In my experience, telling someone you’ve decided to pursue a Theatre major is like saying you’ve decided to buy an old-school Pac-Man arcade game. Common responses are, “What good is that?” “It may be fun now, but it’ll lose its appeal pretty quickly,” and my personal favorite: “What are you going to do with that?”
For some (including yours truly), the answer to the last question is usually theatre-related – acting, playwriting, or directing. Whatever your answer, it’s safe to say that majoring in Theatre in college does not guarantee you a job in theatre once you get out into the real world. Theatre is an extremely competitive field, and the hard truth is that most people just don’t “make it big” like they thought they would.
So you’re in your mid- to- late-20’s, and you’ve realized that while you had plenty of fun in college, the dog-eat-dog world of theatre isn’t for you. What are you to do with your degree, especially if you don’t have a second major to fall back on?
The truth is, being trained in theatre gives you a much larger skill set than you might think. From enhanced communication skills to an ability to work under pressure, there are tons of qualities in theatre majors that will give you a leg up in the professional world. Here are just a few ways to use that degree that you may not have thought of when signing up for your first acting class:
Human Resources Manager
One thing that employers are always on the lookout for is good communication skills. Theatre majors are very likely to have excellent communication skills because of the focus put on listening in performance classes. When someone is able to be present and listen, they are better able to communicate effectively. This skill is an important part of any Human Resources department, and it’s certainly crucial for a manager. As the person in charge of things like staffing and work design, being able to communicate clearly and effectively is a necessity. Not only does the manager have to be able to relay instructions and important messages, but she or he will also be communicating with a wide array of people. A manager who is able to get their thoughts across concisely as well as think on their feet would be a welcome addition to any team.
“Critical thinking” may not be the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they think “Theatre major,” but it should be. To be successful in any area of theatre, you have to be able to problem-solve. Whether a scene isn’t coming together right on stage or the budget doesn’t allow for certain special effects, everyone involved in a production needs to be able to think outside of the box. This quality is extremely important for program coordinators. How can you expect someone to coordinate schedules and activities if they can’t be resourceful or think for themselves? There’s so much organization and preparation that goes into theatre, and that makes Program Coordinator a great option for any struggling Theatre major.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but a Theatre major’s options extend far beyond teaching acting classes. To quote Amy Farrah-Fowler (Big Bang Theory), “At its essence, teaching is a performance art.” A teacher is responsible for her or his students’ education, and for many students simply relaying pieces of information one-after-the-next isn’t enough. A teacher needs to be able to engage and entertain students, and who better to do that than someone with that specific training? While you would need a second major (such as English or History) and a teaching certificate in order to teach with a school district, teaching assistants and teaching aides aren’t always required to have certificates. If you’re good with kids and able to work with a partner, going into teaching may be your calling.
Whether you’re being hounded with questions at a family gathering or questioning your college path, knowing your options as a Theatre major (or minor, if that’s easier to fit in) is important. Many people enjoy theatre but don’t think being trained for it in college will have any merit in the “real world.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. So many important skills are learned in theatre classes that are hardly ever taught in less artistic departments, and all of these skills will be applicable in the workforce.