Lighting Design

Lighting Design, part of the Live Design and Production program at The University of Texas at Austin, includes mastery of both traditional and modern techniques as applicable to design for new work, narrative design, entertainment design, game design, installation and environmental design. Strong emphasis is placed upon research analysis, performance theory and the interpretation of story, character, space, place and time. All students are encouraged to generate original work through an experimental performance approach. Drawing, rendering, drafting, color study, pre-visualization and visual communication, both in conventional and digital study formats, are central components of the program.

The Lighting Design program aims to develop student's artistry, leadership and entrepreneurial skill while providing a foundational knowledge of skills and technological tools to serve tomorrow's storytellers in the theatre and makers of works across a variety of other creative spaces including opera, film, television, art installation, exhibit design, theme park and retail space.

We consider Lighting Design to be an area of work and study that is in conversation with all other disciplines throughout The University of Texas at Austin's graduate program. The M.F.A. in Theatre with a specialization in live design is a three-year, 60 hour course of study consisting of four components: the design studio, skill-building, realized productions and critical thinking/writing, culminating in a unique thesis of the student's own invention. Two candidates per discipline are admitted each year to a program of 30 students - a small group within the large department.


In addition to The University of Texas at Austin's Graduate School requirements, we require that students submit a portfolio of work online or by mail for review. 

Students must arrive proficient and/or complete a course in the fundamentals of Vectorworks and/or AutoCAD before the second semester begins. This requirement may be satisfied on-campus if the student is not fluent in Vectorworks before arriving.

Students must own a laptop computer with a required suite of software and a removable USB drive of at least 100 GB.


Equipment, software and hardware are ever-evolving in this field of work and as such, suitable skill-training remains flexible and caters towards the student’s area of interest. However, every student is currently introduced to Lightwright, Vectorworks Design with Renderworks and the Adobe Creative Suite. Other software used may include AutoCAD and additional digital pre-visualization and programming tools.

Conference and Internship Opportunities

The program is primarily completed on campus, although we do encourage travel and participation for professional and cultural education. The Prague Quadrennial, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), LDInstitute (LDI), design assistance and study abroad have often been part of the student experience during graduate school at the university. Many students have participated in internship programs at major theaters, professional shops, major opera companies, design studios and television studios. In some cases, partial financial support is available from the university for these opportunities.

National Portfolio

The University of Texas at Austin’s Lighting Design graduates regularly attend The Hemsley Portfolio Review in New York. Students may also participate upon selection in the National Design Portfolio Review New York.

Download Sample Degree Plan



You may need to install Acrobat Reader to access this document.

seats in a black box theatre


From studios to stages, see what facilities make up the F. Loren Winship Drama Building.

two hats displayed as part of a showcase.

UT Live Design and Production Showcase

An annual presentation and celebration of the work of students in the UT Live Design and Production area.