3-Year Totals: Young Adult Actors, Theater/Drama Degrees, and Pilot Season

During the last three Pilot Seasons, I made lists of young adult actors aged roughly 23-33 who booked leading and series regular roles and grouped them into the most common educational and training paths based on what I could find of their backgrounds. Now to conclude the study, instead of offering long lists of individual actors like in the past, I have listed the schools those with college and conservatory training attended along with the numbers of bookings from each. Plus, I have further divided the categories of those who majored in subjects besides Acting into subgroups of related courses of study along with dividing those who began their careers with high school educations into additional subgroups showing prior training, experience, major market residency, etc. This should bring some light to the realities behind the advice often given to serious young American actors suggesting that it is best to major in something “practical” like Business or STEM or just move to New York or Los Angeles straight from high school with no significant training, experience, connections, nor established parallel careers. Actors who did that and rose to this level account for 1.6%, .6%, and 2.4% of bookings respectively despite a constant and often aggressive online drumbeat of that advice having been given since I was in high school and most certainly before.

Now, realizing that I’m talking to a lot of kids and parents who may not have seen my past posts and do not know what Pilot Season is, it’s the period that roughly takes place between January and May of each year during which the television networks cast and shoot sample episodes of programs from which they will choose for their fall lineups. While you may recognize some shows that were picked up to series if you look at the lists from years past, most pilots will never see the light of day and booking one does not necessarily a sustained acting career make. However, these castings are considered to be an auspicious sign towards that end and I will posit that they signify a trend now being seen in young adult actors working in television at the leading and series regular level.

So kids and parents, I have provided you with a 3-year study that amounts to a truth bomb you can drop on the pointy little heads of those who may try to hand you all the tired b/s that I had to suffer when I was coming along like “college training sucks, it’s a waste of time and money, it’s just for theatre, you will be squandering the four most marketable years of your life, you would be better off majoring in Business and then just showing up in LA to take once-a-week classes, David Mamet said, so-and-so A-Lister never trained, blah, blah, blah, and blah.” Use it ruthlessly.

HERE ARE THE NUMBERS

619 Bookings of which 436 were by Americans

Educational and Training Backgrounds

215 Undergraduate Acting - 158 American
22 Graduate Acting - 21 American
50 Non-Degree Conservatories - 28 American
99 Majored in Something Besides Acting - 78 American
102 Began Careers with High School Education or Foreign Equivalent - 58 American
129 Former Child Stars/Began Careers as Minors - 91 American
2 Unknown Education, Training Backgrounds, or Starting Age - 2 American

Undergraduate Theatre/Drama/Acting Programs

  • 82 Schools - 58 American
  • (MT) = Musical Theatre
  • Leading numbers represent bookings rather than individual actors.

24 NYU/Tisch (1 MT) - 4 actors booked twice
16 Carnegie Mellon University (1 MT) - 1 actor booked twice
13 USC (9 BFA, 4 BA)
12 Juilliard - 1 actor booked twice
9 LAMDA
9 University of Michigan (7 MT)
8 Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1 American)
7 Depaul University - 1 actor booked twice
6 NIDA - 1 actor booked twice
5 Marymount Manhattan College (2 MT, 2 BA, 1 BFA)
5 UCLA - 1 actor booked twice
4 AMDA (1 MT) - 1 actor booked twice
4 RADA
3 Arts Educational Schools, London (1 MT)
3 Boston University
3 East 15 Acting School
3 Northwestern University
3 Pace University
2 Drama Centre London
2 Harvard University
2 Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
2 Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
2 Sarah Lawrence College
2 The New School
2 UNCSA
2 WAAPA
2 Pepperdine University - same actor booked twice
2 University of Illinois - same actor booked twice
2 Wagner College - same actor booked twice
2 Yale University - same actor booked twice
Bard College
Boston Conservatory (MT)
Bristol Old Vice Theatre School
CalArts
Canadian College of Performing Arts (MT)
Case Western Reserve University
Coastal Carolina University
City College of New York
CUNY Lehman
Columbia College Chicago
Columbia University
Cours Florent
Dalhousie University
Dongguk University
Elon College (MT)
Fordham University
Grant MacEwan University
Ithaca College (MT)
Illinois Wesleyan University
Kalamazoo College
Manchester Metropolitan School of Theatre
Millikin University
Morehouse College
National Theatre School of Canada with degree through the Canadian Film Centre.
Otterbein University (MT)
Reykjavík School of the Arts
Richard Stockton College
Studio 58/University of Alberta
Roosevelt University (MT)
Rose Bruford College
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Skidmore College
Spelman College
SUNY Purchase
Syracuse University
Texas State University
University of Florida
University of Alabama (MT)
University of Louisville
UNLV
UNC Greensboro
Royal Holloway, University of London
University of Oklahoma (MT)
University of San Diego
University of Tulsa
University of Virginia
Wake Forest University
Western Kentucky University
Western Michigan University
York University
2 Unknown Schools - Both foreign.

Graduate Acting Programs

  • 12 Schools

4 Yale School of Drama - 3 American
4 NYU/Tisch
3 American Conservatory Theater
2 Columbia University
2 UC Irvine - Same actor booked twice
Actors Studio Drama School
Alabama Shakespeare Festival
Juilliard
National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts
UNC Chapel Hill
USC
University of Tennessee

Non-Degree Granting Conservatories

  • 30 Schools - 12 American

9 AMDA - 1 actor booked twice
6 NYCDA - 1 actor booked twice
4 NYFA - 1 actor from the NYC campus booked 3 times and the other is Guatamalan.
4 William Esper Studio (2 with unrelated college degrees.)
2 AADA
2 Actors Centre Australia - same actor booked twice and also trained in the NIDA One-year Musical Theatre course.
2 NIDA One-Year Musical Theatre Course - same actor booked twice and also trained at Actors Centre Australia.
Act Cape Town Film Acting Academy
Art of Acting Studio
A.T.C.L - Actor also studied at the National Theatre Drama School
Bury College National Extended Diploma in Performing Arts
CBC Actors Conservatory
Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia
Circle in the Square Theatre School (Actor is British)
Cristina Rota Conservatory and Film Institute (Actor has an unrelated college degree.)
EICAR Cinema and Acting School
Identity School of Drama
Kingdom School of Drama
LAMDA Foundation Course
Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute (Actor is Costa Rican)
London School of Dramatic Art
Maggie Flanigan Studio
National Theatre School of Canada
National Theatre Drama School (Actor also studied at A.T.C.L.)
Neighborhood Playhouse
Principal Academy of Dance & Theatre Arts
Stella Adler Studio of Acting
Stella Mann College of Performing Arts
Terry Knickerbocker Conservatory
2 UNDISCLOSED - Same British actor booked twice and trained at an undisclosed Meisner conservatory in London. Possibly the Actors Door Studio.

Majored in Something Besides Acting

17 Communications, Broadcasting, Journalism, and Media Studies - 15 American
Courses of study: Communications, Communications and Media Studies, Journalism, Broadcast Journalism, Broadcasting, Radio and Television, Media Arts & Culture, and Entertainment & Media Studies.

  • 2 Minors: Theatre and Film & Electronic Arts
  • 1 Social Media Star.

16 Business, Finance, and Marketing - 10 American
Courses of study: Business Administration, Business Management, International Business, Music Business, Commerce, Finance, Marketing, and Advertising.

  • 3 Double majors with 2 in Film and 1 in Pre-Law
  • 2 Actors booked twice. 1 majored in Music Business and 1 in International Business with a double degree in Film.

15 Social Sciences - 10 American
Courses of study: Psychology, Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Economics, Sociology, History, Public Policy, and International Relations.

  • 2 Double Majors in Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry and History.
  • 2 Minors in Theatre and Film.
  • 1 Social media star who majored in Psychology.

13 Fine Arts Besides Acting - 11 American
Courses of study: Fiction Writing, Dramatic Writing, Screenwriting, Writing for Film and Television, Painting/Drawing, Music, Architecture, Performance in Voice, Recorded Music, Dance, World Arts and Cultures: Dance .

  • 2 Double Majors in Fiction Writing and Painting/Drawing; and Art History and Italian
  • 1 Minor in Film.
  • 1 Actor who majored in Music booked twice.

9 Film - 8 American
Courses of study: Film, Film Production, Film/Editing, and Cinema.

  • 2 double majors in International Business and Business Management.
  • 1 actor spent an unspecified time studying Philosophy at a different institution.
  • 1 actor who majored in Film Production booked twice.

7 Humanities - 5 American
Courses of study: Religion, World Arts and Cultures, English, English Language and Literature, Philosophy, Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry, French and Francophone Studies, and Italian.

  • 2 Double Majors in Psychology and History.
  • 1 also has a degree in Film from a different university.

7 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math - 4 American
Courses of study: Neuroscience, Environmental Sciences and Policy, Computer Science, Math, and Mortuary Science.

  • 1 British actor who majored in Neuroscience and was a member of the National Youth Theatre booked 3 times.
  • 1 Social media star.

6 Pre-Law - 4 American

  • 1 Actor booked twice.
  • 1 Double majored in Commerce.

4 Criminal Justice - 4 American

  • 2 Actors both of whom booked twice.
  • 1 is a social media star.

3 Other - 3 American
Courses of Study: Early Childhood Education, Health Services Administration, Associates in Artistic & Scientific Studies.

7 Unknown Majors - 5 American

  • 3 Collegiate Athletes, 1 Social Media Star, 1 with intensive training in high school, 1 with family in the business, and 1 probable Journalism major.

Began Careers with High School Education or Foreign Equivalent

31 Started with no significant training, major market residency, nor established parallel careers - 15 American

  • 1 American booked twice.
  • 7 Canadian, 5 British, 2 Australian, 1 Chilean, and 1 Swedish.

25 Had intensive scholastic or professional training in high school - 11 American

  • 2 LA natives
  • 1 is also a model.

16 Los Angeles or New York City Natives

  • 6 with family in the business
  • 3 former models with 1 of them having family in the business
  • 4 known to have had intensive training in high school.

16 Models - 9 American

  • 2 LA natives and 1 native New Yorker with 1 of the LA natives having family in the business
  • 1 with theatre experience and professional training since childhood.

12 Dropped out of college as underclassmen - 11 American

  • 1 model with theatre experience and professional training since childhood
  • 1 with family in the business.

7 Have family in the Business - 6 American

  • 6 LA or NYC natives with one also being a former model.

7 Musicians and Rappers- 2 American

3 Social Media Stars - 3 American


END NOTES

  • Apparent discrepancies in numbers in some categories are due to individual actors meeting more than one classification. I also posted the 2018 list here prematurely and was moreover able to find new information on most of the actors whom I had previously labeled as having unknown training and educational backgrounds.
  • I would have liked to group the college programs into Conservatories and Drama Schools, BFAs with strong academic components, Performance-Oriented BA programs, and Academic BAs; but, found there to be such a gray area in the middle that I couldn't formulate a solid methodology for doing so. However, based on the numbers of bookings from all but a few American schools that tend to get the picks of the litter from any given year's high school seniors, that doesn't seem to make much difference in this context.
  • I would have also liked to put an asterisk by the names of schools that turn out large numbers of graduates each year - sometimes from campuses on both coasts. Not knowing the ballpark numbers for all the schools, that didn't seem fair. Just be aware that some of the colleges and non-degree granting conservatories showing numerous graduates on these lists do. So use your judgement when comparing the numbers to schools with less bookings.
  • This will conclude the study although I may decide to do it again in a few years if I see what appears to be a major change in the market and feel so inclined.

2020 Results: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/theater-drama-majors/2178667-young-adult-actors-theater-drama-degrees-and-pilot-season-2020-p1.html

2019 Results: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/theater-drama-majors/2135833-young-adult-actors-theater-drama-degrees-and-pilot-season-2019.html

2018 Results: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/theater-drama-majors/2067211-young-adult-actors-theatre-drama-acting-degrees-and-pilot-season-2018-p1.html

2017 Results under a different age range: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/theater-drama-majors/1975970-20-something-actors-theatre-drama-acting-degrees-and-pilot-season-p1.html

Thoughts on College vs. Studio Training: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/theater-drama-majors/2163603-foundational-training-in-college-vs-private-acting-studios.html

1 Like

@Gyokoren You rock!

Amazing and so helpful! Thank you!

I want a “love” reaction on CC just so I can use it on @Gyokoren’s posts. Fascinating infomation.

This post is a wealth of info. Thank you so much!

@Gyokoren thank you again for all of this hard work and I am so happy that your research backs up the information I give my clients regarding the value of majoring in theatre if you want to work in the industry. I hope you don’t mind if I quote you often (and ruthlessly as you suggest!)!!

@jbtcat You’re welcome! Quote it all you like. That is what it’s here for!

@Gyokoren Your generosity of information is incredible. You are like a treasure chest filled with insight. Thank you so much. Wow.

This is such great information to have! Super excited to train within the next couple of years!

Moderators, I highly recommend you Pin this thread to the top of Theater / Drama majors.