The 10 Best Acting Schools in the World

Students looking to embark on a career as a professional actor should consider enrolling in an acting school where they can study the performing arts alongside experienced professors and other young actors. 

Thankfully, many schools in both the United States and England offer degree programs in professional acting for the aspiring performer. 

But how do prospective students sort through the wide variety of options when it comes to choosing an acting school? 

If hopeful students are looking to pursue a career in theater, screen, or voice-over acting, the following list of renowned colleges and universities can jumpstart any acting career.  

The education available to students through these acting schools will not only help them become better actors, but will give them opportunities to build relationships with other aspiring actors, as well as network with those who have experience working in the field of acting and the performing arts. 

Many great actors start their careers by enrolling in acting school. By following their lead, students can have the opportunity to learn from outstanding teachers, all while honing their skills as accomplished actors.

Because acting schools build upon the natural talent of their students, budding actors need to pay careful attention to the differences between acting programs, what they offer and require, and how they will shape students into professional actors. 

Here are 10 of the best acting schools in the world!

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (London, EN)

Located in central London and founded over 100 years ago, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) is one of the oldest and most respected acting schools in the UK. 

Offering programs in television, film, radio, and theater, this academy has the history and renown for those looking to build up their acting chops in the vibrant and exciting London acting scene. 

The RADA houses five theaters for live performance, and one movie theater, giving students ample opportunity to showcase their budding acting skills for intelligent and sophisticated London audiences. The RADA also gives students endless options for collaborating with other actors on inspiring and challenging performances. 

RADA might be the perfect fit if students are looking for opportunities to perform for the Royal Family. 

Queen Elizabeth II is the Royal Patron of RADA, and Diana, Princess of Wales, was the school’s president from 1989-1997. Other alumni of note are Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, and Vivian Leigh. 

RADA might be perfect if students are looking for the quintessential London acting school experience. The application process is rigorous, in line with other prestigious acting schools, and it spans multiple auditions over several months. 

This gives students the chance to be selected for one of the less than one-hundred admission spots available each year.

Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)

Housed in the school’s Communications Department, Northwestern University offers undergraduate degrees in performance studies, theater, and dance. 

Regularly ranked as one of the top-performing arts programs in the US, the drama programs at Northwestern University are chock-full of special performance incubators and workshops revolving around theater, dance, playwriting, and music performance.

Northwestern University is located just on the northern edge of Chicago, one of the most innovative theater performance cities in North America, giving students extraordinary access to that world-class city’s stellar acting and performing arts community. 

Notable alumni include David Schwimmer, Stephen Colbert, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. 

Students looking to hone their acting, directing, or playwriting experience in a picturesque campus setting just outside of one of the world’s largest and most diverse cities should give Northwestern University a good look.

USC School of Dramatic Arts (Los Angeles, CA)

If studying acting near the epicenter of the Hollywood film industry is a dream for you as a student, then look no further than the USC School of Dramatic Arts in LA. 

Regularly ranked as one of the best acting schools in the country, the USC School of Dramatic Arts is a private drama school that can jumpstart your career in stage performance, acting of all kinds, stage management, technical direction, and sound design. 

Founded in 1945, this school puts on over 20 productions annually in their four state-of-the-art performing venues, giving all students ample opportunities to learn and grow as artists in their preferred discipline.

Notable alumni include John Ritter, Leigh Allyn Baker, and LeVar Burton. 

UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television (Los Angeles, CA)

UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Suppose students want to study in the LA area, are looking for a school with high admissions standards, and desire an institution with historic industry credibility. 

In that case, the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television is the cream of the crop. 

Founded in 1947, this school was the first to house the study of theater, film, and television all under one department. That trailblazing ethos is still going strong today. 

The UCLA Film & Television Archive at the school is second in size only to the Library of Congress. 

That means those who choose to enroll here have access to the largest collection of films and television shows on the planet. Students can choose to study acting, writing, directing, and several other performance-based majors. 

For students desiring to earn a Master’s Degree after their undergraduate efforts, the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television has one of the top Acting Master’s programs globally. 

With renowned stages such as the Billy Wilder Theater and the Geffen Playhouse, students will give performances on some of the most storied stages in the country.

Notable alumni include Carol Brunett, Jack Black, Nancy Cartwright, and Francis Ford Coppola, among many others. 

The David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Yale University David Geffen School of Drama
John Phelan, University Theatre, Yale School of Drama, New Haven CT, CC BY-SA 3.0

Students wanting to study a variety of acting and performing fields should look into this impressive Ivy League school. 

Founded in 1924, the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University is one of the most prestigious, and selective, acting schools in the world. The school enrolls only several dozen students each year, making it the place to be for the best and brightest aspiring actors. 

In 2021 the school was endowed with a 150 million dollar gift from billionaire David Geffen, making it entirely tuition-free for those offered a spot. 

If students want to study directing, writing, dance, or any other performance art in addition to acting, this school in New Haven, Connecticut, is a fantastic place to hone your craft and rub shoulders with the best young actors of your generation.

Notable alumni are nearly too numberable to mention, but include Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Henry Winkler, and Lupita Nyong’o. 

East 15 Acting School (Essex, EN)

As the top-ranked school of drama in the UK, according to the Guardian, East 15 Acting School is a fabulous university option for students wanting a British acting education just outside of London. 

East 15 Acting School trains students in acting, directing, stage design, and technical design, all for stages with global acclaim. 

Boasting a distinguished staff of international acting instructors, East 15 Acting School will give students opportunities to learn from some of the best acting teachers in the world.

With fewer than 1000 students at the time of publication, this school is large enough to put on significant and original performances while small enough to have an intimate feel to classes and workshops.

Notable alumni include Arsher Ali, Alan Ford, and Elizabeth Henstridge, among many others.

NYU Tisch School of the Arts (New York, NY)

If working on Broadway is a goal, then students should get serious about attending the NYU Tisch School of the Arts in New York City. 

Founded in 1965, Tisch (as it is commonly called) is a hub for aspiring actors, writers, and stage performers of all varieties. Having New York City as the backdrop to your educational experience is simply icing on the cake. 

In 2016 Tisch had more active alumni working on Broadway than any other acting school, so if students want to find their way into a Broadway career, there is perhaps no better school to build your skills and make connections than this one right here.

Notable alumni include household names like Angelina Jolie, Joel Coen, Spike Lee, Alec Baldwin, Ang Lee, Martin Scorcese, and Whoopie Goldberg.

London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (London, EN)

London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts
Surplus London Photos, London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded in 1861, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art is the oldest school of its kind in the UK. 

Located in the Hammersmith district of West London, this academy offers serious aspiring student actors opportunities to study speech, drama, communication, and performance in a storied setting along with some of the best and brightest young actors in the world.

The academy houses three performance theaters, along with numerous spaces for workshops. 

With the current president of the Board of Trustees being Benedict Cumberbatch, you can rest assured this academy is a rigorous house of education for aspiring and ambitious young actors.

Notable alumni include the aforementioned Cumberbatch, David Oyelowo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Ruth Wilson.

The Juilliard School (New York, NY)

One of the premier performing arts schools in all of the US, The Juilliard School offers a rigorous and prestigious education environment for ambitious and hard-working young actors. 

Offering degree programs in drama, music, and dance, Juilliard is highly selective in its admission process, including an in-person audition for all students.

Founded in 1905, Juilliard is located in the heart of Manhattan, in New York City. Being situated in a world-class city like New York, Jullianrd offers students an entry into the critical performing arts industry. 

Students can even pursue a dual degree program through Juilliard and Columbia University, graduating from both institutions.

Carnegie-Mellon School of Drama (Pittsburgh, PA)

Boasting one of the top-rated performing arts programs globally, the Carnegie-Mellon School of Drama is unique among its peer schools for its history, caliber of education, and setting. 

Students can enjoy three state-of-the-art performance theaters, including the John Wells Video Studio, a sound studio designed for television productions, and dozens of other performances venues. 

Students can study acting performance, along with every other area of dramatic performance, including stage design, writing, and directring. 

Students can also participate in a unique study abroad program, learning in another country with other performance majors worldwide.

Notable alumni include Holly Hunter, Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Josh Gad.