The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

BA vs. BFA

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by derekleffew, Nov 4, 2007.

  1. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

    Messages:
    4,377
    Likes Received:
    2,753
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    So I'm advising this college student, a member here (you know who you are) and he wants to transfer to a school that offers a BFA because he doesn't like taking liberal arts classes. He currently goes to an excellent school that offers a BA and MA in theatre. I think he's a sophomore. The school for a few years offered a BFA, but dropped it in a large, ongoing restructuring program. I've already told him that less than five years after he graduates, no one will care what his degree was. I've also told him many employers would rather see a candidate with a well-rounded educational background. So please state reasons why one degree is better than the other, either way. He's not sure if he wants to be a designer, but knows he wants to work in lighting.

    Thanks in advance, now let the floodgates open...
     
  2. Sean

    Sean Active Member

    Messages:
    438
    Likes Received:
    32
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA
     
  3. soundman

    soundman Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,085
    Likes Received:
    115
    Location:
    Nashville TN
    Knowledge is power and the more you know the better off you will be. I'm working on my BA right now (a junior but cross your figures I will get out a semester early) and the theatre class are what I am paying for but the gen eds and my minor are my brain food. Along with Directing, CAD, and Theatre History One I am taking Maps class (Displays of Geographic Information) and Rocks class (Physical Geology) Rocks class can get a little dry at times but maps is pretty cool. Call me a nerd but the other day we talked about how and why different parts of the America were laid out and surveyed. Early we talked about the relationship between latitude time of year and the suns angle. <- lighting applicable.

    My minor is Urban and Regional Studies which deals with how and why people settle and the way they do and what people do to change their area. (thats a really brief description in fact its a lot more than that but I don't want to get too wordy) It could be useful for scene designers but I find it interesting none the less.

    Also a word on transferring kiss all your browny points good by. While you may know a lot and be getting crew head positions or even designs at your current school once you transfer you are back down to freshman level no matter how many credits you roll in with and you have to fight to gain the respect of a new TD. I have seen it happen to several student in my department.
     
  4. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

    Messages:
    5,776
    Likes Received:
    1,075
    Occupation:
    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Location:
    Portland, Or.
    My Granddad once said to me, " You know, Van, a rectal thermometer has degrees too, and you know what you do with that don't you?"
    :mrgreen:
    Ok, Granddad didn't have it exactly right. As a TD and a potential Employer I can tell you I really don't care what kind of degree you have. I do think the wider liberal arts education garnered whilst pursuing a BA will serve you very well in the future. I can also tell you degrees are funny things. As many here know SweetbennyFenton, a CB member, just took a job at a local school as a TD. He's a good guy and really knows his stuff. He's got an MFA. I've 25 years of "Real World" Expirience and a BA. I would never been considered for that job he has taken. There are times when the type or amounts of degrees you have are important, but generally it what you know, and how well you do it. As Sean said, there is always the "Burn-out" ratio to consider, having a wider background, if you need to go back to school, will come in very handy.
    Ok, that's my .02$
     
  5. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,078
    Likes Received:
    86
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Launceston Tasmania
    Only .01c? A bit broke Charc.

    I've got a double academic major. Modern European History and Educational Theatre.

    I've spent the last twenty years reading in world history to catch up.
     
  6. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,466
    Likes Received:
    2,454
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    I've talked a lot about my theory but here it is again in brief. There are 3 factors that help to get you a job in tech theater: education, real world experience, and dumb luck in who you know. All three factors are equally powerful. A lack of education can easily be made up for in real world experience and who you know. There is a basic level of knowledge you need to have for the job. Unlike EVERY other careerm you reach a point that it's VERY hard to say that more education will get you a better job. It can help, but education is not the golden ticket to a tech theater career. For every person with a MFA in theater there is also a guy like Van without.

    I once asked a well respected Mistress of Properties if she thought getting a degree was important if you want to get a job as a top designer or a T.D. Her response was, "Why would you waste your time getting a degree? You need to be working if you want a job like that."

    There are two giant regional theaters here in town. One T.D. has an MFA, the other T.D. has a B.A. (he was a temporary summer stock Carp who worked hard and everybody liked and was gradually promoted from within).

    Me? I have a B.A. in History and a Masters in Education. No theater degree but I'm T.D. and teach tech at a Community College. I need the masters to be able to teach there but they don't care that it's not in theater. The vast majority of my education was a two year period of community college volunteering hundred's (maybe thousands) of hours to work side by side with a T.D. who was a master of the craft. I spend a few weeks each summer taking tech classes at a local university to get some 500 level classes on my transcript. However, that's really just to make me look better on paper, I'm yet to really learn anything new.

    I always encourage students to get all the education the can afford and can stand. BUT I also say NEVER think that the degree will be give you an advantage over someone who spent the same 4, 5, or 6 years working their butt off.

    When it comes to the specifics of BFA vs BA. I don't think anybody cares except your guidance counselor.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2007
  7. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,344
    Likes Received:
    485
    Occupation:
    Prop-tart
    Location:
    Chicago
    Or your mom.

    However, I am in a BA program, and, at least in my experience, I have been active since day 1. This is much to be said for the merit of a smaller program. As opposed to a hugh state school, my department only has about 80 theatre majors. Thus, for actors, if you have potential you get cast, and get that many more chances to hone your craft. Similar truths can be said for tech. While people on our campus don't always even know we have a theatre department (cry), our graduates often attend some of the top notch grad school programs. Moral: All depends on your school and YOU.
    In tech, it seems like the BFA degrees are much more focused. So, if you go for a BFA, you'll only being doing THAT work you chose to major in. Now, with my BA program, I am constantly working in my field of choice (lighting) but I also have the chance to branch out and try the other flavors of tech as well as get a rounded education.
     
  8. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,058
    Likes Received:
    653
    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    The official name of the degree I have is a: B.F.A. Theatrical Production Arts: Technology Concentration. Hows that for a mouthful? Does it make a difference, probably not. The program I went to offered a BA, but it was less focused. But being a BFA didn't mean no Gen-Eds. It did mean that you never had free time because you had to take so many gen-eds in addition to classes in your major, and the gen-eds had to fill certain distribution requirements, and there was some crazy computer program with little islands and pancakes that told you what you had to do, and it was kinda crazy.

    I feel like I got to take some very good classes outside my major though. From "Communication Culture and Rhetoric" to a math class that I was hand picked for. (though my math has since gone downhill...)

    I think we talk about this issue a lot on the boards. Gaff's theory is very true. Then again, it also depends on the student. Some people learn better in a very focused and cutthroat environment, and for those people a BFA is a better choice. Some people learn better in a more relaxed and free environment and the BA is for them. Does it matter in the end, probably not so much.

    The first job I got when I got out of school was one where they called me back and said "I was going through resumes on my desk and your stood out because you went to Ithaca, and I know a bunch of people who went there and they have all worked great for us." The job I am at now they were more interested in what I knew and how I worked than in what degree I hold.

    Ultimately I think in deciding on a program it is all about how you function as a student. I knew that I needed a focused, cutting edge, fast paced program, that is how I chose. You can tell though that it is not for some, because of the students that started as BFAs only 50% graduated as BFAs. And you know what, you are in school, it is the time to make mistakes. If you don't like what you are doing, change it. At the risk of being the perpetual student, you can change as much as you like until you find the right program for you.
     
  9. Drmafreek

    Drmafreek Active Member

    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    New Wilmington, PA
    As a professor I often have prospective students ask about a BA versus a BFA. My undergraduate degree is a BFA. And probably till the day I die I will advocate for the BA. Yes, I said that correctly, I said BA. I have now taught at three institutions that offer only a BA in Theatre. I have to come to believe that you get a general education in theatre along with knowledge in other areas of life in undergrad and you get into your specialization either by choosing what areas to work in professionally or by choosing a specific graduate program. As a professor I push my students to take classes in art, history, and psychology, to name just a few. To be a better designer and leader you need to have a broad range of knowledge, and the BA allows that. I remember as an undergrad not being able to take the art classes, or the history classes that may have helped me be a better designer. That's not to say that a BFA program may not help certain individuals. I am just saying that I feel that a BA is a better option.

    Now to really jump on my high horse, I also push all my students to work in all areas of theatre while in college. I attempt to have my technicians do a little acting, a little directing, and work in all the backstage areas. I feel that to be a better theatre practitioner you need to understand where all areas are coming from. I've worked with my fair share of directors and designers who didn't understand where I was coming from because they had never experienced the technical aspects. That is another reason I push the BA, because generally you can work in any part of the theatre. Sometimes with BFA programs you are confined to the area that you've chosen, be it tech or acting.

    Finally, I push education a little more than real world experience to start with because it is easier to make mistakes in an educational environment. Now don't get me wrong, I have worked with some fantastic people who have no formal education in theatre. But I believe you can do a little more experimenting in the academic world without it affecting you financially (unless you take out tons of loans, like some of us.) I force my students to try new things without fear of making a theatrical company go broke. This can be harder to do in the real world.

    Well, hope that helps a bit. I don't talk much on these forums, but love reading, and am glad to throw a little bit of info in from time to time. :)
     
    airkarol, Raktor and Charc like this.
  10. Drmafreek

    Drmafreek Active Member

    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    New Wilmington, PA
    Charc:

    Well, been looking around the forums at a semi regular pace since I joined in 04, but really started picking up reading the threads this past year. Believe it or not, even after 12 years of theatre I still find things that help me on these boards, especially from ship, who doesn't know it, but has saved my butt a time or two. And I probably will start posting a bit more, it's kinda fun. :)

    I am glad you enjoyed the post though.
     
  11. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,466
    Likes Received:
    2,454
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    Don't be shy Terry, we need to hear your voice here too!
     
  12. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

    Messages:
    4,377
    Likes Received:
    2,753
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    I have 31 years in the business, and still learn something new just about every time I visit ControlBooth, which, as most people know, is at least once per day!

    I've wanted a college professor, other than Gafftaper, of course, on here for a long time. So don't be a stranger. And please post your college's website, to save me from a google search.

    Welcome back, to the CB.
     
  13. Drmafreek

    Drmafreek Active Member

    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    New Wilmington, PA
    The college theatre website is Lynchburg College Theatre. Please forgive the setup of the site. We are currently in a transition period, working on updating it, which hasn't been done in quite some time. I will no longer be a stranger either, except those fantastic tech weeks that come around from time to time.
     
  14. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,058
    Likes Received:
    653
    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    my favorite part of your theatre department's website: [​IMG]
    What's wrong with this photo?
    I suppose he wasn't really trying to fly something in? :twisted:


    EDIT: can you tell I have been bored today?
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2007
  15. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

    Messages:
    4,377
    Likes Received:
    2,753
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    Nice catch again, Icewolf08. I totally blew past the picture on the website. Then in your post I looked closer, and am now going to have to re-evaluate my opinion of Professor drmafreek: attempting to bring in a batten WITH THE ROPE LOCK ENGAGED! Sheesh. But we did just discuss that the Rope Lock and "O" ring should be ON at all times unless a batten is moving, so I'll chalk it up to "photographic license" and let it slide--this time!
     
  16. Drmafreek

    Drmafreek Active Member

    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    New Wilmington, PA
    Alas, the reason for the update of the web pages. But I have a good excuse. I just started at this school in August. :) So, slowly but surely I'm fixing their warped ways. When I arrived the shop had two radial arm saws, neither which had been used in four years. And the lighting inventory had never been cleaned, and some of the stuff was 10 to 15 years old. When I said "Let's bench focus all the instruments" the seniors looked at me like I was crazy. But, we are heading towards the light slowly, but surely.

    I gotta admit though, that is one of the funniest photos, and am gonna have to show some of my students tomorrow. And who knows, maybe we are looking at it wrong. Maybe he was trying to climb up the rope. Then you'd want the lock and ring on. :)
     
  17. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    5,948
    Likes Received:
    225
    Occupation:
    Stagehand/ Production Company Owner
    Location:
    Howell, NJ
    I wouldn't recommend watching the arbor when bringing anything in or out.
    Watch the load.
     
  18. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

    Messages:
    5,776
    Likes Received:
    1,075
    Occupation:
    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Location:
    Portland, Or.
    Maybe he was actually trying to push the rope up Ever think of that ?
     
  19. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    2,438
    Likes Received:
    339
    Location:
    New York City
    So as a BFA student I think I should throw my .02 into the pile.

    Personally I am a big fan of the BFA program I am in. The structure of the program allows you to be much more involved in theatre productions than you other wise would be able to but still keeps you busy with school work. All of our conservatory classes are in the afternoons so during techs for shows, they are suspended to allow crews to work, the great thing about this is that all of our normal classes are in the morning so we can still attend those and try to keep up on our work in there. The conservatory credit hours also don't count against our GPA so we have to make sure to do well in our academics if we want to keep our scholarships and such. Also I feel the comments about BFA students being less well rounded is inaccurate. When I graduate, I will in addition to my BFA which has a focus in lighting and a second emphasis in sound, will have a minor in studio art as well as an entrepreneurship certificate from the university's business program. My other classes cover lots of literature, history, and some science. The way the program is set up also allows us the flexibility to work on shows for The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis which lets us gain professional experience and make new contacts.

    Its a challenging program to be a part of, and I do feel that I will be more capable to perform better in the real world after graduation than I would in a BA school.
     
  20. punktech

    punktech Active Member

    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Near NYC
    as a current BA student, i have to say it depends on the program. my BA program is small and very involved, i've pulled 45 hour weeks (in addition to getting all my work done in all my other classes, i slept about 3 hours a night). i have friends that are in BFA programs that make them pull 45 hours too. but i've also heard of BFA and BA programs where you never even get your hands dirty. you shouldn't worry about what program is right for you in my opinion you should be worrying what SCHOOL is the right one. sure you can go to a school with an awesome program (BFA or BA), but you can still end up miserable because it isn't the right place for you. essentially keep your options open and look for somewhere that you can stand spending 4 years.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice