10 Best Musical Theater Colleges, According to Actual Broadway Casting Data

pie chart of the best musical theater colleges

It’s time — you’re ready to head to college, major in musical theater, and start auditioning your way to Broadway. Then, reality hits: before you can do any of that, you have to pick from the best musical theater colleges.

There are plenty of ways to judge college musical theater programs: rankings, class size, and faculty are three common metrics. If your goal is to be on Broadway, however, there’s only one measure of success — casting. 

Here at Theater Love, we wanted to know — what college theater programs give you the best chance of getting cast in a Broadway musical? To find out, we conducted a study of 18 different Broadway musicals. We pulled cast lists, researched the educational background of each principal and ensemble member, and compiled the results.

What is the best musical theater college?

According to Broadway casting statistics, the University of Michigan has the best musical theater program in the United States; graduates make up 6% of the actors in Broadway musicals. New York University (NYU) is a close second with 5.7%. 

If you’re a theater fan, that probably comes as no surprise; some of the best-known performers on Broadway graduated from the University of Michigan. 

  • Celia Keenan-Bolger
  • Ashley Park
  • Erika Henningsen
  • Taylor Louderman
  • Samantha Massell
  • Hunter Foster
  • Andrew Keenan-Bolger

Obviously, 6% is nowhere near a majority — there are plenty of colleges represented in Broadway casts. In our study, cast members came from more than 100 different universities. That’s great news for students — it means that you can find success on Broadway no matter where you go to school.

Top 10 Musical Theatre Colleges

The University of Michigan and NYU have the best college musical theater programs, but they’re just two options. In our study of Broadway casting data, the top musical theater colleges are:

Pie chart showing the top 10 college musical theater programs

1. University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan

2. New York University

New York, New York

3. College Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio

4. Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

5. Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Boston, Massachusetts

6. Oklahoma City University

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

7. Pace University

New York City, New York

8. The Juilliard School

New York City, New York

9. Marymount Manhattan College

New York City, New York

10. The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA)

New York City, New York

Is going to college for musical theater worth it?

For the vast majority of students, it’s worthwhile to go to college for musical theater — according to our study, 94.83% of actors in Broadway musicals have a college degree. Just 5.17% made it to Broadway with no college degree!

Pie chart showing how many Broadway stars went to college

It’s even more important to go to college if you want to play leading roles. Of the actors that play named characters in Broadway musicals, 97% have college degrees. Among ensemble members 93.5% went to college; 6.5% did not.

What colleges did Broadway stars go to?

Are you wondering what are the best universities for musical theater? It’s helpful to look into the colleges attended by people who are working in New York City theater. Broadway stars go to a wide variety of colleges. Some of the most-represented colleges in Broadway musicals are:

  • University of Michigan
  • New York University
  • College Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Boston Conservatory at Berklee
  • Oklahoma City University
  • Pace University
  • The Juilliard School
  • Marymount Manhattan College
  • The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA)
  • Syracuse University
  • Northwestern University
  • Fordham University
  • Baldwin Wallace University
  • Brigham Young University
  • Point Park University
  • Boston University
  • Emerson College
  • James Madison University
  • SUNY Purchase
  • Brown University
  • Ithaca College
  • Otterbein University
  • University of Miami
  • Wayne State University
  • Yale University

Is Juilliard good for musical theater?

Juilliard is among the best colleges for musical theater, according to Broadway casting statistics. In our study, it ranks #8.

Does Juilliard have a musical theater program?

Juilliard does not have a dedicated musical theater program, but the acting program includes extensive training in singing and dance.

infographic about the best colleges for musical theater
The best colleges for musical theater!

Real-World Statistics on the Best Musical Theatre Colleges

How did we gather data for our study? Here are the rules we used:

Just Broadway musicals – We collected college statistics from musicals alone; since we’re researching the best musical theater programs, this gives us the most direct correlation. This data comes from the casts of 18 different Broadway musicals in a range of styles.

Recent casting data – To capture the most current trends, his data is restricted to musicals that performed on Broadway for the five years between 2016 and 2020.

Principals and ensemble – Data is separated by named characters (principals and featured) and ensemble (which includes swings and understudies). In total, we collected college data from 348 Broadway actors — 133 named characters and 215 ensemble members.