A bachelor's in film can help you launch a career in the film or television industry. Preparing you for work in broadcasting, entertainment, journalism, and a variety of other fields, a film degree explores the techniques for creating motion picture media and the role that films play in culture.
Not all film students become famous directors, but the degree can lead to lucrative career options, even if you're mostly behind the scenes. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for film and video editor/camera operators will grow by 13% through 2026, which is faster than the national average.
This guide examines the ins and outs of earning a film degree, including the application process, concentration options, and career prospects after you graduate.
What Are the Best Film Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 3:
|1||Arizona State University - Skysong||Scottsdale, AZ|
|2||Pennsylvania State University - World Campus||University Park, PA|
|3||The University of Montana||Missoula, MT|
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Film?
For those coming straight out of high school who already know that they want to major in film, a campus degree may serve as the most appealing choice. These programs combine the structure of classroom learning with the support of campus community, facilities, and resources. Conversely, those already in the workforce may prefer the flexibility and independence of an online program, which typically allows students to complete coursework on their own schedule.
Regardless of delivery format, your degree will likely offer an overview of film from both technical and cultural perspectives. Most programs build practical industry skills such as editing, screenwriting, and post-production, along with more theoretical courses that explore the history of film and introduce you to the work of important directors. Some programs may focus more on critical practice -- giving you the tools to interpret and analyze films -- while others focus on technical training that prepares you to work behind the camera.
Aside from specialized film knowledge, your education presents many opportunities that occur outside of the classroom. Film programs offer diverse opportunities to network and build professional connections with your classmates, professors, and other industry professionals. Similarly, many programs offer connections to internships and other professional experiences that lead to further opportunities after graduation. The knowledge and connections you gain throughout your degree should serve you in your job hunt after you finish your studies.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Film?
A bachelor's in film prepares you for an assortment of career paths, including many positions in the media or entertainment industries. Duties vary widely between different careers, but in general, these jobs call for flexibility and the ability to work as part of a team. Film production typically involves many professionals working together toward a shared goal, so effective communication is critical. Given the fast-paced nature of the work, adaptability and quick thinking are also key. Below, you'll find a general overview of five of the most popular careers for film majors, along with salary information and projected job growth.
- Producers and Directors
Producers and directors oversee the development of films, TV shows, commercials, and theater productions, typically adapting their work from a writer's script. Producers may make overarching decisions about the organization and logistics of a project, while directors typically make most of the creative decisions.
Median Annual Salary: $58,210*
- Video Editors and Camera Operators
Collaborating with producers and directors, editors and camera operators play an important role in producing media content. Camera operators film motion pictures, TV shows, sporting events, news, and other material. Editors take responsibility for organizing and presenting video footage in ways that entertain and inform audiences.
Median Annual Salary: $71,620*
- Multimedia Artists and Animators
These artists create animation and other video effects for a variety of media, including film, television, video games, and commercials. They work for animation studios in office environments or from home as freelancers. Artists and animators need strong computer skills and knowledge of various animation software programs.
Median Annual Salary: $70,530*
- Broadcast Technicians
These technicians set up and operate equipment for media broadcasts and other events, such as TV shows, concerts, and movies. These positions typically feature substantial on-the-job training, but a bachelor's degree can help technicians distinguish themselves in the field and compete for more prestigious job opportunities.
Median Annual Salary: $42,650*
- Writers and Authors
Writers create content for various types of media, such as websites, magazines, television programs, and movies. Film majors may find work as movie critics or journalists, reviewing and reporting on industry news. They may also enter the industry as screenwriters or story editors.
Median Annual Salary: $61,820*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's Program in Film
When choosing a bachelor's in film program, students need to consider many factors. Practical considerations for most students include program format, length, and location, and academic considerations include concentration options, final project requirements, and practicum or internship options. Before deciding on a program, students need to determine which factors matter most to them.
For many students, particularly those who work full time, a program's length, enrollment options, and delivery format serve as deciding factors. Online bachelor's in film programs typically boast more flexibility than in-person programs since they require little to no campus visits and generally offer both full-time and part-time enrollment options. Some programs offer accelerated pathways that enable students to complete their degrees faster, though this requires a heavier course load that may prove inconvenient to those working full time. For those considering an on-campus program, the cost of living and the local job market may also affect decisions.
A program's specialization options and internship opportunities may also play a role in your decision. Those interested in a specific aspect of the industry, such as post-production, find that some programs align with their professional aspirations better than others. Similarly, many film degrees include internships and other professional opportunities that enable students to gain experience in the industry and make connections for the future.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Film
Aside from academic and logistical factors, you should always determine a school's accreditation status when researching bachelor's in film programs. Indicating a school's reputability and the quality of its education, accreditation ensures that your degree meets regional, national, or programmatic education standards.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits many art colleges that offer film degrees. You should also ensure that the college or university you choose holds regional accreditation. Regional accreditation ensures that the degree and credits you earn will be recognized by employers and other academic institutions.
Bachelor's in Film Program Admissions
Researching programs forms an important part of the college application process, but after compiling your list of schools, you still need to prepare and submit your applications. Many undergraduate students apply to 10-12 schools, splitting applications between highly selective, moderately selective, and less selective (safety) schools.
Today, most college applications take place entirely online, even for those applying to an on-campus program. Online programs may require a slightly lengthier application process, since students do not necessarily interact with the on-campus admissions office. Below, students can find some of the most common elements of undergraduate applications.
- Minimum GPA: Most schools maintain a minimum GPA requirement for incoming applicants, though many programs make exceptions if you have a particularly strong application or unique circumstances surrounding your grades.
- Application: All colleges require a general application that includes your basic personal information. Hundreds of colleges accept the Common App, which enables you to apply to several schools simultaneously.
- Transcripts: All colleges also require your academic transcripts, either from high school or any previously attended schools. In high school, counselors can help with transcripts; in college, you need to contact your registrar.
- Letters of Recommendation: Particularly selective schools or programs may ask for letters of recommendation from teachers or other professionals who can speak to your character and the quality of your work.
- Test Scores: Most reputable colleges accept either SAT or ACT scores, though some schools may not require either. Those out of high school for several years often do not need to submit these test requirements.
- Application Fee: Many colleges charge a small application fee to submit your undergraduate application. However, some schools offer application fee waivers if you can demonstrate financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's Program in Film?
Curriculum requirements vary widely among different bachelor's in film programs, particularly in terms of concentration tracks. Different specializations stress different skills and prepare you for different areas of the industry. Below, you can find some of the most common concentrations for film majors, along with a list of corresponding career paths.
|Cinematography||This concentration focuses on the principles and practices of motion picture photography, training students in the technical operation of camera equipment and various film techniques -- including filters, lenses, and depth of field. Courses also cover lighting and scene composition.||Director, Cinematographer|
|Critical Studies||Focusing on the practice of film criticism and the role of films in culture, this concentration takes a more academic approach to the field. Courses focus less on the operation of equipment and more on the analysis of film from aesthetic and cultural perspectives, such as race or gender.||Film Critic, Journalist|
|Production||This generalized concentration typically explores most major aspects of filmmaking, including film and digital video production. Students overview major technical practices, perspectives on the history of film, and techniques for analysis. Courses may include knowledge of set directing and coordination.||Producer, Director|
|Post Production||Courses in this concentration typically focus on techniques such as editing, audio production, visual effects, and sound design. Students also study basic filmmaking techniques and critical strategies.||Sound Editor, Film Editor|
|Screenwriting||Screenwriting takes a different approach to film, focusing on techniques for crafting compelling stories. Students learn about the basic practices of writing a script, gaining perspective on how writing translates to the big or small screen. This concentration typically includes a general overview of filmmaking techniques and theories of criticism.||Screenwriter, Producer|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Film Program
While courses vary widely between different film programs, most schools offer similar courses to undergraduate film majors, touching on major topics in the history, interpretation, and techniques of cinema. The following list details some of the courses you can expect to take in a typical undergraduate film degree program.
- Introduction to Cinema
This foundational course introduces students to the history of film and the major principles surrounding film criticism, including aesthetics, technique, and social implications. Students gain a critical framework for studying and interpreting film, along with general knowledge of the major figures and movements of cinematic history.
- Introduction to Screenwriting
Exploring both creative and craft-based approaches to screenwriting, this course introduces students to techniques of observation, visualization, and communication. Students build skills in visual expression and dramatic structure, preparing them to write their own scripts for films, television, and other media.
- Postwar European Cinema
The years following World War II saw the emergence of many notable developments in world cinema, with many of the most important directors concentrated in Europe. This course introduces students to the major figures of national cinema hailing from countries like Italy, France, Germany, and Sweden.
- Gender in Film
Sitting at the intersection of gender studies, critical theory, and film studies, this course explores representations of gender in 20th and 21st century film. The course typically examines the social construction of gender and how filmmakers have subverted gender conventions through new cinematic techniques.
- Introduction to Photoshop
This course offers an overview of the techniques and applications of Adobe Photoshop, an industry-standard graphics editor program. Students gain a broad understanding of basic Photoshop skills in design and media production. Most courses require students to apply their skills to creative projects.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Film?
While completion time can vary between programs, you can expect to spend about four years of full-time study completing your bachelor's in film. However, several factors can affect overall program length, including curriculum requirements and enrollment status. For example, if you enroll part time, you can expect your degree to take longer than four years. Conversely, if you take extra courses each semester, or enroll in summer courses, you might complete your degree in fewer than four years.
Some schools offer accelerated programs that include a heavier course load, enabling you to graduate faster and start your career. However, other programs, particularly many bachelor of fine arts degrees in film, may include extra work that adds to your overall completion time. While exact credit requirements differ between programs, most undergraduate film degrees typically require 120 credits total.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Film?
Tuition also plays a role in your choice of schools, and total costs may ultimately determine the college you attend. Many factors affect tuition, including financial aid, state residency status, and whether you attend a private or public institution. While circumstances may vary, public colleges generally offer much more affordable tuition rates than private colleges.
According to CollegeBoard, students at public colleges paid an average annual tuition of $9,970 for the 2017-2018 school year. Those at public colleges paid $34,740 -- well over three times as much. However, private colleges often provide students with more generous financial aid packages.
Depending on your scholarships and other tuition awards, a private college may end up costing less overall. You should check with different schools about precisely what type of aid they offer. You should also determine any additional costs you may incur outside of tuition, such as campus housing, registration fees, and travel expenses. Even if you're taking online courses, which typically cost less than campus courses, you may end up paying additional technology fees, either by the class or by the credit.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Film Prepares For
- Adobe Premier Pro CC 2015
Adobe's industry standard Premier Pro video software enables users to organize and edit videos. It serves as the program of choice for many Hollywood film studios and professional media organizations. The Adobe certification exam includes 60 multiple-choice questions that students can take online.
- Adobe Photoshop CC 2015
Adobe's image editing program Photoshop also serves as an industry standard, and many jobs want applicants with Photoshop knowledge. Certification requires completing a 57-question exam available online.
- Apple Final Cut Pro X
Another of the most popular video editing programs, Apple's Final Cut Pro serves the needs of many independent filmmakers and editors. Apple offers certification options through its affiliate LearnQuest, which provides certification exams in major cities around the country, along with online courses to prepare for exams.
- Avid Certified Professional: Media Composer
One of the oldest and most respected video editing programs, Avid's Media Composer still serves as an industry standard. The Certified Professional designation ranks among the most desirable in the video editing world, indicating a deep knowledge of the program's post-production tools and techniques.
- Avid Certified User: Media Composer | NewsCutter Option
Specifically designed for broadcast journalists, Avid's NewsCutter certification demonstrates proficiency in editing skills relevant to professional news environments. Candidates complete a 24-hour training course that ends with the certification examination.
Resources for Film Students
Serving independent filmmakers since 1999, ActionPrintCut offers filmmaking tips, online workshops, courses, and a variety of other resources. The site also publishes Director's Chair, an online magazine for directors.
The New York Times hosts this playful, informative feature that sees directors explain the filmmaking processes and trials behind the scenes of newly released movies.
An ideal resource for aspiring filmmakers looking for talent, Casting Networking connects directors with working actors, making it easy to cast student films or independent projects.
A major job board for industry professionals, Mandy enables film students to find work on the side, creating professional connections that may lead to more opportunities in the future.
An invaluable resource for aspiring filmmakers and those already in the industry, Filmmaker Magazine features in-depth interviews and articles that touch on modern cinema and the industry at large.
Professional Organizations in Film
Professionals in the film and entertainment industry rely on personal connections and networking to function. Filmmakers both aspiring and established depend on professional organizations to share knowledge on filmmaking techniques, stay abreast of industry developments, and promote film as an artform. Many professional organizations also provide support for emerging and independent directors whose work falls outside the scope of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking. The following five organizations offer significant benefits to filmmakers and other industry professionals.
Founded in 1919, the ASC ranks among the oldest filmmaking organizations in the country, providing education opportunities, awards, and advising to the motion picture industry.
A global trade organization dedicated to independent media, IFTA supports the interests of filmmakers and production companies though advocacy, marketing, and legal arbitration.
Providing support specifically for documentary filmmakers, the IDA hosts awards, grants, education opportunities, and events. The organization also produces the trade publication Documentary Magazine.
Founded in 1993 to support independent filmmakers, FA provides educational resources, networking and other professional connections, and industry seminars. The organization also hosts VisionFest, an annual celebration of independent film.
Promoting education and research related to film and film studies, the UFVA hosts conferences, publishes academic journals, and provides resources for both teachers and students.