discipline du jour. Furthermore, many of us with degrees in the arts are regularly skipped over without any understanding of what skills we have to offer a company. This blog post is simply trying to tell the world at large that hey, we’ve got some valuable things to offer and should be given a chance to prove ourselves.

      • Callum Walker says:

        Yeah see that’s where we have a problem. I live with two drama students who do get a lot of aggro for picking drama. It’s a shame really. I just don’t like any uni course being discredited, tbh i could never do what a drama student does. Academically wise it’s easier than mine but practically its too much. They’ve got full days like from 9am till 11pm rehearsals for days on end…..yeah fuck that ;p Mad respect for my drama peeps.

    • Grace says:

      I agree with danielle, both in regards to arts degrees, as well as anything that is considered part of the liberal arts track as a whole. Especially with an increase in STEM, I hear nothing but people declaring how much more useful a STEM degree is versus a liberal arts, and basically discrediting all who take them. I’ve even taken an earful on it, after I’ve said that I’m an East Asian Studies and English double major. I have even been told that I’m an idiot because I took Biotechnology in vocational school and chose the LA path instead of expanding on my trade degree. The fact of the matter is every degree has some purpose. It shouldn’t depend on what’s “in” right now, because a degree that’s “in” currently won’t be “in” in the next four years. Like you said, it should only depend on your interests, what you love, and what you’re comfortable with. Every day for two years I was afraid that it would end with a trip to the hospital, because we usually ended up using dangerous chemicals and diseases, as required by the curriculum. And it would be far worse if I continued my studies there, because what we did have was “child-proofed”, so to speak, for a high school curriculum. If having a “useful” degree is worth being paranoid for the rest of my life, then yes, I made a stupid choice. I’m proud of that stupid choice, and if I got to make it again I would still make that stupid choice (except I may have taken two degrees that were more compatible with one another. Lol).

    • Analisa says:

      I really do not believe this blog ‘makes you feel sad’.
      The blog in and of itself is extremely well written, uplifting, and empowering!
      Consider that your ‘faux sadness’ comes from your own ‘Sour Grapes’.

  28. Michele says:

    Theater people know how to bring fun into the workplace. The creativity needed to build teams and help employees have some fun is invaluable! Example – my company wanted each department to celebrate Quality Month with a big kick off around Halloween. They suggested writing essays or poems about the importance of quality in the workplace – boring. We had the presentations coincide with our Halloween party. There were poems and essays – then there was me dressed up as Suzy Q – the Q stands for quality – in a 1950′ s poodle skirt with an embroidered ‘Q’ on my shirt ( ala Laverne from “Laverne and Shirley”). I shocked everyone when I got up and sang a song to a karaoke tape about quality ( I changed the words to “Baby Love”). Every year after that was filled with songs, skits, dance numbers – departments got together months ahead of time to plan their presentations. The fun spread to other kick offs and promotions and created a fun atmosphere, teamwork and a sense of camaraderie. Much better than memos, meetings and speeches. It spread to other areas of our division and became part of our culture. And it took a theater mind to start it!

  29. GS Nutter says:

    This blog was spot on! We are into our 4th generation of performance artists. My grandchildren attend OSA and have come to me with the question of the benefits of a theatre degree over any other. I have mentioned a few of the things you wrote but will now have them read this blog to get a better understanding of the joy and benefits of having a theatre degree. Gracias!

  30. Leslie says:

    I have a degree in specialized/technical/publication management, writing, editing, design and production, with a concentration in marketing and cultural geography, not a degrees in business and not a degree in theatre.

    But I absolutely agree that viewing a theatre degree as a bad decision is a narrow and naive way to view a theatre degree.

    There is a fabulous program on Bravo called “Inside the Actors’ Studio,” which is produced and broadcast from Pace University. The interviews are with actors, directors, etc…, and they are excellent and provide tremendous insight into the theatre/film/television profession. Of special note is the interview with actor George Clooney, undeniably one of today’s most highly acclaimed and successful actors. He addresses much discussed here, which I won’t repeat but recommend strongly that those on this thread watch. It should be available on YouTube. If not, find some way to view his interview and those of others.

    After 30 years as a professional, who has worked in areas from retail work to magazine editor to human resources administrator for over 250 employees to public relations executive for a major corporation, I feel VERY strongly that pursuing your passion is the path to choose. Opting for the ‘smart’ choice in your career rather than your passion, is no better a choice in my opinion. And this is reflected in advice from many extremely successful and famous ‘business’ owners and executives. One, and I’m not going to start a character debate by naming the person, is famous for advising, “Do what you love, what you are passionate about, and everything else will fall in place.”

    • lillie says:

      someone mentioned that they knew law students who took theatre…..i taught at one of the major law schools in the country and where everyone was required to take theatre courses

  31. wesley says:

    Thank you for the post. I am pursuing a theatre major that I will then use (along with my pre-law and history minors) to get into law school and earn JD and a M.A. in Political Science. Theatre is a gateway major!!

    • danielle says:

      My alma mater had a number of pre-law students who did theatre. What better way to learn how to listen and connect with people? To train your voice and body to project whatever is necessary (to sway a jury, for instance) when arguing a case? I can’t imagine a better way to train to be a litigator.

      • Amy says:

        Absolutely! I worked in forensics (analyzing evidence for court and testifying) for over a decade. In high school I did forensics (the speech competition – confusing names) for all 4 years, in addition to speech classes in both high school and college. While my science degree is required for the job, the experience speaking in front of others, coping with equipment that randomly fails, etc, is what was most unexpectedly valuable. Talking to an audience or talking to a judge and jury are essentially the same- it is an essential skill I talk about when I do school talks/tours/etc.

  32. John Wells says:

    This is so true….thank you for publishing this. I just grauated with a theatre degree nd I am definitely going to be using this in an interview.

  33. Hearten Soul says:

    One of my drama lecturers said how drama students do so well because of all their transferable skills and the fact that they interview well – they manage to convince people that they can do the job even if it is beyond their previous experience. And then they pull it off. Understanding people and being able to play the right part in the right situation are incredible skills for life – they’ve served me well in my career as a therapist and now as a university lecturer in youth & family studies. Great post, thanks.

    • danielle says:

      One small problem these days… You have to be able to get past HR. HR will see that degree and send it to the circular file if it’s a small company or algorithms will ditch it if it’s a larger one. Once upon a time you could pretty much just talk your way through the door. That’s not so true now.

      I love my theatre arts degree and do not regret studying it. I went to a great school and I have no doubt I would be nearly as competent a person (regardless of the area of study) had I not had the benefit of such a rigorous education. Unfortunately, all that is seen is “B.A., Theatre Arts”… as if I’ve never worked as an admin or a bookkeeper, as if I don’t know how to touch-type, use all the major PC software (including a couple of different accounting programs). And so, I’ve needed to go back to school in order to prove my core competencies. (I’m currently studying accounting.)

      Nevertheless, posts like this and other articles of late that are questioning the assumptions about fine and liberal arts graduates can only be of benefit. There are thousands of talented, bright, capable people who are being skipped over for jobs for which they’re highly qualified simply because of their choice of degree.

      • Hearten Soul says:

        You’re probably right that HR is a big obstacle in terms of getting to the interview where you can perform well. Certainly in larger firms who have very strict recruiting policies. They might be the positions for which a business degree might be seen as more useful I suppose – whether it actually is will depend on the degree and the role.

      • danielle says:

        Sadly, I’ve encountered this even in small companies. Just e-mail your cover letter and resume. Do not call, do not drop by. My father didn’t believe me when I told him that a while back. Then he was let go from his job (he was a CFO). On several occasions in his life, when he’s needed work, he would just walk in at a business where he knew a couple of people (or not!) introduce himself, give them his resume, and chat them up a bit and BOOM–hired. Not now. Not even with his network.

        I’m not looking for a management or executive position. Right now, I’m not even looking at a full-time position, just something to get more experience and some extra cash (I’m extremely under-employed at the moment and DO NOT want to take out student loans). The jobs I’m looking at don’t require a CPA or a bachelor’s in accounting/finance to do. In fact, you’d barely need an A.A. in it to handle the job. They’re usually looking for someone who can do invoices, pay bills, and do bank reconciliations; things I’ve been doing for more than five years and reviewed in my first accounting class. Things my mother learned how to do through the vocational program in high school!

        What is the reason for this? Has our education in this country become so terrible that even college graduates with degrees in business or accounting have difficulty with basic tasks (meaning that those of us with liberal arts degrees must therefore be completely useless)? I don’t know.

  34. Tom Miller says:

    I don’t know about “trumping” other degrees, but these advantages are undeniable. I would add stamina and the ability to learn quickly to your list.

  35. I totally agree with you and also good learning step post for me

  36. perkofashion says:

    i agree with you sirrrrrr

  37. bullet14 says:

    I fully agree with this post! My colleagues and I often joke about our degrees in production being “useless” since many of them don’t work in anything seemingly relevant to the industry… and some of them don’t work at all. HOWEVER, when we have serious conversations about it, we often bring up the points you just listed and how those skills that we developed can’t be easily taught, and how they are amazingly transferable to be useful in so many other places in life!

    My favourite line is “Opening night is non-negotiable. Enough said.”

  38. Anon says:

    You’re seriously deluding yourself. Try making it into a decent business program where the average work load is 12 hours/day & you are forced to do an internship to even have a slim chance of landing a job after college. Do that and then get back to me. This is what I got from your post: “I’m a theatre major and I’m better than you,” yet you failed to mention exactly how a theatre major makes you a better actor. It doesn’t.

    • Good Grief says:

      Anon…did you actually read this article? If so and you have that kind of reaction, you need to lighten up. The author was writing about boosting the confidence of someone who was feeling insecure. It was not an attack on those with or seeking a business degree. Did you read past the title. It doesn’t appear you did.

      • Siobhan says:

        Thank you Good Grief. I’m stunned by Anon’s reply. 12 hours per day and forced to do an internship is indeed tedious and a great accomplishment of dedicated business student. Theatre students can work similar hours as well. Theatre students/ workers pull 12, 16, even 24 hour days and work the strangest hours. An internship for a business student is the equivalent of working a show, season or tour. To be honest, we cannot delude ourselves if we are already insane people! 😛

    • brit says:

      Thank you!!!

    • Diane says:

      Everything you say about getting into a business program also applies to a theater program. In additon to the course load, we have performaces, rehearsals, and many have jobs to help defray the costs of college. We also have internhships that are hard to procure, especially paid ones, and there is no guarentee of getting a job after graduation. In essence you are looking for a theater job every 3 – 6 months, unless you get lucky and land one that has a long run. Oh and if you go to a career counselor, good luck getting help with finding a job. Most have no clue what a theater degree can prepare you to do.

      In terms of what you “got” from the post, that is more your personal take on it. The author did not say that at all, but you appear to feel insecure with your business program to react so strongly to this article.

      • danielle says:

        It may well be that this individual has discovered that his/her business degree hasn’t exactly prepared him/her for a job. Sadly, this is an all-too common complaint. Unless you (for instance) were fortunate enough to work in an office setting whilst in school and/or got one of those internships, no one at school discusses the realities of trying to find a job or how things actually WORK in an office-setting. It’s not enough that at those on-campus job fairs only a comparative few get hired. The faculty need to sit these people down and explain WHY and what they can do about it.

        I was fortunate in that I started working in an office in my teens and so learned how to speak on the phone in a professional manner, how to keep a filing system, use a fax and copier machine (yes, kiddies, people still use fax machines–get over it), how to get projects done on time, etc. I started learning these things at an early age because I knew that no matter how great my acting training may be or who I might know in the industry, chances are, I was always going to have to have a day job… but people in business programs don’t seem to realize that they CANNOT get to a managerial or executive position until and unless they learn those skills they naively assume they’ll have “people” to do within a year of graduation.

        Yet it’s assumed that those of us who have arts degrees are equally clueless. We’re not. We have had to work within deadlines, with an utter dearth of funds, and somehow create miracles. And very often, we pull it off.

    • Theatre students do large workloads too. Instead of writing papers, we have rehearsals for hours. I had to do practicums requiring me to do 20 hours a week working on scenery, costumes, or lighting. We also had to take positions if we weren’t actors such as stage manager or assistant designers. These are all very time consuming.
      Also, most programs require internships. I interned unpaid 2 summers.

      • bix902 says:

        Not to mention that we actually DO have papers to write. Concept papers, paper discussing themes in plays that we have to read (not give to you either, go find a bunch of obscure plays on your own) assessments, character “G.O.T.E” sheets (Goal, Other, Tactics, Expectations), etc.

      • danielle says:

        That depends a bit on the school and the major. I have a BA, so while I was onstage and had to do written assignments related to the characters I played (along with working in the technical side of our productions), the VAST majority of my work was researching and writing papers… Examining plays from a dramaturgical perspective (analyzing structure/themes associated with the work in order to come up with a cohesive message to communicate in a production), teasing out the propaganda in Shakespeare’s history plays, tracing the archetypes of Roman comedy and Commedia Dell’ Arte in modern plays/films/television, and so on. This was on top of a course load that included classes in religious studies, foreign language, US and world history, and psychology. (Generally speaking, a BFA doesn’t require much beyond the basic general education requirements, though some programs have of late been adding more rigorous academic study to the degree.)

    • bix902 says:

      Yeah a theatre major DOES make you a better actor. It helps to refine acting skills (if you have them) as well as teach you new methods and how to operate in ALL areas of a theatre, not just on stage. And luckily, as stated in this article, many of these skills are greatly transferrable to other professions BESIDES working in the theatre industry.

    • Ben_Dover says:

      Thank you! Someone who understands that you need actual practical skills to make it after school not just being a creative thinker or problem solver or a teal player. Honestly if you are going for theatre and don’t plan on being an actor/actress or something along those lines you need to grow up and stop wasting your parents money. And this is why people hate America, we let our kids go to school for BS majors and then they read this and think they can do whatever they want.

    • Ben_Dover says:

      Anon: Thank you! Someone who understands that you need actual practical skills to make it after school not just being a creative thinker or problem solver or a teal player. Honestly if you are going for theatre and don’t plan on being an actor/actress or something along those lines you need to grow up and stop wasting your parents money. And this is why people hate America, we let our kids go to school for BS majors and then they read this and think they can do whatever they want.

    • Analisa says:

      Anon, … Noone is deluding anyone here. You need to take a ‘Chill Pill’, and actually consider how bitter your comments come across to others.
      Really READ the article, and stop deluding yourself. ……… The hours and internships you mentioned above do not even come close to a performers hours. & big ‘News Flash’ for you, ….. acting apprenticeships are by far more demanding, and much lengthier than any business internship!
      If your sooo stressed out about your business degree, perhaps you have chosen the wrong major. Why don’t you instead, try becoming a Theatre Major, ……… “and then you can get back to me”!

  39. […] really aren’t too different. Go to the Change Agent blog to check it […]

  40. Leslie Emerson says:

    Excellent! Proof yet again of the critical importance of art in education and the incalculable value of art AND practical experience.

  41. […] is meandering to a blog post I’ve left open in my browser for several weeks, entitled “9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree“. Go read it; I’ll wait. I love it. I’ve never shied away from stating that I […]

  42. […] recently came across this blog. Have a read and see if any of it […]

  43. Joel says:

    Huzzah! I’ve often felt that my theater training is what has allowed me to be successful in other realms. In addition to your 9 reasons, I would also say that studying and participating in theater is a deep exercise in exploring multiple perspectives in the range of dilemmas facing human kind. Though we may be different from our fellow humans, we have truly walked in their shoes. This breadth of understanding and respect has enabled me to operate in so many “foreign” situations…. and connect with people in all sorts of ways

  44. dochrd says:

    What a great article! While I had limited success as an actor and director, I’ve never felt that my theatre degree or the years spent trying to be a working professional were a waste. I’m now a Director of Human Resources for a large telecommunications firm, and being a liberal arts major and ESPECIALLY a theatre major has been a huge part of my success in being open-minded, willing to take on new challenges, being comfortable in front of large groups of employees, and displaying huge amounts of empathy in my day-to-day interactions with employees at all levels in the organization.

    • danielle says:

      Oh, thank GOD… finally an HR person who knows better than to immediately dismiss us liberal/fine arts people 😉

  45. Grace says:

    I’m an English and East Asian Studies double major, but I have to say one of my favorite things to do is to work in the local theater’s costume department (I honestly wanted to be a theater major as well, but triple majors are not permitted on this campus, so I had to choose my top two). Of what time I’ve spent in college I’ve come to the realization that all degrees, no matter how they may look at a simple glance, are ultimately applicable to several areas of work. As soon as I started considering EAS and English I began getting information about teaching, business, management, publishing, international relations, public speaking–just about anything you can imagine, because the skills involved are equally as substantial as those who have degrees in that specific area. The same thing can be said about theater. In fact, in this day and age it would almost be ignorant for an employer to simply look at the degree a person has and decide whether or not they are fit for the job. If I had the paperwork of a business major and that of a theater major to decide who I would hire, that would not be the deciding factor. Their listed skills and their ability to perform would be a far greater priority, and based upon the business and theater criteria at my college, the theater major would most likely get the job.

    • Grace says:

      And I apologize deeply for any grammar-based errors I may have on this piece…it is rather late at the moment, and my proof reading seems to state it’s alright, but I also know that tired eyes do not make the best editing tools.

  46. Doug K says:

    I published a link to my blog post with a concurring theme at the beginning of this comment thread. I agree that the people skills that you acquire in any of the performing arts will help you succeed in a business or office environment. You guys might also be interested in the self-assessment I put up to help you find a work environment that’s compatible with your personality. Check it out at http://www.dougsguides.com/personality and let me know what you think.

  47. David Francis says:

    Until 2 years ago, I used the many aspects of my 4 years formal acting training to complement my various careers’ skillsets. And then I stumbled into the Augmented Reality world. One of the fastest-growing, max-hype cutting-edge emerging technologies today, popularised by Google GLASS: it is ready to be owned by theatre majors.

    I’ve had creative directors of multinational ad agencies hand me a whiteboard marker and ask me to lead the campaign strategy: because they recognise AR is a kind of tech-driven theatre-in-the-round. It turns any location, any printed surface into a stage. And what happens on that stage advances the meaning of a brand’s story.

    Theatre is the ultimate foundation for an emerging, immersive and rapidly changing world. Those who are trained to live in the moment and work off impulse will thrive amongst the enormous technological, social and even anthropological changes of the next few years. And they will do it fearlessly.

  48. Sabrina Sweeney says:

    I use my theatre degree in my career as an English teacher every day. I’ve analyzed literature for years. When a lesson is failing and my “audience” fails to respond, I put more energy into it and figure out a way to improvise and draw them in. I put on quite a performance when discussing a story too.

  49. Jessica says:

    GREAT perspective! I would add to the list empathy – theatre can teach the ability to look at the world through the eyes of another person to better understand their motives.

    All of these are reasons why it pains me to see theatre programs being cut from schools. The interpersonal skills, work ethic, and compassion learned through the theatre are so valuable to kids trying to find their place in the world.

  50. PaulK says:

    Thank you Brian, an excellent article that I’ve re-tweeted across the higher education community in the UK, and which has been RT’d and/or shared a number of times since. It also shares similarities, but far more succinctly, with a lead article I wrote for a Special Supplement on skills for the Times Higher Education. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/176460.article

    My partner and I both have theatre backgrounds, mainly touring theatre, doing precisely the various activities that you mention: from driving the van to writing and directing shows. We both have successful non-theatre careers that owe a lot to those experiences and which rely a great deal on the skills we acquired.

  51. […] So it was with some glee, a little churlishness and a lot of delight that I read the following blog post by Brian Sibley, under his alias, Change Agent. […]

  52. ntibbs says:

    A Theatre degree is the ultimate humanities degree – as in human nature. It touches on History, Literature, Fine Arts, Performing Arts, Science, Business. It teaches the dynamics of communication, the traps and trials of leadership, the virtue of service, the reward of passion. There is nothing not to love about training in theatre, on or behind the stage.

  53. WAYTCo says:

    Reblogged this on WAYTCo and commented:
    Good points from a communications professional about what theatre experience and ability brings to your professional career – whatever the profession!

  54. EyeClear says:

    Glad to see HD Peterson and Dev mention Project Management. What else is a theatrical production if not managing a project? And then the transition to running and maintaining a show in production is a great exercise in line management. I’ll also add data management to the skills learned as a drama major: I just think of all those data elements as props, starting here, moving there, sometimes transforming, each with metadata about where they came from, other attributes. My, but I do miss my theater days, too. Hoping to make it my ‘downshift.’ For the record: BA major in drama. Three years at theater conservatory. Seven years as professional actor, director, stagemanager, playwright (member of AEA). 25+ years in healthcare management information.

  55. KimS says:

    Training to be a director and put on a show is management training. Actors can have very different personalities, needs and concerns when compared to crews personalities needs and concerns. Plus the theatre attracts all different types and so we learn how best to cooperate, work with, and understand more types of people than most non-theatre types will meet in their lifetime! I’ve also equated directing with being the CEO and President of a company. Directors have the final say on the show they are directing, however, they still answer to investors and public. No training like theatre training.

  56. Shannon Post says:

    So true, I wouldn’t change my music degrees for anything. It’s the best degree for the same reasons. I was at an advanced business course where they said the MFA will be the new MBA. The class was shocked, and I thought…duh… it’s so useful. Great article, thanks for posting.

  57. Kristina says:

    All very helpful in the “wait, what do you want to major/minor in???” conversations.
    I will however offer that running your career as a business is extremely, extremely important.
    Unless of course you are just doing this for fun and don’t want to make money and it’s a hobby and you don’t have an agent expecting you to help pay their bills.
    Some of you know of PerformerTrack, some do not. Let it be your guide for running your career so you don’t have to have the day job we all dread so very much. It tracks just about everything performing-related. Just like your agents/managers track your success rates, just like the studios track their numbers. Business is an 8 letter word, just like paycheck.

  58. chidatnguyen says:

    Reblogged this on My life in vignettes and commented:
    just when I need it the most

  59. Derek says:

    Excellent article. Theater does indeed teach you to be highly analytical, sensitive and perceptive – essential skills for business success. In today’s world, marketing is all about storytelling – something theater people know a lot about – and they have the skills needed to connect with an audience – another critically important requirement in the internet age of social media. From a business perspective, hire a bookkeeper or an accountant if you need one – but don’t expect them to have any of these other skills !

  60. Reblogged this on Performer Therapy and commented:

  61. […] Rather than me go into those 900, let’s let Brian give you his 9.  Read it here. […]

  62. danielle says:


    Along with what you’ve already listed, I’d add patience, a drive to get to the bottom of a problem/question and fix it, and an ability to listen as acutely to what’s not being said as to what is.

    I understand your friend’s concern, though. Due to the lack of knowledge about theatre (or the arts in general), it seems that a lot of hiring people just DO NOT know what to do with that. Me? I’m back in school studying accounting. That in no way is to spit on my theatre degree or the immense amount of knowledge working as an actor for so many years has given me so much as making sure it’s abundantly clear that yes, I am not only very bright, but I can do totally “ordinary” tasks like everyone else.

    How do we spread the word that artists of all stripes are actually amazing people to have on your team?

  63. Dan Cochren, DVM (MFA, BS in theatre.................) says:

    Thank you.

  64. Bravo for this clear thinking article. I was a theater professor at Stanford University for over thirty years and I am proud to number the hundreds of highly successful lawyers, physicians, CEOs, professors, small business owners, computer startup entrepreneurs, published authors, Christian Ministers, environmental activist, world class MOMS and Dads that have been my former students. I have a three inch file of Thank you letters telling me how much the broad and humanistic education found in the Drama Department gave them tools for living a meaningful and productive life. Thornton Wilder said “The Theater is the most immediate way a human being can share what it is to be a human being.” These human skills shine in a world focused on the mechanics of the next dollar. I applaud this article and plan to post it widely. Thanks.

    • Nicola says:

      And I plan to post your reply (I already posted the article), Of course those of us in the know don’t really need to read this but I’m grateful that you took the time to write it.

  65. I used to joke that my degree was a weight loss plan, I’m a starving artist. Ba dum bump.
    But 4 years ago I tripped at the top of a flight of stairs. Something I had practiced in my stage combat class. I found myself sitting on the bottom step completely shocked both at the fall and the fact that I was totally fine. In literally 1 second my theatre education paid for itself. What other degree recommends a course like that? The hospital bills would have made my tuition look like chump change.

  66. Vicki says:

    Just to chime in: My husband and I both have degrees in Theatre. I also have the added bonus of a degree in Literature. Waste of money? Well…He is a store manager for a fairly large company and I run the drama program at a local school. Together, we bring in some pretty nice paychecks and our children have pretty much anything they could ask for and more. It’s definitely a misconception that a Theatre degree is for actors only. In the end, it’s the person and not the degree that matters the most.

    • I agree. As a theater major I learned in order to be a good stage manager you had to understand how everyone else did their jobs. That has carried thru in every non-theater job I ever had. 35 years later I may have a day job but I also work in theater at night and my daughter is majoring in theater. You always have to keep pursing your passions!

  67. Fred Siegman says:

    I’ve said in many presentations, we all are like entertainers. If we don’t engage our “audience,” grab their attention from the very start, whether on a stage, in a film, in a presentation, at a meeting, at lunch, at a party, anywhere, we’ll quickly lose our audience/listener’s interest. And those with a theatre background may have an advantage over the rest of us by being good storytellers; one of the best ways to illustrate a point and connect with people.

  68. tmomma12 says:

    There are no small degrees….except theater degrees. lol Is this supposed to be serious? If you have to have another day job to support yourself than why did you get a theater degree to begin with? That’s incredibly pointless, not to mention a waste of money. A theater degree might help in a couple ways, but you know what would really help in the business field? A business degree. But have fun telling yourself your money wasn’t wasted, and good luck with those vitamin commercials and plays only run in the basement of a pizza hut. Yeah….

    • Brian says:

      By the way, tmomma12, whoever you are: please keep your comments respectful or you will be banned from this site.

      • Val says:

        I concur, ditch tmomma12’s comments right off the page. I normally try not to weigh in when there is active pro/con discussion, prefer to keep things positive but this lady has gotten me stressed so may as well go for it! This article was positive and affirming and is meant to encourage people to follow their passion. I am a parent of a theatre arts student and people keep saying to me “good for you for supporting her in this”. Why on earth would I not support my daughter to pursue something that she loves? There are too many people doing jobs they hate day in and day out and end up being miserable and very cranky. Life’s too short for that. Not a dime of our money is wasted, it’s called character development and life skills. No regrets here.

      • michaelport says:


        My name is Michael Port and I’m wondering if you might reconsider your perspective if you knew that I have an MFA from NYU’s Graduate Acting Program. I was a working actor in TV, theatre and film and have written five popular books on entrepreneurship and small business marketing. I take pride in the fact that my training and work as an actor is, in large part, what has helped put me on the NY Times Bestseller list for business for all of the reasons that Brian referenced in his post.

        I won’t list my books here so I don’t come across as self-promotional but you can look me up. You’ll see my credits as an actor at IMDB.com and my current career as a writer and business advisor with a simple google search.

        Think about it…what is good marketing? It’s (authentic) storytelling. What does an actor do? Tell stories. An actor is able to see the world through the eyes of others — one of the most important skills any business owner can cultivate. Moreover, an actor’s job is to break the rules and take risks. An entrepreneur’s job is the same. Not to break laws, of course. Laws and rules are different. Rather, an entrepreneur creates something out of nothing and takes risk while doing so. Frank Zappa summed it up nicely when he said, “Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.”

        Brian, your post is right on the money and will inspire many to realize that their creative/artistic skills can transfer into many fields.

        For all… don’t let the insidious small thoughts of others keep you from thinking big. Let the small thinkers maintain the false illusion that small thinking is right thinking. Let others believe the small idea that what they’ve received from their past determines what’s in store for their future. Instead, keep thinking big about who you are and what you offer the world,

        Michael Port

      • Brian says:

        Thanks Michael for the kind words! -Brian

    • Travis Grizzell says:

      Yes, because so many top businessmen/entrepreneurs have business degrees. Or even finished college for that matter. Seriously, get a real world idea of what you’re talking about before you try to condescend to someone’s well-intended article.

      • Jim Reeves says:

        Most business degreed people wish they had the skills to get up in front of people and make a presentation. Especially if they happen to see a person with a Theatre degree do it!

    • Theatre Graduate says:

      I have a Drama degree and I have lived all over the world getting paid very well. As what? As a teacher. And you know what I wanted to be when I applied for my Drama degree? A teacher. Not everyone who does a degree in Theatre wants to be an actor and many people find that they really enjoy something else after they have graduated. A Theatre degree is definitely a bonus for working in many fields.

    • Debbi says:

      You obviously don’t get it. I have a theatre degree. I have manage students….yes managed…as a teacher for 22 years. started a business and hired people to work for me…that has been 25 years..organized and conducted theatre tours to New York with 100 participants.I know how to evaluate body language when a salesman try’s to con me…the list is too long to continue. Not all theatre majors choose to act there are many great paying jobs in the theatre. I’ll just bet the funniest person you know either does theatre or is a major. Get over yourself. The business degree my son obtained did not help him get a job. I have had a very fulfilling life as a theatre major and for some reason this pushed my buttons today.

    • Eulogist says:

      The amount of disdain you have for the theatre degree is really rather odd. Most people have a lassez faire attitude towards what other students major in, but you seem quite against the idea. Why the vehemence? That you’re on this website and commenting an obviously unpopular idea towards a non-controversial subject shows that this topic affects you in some way. Fortunately, there are people that can have a good, legitimate discussion with you on this topic due to their high education level within field.

    • Analisa says:

      tmomma12 ….. I take it you are neither a Theatre Major NOR an English Major, and obviously Not studying to be a Diplomat, or work in Human Resources!
      One can expect ‘small comments’ from a “small mind” such as yours.
      Time for you to grow up, and do your homework, before you make negative and inaccurate comments about a topic you clearly know nothing about.
      FYI – One good vitamen commercial pays exceptional money, and continues to pay perpetual residuals to the actors for years after the initial shoot.
      You need to check your grammar, …….. as well as stop yourself after one beer, if you once again begin to believe that Theatre Majors are doing plays in the basement of Pizza Hut.

  69. Sarah says:

    I’m currently in high school, and I’ve dreamed of majoring in theatre. My Dad hates the idea- there is no way to win him over, unfortunately, and he constantly degrades the musical field. My Mom is slightly more supportive, but also very cautious and I can tell she is lacking in faith. After reading this, I feel renewed confidence in pursuing a theatre degree. As I start to look at colleges, I’d like to ask all of you- do you have any suggestions for me? I’m realistic, and I’m not expecting to just live off of roles in plays and musicals. I’m hard-working (I’m currently in 5 honors and AP classes in addition to be in varsity Color Guard, and I have a part-time job). Any and all comments are appreciated! Thank you!

    • Brian says:

      Sarah, thanks for writing. You are not alone at all! The most important thing to remember is that your college major does not have to translate directly to a prescribed career path. One of the things that I ultimately found out about myself is that (even though I majored in theatre), I ended up hating working professionally in theatre. It’s an odd thing that I don’t fully understand, but the minute I get paid to do theatre, I end up finding no joy in it. When I do it for free (as a volunteer), it’s wonderful. So I took the skills I learned in theatre, and applied them to a different field where I find fulfillment in the work. My dad was never super thrilled with the idea of me being a theatre person either, but he’s since realized (as I have) that it was a great way for me to get an outstanding life education. I always tell young people that (unless you want to be a doctor or an accountant or a lawyer) they should major in something that is really interesting to them. I offer you the same advice. The great thing about college is that it’s like a candy store: So Many Choices! Start out undeclared and take college classes that interest you. You never know what you might find. I found theatre that way. I did not start out as a theatre major. Go in with an open mind and a curious attitude and you’ll find your way. You’re great!

    • tmomma12 says:

      Wow…there’s a reason your parents are nervous. Don’t get a damn theater degree. You are smart! You have AP classes and hopefully do well in them. Your theater degree might take you a couple of small places and get you a few small roles, but what happens when your 30 and too old for the parts you want, then you’re 35. What are you going to fall back on? How are you going to support a family. I’m in the same generation as you are and it scares me how short minded some people are. Think long term, think future. The economy isn’t great and might not be for a while. When you really need a job to fall back on, do you think someone is going to hire you thinking “a theater degree can really relate to what we need here” or do you think they’re are just going to find someone who actually has a business degree (of which there are tons, more qualified than your theater degree is). If you want to die perfectly happy knowing you got your little degree than I suggest you go ahead. But the world is not made for people who will only settle for one thing. You need to get a proper education so you can have nice things down the road, maybe have a family, have a decent house and a retirement fund one day. Think practically. You can still get jobs as an actress on the side without a degree. How many A-list actors have a proper theater degree? Pursue acting as a hobby, but get a good education, something you can plant your feet with. How many successfully employed actors/actresses, philosophers, liberal arts students do you see? Not a lot. because there are not jobs out there for you. Become a productive member of society. Your parents are role models and they have opinions for a reason and they are worried because they care about you. Do you think they would be worried about your career choice if not for a good reason? We should remember to take advice and help from our older generations…they know a lot more than we do.

      • Brian says:

        Sarah, don’t listen to this individual, who has clearly been drinking Haterade by the gallon and has no idea what s/he is talking about. If you look at the list of Fortune 500 CEOs: a very large percentage of them have their undergraduate degrees in the humanities and liberal arts.

        This recent article in Insider HIgher Ed states, “More Fortune 500 CEOs have had liberal arts B.A.s than professional degrees. The same is true of doctors and lawyers. And we know the road to research science most often comes through a liberal arts experience. Now more than ever, as employment patterns seem to be changing, we need to engage the public on the value of a liberal arts degree in a more forceful and deliberate way.”

      • Debbi says:

        Tmamma12 i bet you are the disgruntled person that never got cast in a play. Expand your horizons.

        Sarah you will never regret that theatre degree maybe with a minor to go with it. As a former theatre teacher I always advised my students to participate in all aspect of theatre to find your niche. If you love it do it. I wish you lots of success.

      • “Your theater degree might take you a couple of small places and get you a few small roles, but what happens when your 30 and too old for the parts you want, then you’re 35.”

        I just laughed so hard I hurt myself. You know what happens when you turn 30? You start to be eligible to play the interesting parts! Any younger than that, and you’ll probably be stuck with some doe-eyed moppet looking for a boyfriend.

        Don’t listen to this fool; tmomma12 clearly knows nothing of the craft or the business of theatre. Theatre is the only discipline in the Liberal Arts that will require you to understand and use every other discipline, so even if you decide you don’t want a career in theatre, I promise you that all of the management, collaboration, and speaking-in-front of people skills that you’ll learn will be invaluable in the corporate world.

        A career in the performing arts is hard, but the notion that those of us who work in the performing arts aren’t productive members of society is just asinine. Here’s another choice piece of stupidity:

        “How many successfully employed actors/actresses, philosophers, liberal arts students do you see? Not a lot. because there are not jobs out there for you.”

        You see lots of them employed. Engineers and MBAs, however, have been on the chopping block for a long time. There are no sureties anymore, and a degree in Theatre, maybe more than any other degree in the Liberal Arts, will give you lots of experience thinking on your feet and dealing with quickly changing situations.

        But the piece of advice I always give to students is this: if you major in an art, at the very least you should minor in a science (math, biology, computer science, economics, whatever). Not just as a back up plan, but because learning how to think scientifically will help you develop a different way of thinking about the world around you, and this will give you an edge over the students who don’t as surely as music students always were the best programmers in the Comp Sci labs that I TA’d for.

        A further piece of advice: don’t go in for a BFA. A BFA program might teach you more technique, but it will teach you less about Theatre and the Liberal Arts than a BA program will. If you want to further your career, you can always go for an MFA after working for a few years.

        Here are some other little bits I like from the parent comment….

        “If you want to die perfectly happy knowing you got your little degree than I suggest you go ahead.”

        Maybe tmomma12 hasn’t figured this out yet, but you’re going to die whether you get a theatre degree or not. If there’s any way for you to live happily, and eventually die happy, it’s by living your life in pursuit of your passions. Do you want to die at the end of your life full of regret at never having tried? I sure don’t. No one who’s ever made any significant contributions to society made them by playing it safe. Fortis Fortuna adiuvat.

        “But the world is not made for people who will only settle for one thing.”

        tmomma12 can’t possibly realize it, but that right there is the BEST reason for you to major in Theatre.

        Best of luck to you!

      • Rebecca says:

        Ha! Tmomma, you are amusing. I have an advanced theatre degree (MFA) and none of my training has gone to waste, although I don’t now work as an actress. I have my own (very lucrative) business in which I use daily all the skills that acting taught me – goal-setting, people skills, organization, empathy, communication, role-playing, etc. – as well as all the business skills I picked up from my “day jobs” when I was auditioning – typing, running office machines, scheduling, etc. Nothing trains you better for versatility than being versatile, and that is the essence of a theatre degree. My only advice to those going to college would be to take a few business and accounting courses “on the side” along with their theatre degrees!

      • Natalie L. says:

        It all comes down to what you are passionate about. If your passion is theater and acting, absolutely go for it. Just know that you may struggle a bit harder to find a steady job than someone who has a business degree. Though theater skills may come in handy while making sales or working on organization and memorization, a resume with a theater degree will not get you a high paid job where you can show these skills. That’s why a lot of actors have day time jobs to support themselves.
        I’m not saying a theater degree is useless, in fact this article has made many good points, but in real world situations, the business student will be hired over the theater student.

      • Diane says:

        tmomma12 If you are the same generation as Sarah (I am assuming early to mid 20’s), how do you know if a theater degree is worthwhile or not? As others have said, a theater degree is advantageous. Most employers now are looking for people with liberal arts/humanities degrees since many business degree graduates can only think in terms of hard facts and are typically more risk adverse; if it doesn’t fit their experience, it isn’t an issue.

        I have been out of school for 20+ years and have worked in both the corporate and public sectors, the theater degrees (BA in Communications, and MFA in Theater Design and Technology) have been invaluable. I know how to work with many different types of people at different levels of the organizations. Plus when you do a profile for a part you learn to identify what motivates people, that is wonderful training for working with all levels in an organization. The purpose is not to manipulate people but to truly understand where they are coming from and help the entire organization work together..

        Theater teaches you how to distill issues to the essence plus also how to tell if the fix is a true fix or a band aid. That is what upper management is looking for, not all the detail that I hear most folks try to tell them. They want to know, what is the problem, what can we do about it, and how do we fix it long term. They don’t want to hear excuses or that there is a problem and no suggestion on how to fix it.

        Take some liberal arts classes, if not theater, music or art to see if you think differently. Many people who are very smart started with a theater/liberal arts degree. Good luck.

        Sarah, good luck with your degree, but also make sure to get some business classes under your belt, it will help you as you try to figure out how to deal with retirement planning, if you start a business, theater troup, or as a day job to support you as you pursue your love of theater. Good luck with your future.

      • Liz says:

        You obviously have a very narrow view of what success means in the artistic community. Do you define success by becoming a famous broadway or film/TV star? Because there are so many different venues and companies that produce wonderful theatre: regional theaters, independent films, touring companies, and even educational programs. If someone chooses to get paid a bit less and maybe not have the nicest house or car on the block in order to do what they love, who are you to judge them?

        Also, I suggest you do more research on this topic. Studies have shown that people with an arts background are better at communicating, collaborating, trouble-shooting, and thinking critically on the job. Even if that job is not in the arts.

      • bix902 says:

        Seriously, all spoken by someone who has NO CLUE what it’s like to be pursuing a theatre degree. It’s funny how you think all of the successful actors right now have had no training. They wouldn’t be where they are were it not for at least some training in theatre.
        Where will we be when everyone is just a “productive member of society” going after fields that they have no interest in but are a surefire way to get money? There would be a lot of professions dying off that would be sorely missed. No more creators, no more innovators, no more thinkers and makers and movers and shakers.
        Funnier still is your continued assumption, despite being told many times, that a theatre degree is for acting only. There are A LOT of jobs in this industry, not everyone of us is an actor.

      • Analisa says:

        Hi Sarah, …. You stick with your dreams and passions, and ignore the bitter comments of tmomma12.

        tmomma12 Do Not curse on this forum where you CLEARLY DO NOT BELONG!

        Sarah, Brian is absolutely correct!



        There ARE performance JOBS out there for you Sarah! ….. (There just arn’t any performance jobs out there for tmomma12, and she/he is jealous and bitter).

        Having said that here are some Fun FACTS for you:

        1) Ronald Regan our former President of the United States, was also a professional actor and movie star, as was his wife, and he was a past president of Screen Actors Guild.

        2) Movie Star Jack Lemmon has a Theatre Degree from Harvard (Ivy League University)

        3) Movie Stars Christopher Reeve & Robin Williams were both Theatre Majors at Julliard, (and were the ONLY two students selected for advanced acting classes). They were not only roommates, but became life long friends.

        4) Also college roomates and Theatre Majors who became life long friends are Danny DeVito & Michael Douglas.

        5) There are at least Sixty more Celeb (A List) Roomates /Theatre Majors, which you can Google.

        6) Academy Award winning actress Jody Foster is a French student, and graduated Valedictorian from the French speaking school: Lycee Francais. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Ivy Leauge YALE UNIVERSITY, and she is a certified Genius, and a memeber of MENSA.

        7) Actress Sharon Stone is a certified Genius with an IQ of 156.

        8) Actor Quintan Tarantino has an IQ of 160 (The same as Bill Gates, and world renowned Physicist Stephen Hawking)! He is a member of MENSA.

        9) Actor Colin Firth star of the Academy Award & Screen Actors Gulid award winning movie, “The Kings Speech” was a Theatre Major in the UK, is also a Genius.
        The “Kings Speech” is a TRUE STORY ABOUT HOW ‘AN ACTOR’ literraly help and saved the dignity of The King Of England during war time> YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE SARAH!!! 🙂

        10) Actor Steve Martin is also a member of MENSA, with an IQ of 142.

        11) Academy Award winning Actor Matt Damon has a Theatre Degree from Harvard.

        12) Actress Geena Davis was a Theatre Major at Boston University. She too is a MENSA member, with an IQ of 142. She proficiently plays the piano, the flute, the drums, and the organ.

        13) Actor James Woods made a PERFECT Score on his SAT, is a MENSA member, and has a Stagering IQ of 184!!!

        14) Academy Award winning actress Natalie Portman (Black Swan), has a Theatre Degree from Harvard, as well as dergees from two other universities. Natalie is the first Harvard Alum to ever win an Academy Award. She is published is scientific journals, speaks six languages fluently, and is also a Genius & a member of MENSA!


        16) tmomma12 is a COMPLETE IDIOT for infering that an actress’s career is over at 30 or 35!

        17) Betty White is one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. She is worth Millions of dollars. She currently has televisions shows as well as movies she is performing and starring in. She is ACTING, MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH, & MOST IMPORTANTLY, DOING WHAT SHE LOVES!!! & Guess What? She’s over 35 years old. Betty White will be 93 in January!!!

        18) A Theatre Degree IS A PROPER DEGREE!!! & I am of an ‘older generation’!

        ****************************There are hundreds more just like above! *********************


  70. Jim Reeves says:

    Outstanding! I got my degree In Theatre in 1989. I have been in sales with the same company for 24 years. I remember during the interview, the guy that hired me asked, “you have a degree in Theatre, what makes you think you can sell? My reply
    Was.. As an actor, I am my product. You learn a script and if you believe in what you are doing, people will be receptive. I use my degree every day. Great article, thanks!

  71. […] not alone.  Brian at Change Agent has a comprehensive list of why having a theatre degree trumps a business degree.  […]

  72. Sandra Dinse says:

    This is a great article and absolutely true. As a semi-retired artistic director and founder of a theatre company that is 35 years old, jI have hands-on experience in all nine listed categories. I often tell young people to take classes in theatre because it will simply “round you out” and help prepare you for the world of work. Everything you learn or “get” to do in theatre is applicable somewhere else – all the time. And no other career offers you an abundance of family members that will be yours for life. .Theatre is a great teacher, and truly one of the most enjoyable places to learn. I recommend it for any age…you are never too old, or too young!

  73. kev says:

    I hear they opened a theatre factory in greenbay

  74. Shawn says:

    Hi there!

    I enjoyed the articles and would like to say something. I usually don’t comment on articles but I feel like I had to say something.

    I’m not going to say that one degree is better than the other but I am a business student (Accounting) and we’re taught the similar, if not the same, skills. Everything on that list is emphasized in business classes. I’m not taught how to hone my acting skills (which are horrible =P) or decipher scripts but I am taught analysis. I think its a lot of the same skill set that is being taught but simply through the use of materials/sources. It’s not apples and oranges. It’s more like gala apples and fuji apples.

    1. Critical thinking is essential. Learning how to decipher and analyze financial statements along with preparing a wide variety of business writing formats is crucial. We are taught to detect the slightest clues of fraud and detect if what a client is saying is true or not.

    2.Calm in crises. Yeah nothing anywhere seems to go right! Insane things happen everywhere including the business world. At the last second someone can’t make it to the meeting or suddenly the deadline has been changed to sooner than what you thought, what do you do? You can’t panic since panicking won’t help at all. If you haven’t been slacking, managing your time correctly, and created an estimation of how quickly your work would have been completed, you should be able to divide the rest of your time to meet your new deadline.

    3. Meeting deadlines. This is drilled in our heads. Work should be done in a timely matter before deadlines. You can’t prepare monthly statements if you can’t meet the deadline. You can’t prepare your annual report if you can’t meet the deadline of closing your accounts.

    4. Audience perception. We have a duty to serve our audience, the stockholders of the company. We need to be as transparent as possible when dealing with our stockholders and ensure that they understand how their money is being used by the company. We sell shares of our company through our financial statements. The more easier they are to read and understand for our customers (potential investors, current stockholders), the more we will be able to sell.

    5. You’re courageous. Now more than ever ethics is extremely important to accountants. We are encouraged to report and act on unethical actions. If we sense that our boss is being unethical, we go up the chain of management. If we sense that higher levels of management are being unethical, we go even higher up the chain of management. If the company as a whole is being unethical, we leave and report it. Sure we may get called “whistleblowers” but we know what is right and what is wrong (at least I hope that people do) and know how to act on it. We’ll report unethical actions to the SEC or the Better Business Bureau, whatever it takes to right the wrong actions that occurred.

    6. You’re resourceful. I might not have the most up-to-date financial software, have a horrible boss, and not enjoy my work environment, but I am going to do the job that I am supposed to do. I might not know about the industry is part of, but its my job to get an understanding of it. My client may be in the jewelry business and I have no idea of how the jewelry industry operates. What stops me from doing my own research to gain an understanding of the jewelry industry? Nothing. So I better learn how it operates if I want to keep my client.

    7.You’re a team player. Being a part of a team environment is another thing we are constantly taught. Ever been in a business program? Groupwork, groupwork, groupwork. We learn how to collaborate and rely on each other’s skills to create a strong, cohesive, and sensible project. Even though there always seems to be someone weighing the group down, we can’t let that one person bring the whole group down. What do we do? We communicate and let them know that they aren’t doing their share of work. Even if the person still continues not to do work, the rest of the team will rise and do well.

    8. You’re versatile. Being a business student we specialize in one aspect of business, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the everything else. We are taught marketing, management, finance, economics, statistics, information systems and business analyses. As accounting majors we get taught the wide variety of accounting that exists as well. We get an understanding of financial accounting, managerial accounting, auditing, non-profit accounting and cost management. If you can’t understand your company as a whole, you will never understand your company or even your business environment.

    9. You’re flexible. No matter where you work/intern/volunteer you learn something. Whether it be from a boss you don’t enjoy or even a co-worker or company you don’t enjoy, you learn something valuable. My time interning at my state tax department taught me many things, like small talk with co-workers and that working for the state wasn’t my for me. I did not enjoy the place, but I was certainly not going to be grumpy and let it upset everyone else. I did the work that was expected of me and got an understanding of how the state its corporate taxes. As I near the end of my Accounting degree I am only seeing it as the beginning of a lifelong journey of learning. I know that not everyday will be fun and exciting but I know that I will be learning.

    Like I said before, I don’t believe that one degree is better than the other. I believe that going to college is a learning experience as a whole. I think you’ll learn these skills no matter what degree you end up having, what is most important is how you apply what you’ve learned in real life situations. You can read a billion books and have a great deal of knowledge, but not knowing how to apply it won’t do you any good. I also don’t want people to get the wrong idea about business students. Maybe I am not your typical business student but I try my best to understand what my professors are trying to teach me and I hope that the skills I learn will be useful to me in life. Like I said before, I don’t think its apples and oranges. I think its more like gala and fuji apples. Or it could be like mandarin oranges and blood oranges!

    That being said, I did enjoy reading the article! It made me really think about my degree. I came across it on facebook after a theater major friend of my posted it.

    Sorry if my writing is a a bit sloppy this week has been pretty hectic, the start of the semester always seems the roughest!

  75. Marcus says:

    Thanks for writing your wonderful article. Theater training enlightens you and encourages you to trying different points of view. The biggest lesson I learned from my Theater degree was simply to try. If you want to be a director, for example, one needs to learn what it like to act, so that one can be better at directing actors. For without the knowledge of doing the actors role, with all the nuances fully understood, how can one teach, coach or bring to life characters. So go audition and try, try earning a part and be an actor on stage.
    To get out of one’s comfort zone pushes your creative energy. Saying YES to life’s challenges allows you to LIVE and EXPERIENCE life with such grand appreciation.
    I am living a very blessed and happy life thanks to my Theater degree. I travel the country helping people from many fortune 500 companies look great in front of their audience, in live events, on screen and webcasts. There is an entire unseen army of technicians, artists, writers, producers and directors (etc.) that work every day supporting every major company in business in the world to communicate the messages that they want to present. We’ bring to life’ the meetings, weather it is about saving lives with medical/ pharmaceutical break throughs or the national electoral process. If you turn on the Television, you are watching a product made by Theater people.
    Thank goodness for the Arts and those that journey into the Theater realm.
    They might inspire us all to be more thoughtful.

  76. Colin says:

    I realized recently that I use text analysis at work–I look back at meetings and identify when the beats changed, what objectives people were playing, when the dialogue got choppy and the meter broke down. I could be kidding myself, but I think it’s helping me gauge people’s reactions, relationships, and motivations.

    I also have no flop sweat. You can put me in front of whoever and I’ll improvise. Which is sometimes a crutch and I don’t prepare as much as I should.

    Thanks for a spot-on article.

    • Brian says:

      You’re so right! I do this too. I didn’t even realize it until now. But you’re absolutely right. I love meetings sometimes because I know how to read people’s cadence, body language and tone when they’re posturing, and such. Great point!

  77. Pat Kichinko says:

    Dom, I absolutely agree with you!! You have an amazing command of the English language (ooohh! Another reason!!)

  78. Breezy says:

    I have both…. and I can honestly say Theatre classes were a million times harder than the business ones. I tried getting business jobs after college…. guess what? I got paid $10 an hour full time. Then a part time $12. Then I started using my theatre skills to work with Autistic kids. I now get paid $16 and get benefits. Business degrees are not “safe” and I got told by people who interview that theatre degrees are great people to hire. They think outside the box.

  79. […] 9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree | Change Agent. […]

  80. […] We stumbled upon this awesome blog by Brian Sibley: 9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree. […]

  81. Wendy says:

    I have a BFA in Theatre Performance yet I am the Director of Operations for a Commercial Real Estate Developer. I often say, “I “act” like I know what i am doing every day, ha ha.” but I like your reasons better. I am the one who can read the client and know if they are responsive to our pitch. I can communicate with everyone! I am very flexible. You said it and I am going to print this and hang it by my desk to remind myself! Thanks! -Wendy

  82. […] thing I saw yesterday was a blog post, “9 Ways a Theater Degree Trumps a Business Degree.” I don’t know this blogger, but I certainly liked what he had to say. Skills learned […]

  83. I’ve worked in marketing, production, broadcasting, and journalism my entire professional career. My education and training in Theatre & Entertainment Arts is what made that possible.

  84. mayavthomas says:

    Reblogged this on Maya Thomas and commented:
    Couldn’t be more true!

  85. Rain says:

    I love reading something that reinforces what I am teaching my students. I cannot wait to share this. I goes to support what I tell my kids that theatre is the study of science, business, language, math, history, art, PE, technology, psychology, and economics. There are very few other disciplines in the world that combine all disciplines in one. It really is the integration of all skills. And most of all, theatre teaches us through rehearasl that practice and failure lead us to performance and near perfection. Life skills that are never out of style.

  86. Pam says:

    Thank you for this article that sums up what I’ve been telling people for years. You might add that we know the meaning of hard work and long hours—we didn’t just take our classes and graduate. College was many years ago for me, but I have used my theatre degree almost every day as a high tech marketing communications manager. Whether I’m working with a trade show booth designer, writing a video script, running a trade show in China or Europe, giving a presentation, creating magazine ads, hiring a voice-over artist, or coaching a CEO on how to appear calm and collected on camera, I’m thankful for my theatre training that helped me get where I am today. And after work? You better believe I’m still treading the boards.

    • Hmm. Depends on the type of product and how exceptional is expressed. Take for instance food and fashion: some of it is becoming quite globalized. So Lulumon (yogawear firm, now getting into cycling wear of which some doesn’t make sense) to me, a Canadian firm, doesn’t have many products that are so unique compared to its competitors. So for products easily “globalized” what may be once considered less global, less chic, may acquire a renewed veneer of “coolness”. I hope.

  87. dancinmoma says:

    Love this!! I have to say it also applies to Dance degrees as well. 🙂 Following you now from http://www.dancinmoma.wordpress.com.

  88. Kris says:

    Just the other day at work I was saying that I found my theatre degree prepared me for anything my job has thrown at me. I’ve never regretted the degree and have found the skillsets from theatre directly apply to almost anything I might decide to do.

  89. Swami Nixon says:

    Reblogged this on Shady Sun and commented:
    I don’t usually reblog, but THIS.

  90. Tom says:

    re: #4 – Theatre AND MUSIC departments are frequently the only…etc. etc.

  91. Belaso says:

    I will add that if you’ve ever done any directing, it’s a fast-track management class. I doubt you will ever work with a more diverse group than the cast/crew/designers/volunteers of a theatre group, and to get them all going the same direction with a vision of the finished project prepares you for leading any business project. You also have to get them to do the long hours required and to step out on a limb and try something different when required. I always have thought that my theatre degree prepared me to work with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations.

    I also know that my communications skills are a cut above those around me, and in any job today, the ability to communicate clearly is the most valuable tool there is. If you can’t describe a problem or an issue in an understandable way, how will it ever be fixed? One of the lessons of the theatre degree is that there is more than one way to communicate something and the trick is finding a way to communicate that means something to the intended audience.

  92. Vladimir says:

    Very true! And even twice more if you Puppeteer.

  93. Thank you for this, it was inspiring. I always feel like I don’t regret getting a theatre degree but that people don’t take me seriously because of it. I often find myself saying “yeah, I have a college degree but it’s in theatre so it doesn’t really help me get a job.”

  94. Great post! And some great comments as well! Thanks!

  95. “Fantasticks” on $900? You must have been in a rich neighborhood!

  96. BeckydaTechie says:

    This theatre major with a design and dramaturgy concentration is 1) working to meet some tough deadlines and design/produce a superior product at a copy shop while 2) calming jangled nerves and impossible demands at the register and 3) keeping an eye/mind to budget and facilities problems that might slow down future processes; it’s like a daily production meeting. When I’m not doing that, my bio nerd husband and I teach children (and adults) about wild life conservation and pet reptile care with the ability to work our lessons into a reinforcement position for State mandated core subject (so there’s my directing experience in play), and we volunteer with a pit bull rescue and a nature center where I might at any point have to rewire heating and lighting fixtures, build an escape-proof cage, or simply help with “the heavy lifting” (thanks to my hours as a studio employee). In my spare time, I design and build reptile cages and hides for sale at trade shows (properties design skills). I just need to market those skills better.

  97. Brian says:

    Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments and suggestions. I’m humbled by the overwhelming feedback I’ve received on this little post. Thank you!

  98. HDPeterson says:

    Reblogged this on HDPeterson and commented:
    There are days I feel I need to attach an article like this to my resume whenever I send it out. Because, seriously! My theatre degree is actually a degree in project management.

  99. Brian Bowen says:

    Reblogged this on Mr. Bowen in Los Angeles and commented:
    This is all incredibly true.

  100. torivixen says:

    I would say actors are also flexible because they’re used to late rehearsals, just like working late nights to get the job done. And giving up nights and weekends for the sake of the show.

  101. hahamster says:

    Good points but please explain why consideration is an integral part of business.

  102. Don says:

    I have a theatre degree, and a decade of professional acting under my belt. My wife and I (who met on a national tour) eventually decided to leave the road, get full time jobs, and start a family. She has her Masters in theatre. In the past 7 years, we have both tackled the corporate life and have made a very good life for our family (now complete with a kid). The skills I learned while in school for theatre, as well as those I picked up traveling the country with gigs, have proved to be INVALUABLE in the real world. My biggest realization after leaving theatre is that most jobs don’t care WHAT kind of degree you have–just as long as you have one. So I came out ahead with my degree…

  103. Ann V. says:

    Love it! I got a theatre degree because I knew – even in a bad economy – I was master of my fate and could find a job if I worked hard enough. It was a great plan and worked perfectly, plus, I got to live all sorts of fantastic places!

  104. Paul says:

    As a person with lots of theatre experience, a business undergraduate degree, and one who is currently pursing an MBA, I feel that a GOOD business education offers all of these as well as a good theatre education, but a theatre education does offer them very well. This best predictor of job performance of any kind is general intelligence. Theatre and business educations both offer this of course. I would say that the trajectory is of business education is more theatrical now than ever before. 15 years ago it was all quant and hard skills. Today, in my MBA program, I hear “soft skills” and “emotional intelligence” on an almost daily basis.

  105. Amanda K says:

    Great read and couldn’t agree more! I’d like to add to the list we have excellent communication skills. Also, and this may go hand in hand with an eye for audience perception, but we are extremely adept at understanding client/customer behavior and motivations. I mean, when you spend your life studying they way people think and interact with one another, odds are you going to figure out what drives your client before they even know for themselves.

  106. Dev says:

    I’m a senior VP in healthcare communications with a BFA in Theatre. You’re spot on with these 9, but are missing 2 important and slightly connected areas:

    1.) People/relationship management
    In theatre, each person has their own way of working and must adapt to the collective style established by the group. We do this by learning not only how to communicate what our needs are to others, but by opening ourselves up to learning how others communicate their needs to us. No show is successful if there is even one person with a dig-in-your-heels, stubborn mentality. Everyone involved is actively managing each other, directors to actors and vice versa. This has to occur in order for everyone’s voices to be heard. It’s the same in business. Employees must manage up in oreder to be successful. Execs must manage clients. The connections work all aroud.

    2.) Project management
    Deadlines aren’t the only important consideration in getting things done. Knowing how to create a vision for a project and/or knowing how to adapt to the input/collaboration and reshape the project with all parties’ involvement is crucial. So many people without theatrical training I’ve worked with have no clue how to visualize big projects, and those same people cower when confronted with something they’ve never done before. Theatre people not only know instinctively how to do it, we’re always the ones leading the charge. And that elevates us above the others. EVERY. TIME.

  107. Harley Jane Kozak says:

    You just made my day. I’ve been feeling somewhat undereducated, hanging out with lawyers and MBAs. No more! Well said.

  108. Ellen says:

    With a degree in Theatre and English, I created a 25 year career in Human Resource Development and International Aid. Every skill you outlined came into play, plus the capacity to present well.

  109. John says:

    But I have a job that pays me with government issued currency.

  110. Tom says:

    The rehearsal process teaches you: a.) to try every idea, no matter how stupid it may seem on the surface because you never know where it will lead, and b.) that 9 out of every 10 ideas are bad, but you won’t know that until you try them!

    I’ve been in too many meetings where ideas are discarded before they’re properly considered, then people jump on the first ‘decent’ idea without considering if it has mileage. You see this happen time and again on The Apprentice.

  111. Shari Lewis says:

    You can think on your feet if something goes wrong.

  112. Donovan says:

    As a Theatre Major who has gone into sales in the financial services industry I find every bit of this article to be accurate. I would also like to add confidence, public speaking, and the ability to memorize a large amount of information in a very short period of time.

  113. Nora Morbeck says:

    I have a theatre degree. I started out double majoring in English so I could fall back on teaching. When I announced to my parents in my 2nd year that I was dropping English, my dad looked at me, with all the seriousness of a concerned father, and said, “Honey, we just want you to be marketable.” (I guess happiness really wasn’t factored into the equation for them.)
    Over the years, I’ve worn many hats. My theatre skills are integrated into everything I do — parenting, marriage, women’s support circles, personal coaching, community outreach. And, yes, I can stand in front of 1200 people with confidence… although you really don’t want me to attempt “Oklahoma” outside of the shower stall. 🙂
    So, here’s to those of us with the courage to follow our bliss, even if the world doesn’t see us as “marketable.” Never play small. You are awesome!
    PS — This is what I’m doing now… http://www.mothercreek.com

  114. Choc says:

    I always roll my eyes when I hear the [many] people around me talk about a theatre or any art degree being “impractical” and business, accounting, or finance degrees the “safe, successful” way to go.

    Although I wasn’t a Theatre major (didn’t get into the program, went into Communication Studies instead) and couldn’t do many of the classes due to not being a major, I stayed in the theatre and acting scene as much as I could by doing outside research as well as signing up for as many theatre activities as I could. Overall it actually worked out for the best because while I’ll always love theatre/acting, I found I no longer wished to pursue it as a career, but I was lucky enough to become a Theatre minor before it was no longer offered!

    Anyways, I found the biggest piece a Theatre degree offers is how to market yourself. Actors of course need to do this for auditions and meeting with agents and managers, and in the end it’s no different than interviewing for a job (showing your skills, making a good impression, highlighting your aspects in the best light, etc.) which is something everyone has to do in their lifetime. And we all know business people LOVE the tasks of going through interviews and corporate job searches. So it’s hilarious that my dad, who’s one of the naysayers, has to work with my sister, who’s taking a course about business interviewing, about how to make a good job interview and speaks about all these “revelations” that already I knew first hand years ago from theatre and acting.

    • danielle says:

      @Choc–My acting coach makes a tidy sum of money from people like your father. Sometimes they need help with a job interview, other times they have to pitch a product to some buyers… Maybe there’s a huge proposal in the works and some poor woman who HATES public speaking has been tapped to do the talking. Whatever it is, they don’t know how to do it, are terrified, and very often, are having trouble pulling all the pieces together into a cohesive statement.

      She has also worked with more than a few large corporations who want her to meet with some of their top talent and get them “thinking outside the box”. She does that by teaching them the basics of improvisation and teaching them how to get an objective. (Even in business, if yours isn’t specific enough, all hell breaks loose, whether it’s on a project or during a presentation.)

  115. Liz says:

    All of these are also true of an engineering major, but that looks respectable on a resume. Not saying you didn’t make good arguments, I’m just pointing it out.

    • Brian says:

      Liz, the difference between engineering and theater is “opening night” Theater ALWAYS comes in on time

      • Claire says:

        If you think ‘opening night’ is difficult, try science sometime. We not only have to make completely inflexible deadlines in order to get funding, but also have to race against other competing research groups to make sure our data even gets published. Our audiences are also allowed to stop us in the middle of a talk and interrogate us. In comparison to a business degree, theater certainly teaches more practical skills. But in comparison to hard sciences and engineering, what you’re learning and the challenges you meet are entirely standard.

      • danielle says:


        There is no reason an engineering degree should “look more respectable” on a resume unless you’re actually applying for a job in the field. The same is true of theatre; why would a theatre company necessarily want to hire an engineer to direct Henry V unless (s)he happens to have had relevant experience doing so successfully? We have relevant experience for any number of jobs, but it’s foolishly overlooked because the average HR person doesn’t know what getting a degree in the arts actually entails or how those skills apply in the real world.

        The point of this article is to address the superiority of “respectable” degrees. As someone whose bachelor’s was in theatre and is currently studying accounting, I find it appalling how so many students–bright, capable people–are unable to do more than perform rote operations. If our instructor throws a curve-ball on the homework or an exam, not only do they NOT know what to do about it, but they get angry at him for asking the question! And yet, “in the real world” few things are as black and white as what’s in your textbook. Obviously, with respect to accounting, there are very specific laws to follow and concepts to apply, but there are times where you have to stop and evaluate a problem, recognize that there are several possible things to be done to address it, and choose what’s best for that situation. If your education has not emphasized the development of those skills (regardless of the degree), you’re hosed.

        The problem is, more often than not, our system of education (especially these days) has emphasized rote memorization and performing simple calculations without teaching the underlying themes and concepts involved. Anyone who has been involved in the arts and humanities will tell you–quite rightly–that such study is only about half the battle. You cannot be truly effective in any field unless you’ve learned how to think and how to keep your head when things don’t work like they’re supposed to. You cannot be successful unless you can not only create a new product/concept but you can communicate how it works, why it’s better than what’s already available, and why it’s worth it for this or that VC firm to back you. You will not reach a global audience with what it is that you offer unless you have at least a vague understanding of the fact that different cultures need to be approached differently if you want to sell your wares there.

        @Claire–The vast majority of theatre in this company is non-profit. In a non-profit scenario, barely half the cost of production is covered by ticket sales. The rest is made up for with donations and grants. That which is for-profit also has to find people willing to put up the money to produce the show. We also face inflexible deadlines. Much of our time is devoted to getting grants and loans to fund the work… and yes, we do have to meet face-to-face with grant committees and other backers and you had better BET we get interrogated. Why not? Someone is going to potentially sink a fat sum in the work we’re putting up. If whatever it is doesn’t measure up, it makes them look bad (and they lost money on the deal). It’s only somewhat easier when you’re dealing with other artists (who understand the art but are picky because they know what they like and don’t), but very often, these are people who, yeah, enjoy theatre but never really studied it or did it themselves and so, they don’t exactly get it (meaning that they only think in terms of potential profit at some point and may overlook the larger cultural impact of the work). You have to leverage your business acumen as well as you passion if you hope to break even, much less make any kind of profit.

        And the competition is fierce. As you’ve no doubt experienced, there is NOT as much grant money laying around as there used to be. In my field, more than a few very good companies in my area alone are teetering on the brink in this economy and scrambling for every last dime to make up the loss in ticket sales and donations.

        No one is questioning the importance of the sciences, far from it. But getting funding for our work so we even HAVE an opening night is just as life-and-death for us as it is for you to get funds to continue your work.

  116. Dani says:

    As a theater major who had a successful business career and is in the middle of starting my own business this was very timely! I well reference this in my marketing. Brilliant and accurate article.

  117. Lexavian says:

    you know who’s a small actor, Peter Dinklage

  118. Jo says:

    I’m a Theatre graduate doing an MBA now. While I agree with most of the article, it is important there are valuable items you get out of certain types of education that are unique to the learning. My solution was to do both. Working well so far.

  119. Love this! Can’t wait to share with the Theatre teachers in the school district, as well as the rest of the faculty at my junior high school.

  120. Erin says:

    Thanks for highlighting all these! I’m currently applying my undergrad theater degree to getting through law school and you’d be amazed at how transferable the skills are. The ability to talk in front of people, think on your feet and adjust as needed are the exact skills that are needed in a litigator, but many who try that career route are only book smart and have never actually had the experience of getting on their feet and performing in front an audience.

  121. Nikki says:

    I went on from my theatre degree to get an MAEd… and do you know what? My theatre degree is WAY more useful! I ended up starting a business using my theatre skills… (I’m a costumer… and amazing how many people can’t sew now…) But when I was briefly teaching, I proofread a student’s paper on the “uselessness” of degrees in the arts and humanities- and you should have seen how red his face was when I handed it back with only the note at the top: “You realize your proofreader has one of these “useless” degrees?” We then had an excellent conversation about these soft skills mentioned above, hopefully he went away enlightened. But like you’ve said, these are skills not taught in business classes. Wonderful article- thanks for posting!

  122. You are 100% correct. I have a BA. MA & half of an MFA. I am fearless in taking on new teaching, leading or following tasks. Theater & teaching are my passions which I’ve put to practical (like earning a living) use all my long life. In addition to critical thinking, seeing subtle clues, having empathy & all the other very real skills you list, my life continues to be deeply rewarding because theater in all its forms are part of it.
    And my biggest joy at this age is to see the success my Drama students have in their lives no m
    atter what field they have chosen.

  123. Rebecca Westberg says:

    An actor (or stagehand, etc) can present history in the here & now and make it come alive for the future good of humankind (or a client.) Okay maybe overblown but whether you are explaining what could/might happen or defining a technical term to a client, telling a story is the most compelling way to explain a foreign concept to your customer. Theatre Arts encompasses so many skills, it’s a long list to capture them all. While in college, I appreciated modern history so much more through the eyes of the many playwrights we studied. Thank you for your insight. I have renewed appreciation for my degree.

  124. lisaakramer says:

    Amen! That’s all I have to say.

  125. Stephen says:

    WOW!!! I love this. I am a full time salesman for a manufacturer of promotional Pewter. I have worked hard to secure clients ON MY OWN from NASCAR, to the NHL to Orange County Choppers and many more. I travel 5 times a year and give speeches in front of hundreds of people at a time. I create my own art for the products I think will sell to the end users. I make sure they sure there on time. I work with a team in a manufacturing plant, a team of computer artist, a team of shippers and every one of my clients to make sure all comes together.
    I have a theatre performance degree.
    2-3 times a month I leave at l leave work on my lunch hr and drive into the city to voice a commercial for TV or Radio or a Video Game. Once or twice a month I go on my lunch hr to audition for an on-camera movie or TV spot. I have been very successful in both sides of my career and I have always tried to tell people that its because of theatre school.
    Thank you for voicing what I have been thinking for 20 years!

  126. mel says:

    so true! i wouldn’t trade my theatre degree for anything in the world & it has been a tremendous help in the corporate world. theatre instills a different “general approach” to everything: teamwork & collaboration, problem-solving, not being afraid to take on the smallest or largest task, flexibility & creativity (especially in a crisis), being able to think on your feet, understanding your audience (whether they paid to see you, are reading a letter from corporate, or have called you with a question) … the list goes on. not to mention the crackerjack skills in front of a group. if i had to do it all over again, i’d absolutely make the same choice.

  127. Reblogged this on Navigating by Faith and commented:
    Ok, so maybe I am a little biased. I have a theater kid. We will see how he “turns out”; but I think he has a good platform from which to tackle life. He is not a theater major (yet anyway). We will see what he does in college (soon, I hope). But these things all make sense and should be a good spring board for life success if your “theater kid” applies these lessons to life.

  128. I’m so happy a friend linked to this post on facebook. As someone struggling to make 2 arts degrees work (one of which is theater) this has been a very uplifting read! Your assertion that there is only strength in having a theater background is just what I (and I’m sure many others) needed to hear today. Thank you for sharing and demonstrating the value of an arts education in the “real world”!

    -Thursday, The Grace Period Blog

  129. I am currently an undergrad graduating in May with a degree in theatre (emphasis in stage management & acting), Communication Studies (emphasis in Broadcasting & PR) and a minor in business management. It is absolutely astounding how these three majors completely overlap! I am so thankful for that theatre degree because it really did give me the background experience and the extra umph on my resume!

  130. I couldn’t agree more!!! What a fantastic article! My daughter is a Theater/Film & Television double major. Let me tell you…she can handle any situation with ease. I can see her running a company because of the skills she has learned. I,myself, was an Fashion Design / Art Major and I have run a successful company for more than 26 years. I think any artist thinks outside the box and will find solutions that a lot of “Left brained” people have trouble seeing. Thanks for this wonderful article!!! Validating all artists!!!

  131. Steve Blyskal says:

    I couldn’t agree more. My sister-in-law was a theatre major and now is a project manager deluxe and a director for a big financial company in NYC. I’m sure she uses the skills learned in theatre every day on her job. Plus she is a fabulous host and cook at her home!

  132. Ben says:

    I did a degree in theatre and am now the IT Director for a London borough. The most useful part of a degree is teaching you how to think – the framework is often as important as the subject matter.

  133. Scott says:

    Phil. You are a mazing and so is your insight. The wisdom here is beyond your years and most a assuredly part of who you are. You take these skills and wisdom into a future that I know is as bright and beautiful as you make it.

  134. A says:

    Twitter’s CEO comes from an improv theater background.
    You might find this article which features him talking about how it impacts his leadership philosophy interesting: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-leadership/wp/2013/09/13/what-twitter-ceo-dick-costolo-is-like-as-a-leader/

    • JT says:

      So, the CEO of twitter actually has a B.S from U Mich. (great schools) in Computer Science and Communication. I would argue these skills really led to his success…..you know the ability to actually create twitter, not just hype it up.

      • danielle says:

        Many communications majors also do a decent amount of theatre and on-camera work. Furthermore, being able to create the thing is important, no doubt, but if you want people to back your new product, you had BETTER be able to hype it up. No one is going to care about its potential utility or profitability if you can’t do that.

  135. Sandy Kreps says:

    Learning to really listen to people has served me very well in other ventures.

    • Brian says:

      That’s a really good point too. You listen and react honestly, instead of just waiting for your turn to speak. Thank you!

      • Lindsay Woelbing says:

        wow, that’s a good point! Even though I don’t have much experience on stage (moreso a techie) I believe I have acquired this skill as well as many of the others above. And being a Business Major and theatre/theology double minor, I can really appreciate this article. 🙂

  136. I ended up getting my degree in Ad/PR but I started out in theater. This is all SO TRUE!!! While I was an event planner, my boss pitched producing a Cirque de Soleil style performance to a client as part of their company picnic. Absolutely nobody that I worked with had a clue how to put something like that together, but I pulled it off. When asked how I knew all those things I just replied, “My first major was theater.” Now I do a number of speaking engagements and it’s a breeze because of my theater background. I’ve even attended events where the speaker had travel delays and when the planner saw me walk through the door asked if I could jump in if their speaker didn’t make it on time. No set topic? No prep? Absolutely!

  137. Ann says:

    With my youngest presently majoring in theater, this is encouraging to read.

    • Brian says:

      Thanks! I’m glad you think so. My dad wasn’t always thrilled with my choice of major, but it’s worked out OK.

    • alishahagey says:

      My husband and I both have theatre directing degrees. I am now an associate producer for a film company and he is a Vice President of a local company. He did eventually get his MBA but it is our theatre experience that pushed us over the edge above those around us. Your youngest will do great.

      • Haley Hamill says:

        As a nervous student at Duke on the brink of choosing my own major, this calms me a bit. It’s obviously a novel path to major in anything arts-related at Duke.

  138. Doug K says:

    Totally agree! I published a similar blog post: http://www.dougsguides.com/theatre.

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