If you only earn a certificate in acting, you will probably only take “core curriculum” classes directly related to acting. But if you enroll in a higher degree program you might also take “general education” classes as well as have the opportunity to complete a final portfolio.
General Education Classes
If you enroll in either an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree program, you won’t spend your entire educational career studying acting. Depending on which degree you are pursuing and what institution you attend, you could spend a fourth to a third of your time taking classes like English, math, history, science, psychology, and communication. The exact requirement for these types of classes varies, but most programs that award students anything beyond a certificate include some of these courses. In fact, some of them might even be “prerequisites” that you have to take before you can move on to studying certain higher level acting courses. You might think that these courses are a waste of time, but they are generally very helpful for preparing you to be successful in any career. For example, if you take a public speaking class as your communication requirement, you will be better able to speak in front of crowds – whether it is to make a presentation, accept an award, or say your lines on stage! English will help you to be a better writer and communicator, math will help you if you try to do your own accounting or tax preparation, psychology will help you tap into the emotions and motives of the characters you play…and so on.
Core Curriculum Classes
Once you have taken a certain number of “Gen. Eds.” you will be able to enroll in acting classes – the classes that you really want to take to prepare yourself for a successful career on stage or in front of a camera. You might take a class like scene study, where you analyze scripts; voice, to help you get rid of any accent and become more articulate and powerful in your speech; the history of theater and/or film; or improvisation, where you learn to release the fear of rejection and give open and honest performances. For most educational programs, these classes will be the bulk of your studies. Many institutions offer many more classes related to acting and theater than you will have time to take, which is why some of your credits will likely be garnered through “theater electives.” This means that you can choose any classes related to acting that you are interested in studying and take them for credit. This could include a class on Shakespeare, movement, stage combat, comedy, or new media.
Some schools – particularly those that offer associate’s and bachelor’s degrees – give students the opportunity to complete a final portfolio. Students have a chance to think about what they want to do after graduation, and then an advisor assigns them acting projects that relate to their career goals. Once they complete these projects the student has a conglomeration of high-quality, advanced work that they can send to agents and take with them on auditions. Students might also get help creating a resume or developing headshots. The benefit for you of having a final portfolio is that it might help you find more work after graduation than if you went out into the acting world empty-handed.