MFA programs at UMass Amherst require a minimum of 60 credits for graduation, and normally take three years in residence to complete.
The program begins with a first year designed to create community and a shared language. In Group Studio, students create an original performance drawing upon their collective experience and imagination. First-year students also take Text Analysis, which examines play texts as structures that imply potential productions. First-year students also participate in production through the studios and workshops in their areas of specialty. In their first or second years, all students also take the two-semester World Repertory sequence, a case-study approach to theater history.
In the second and third years, students focus more closely on their MFA program area. Depending on their interests, students may also take advantage of the academic resources of UMass as a whole and the other institutions in the Five College Consortium. All programs culminate in a third-year thesis project. Most students complete an intensive internship in their second or third years.
Graduate students are full participants in the Department of Theater production season, working collaboratively under the guidance of faculty artists. In an average year, the Department of Theater presents five to seven fully mounted main stage productions. It also hosts a number of other co-productions and special events. Additionally, there are numerous occasions for studio and lab work, many of them through the Cabaret 204 series.
There are also numerous opportunities outside the academic course of study. Students in the design program sometimes assist faculty designers with their professional commitments.