I'm not an actor, but as someone who works with actors all the time (in addition to writing plays, I just directed my first short film last weekend) and lives at ground zero for the film industry, I thought I'd weigh in.
As others have said, you need to pick the best school for you. Here in LA, we have UCLA, which has a BA program, whereas USC and Cal Arts offer a BFA. Then, there are straight up conservatories like AMDA and AADA (I live right across the street from them), which personally I wouldn't put in the same tier as the other three. (Of course, there are many others, many with very respectable programs.)
Charlie has laid things out nicely, and there's no need to reinvent the wheel. But I will add a few things:
I've never particularly cared, when casting, whether an actor has a BA or a BFA, though I do look at what school he went to. Maybe that's just the snob in me, but when it comes to resumes, I do want to see what training an actor has and who she's worked with--to see if we have a mutual acquaintance. If she says USC, for example, I may shoot off a quick email to one of my USC friends to see what I can learn.
Acting requires drawing from a base of life experience and knowledge, so the fear many of us have with a strictly conservatory style program is that you will be very well trained technically, but you won't have enough of a base from which to act. So if you go to a conservatory, I want to know what you've done to round out your training with the real world. (Which is why, if you put a gun to my head and told me to choose, I'd say BA or BFA before conservatory.)
As Ginny noted, your degree may open some doors, but as time goes on, your other experience is going to become relatively more relevant. And, as one accomplished writer/director friend has noted time and again, he's never gotten a single job of consequence in this business that wasn't through a personal connection. For example, one of the actors we used in the film I directed was a guy I saw in a play a few years ago. I remembered how wonderful his performance was, emailed the director, who's an acquaintance of mine--and soon after, we cast him.
So whatever you choose, if you want to act, polish your craft in whatever program best suits you, but then make sure that you learn how to function in the business, because whether it's acting, directing, writing or anything else, understanding what it takes to be a working professional--which is something they too often don't teach in school--will ultimately make the difference.
And one final thing to note. Most of the actors here in LA are in somebody's class, a way of maintaining their chops and continuing to explore and develop as actors, so it's not as if you have to pick one school, get your degree/certificate and then stop. There are always ways to continue...
Playwright/ Co-founder of YouthPLAYS/ Co-chair of The Alliance Of Los Angeles Playwrights
Los Angeles CA
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