If you’ve ever wanted to be a drama teacher or share your skills as an actor or player in musical theatre, you’ve probably wondered about where you might work. Should you aim to work in a public school? Work in a private boutique school? Colleges or universities? Work overseas? Perhaps surprisingly, there are many pathways a drama teacher can take, though you must take your goals and career ambitions into consideration.
The first thing to consider are your actual career goals: do you want to work full time as a drama teacher, part-time, or start your own business? Do you prefer working with young children, teens, or adults? Do you want to work abroad or in your home city? What you ultimately want to teach will depend on the answers to these questions.
Learn everything you need to know about being a drama teacher in this article.
Teaching Drama in Public and Private Schools and Institutions
Teaching Elementary and Secondary School Students
If you are considering teaching in an Elementary or Secondary school, you will want to make sure that you have the right certifications and have strong instructional skills. Each province has different qualifications and governing teachers bodies - typically a Bachelor's degree and a Bachelor of Education are prerequisite.
A career in public education is usually long term, so this is a great option if you are looking for a full-time job and want the stability and benefits of working for the government. Not only will you get summer holidays and spring and winter breaks, you will also have the rewarding job of teaching your local curriculum to Canada’s diverse and dynamic communities. In a high school you will likely need another teachable subject other than drama, such as English, math, or Geography. If you are in elementary school, you will likely be teaching drama along with a full complement of subjects (though there are some standalone drama teacher jobs in some schools). Yes, it can be hectic, but teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs you will find.
Learn more about becoming a drama teacher in Canada.
Educators lucky enough to work in an arts based private or public high school will have the benefit of working with talented students who are deeply committed to the arts. Picture yourself directing a high school musical with students who are also training in music and dance - you will have one of the best drama teacher jobs in the world. Of course, you may find lots of talent in a regular stream high school, so don’t underestimate your school! In the elementary grades, you will likely be teaching drama in addition to a handful of other subjects, so make drama relevant and fun by incorporating it into classes like Science, Dance or Language Arts.
Should full-time work be out of the question for you - due to family responsibilities or a desire to work in theatre the rest of the time - you can still apply for part-time permanent positions. You may not be able to be as selective with the subject you teach, but build relationships with your principals and fellow teachers and you may get assigned a drama class.
Teaching In Colleges And Universities
Teaching Drama to students in post-secondary schools can be much more challenging as those students will be extremely dedicated to the subject in theory and practice. It will help to have a background in classical or modern theatre, with knowledge of playwrights like Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw, or Tennessee Williams. You will be helping them to complete a degree or diploma and possibly work in theatre, television, film, or education.
There is a lot of joy in teaching students in the postsecondary group as they will be independent and deeply engaged in the topic. These are learners who have been inspired by previous teachers, love school, and are looking to deeply understand the work of modern and classical playwrights, as well as screenwriters, actors and directors. Theatre has been around for centuries, and this is a vast discipline to work in. They have a passion for the arts and see deep value in pursuing an arts education.
To work in a college or university, you will need to have a PhD or Masters degree in Drama or any other theatre related subject. You will likely have to contribute to a larger canon of research when you work in a university, so writing papers and presenting at conferences will enter into your workload. You will also likely participate in theatre troupes and helping to organize live performances at your school - be prepared for an incredibly busy and exciting career.
Other Options for Teaching Drama
Being a drama educator doesn’t have to mean working in a school - in fact, you can also seek the option of opening your own business to coach and teach aspiring actors. One way to do this is to join a boutique private school that offers after school or weekend programs. In a private theatre program, you will help students focus on specific aspects of performance or simply build confidence without being encumbered with curriculum expectations. Working in a private school like this can enable you to have some flexibility with your time while also allowing you to share your pedagogical talents.
There are plenty of adults as well who seek to learn acting on weekends through workshops. Adults that take acting classes may be trying to achieve a life long dream, build confidence, meet new people, or simply brush up for an audition for local theatre. Teaching acting workshops can be a great way to contribute to your field if you are a professional actor and would like additional streams of income. Find an acting school near you and propose your workshop or see if they have any openings.
Camps are another great way to teach drama if you don’t want to commit to a full time schedule and like working with kids. Drama day camps are great for summers when parents have to work but their kids are at home - and want to keep their kids busy or have another childcare option. Working in a camp will enable you to make some income while doing something you love. It’s a great job that will spruce up your resume nicely should you eventually decide to apply for a teaching job in a school.
Teaching part-time in the evenings, weekends, or summers may appeal to you if you have a family to take care of or if you must work full-time in a job you can’t afford to give up. We all have different financial needs, but that doesn’t mean you should stop from pursuing your goals in education or theatre. Furthermore, teaching part-time in a studio or workshop is great for balance: teaching full-time can be exhausting and draining, so an hour or two once or twice a week can help you satisfy that creative itch with very little effort.
Find out how to create fun lessons for your drama classes.
Setting Up Your Own Business or Practice
If you have the drive of an entrepreneur, you may not even need to get a teaching qualification to open your own drama or theatre school. However, having those qualifications can help you to build trust with your clients, along with real experience in the theatre or entertainment industry. If you are targeting your business at younger children, you will want to make sure you have the appropriate criminal record checks, among other licenses, to have an appropriate setup for kids.
Should opening up a whole school seem like too much work, you can still operate your own business by becoming a private teacher or instructor, a job that combines pedagogy with flexibility and the rewards of having your own business. Private tutors are in high demand with parents seeking extracurricular options for their kids, and you should have no problem selling your services, especially if you can combine them with another subject like English.
Why become a private tutor? You can have flexibility in your schedule and enjoy the process of setting up a website or social media. You will learn how to price your services effectively and possibly add an additional stream of income to your life. Best of all, you get to work for yourself and design your own materials to teach drama the way you think it should be taught. Be creative and offer small group classes among neighbours, an after school program in a community centre, or offer online classes to adults.
Read about some reasons you should become a drama teacher.
Teaching Drama Abroad
Why not look outside Canada for teaching opportunities around the world? Teaching abroad is one of the most popular options for new graduates: it’s exciting to be in a new country, meet new people, and experience an entirely different culture. The question remains, are there a lot of international opportunities for drama teachers? What qualifications would you need?
In many cases, teachers are needed to teach English as it is a world language. In addition to a background in Drama, you may want to get your qualifications for teaching English as a Second Language (such as TESL, or TEFL certification) to diversify your teaching portfolio and be in demand. Of course, teaching drama can be used to teach English, so your skills as a drama teacher will surely come in handy.
In private schools in countries like South Korea, Dubai, China and Malaysia, you may need the appropriate teaching qualifications in your province, depending on what curriculum they are offering. As in a Canadian context, you would likely teach drama alongside other subjects if no standalone position is offered.
Check out your options and remember that even if you teach abroad, you can always come back home!