A Career as a Director
Sheila Tacheny

Career Overview

Directors are responsible for the artistic aspects of plays and scripts. They audition and select cast members. They direct the work of the cast and crew. They conduct rehearsals.

Directors must be knowledgeable about the use of voice, movement, and acting techniques. In rehearsals, they use their knowledge to achieve the best possible performances from actors. Directors make many artistic decisions about a production. For example, they usually approve scenery, costumes, and music. In addition, directors consult with technical directors, managers, and writers. They may edit scripts and other program material.

Career Skills and Interests


  • Speak so listeners understand the information.
  • Read and understand work-related materials.
  • Write so other people can understand.
  • Understand spoken information.

Reason and Problem Solve

  • Develop a number of possible solutions for problems.
  • Analyze ideas and use logic to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Judge the costs and benefits of a possible action.
  • Use reasoning to discover answers to problems.

Use Math and Science

  • Use math skills to solve problems.
  • Add, subtract, multiply, and divide quickly and correctly.

Manage Oneself, People, Time, and Things

  • Motivate, develop, and direct people as they work.
  • Check how well one is learning or doing something.
  • Manage the time of self and others.
  • Obtain needed equipment, facilities, and materials and oversee their use.

Work with People

  • Change behavior in relation to others’ actions.
  • Be aware of others’ reactions and understand the possible causes.
  • Solve problems by bringing others together to discuss differences.
  • Teach others how to do something.

Work with Things

  • Inspect and evaluate the quality of products.
  • Analyze needs and requirements when designing products.
  • Operate and control equipment.
  • Determine the tools and equipment needed to do a job.

Perceive and Visualize

  • Imagine how something will look if it is moved around or its parts are rearranged.
  • Quickly and accurately compare letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns.

Career Working Conditions

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Have a high level of job-required social contact. They work closely with directors, actors, and crew members.
  • Communicate with others by telephone, e-mail, and face-to-face discussions. They also write letters and memos, but prefer quicker means of contact.
  • Are responsible for the work outcomes and results of other workers.
  • Almost always work as part of a team of directors and assistants.

Physical Work Conditions

  • Often work indoors, but sometimes direct outdoor scenes or plays.
  • May travel to and from locations in a car, truck, or van.
  • May share work space with others.

Work Performance

  • Must be sure that all details are done and their work is exact. Errors could lose time and cost the production money.
  • Make decisions that affect their company and coworkers on a regular basis. They often make decisions without consulting a supervisor.
  • Set nearly all of their daily tasks and goals without consulting another first.
  • Must be aware of frequently changing events. This is particularly true for technical directors.


  • May work part time or full time. Schedules may change depending on the project.
  • May travel to other production locations.
  • May work long hours to complete projects.

Career Wages and Outlook

Earnings of directors vary greatly. Summer theaters offer pay, including "royalties" (based on the number of performances). Total pay ranges from $2,500 to $8,000 for a three- to four-week run of a production. Regional theaters may hire directors for longer periods of time. The highest paid stage directors work on Broadway productions. They commonly earn $100,000 plus royalties per show. Wages also vary for directors of films, from major studio productions to TV films and even commercials. The best known directors earn much more than the median wage.

Directors seldom earn benefits. In the field of theater, workers may receive benefits such as health insurance and a pension plan if they are a member of one of the unions, such as Equity or the Screen Actors Guild.

Directing is a medium sized field with moderate annual openings.

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agents and business managers

art directors

Programs of Study

Dramatic Arts

Career Program Overview

In dramatic arts programs, students learn:

  • Common themes of dramatic works
  • Different genres of dramatic literature, including Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, and modern dramas
  • Methods for producing and directing live or filmed theatrical productions
  • Fundamentals of acting, set design, sound, and lighting

In dramatic arts programs, students may be able to specialize in:

  • Acting
  • Directing films
  • Musical theater
  • Writing plays
  • Costume design
  • Stage management

Program Admission

Helpful preparation for this program includes active participation in school or community theater programs. Some schools may require you to audition and complete a personal interview as well. These requirements are generally for bachelor of fine arts degrees which emphasize dramatic arts performance and production. Below is a list of high school courses that will help prepare you for this program of study:

  • Directing
  • Drama, Acting and Performance
  • Stagecraft
  • Film and Videotape
  • History and Literature of the Theater
  • Playwriting
  • Public Speaking

Typical Coursework

Courses in this program may include:

  • Comparative Theater and Drama
  • Dialects
  • Directing Theory and Production
  • Dramatic Theory and Criticism
  • Fundamentals of Acting
  • Fundamentals of Scene Design
  • Lighting Design
  • Makeup and Costume
  • Scene Analysis
  • Screenwriting and Play-writing
  • Stagecraft
  • Survey of Dramatic Literature
  • Technical Theater
  • Theater History
  • Voice and Movement for the Stage

You may also have opportunities to participate in dramatic productions. In addition, both undergraduate and graduate programs sometimes incorporate internships and practicums into their curriculum. These allow you to apply your classroom knowledge to real-world applications of the dramatic arts. You also benefit from the guidance and direct supervision of one or more dramatic arts professionals.

Related Programs

Directing, theater production, and theater arts

Film studies

Performance arts

Theater design and technology

Voice and opera performance

Schools that Offer this Program

Minnesota State University, Mankato

University of Minnesota

St. Cloud State University

Winona State University

College Choice: Minnesota State University, Mankato

Size and Location: located in Mankato, MN, with a total undergraduate enrollment of 13,504

Admission Requirements: applicant should be in the top half of his or her class and earn a composite score of at least 21 on the ACT.

MSU's production of Les Mis


College Expenses: total of $15,842

Tuition and Fees: $7,574

Books and Supplies: $900

Room and Board: $7,368

Financial Aid and Scholarships

The application deadline for financial aid is March 15.

Financial aid includes loans, work study, scholarships, and need-based merit aid.

Some scholarships are awarded to students in specific majors. The Maverick Scholarship is awarded automatically to students who qualify based on class rank and ACT scores, and can be for either $1,000 or $2,500. It is a nonrenewable scholarship.


Students can choose from a variety of apartments or residence halls. These include Crawford, McElroy, Julia A. Sears, Margaret A. Preska, and Stadium Heights Apartments.

Meal plans vary based on how often the student wants to eat on campus, ranging from the Maverick 160 meal plan to the Maverick Anytime plan.

Clubs, Organizations, and Activities

MSU, Mankato is a large, diverse campus with too many activities to list. Students can join faith-based groups such as Christians on Campus. They can join organizations specific to their major or their interests. Students can also participate in Greek life and intramural sports, such as the alpine ski team, or the Mankato Cricket Club, to name just a few.

Informational Interview Summary

     I interviewed Abby Ireland about directing. She directs the St. Clair Cyclone theatre. I already knew some aspects of what her job is like from being in plays and seeing her direct, but it was interesting to talk to her and learn more about everything that goes into each show. Some parts of the job are both advantages and disadvantages. Directing involves a long hours, though you can decide when you work. A lot of time is spent on your own analyzing the script and making artistic decisions about it. You have to be very good at managing your own time, and working around the schedules of other people. The director is the one in charge of all things pertaining to the show, so it can be hard to work with non-artists, or people who have a conflicting idea of how the show should be. Around opening week of the play, most of your time is devoted to the show, and you don’t get to do much else. However, if you love theatre, it’s worth it. Her most important piece of advice was to go to college. It’s important to have something to fall back on if theatre doesn’t work out. In addition, it’s a career where you need to have technical skills. If you don’t know what you’re doing, the play isn’t going to be good. In theatre in general, it can be very difficult to get jobs. That was one reason I wanted to talk to a director of school plays, because I thought there might be more job security than in professional theatres. Overall, I learned a lot more about the career, and I’m still interested in it.

How I Plan to Reach my Career Goal

The best way to gain experience for directing is to participate in theater as much as possible. I've been in several plays and hope to continue doing that during my senior year. Another way to get behind-the-scenes experience is to be a stage manager, which I've also done. I might also look for the opportunity to direct a smaller show, such as a play for children. There are many areas of theater you can participate in, such as tech, acting, and working on the set and costumes. You can also audition for or work on shows at community theaters, such as Merely Players theater in Mankato. If I do go to MSU, Mankato, I'll have the opportunity to be in productions there.

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