Job Description: Drama teachers teach drama classes to students, sometimes in grade school, but usually at the high school level. They often hold auditions for student performers to appear in plays and musicals, direct rehearsals for performances, and organize performances.
Training and Educational Qualifications: Requirements for regular licenses to teach kindergarten through grade 12 vary by state. However, all states require general education teachers to have a bachelor’s degree and to have completed an approved teacher training program with a prescribed number of subject and education credits as well as supervised practice teaching. Some states also require technology training and the attainment of a minimum grade point average. A number of states require that teachers obtain a master’s degree in education within a specified period after they begin teaching.
Job Outlook: Through 2016, overall student enrollments in elementary, middle, and secondary schools a key factor in the demand for teachers are expected to rise more slowly than in the past as children of the baby boom generation leave the school system. This will cause employment of drama teachers to grow at a comparable rate with the average for teachers from kindergarten through the secondary grades. Projected enrollments will vary by region.
Salary: Median annual earnings of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers range from $43,580 to $48,690; the lowest 10 percent earn $28,590 to $33,070; the top 10 percent earn $67,490 to $76,100.
According to the American Federation of Teachers, beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $31,753 in the 2004-05 school year. The estimated average salary of all public elementary and secondary school teachers in the 2004-05 school year was $47,602. Private school teachers generally earn less than public school teachers but may be given other benefits, such as free or subsidized housing.
• In addition to conducting classroom activities, teachers oversee study halls and homerooms, supervise extracurricular activities, and accompany students on field trips.
• Public school teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree, complete an approved teacher education program, and be licensed.
• Many states offer alternative licensing programs to attract people to teaching, especially for hard to fill positions.
Do you know of which companies have the best internships in this field that are known to help launch a successful career?
In theater that is a tough one because there are so many internships out there. One of the best I’ve seen is the McCarter Theater.
Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?
Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
What is your typical day like?
I start at 8:00 a.m. preparing for a day of meeting with students and teaching classes. My first class starts at 8:30 a.m. Depending on the day of the week, it is either 6th grade moviemaking or upper school acting. Our classes are 90 minutes long so I have a good long period to spend with students and the ability to go into strong detail about whatever aspect of drama I am addressing in each class. I teach only theater classes. On Monday I meet with all of the classes: 6th, 7th and 8th grade theater, plus introduction to theater and acting. The rest of the week the classes meet on a rotation.
After school, at about 3:30 p.m., I usually meet with students or hold rehearsals. When I am in production, my days always end with rehearsals. These can last until 6:30 p.m. one day or until 9:30 p.m. another day. I wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work because I spend the whole day teaching and working in my craft.
What are your job responsibilities?
I am the middle and upper school theater teacher. I teach all the theater related classes and direct and produce all of the school’s middle and upper school productions. We do two upper school shows, one community musical, one eighth grade show and one “all school” show each year.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working with the students and watching them learn old ideas for the first time.
What do you dislike about your job?
I am the only theater teacher at my school and am thus responsible for all aspects of a production. I have to find people to fill those jobs that I cannot, such as costume design and creation.
Have you had any turning point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?
When I was in college, I realized that people actually made a living in theater, which had been a passion from a very early age.
How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?
I tried substitute teaching when I did not have any theater gigs, and I found that I actually liked it, so I became a drama teacher.
Describe how you got into this industry and how you got your most recent job.
When I was in high school, I was a miserable student barely passing. I had a mentor who took me under her wing and taught me that anything is possible if I spent enough time learning how to do it. Theater was my savior. I spent a good number of years as a professional after grad school, but I wanted to work with students either at a university or a private school. When I found that I could mix theater and teaching, I knew that theater education was the field for me.
What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
I started looking at being a theater teacher because I have seen so much terrible high school theater. I knew I could do it better, and I have.
If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?
Education outreach for a regional theater company.
To what professional associations do you belong?
American Alliance of Theater in Education, International Thespian Society, Virginia Association of Independent Schools.
What professional publications do you read?
Theater Review, Theater Journal, Art Search.
What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?
Gain as much experience in the field as you can then become a teacher. Those that have spent considerable time in the professional theater world will be able to better communicate their passion for the art form and to help students find their own path to artistic success.