Michigan State University’s Department of Theatre offers an MFA in Design which prepares professional designers as well as future academicians. An interview is required for acceptance into the program. No GRE required.

MFA candidates in Design with an emphasis in scenery, costume, lighting, sound or integrated media design receive personally tailored instruction in a well-rounded theatre context which includes courses in the theory and history of design, as well as a carefully developed program of practical training, put together under professional guidance with the student’s career goals in mind. Small design classes assure a high degree of one-on-one critique to projects and coursework, and the position within a large university enriches the opportunities available from other departments and disciplines. Art history, literature, music, interior design, textiles, communications, digital media, and technology represent some of the topics one may choose. The Department’s digital design lab, lighting lab and audio/visual studio provide the necessary design and production software to allow familiarization with many of the most common professional practices in the industry.

MFA candidates develop portfolios by accepting a minimum of six design or technical assignments for fully realized departmental productions as members of the production team.

Students interested in careers in academic theatre may teach introductory classes in their specialty. From time to time, visiting design professionals augment the design curriculum and provide further opportunities to learn from some of the best in the business.

Department of Theatre Recruitment Brochure (PDF)


A total of 60 credits are required with class offerings as follows:

Design Core (32 credits)
THR 818 – Design Studio
THR 819 – Applied Design Studio
THR 811 – Practicum: Production Design and Technology
THR 894 – Special Projects in Theatre Three of the following:
THR 411 – Stage Lighting Design
THR 412 – Stage Costume Design
THR 414 – Stage Scene DesignTHR 416 – Audio and Visual Technology
THR 419 – Digital Design for Theatre

Academic Core (17 credits)
THR 813 – Period Resources and Research
THR 830 – Introduction to Graduate Studies
THR 831 – Studies in Theatre History
THR 832 – Comparative Drama and Criticism
THR 834 – Professional Aspects
THR 870 – Collaborative Studio in Theatre

Electives (11 Credits)

Assistantship Information

We are CURRENTLY accepting applications for the MFA in Design for the 2021-2022 Academic Year.

Each year the Department of Theatre sets aside a number of Graduate Assistantships for entering MFA students. In the current academic year, graduate assistants received a total financial package of at least $26,867 for a level 1, ½-time assistantship. This package includes a full tuition waiver (up to the 60 credits required) as well as the following benefits:

  • Medical and Dental Insurance
  • Annual Stipend of $15,00-15,500
  • Summer Support Fellowship (guaranteed one-time award) of $5,000 connected to working in our professional summer theatre
  • Travel Award (based on national presentation) of up to $1,000/year
  • A minimum of six design or production credits on departmental shows
  • MFA designers will have the chance to teach several classes while at MSU including our Introduction to Technical Theatre class, Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities, master classes/lectures in design classes based on your expertise, and laboratory mentorship of undergraduate students
  • Each semester you take two design or technical classes and one theatre studies course
  • Access to our Equity partner, Williamston Theatre, a 2014 American Theatre Wing National Theatre Company

College, University, and Departmental Fellowships are also available. Students recruited with assistantships may expect three years of support so long as they make satisfactory progress in their studies.