Life skills you learn from drama

Drama teaches us more than stage presence and how to memorise lines. There are transferable skills for work and life.
Life skills you learn from drama

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On the surface it may appear that studying dra ma only has the potential to make you a good actor, screenwriter or director. But if ‘all the world's a stage’ as William Shakespeare declared, drama is the key to navigating our environment and developing valuable life skills.

By engaging your creativity and imagination, drama helps students find their voice and tune into their vulnerability, as well as tell stories through movement, write for performance and master the art of direction.

‘Students who study drama become more aware,’ explained Glen Hamilton, Head of Acting at the Academy of Film, Theatre and Television.

It’s not just about performance, but personal development. ‘Unlike other courses, drama doesn’t just equip you with knowledge and facts – it is training by immersion and experience.’

From screen and stage acting, to directing and cinematography, in the latest edition of our Essential Skills Series with AFTT, we explore the life skills you gain from studying drama.

Communication skills

One benefit of a course such as the Advanced Diploma of Stage and Screen Acting at AFTT is that students become better communicators.

Honing skills such voice projection, physical expression, and learning to portray ideas and themes through screenwriting and direction provides drama students with more confidence to communicate.

‘Many actors are naturally introverted, which people are often surprised to hear. In such cases, these people have deep and rich inner lives and imaginations but prior to their training, find it hard to express these parts of themselves. Acting gives them the confidence to be heard and to say what they feel, share their thoughts,’ said Hamilton.


Drama builds a student’s capacity for empathy by teaching them how to step into someone else’s shoes.

‘A good actor has to empathise in order to fulfil a role, and empathy is a skill that feeds into all areas of life. It makes better listeners, leaders and collaborators,’ said Hamilton. Similarly, studies have found reading and writing enhances our ability to detect and understand other people's emotions. Learning how to tell a story through courses such as the Advanced Diploma of Screen & Media: Screenwriting, Directing & Producing also enables students to understand different perspectives.

Mind and body connection

Through attention and practice, drama students learn to better understand how their body reflects emotions. This heightened emotional range helps students overcome the many obstacles people face in expressing themselves.

‘Over time we become blocked and we sensor more of what we feel and say. The “Eric Morris” system exercises – one of our main acting techniques embedded within our qualifications and the only one of its kind in Australia – work to open up the actors’ connection to their emotions by acknowledging every feeling and impulse they experience moment to moment,’ said Hamilton.

Transferable skills

While studying drama can help advance your career in a specialised field such as acting, the vast set of skills accumulated are transferable to a diversity of disciplines and industries.

As an example, graduates from the Advanced Diploma of Cinematography can pursue careers in contemporary film, television and digital media industry due to the general emphasis on storytelling, which is essential in today’s connection economy.

Acting also provides the building blocks for varied careers. ‘Some of our graduates have developed careers in other areas, where the skills they acquired through acting training have benefited their new career,’ said Hamilton.

‘The understanding of actors’ process and the storytelling function of theatre and film has helped many graduates develop careers as directors.’

Drama is inextricably linked to our everyday lives – and invaluable to our professional and personal development by preparing us for the world’s stage.

The Essential Skills Series is brought to you in partnership with the Academy of Film, Theatre and Television.

Brooke Boland

Monday 9 May, 2016

About the author

Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW. She has a PhD in literature from the University of NSW. You can find her on Instagram @southcoastwriter.