Home How to Become a Drama Teacher – Your Complete Guide to Degree Requirements and Qualifications

How to Become a Drama Teacher – Your Complete Guide to Degree Requirements and Qualifications

By Brian Miller, Secondary Principal

“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare wrote, “and all the men and women merely players.” Some, however are teachers. The best of those are drama teachers.

If you are interested in learning how to become a drama teacher, sit back and relax – grab some popcorn even! All you need to know is right here.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Drama Teacher? (Hint: It’s not only about the degree!)

The education requirements for becoming a drama teacher are similar to that of any other teacher:

What degree do you need to be a drama teacher?

To become a certified drama teacher, you need a bachelor’s degree in drama education, or a closely related field.

How many years of college do you need to become a drama teacher?

In addition to the bachelor’s degree that you need to meet the basic drama teacher education requirements, in order to teach in a public school in any capacity you need to be certified through your state. This means you need to complete a state-approved teacher education program, including a student teaching internship. For most colleges, this entire process can be accomplished within four years as a full-time student. Private and charter schools do not always require a teaching certification, but they most certainly recommend it.

There is also the alternative teacher certification route which allows a hopeful teacher with content-related work experience that puts them in a position to teaching career or advance their careers in education without returning to school full-time.” This option paves the way for field professionals to enter the classroom and teaching profession “quickly and less expensively.”

Most importantly though, being a drama teacher requires being very passionate about theatre, acting and the performing arts! Being a drama teacher means caring deeply about the art and craft of teaching too, and putting your students first. Drama teachers must be professional and patient, and outstanding communicators. Being a drama teacher means being creative, energetic, and well-rounded in your knowledge of not only acting but lighting, sound, and production. A drama teacher, like the actors and actresses in their plays, wears many hats and perfect many roles. They are always on stage but rarely under the spotlight.

How Much Money Does a Drama Teacher Make a Year?

Teachers are paid in accordance with a standard “step and lane” model, so in any given district, teachers with the same grade level certification and years in the field will earn the same salary, regardless of the content area they teach. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school teachers were earning a median annual salary of $62,870 as of 2020.

How much a teacher makes varies from state to state, especially when comparing public to private or charter. Teachers can always increase their pay through years of experience and furthering their education with a master’s degree in education or other related fields.

Drama teachers can also earn more money by producing a strong drama program. When a drama program is well established and successful, it brings in money, for the district, the program, and the teacher. Especially in the larger school districts, drama teachers that win awards, grants, and certificates bring recognition to their school, boosting their reputation and status, and providing an incentive for school districts to pay quality drama teachers more, in hopes of securing their return.

Drama teachers can also increase their standing in a district along with their pay by pursuing leadership and supervisory roles within their school and district. If provided the opportunity, a drama teacher can pursue teaching courses at their local college or university. Presenting at teacher workshops is also a viable way to increase your salary and get the most out of a drama teacher career.

What Does a Drama Teacher Do? (Another hint: a lot! But it’s worth it.)

What does a normal day of teaching look like and what is to be expected from the job? What does a drama teacher do with their day?

Even though each school and district will have their own needs and different expectations of their educators, there are some basic things that almost all schools will expect of their drama teachers:

  • Help students read and understand plays and theatre in general.
  • Produce plays for the school and community. Be it shorter plays for the classrooms or assemblies or full productions once or twice a year, drama teachers will be expected to have their students act and perform outside of their classroom hours.
  • Casting, stage directing, previewing and ordering scripts, prop production, and overall play management. Obviously you will not be expected to do everything on your own, but you will be the lead on most if not all of that is required for the play to go on.
  • Lead after school programs. Most work and rehearsals will be done during school hours, but with so many students needing to pursue core or college-prep classes, after-school rehearsals are more common. Drama teachers spend many evening hours at rehearsals, prepping students, and working on the overall production. Most of the time you will be compensated for it, but there are always extra hours that don’t make it on your paycheck. Like any teacher wanting to produce something great, you will put in more time than is written in the contract.

The Highs and Lows of Being a Drama Teacher: Lots of the Good Kind of Drama… and Virtually No Tragedy

Teachers do not become teachers with dreams of being rich and famous. They become teachers to make a difference, to share their passions with the coming generation, and to help. A drama teacher career is no different.

As in any job, there are some pros and cons to learning how to become a drama teacher. But for anybody serious about this line of work, the scale will always tip heavily toward all the amazing things that come with being a drama teacher.

Cons of Learning How to Become a Drama Teacher

The cons of being a drama teacher, although very real, are limited and common among elective teachers. They are also subject to change, according to the size and vision of any school district.

  • Drama is not considered a Core Subject, meaning it is not a required class for college. It is an elective and is therefore not often required in a typical high school curriculum. The reason this matters is because whenever there are budget cuts, classes such as drama can often be the first on the chopping block. Unlike math or English teachers, drama teachers can find themselves having to prove to their schoolboard or administration the validity and need of their program, especially in smaller schools and districts.
  • Smaller schools cannot afford a full-time drama teacher. This has two implications. One, because smaller schools cannot often afford a full-time drama teacher, your options narrow to the bigger schools, putting a slight limitation on where you can apply. The other implication is that in order to find employment in a smaller school district, you might need to be certified in more than one content area, requiring more schooling and more certifications. This con, however, easily becomes a pro as it not only widens your availability for smaller school districts, it increases your chances of landing a job as you are able to fill a variety of needs.

Pros of Learning How to Become a Drama Teacher

The pros of being a drama teacher are endless. So too is the impact drama teachers have on their students and local community. According to James Catterall, the author of Involvement in the Arts and Success in Secondary Schools, “{drama} students . . . earned better grades and scores, were less likely to drop out of school, watched fewer hours of television, were less likely to report boredom in school, had a more positive self-concept, and were more involved in community service.” If that’s not a reason to be excited about a drama teacher career, I don’t know what is.

A few other pros include the following:

  • Becoming a drama teacher involves helping students unleash their creative side. Middle and high school are awkward ages for many students, most of whom have never had the opportunity or encouragement to express themselves. Drama teachers not only provide already curious students an opportunity to branch out and explore their creative expressions, they also offer many students their first true interaction with the performing arts. This opportunity may encourage students to pursue a passion they otherwise would never have known, create an appreciation for the arts that will follow them the rest of their lives, or (and hopefully) both.
  • Being a drama teacher gives you chance to reach the overlooked. In high schools across America sports and athletes sit atop the hierarchy of popularity and focus, leaving many students unnoticed and – at times – lost. Drama and drama teachers not only provide those “other” students a tribe and sense of community, it encourages them, gives them confidence, and provides them opportunities to showcase their unique gifts and abilities. It notices them, and it gives them an outlet that is healthy, safe, and productive.
  • Performing arts provide teachers and students an opportunity to serve and connect with their community. For a drama production to be successful, it needs a wide variety of help and support. From stage production, lighting and sound, to props, costumes, and volunteer hours, the show cannot go on without the local community getting involved. Which, more often than not, they love to do. This need brings the community together, it provides them an opportunity to invest in the school, and it allows for people to connect and work together for a common goal. Then, it rewards them a night (or two) to get together, see their hard work in action, and enjoy the production with their neighbors and friends. Drama brings a community together.

“Life without industry is guilt,” John Ruskin wrote in Lectures on Art, “and industry without art is brutality.” The same could easily be said about schools and education. Without art, without music and drama, sending children to a building to be drilled with facts and figures, worksheets and exams, is brutality.

“Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance love – drama – these are what we stay alive for.”

– Mr. Keeting, Dead Poets Society

If you are interested in helping students unleash their creative and artistic selves, if you are passionate about building relationships and impacting your school and local community – if you are interested in pursuing a drama teacher, find a teaching degree program near you, and get started right away.

There has never been a better time to be an educator and your passion and desire to help kids fall in love with the world of drama is sincerely needed.

All the world is a stage and the powerful play will go on. What will your verse be?

Ready to take the next step? Find teaching degree programs near you!