IF I COULD HAVE any superpower in the world, I would choose to be a theatre teacher. Other teachers do their jobs admirably: arriving early, sharing lessons to the best of their considerable abilities, and assessing student learning, before heading home to their other life.

The life of a successful theatre teacher, however, is much more akin to those friendly neighborhood superpowered protectors typically found in comics. Their timeclock runs later, their investment in their charges runs deeper, and they re-energize as best they can whenever life allows a brief respite, which is seldom during the school year. They regularly transform the trajectory of young lives, teach highly desired 21st century skills arguably better than any other discipline, and still manage to put magic onstage several times a season. Sounds like a hero’s calling to me.

Should you possess that rare combination of heart, intellect, devotion, drive, and vision required by the difference-makers in this field, you can expect plentiful, amazing, and lifelong rewards as a theatre educator. If that’s the sort of heroic journey you’d like to consider, here’s what you need to know about licenses, training, and job prospects in the field.


Most U.S. state boards of education require a teaching license specifically in theatre to be hired as a secondary classroom theatre teacher. Some states adhere without exception to this rule, others much less rigidly. Other states do not require a theatre license at all to teach secondary school theatre but rather a certification license in another subject area and an expressed interest in theatre.

States that require theatre certification expect you to pass two tests to qualify for your license: a theatre content area knowledge test and a teaching pedagogy test. The easiest way to learn content needed to do well on both tests is to pursue a preprofessional college degree in theatre education.


There are two types of college programs that train you for a future in theatre education: those I call self-contained programs and those programs students blend themselves.

Self-contained programs
In a self-contained program, students pursue a theatre education major requiring teaching methods classes specific to theatre and a clinical curriculum in area schools or other community partners that provides authentic teaching and directing experiences. Theatre classes are supplemented by education-specific courses. Your degree will say theatre education. There are B.F.A., B.S., and B.A. programs in this category.

Blended programs
Students in a blended program pursue theatre AND education degrees (sometimes with a theatre teaching methods class or two offered, sometimes not). They connect the two separate programs. For example, general teaching concepts are taught in an educational psychology class, and students independently consider the implications of those concepts for an acting class.

Theatre teacher at blackboard
Most states require a teaching license specifically in theatre to be hired as a secondary classroom theatre teacher. Photo from the 2018 International Thespian Festival by Corey Rourke.


Before you’re accepted into a theatre education program, you must be accepted into the college, university, or conservatory of your choice. Your high school GPA, AP classes, a compelling essay, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation (at least one from a drama teacher, if possible), and extracurricular involvement are keys to that process.

Some programs only require that you be accepted by the college to be automatically enrolled in the major, while others require an additional interview. Both types of programs generally require interviews for department scholarship consideration.


Be prepared to discuss your high school grades during the college interview. It often takes a cumulative college GPA of at least 3.3 for student teaching candidates to secure a school placement. If you have a strong GPA in high school, college interviewers will know you can handle the work. If you don’t, this is your chance to explain how college will be different.

Interviewers will want to discuss both your theatre and non-theatre experience in detail. Everything helps, especially if you bring some unique or oft-needed skill to the program. Make sure your résumé is of professional quality. If you bring a promptbook, it should be organized and reader-friendly with well labeled tabs.

What you say or do in the interview reveals your heart, work ethic, student-centered teaching approach, creativity, vision, sense of humor, charm, mystery, goodwill, passion, and character. Are you collaborative (which is great) or all about you (which is not)? What drives you to teach theatre education in a way nothing else could? Those are key qualities interviewers try to detect in their short time with you.

Following are sample questions you should be prepared to answer during your interview.

  • What do you see yourself doing in five years?
  • Why did you decide to become a teacher? Why theatre?
  • What would you say is your greatest strength as a potential theatre teacher? Weakness? If your best friends were describing your strengths, what words would they use?
  • How has your background prepared you for the pursuit of teaching theatre?
  • What positive contributions might you bring to the program?
  • What are your grades and test scores? Have you applied for university scholarships?
  • What questions do you have?
Theatre education programs may be self-contained or blended by students with classes from both theatre and education departments. Photo from the 2019 International Thespian Festival by Corey Rourke.


When you visit campuses, talk to current students about their satisfaction with the theatre education program. Attend classes and meet the primary professors in theatre education. Ask yourself: Do I have a good first impression about the people who would be teaching me?

In addition, research the following information about any theatre education programs you’re considering, whether face-to-face, on the phone, or online.

  • Are scholarships, tuition reciprocity agreements between your state and theirs, or department job opportunities available?
  • Is the program connected to any community partnerships?
  • Is theatre education valued within the larger department by administrators, faculty, and students from other areas such as acting or musical theatre?
  • Are there opportunities to teach? Are there opportunities to direct, design, coach, or stage manage?
  • Can you double major? Can you declare an emphasis within theatre education (e.g., technical theatre)? Can you pursue a minor?
  • Is the program affiliated with EdTA, AATE, or other professional associations?
  • Do you have to connect dots between separate theatre and education programs, or do methods classes do it for you?
  • What’s the quality of the education school (if there is one), and are faculty more concerned with teaching or research?
  • Do theatre education students hang out with each other outside of classes?
  • What’s the faculty time investment outside of advising and classes?
  • Where do student teachers teach, and who from the university supervises them?
  • What is the quality of student teaching partner programs and cooperating teachers?
  • Can theatre education students audition for department plays? Are there restrictions on participation for first-year students?
  • How does the program prepare students for interviews and post-graduation needs?
  • Do opportunities exist to make an impact outside the department either on campus or in the community?
  • Are national and regional guest artists in theatre education or in other theatre and education fields brought to campus regularly to enhance offerings?
  • Is there a student theatre education club? What do they do?
  • Is the theatre education program responsible for its own season of community productions? If so, what is the range of shows produced in recent years?


A final question, and one of the most important you should ask, concerns your potential job prospects after graduation from each program you’re considering. The good news is that, as the baby boomer generation begins to retire, most comprehensive theatre education programs report high job placement rates for graduates. You may have to move a little farther away from friends and family than you’d like, but jobs are out there once you finish school, as long as you maintain good grades, possess solid beginning teaching skills, and demonstrate some directing experience.

Now you have a better understanding of what you need to know and do to pursue theatre education. If you choose this quest, know this: Theatre classrooms of the future are ready and waiting for you to join a new wave of superpowered educators. We call them theatre teachers.

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