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May 27, 2021
Performing Arts

Do you really need a QUALIFICATION in Performing Arts?

Do you really need a diploma in performing arts?

So you’ve always dreamt of pursuing aprofessional career as a performer and now you’re looking into options to studydiploma in performing artsand dance but probably wondering …   


We all know that pursuing a career in the entertainment industry is about the skills you acquire and the level of talent you demonstrate in an audition room, right? Isn’t it just about how well you can sing, dance and act? So, who really cares about a ‘piece of paper’ or a diploma in performing arts anyway?

Well … this argument is a not as simple as you might expect. The truth is there is actually no easy, cut-and-dried answer as it will depend very much on your future individual goals! The real question you need to ask yourself is what you wish to achieve in the future OUTSIDE of the audition room or beyond just the stage.  

Think about this for a second: Do you only ever want to perform or do you want to perhaps explore other career options in the future? Would you ever consider emigrating? How about studying further one day? Could you see yourself ever expanding into education as a teacher or lecturer? These are some of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself. 

But first, let’s just make it clear that when you walk into an audition room hoping to land your dream role – the audition panel is NOT usually interested in what level of qualification you’ve achieved and directors, producers and choreographers will most likely never ask to see your degree or diploma. What matters to them is whether you have the proper training and industry preparation from a legitimate institution as well as the skills and talent to deliver an exceptional performance! 

WITH THAT BEING SAID …… it’s important to remember that as a growing and evolving being with multiple interests and talents – you may want to diversify your skills and career path in the future.  

For this reason, there are some important considerations you should keep in mind when considering a formal qualification versus only skills training. 

1) Do you think you might want to emigrate one day?


Formal qualifications matter when being considered for work-travel opportunities or emigration!

Emigration is a highly complex process so we’re not going to go into all the legalities here but what you need to know is that many EU and OECD countries favour qualified immigrants and many countries work on a points (or merit) based system when considering immigration applications.


This means that applicants must meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points. The more points you have, the better your chances of being accepted. Points are awarded for various criteria including age, language skills, income and - you guessed it - educational qualifications! One way of making sure you get those valuable points, is by making sure you have a formal tertiary qualification that is recognised and accredited.


2) Would you like the option of possibly expanding into other sectors of the entertainment industry in the future?  

As an evolving being with diverse skills and talents you might want to expand into other creative (or corporate) fields at some stage in your life. Leadership, management, research and other desired positions do usually require formal, tertiary qualifications even within the performing arts sector.

Global opportunities to work abroad also become more accessible with a legitimate qualification and many graduates may find that they are able to work abroad and gain further skill, which can then be used back home or to travel further.

There are a number of acclaimed singers, dancers and actors who forged successful careers as professional performers and have since also branched out into various other roles such as festival curators, artistic directors, theatre CEO’s etc. The application criteria for such positions within the arts usually require a formal qualification.

Plus, it’s no secret that those with higher qualifications often have higher potential earnings within business/corporate environments. 

3) Do you enjoy intellectual stimulation? Would you ever want to study further or pursue a career in academia? 

Do you love academic study? No matter how good your training, if you don’t have an accredited diploma/degree with the relevant credits – you will most likely not receive any recognition for your training on an academic level and will be required to start your studies from the very beginning– even if this involves repeating much of the work you may have already covered.

If, however, you do have a recognised qualification, you may receive recognition for the credits you have already completed (within the same/similar field of study) and be able to progress onto the next NQF level without having to start at the very beginning.

Here’s a breakdown to help you understand the NQF levels and what they represent:

In other words, the NQF levels work in a progressive manner which means you can’t simply ‘skip’ a stage. So if you successfully complete an NQF Level 6 diploma – chances are you should be able to receive the necessary RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) in order to progress directly to an NQF Level 7 Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Diploma BUT … if you do not have a recognised diploma (regardless of your training) you will most likely be required to first complete an NQF Level 5 and 6 before moving on to any of the other qualifications.

Having an accredited qualification after completing your training allows you the option to pursue further tertiary qualifications if you decide to ever do so. 

4) Will you be getting the most ‘BANG FOR YOUR BUCK’? 

Quality performing arts training is expensive. Period.

Personalised, one-on-one classes are essential in developing the unique skills and talents of each individual student and this requires a low student to lecturer ratio - unlike massive institutions where hundreds of students sit in huge lecture halls while being addressed by just one lecturer.

Furthermore, ensuring that students receive real-world performance/production experiences requires the hiring, contracting and paying of theatre venue hire, designers, costume and set contraction, performance rights, and honorariums for professional directors, choreographers, musical directors etc.  

All of these are factors that understandably have a significant impact on the tuition costs.

However, it is interesting to note that some performing arts programmes/courses that offer musical theatre training without any formal or recognised qualifications still charge the same (or higher) tuition fees than those who do offer an accredited diploma qualification in musical theatre.

In these cases you need to ask yourself: if the duration of the course is the same, would it not make sense to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ and register with an institution that provides quality performing arts training AND offers an accredited diploma in performing arts - for THE SAME COST as one that doesn’t?

Sounds like a no-brainer. You’re already paying for your tuition, so you might as well get a legit diploma at the end of it! Not so?

So what happens if you decide you DO want to pursue formal performing arts training?  

How do you find a legitimate institution that will provide you with an accredited musical theatre qualification?  

Here’s what you should know …… 

Make sure the institution is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.   

  • Any institution offering a full-time, one year training course (or longer) with 120 credits (or more) should be registered (or provisionally registered) with the Department of Higher Education and Training, under the Higher Education Act, 1997.  

- The institution should be able to provide you with the correct registration certificate number or you can head over to the Department of Education website to see whether the college is listed there.

Check that the institution is also registered with an official accrediting body such as the Council on higher education (CHE).  

  • Any nationally recognised qualifications being offered on the National Qualifications Framework Levels 5 and upwards must be accredited by the CHE and aligned with the NQF.

- This can be traced by the institution’s accreditation number and SAQA ID. You can find this information on the SAQA website 

Also, remember that institutions that are formally registered with the various departments are legally bound to adhere to specific guidelines and standards which hold them accountable. Thus you have a better guarantee that the standard of training is continually monitored and there is official ‘quality control’ of the course you have enrolled for.   

Be cautious of institutions that claim to offer ‘international qualifications’ 

This is a term that is regularly exploited for marketing purposes by some institutions – when in fact the phrase:  ‘internationally recognised’ should be used with extreme care as it implies that there is one, universal qualification that is accepted by all institutions world-wide. This is misleading.  

For example, in the decentralised system of education found in the United States there is no standard admissions policy; each college determines its own. 

The truth is, that each institution (both locally and abroad) has its own unique set of conditions and syllabi and may base their acceptance of a student based ONLY on their specific criteria - despite the level of qualification or the NQF credits received. While it is possible to receive credits for recognised qualifications, it is NEVER a given, so always be cautious of such claims.

ALWAYS do thorough fact checking and investigations before enrolling at any institution that promises diplomas, degrees or any qualifications.

Investigate what institutions mean when they advertise degree/diploma ‘equivalents’.   

Some institutions claim to offer ‘diplomas’ or ‘degrees’ through various organisations such as RAD, School of Rock, Trinity, Checchetti etc.  

While many of these organisations can provide excellent instruction it is important to understand that these groups are independent examination boards, societies, franchises or councils. They are NOT universities or educational institutions.

Claiming that a specific level/exam is a ‘degree equivalent’ may simply mean that it requires the same standard of work or effort level for a degree of the same nature and that the demands of the course are similar to those of a degree … but it does NOT necessarily mean that it IS a degree, recognised and accredited as a formal qualification at legitimate universities, colleges or institutions. It also does not guarantee that it will be accepted in the formal sector for work applications. 

While many of these independent bodies do have branches indifferent cities/countries and potentially offer opportunities abroad, these opportunities will usually only be within the same organisation.  

Here’s an example: if you have completed your teacher training through Dancecor, you will be qualified to teach their methods oft raining and put students through the graded exams within the Dancecor syllabus but you would not be allowed to register as a RAD or Checchetti teacher as your training would be specific to Dancecor only. 

Furthermore, having a teacher’s qualification from an independent body does not automatically qualify you to teach at local schools or tertiary colleges/universities unless you have a Bachelor of Education degree (B.Ed.) or a Bachelor’s degree, with a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) following which you will need to register with the South African Council for Educators before you can be appointed to a teaching post.

At Oakfields College we support and facilitate additional, external qualifications through independent organisations for those interested in teaching.

Of course, we’re by no means saying that there is no value in completing various levels/exams with these independent bodies. In fact, if you are particularly interested in opening your own studio someday and teaching a specific syllabus we would highly recommend that you DO affiliate with an organisation and examining body. 

We are merely pointing out that these teaching diplomas do not usually qualify you to teach anything other than an extra-curricular syllabus.


In fact, at Oakfields College we support and facilitate additional, external qualifications through independent organisations as an optional add-on for those who are interested in studio teaching but we do emphasise that the priority remains the students’ formal training towards their performing arts diploma.

So, back to the original question: DO YOU NEED A DIPLOMA IN MUSICAL THEATRE AND DANCE? 

No. IF you already know that the only thing you ever want todo is sing, dance and act and that your career will be a fruitful one and you don’t need any other alternative possibilities – then a diploma or degree is certainly not essential. HOWEVER – IF you want to embrace the possibility of expanding your work, study and travel opportunities in the future then we’d recommend at least taking a deeper look into your tertiary options for formal qualifications within the performing arts. 


Looking to study performing arts at a registered tertiary INSTITUTION to receive an accredited Musical Theatre and Dance diploma?

Surprise! Surprise! We just happen to know of the perfect place where you can …

  • receive practical, skills-based training
  • cover all three performance disciplines: singing, dancing and acting
  • take part in an array of additional practical courses to diversify your skills
  • learn from lecturers who are all practising professionals
  • receive assistance with launching your performance career
  • AND receive a fully accredited diploma in musical theatre

Oakfields College is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training as a private higher education institution under the Higher Education Act, 1997.

Students will receive an accredited Diploma in Performing Arts (NQF Level 6 SAQA ID 93882), subsequent to them completing the full three year course.


Oakfields College, as an institution, is also registered with the MICT Seta (ACC/2012/07/598) and the CATHSSETA (MAPP 7552/613/P/000213/2012). MICT Seta and CATHSSETA are the SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) registered ETQAs (Educational and Training Quality Assuring bodies) for the Arts and Culture sector.


Contact us for dates and information about our next auditions!

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