Masters Degree in Film: Program Overviews

Get information on two options for master's degree studies in film. Read on to find out about admission requirements, coursework and career options in these fields of study.

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Essential Information

Two program options are available to students interested in earning a master's degree in film. For each program, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in a liberal arts or humanities field.

A Master of Arts in Film Studies program focuses on the theoretical and historical aspects of the field. Students learn to think and write critically about films, looking at areas such as film theory, comedy, documentary filmmaking and American cinema.

In a Master of Fine Arts in Film Production program, students gain practical skills in filmmaking and film design. Courses cover all aspects of filmmaking, including screenwriting, cinematography and editing. Applicants may have to submit a sample film for admission to the program, and a final thesis film is often required for graduation.


Master of Arts in Film Studies

A master's degree in film studies is synonymous to a master's degree in cinema studies. Students enrolled in a Master of Arts in Film Studies program learn about film theory and film history. Courses train students to think analytically and critically about films, as well as consider the philosophical and political implications of a film genre or a director's body of work.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to a master's degree program in film studies should hold an undergraduate degree in a liberal arts discipline; it's not necessary for applicants to have an undergraduate degree in film studies. Many universities also require applicants to submit scores for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and include letters of recommendation. A writing sample in some area of film or television criticism must also be submitted.

Program Coursework

Classes for the M.A. program introduce students to the academic study of film. Many of the courses require students to write papers that analyze film sequences or entire films. Specific course topics may include:

  • Film theory
  • Film history
  • Film aesthetics
  • Editing theory
  • American cinema
  • Film comedy
  • Film noir
  • Documentary film

Popular Career Options

Film studies is an academic field, although graduates may also go on to work in various professional practice roles as filmmakers or screenwriters. Common career options for graduates of a Master of Arts in Film Studies program include:

  • Film critic
  • Film curator
  • Film preservationist

Continuing Education Information

A Ph.D. program in film studies is an option for students who want to continue their graduate studies. The degree program prepares students for careers as film educators at major colleges and universities.

Master of Fine Arts in Film Production

The Master of Fine Arts in Film Production is the terminal arts degree for students interested in filmmaking. Part of the curriculum is devoted to film theory and history, but students mainly focus on developing skills in aspects of moviemaking. All aspects of production are covered, and students gain experience in screenwriting, editing, cinematography and directing before selecting a concentration. Students must generally complete a number of short films throughout the program, but a final thesis film is typically required to complete the requirements of the degree.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants generally hold an undergraduate degree in some area of the humanities; a degree in film theory or film production is not required. The primary component of the application, however, is the portfolio. Portfolio requirements vary, but many film production departments request a short film that demonstrates an applicant's competence and familiarity with the medium. Letters of recommendation may also be requested.

Program Coursework

Hands-on experience is emphasized in the MFA curriculum. Students learn every aspect of film production by completing a number of short projects. Typical courses in this program often include:

  • Screenwriting
  • Cinematography
  • Flatbed editing
  • Producing
  • Sound
  • Film history
  • Digital editing
  • Film composition

Popular Career Options

Competition for film production jobs is fierce. Graduates typically gain experience in lower-level jobs and work their way up. Alternatively, some grads choose to teach at the community college level. Common job titles for a graduate of this program include:

  • Grip
  • Camera operator
  • Assistant director
  • Cinematographer
  • Community college instructor
  • Film producer
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