Arts Leadership

Master of Science – Curriculum

The Master of Science in Arts Leadership is a two-semester degree program empowering creative leaders through intensive classroom study and cutting-edge field work. The program incorporates five core components, as follows.

The first component is the Arts Leadership Intensive, a one-week August course in which students begin to explore the fundamental concepts of arts leadership, including personal awareness, innovative organizational design, external environmental change, diversity, equity and inclusion, curatorial thinking and community engagement.

Second are the program’s core courses, which include the following:

  • Arts Leadership and Arts Entrepreneurship, a gateway course introducing students to the varied, complex and contentious issues that shape leadership in the contemporary arts world
  • Executive Leadership in the Arts, which focuses on a deep understanding and application of the challenges of executive leadership in the arts
  • Issues in the Arts and the Contemporary World, which looks at major environmental trends affecting the arts and how those impact leadership in the field
  • Arts Organizations: Innovation and New Models, which considers alternative organizational structures and methodologies
  • Arts and the Community: Current Practice and New Visions, which examines many dimensions of the relationship between communities and the arts.

The third component is field experience, which recognizes the need for engagement outside the classroom, acknowledges the breadth and depth of arts leadership in the Los Angeles area, and promotes engagement with arts leaders, organizations and activities. The three course options are:

  • Internship in Music, in which students select an organization, in Los Angeles or elsewhere, with which they will work to acquire relevant, real-world experience
  • Essentials of Orchestra Management, a ten-day summer program co-produced with the League of American Orchestras
  • Directed Research, which enables students to conduct a Directed Research project that explores some aspect of the field that is of interest to them.

The fourth component is a practicum, in which the student will undertake a specific, real world project of his/her own devising, in conjunction with their coursework. The project, which is subject to faculty approval, will center around a complex leadership challenge that has resonance with the student’s unique background or creative interests and for the field of arts leadership.

Elective concentration courses make up the fifth and final component of the degree. Drawing from the extensive course offerings at USC, students will consult with the program director to focus on an area of elective concentration that is relevant to their individual interests.

Refer to the USC Catalogue for complete course descriptions and degree requirements.


  • The program details described above are subject to change. Actual degree requirements for a given academic year may differ from what is listed here.
  • See the Thornton Admission page for specific application information.
  • Current students should refer to the specific requirements list for their major, which is available through the Thornton Student Affairs office.