A stage manager's job changes with the theater and the phase of a production. Stage managers manage the props, costuming and other aspects of a production, from inception to the performance. The selection of recommended schools relied on the “U.S. News and World Report” ranking of the top fine arts schools, insights from the Stage Managers Association, and an examination of the university's offerings in stage or theater management. Top schools offer expanded training and networking opportunities with the prestige of a top-ranked fine arts school.

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh offers programs in production and technology management leading to the bachelor's or the master's, with prerequisite theater experience. Ranked first by U.S. News, the School of Drama is the oldest degree-granting drama school in the nation, with notable alumni, including Academy, Emmy and Tony award-holders. The undergraduate stage management program covers all aspects of stage management from basic design to scene fabrication to costume management. Students face demanding tasks in creative thinking, taking on the task of running a commercial scene shop and learning “on the job.” The graduate option is a three-year program that explores current practice and innovative creative technology. It requires management of multiple productions and a capstone thesis project.

California Institute of the Arts

The California Institute of the Arts in Valencia offers a specialization in stage management leading to the bachelor of fine arts or the master of fine arts degree. Ranked second by U.S. News, the School of Theater provides artistic support from multiple disciplines, with a faculty of accomplished artists, and a focus on a low student-to-faculty ratio that allows one-on-one mentoring. The school's focus is on building production experience through collaborative projects, while providing access to a network of professionals, domestic and international. Students in the stage management programs learn to function in the collaborative atmosphere as they build communication skills, organization, stage management-specific skills and an historical foundation in theatrical arts.

University of San Diego

The University of San Diego provides a stage management option leading to the master of fine arts degree. The Division of Arts and Humanities includes notable faculty with numerous awards. The Department of Theater and Dance was ranked seventh by U.S. News. The program in stage management blends practice and theory, as students learn how to set goals and organize, while cultivating creative collaboration. Students are expected to blend coursework with active theatrical productions as they develop teamwork skills. Students also have the opportunity to include special topics, such as nonprofit productions, commercial theater, opera and directing.

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California in Los Angeles offers a stage management program leading to the bachelor of fine arts degree. The School of Dramatic Arts produces more than 20 shows annually in five theaters, and was ranked eighth by U.S. News. The program uses the conservatory approach, blending practical experience with coursework. Students explore skills learned in the classroom by using them in production assignments in the first year of the program, under the tutelage of professional designers and theater technicians. The program develops a general understanding of all areas of production, such as communication and organizational skills, artistic staff relationships, artistic collaboration and technical details, such as ground plans and computer software.