Film studies at the graduate level attracts creative thinkers who are interested in the history, aesthetics, and theory of film. Coursework for the academic study of film includes cultural, political, and philosophical perspectives on film genres, screenwriting, directors, production, editing, and cinematography. Schools with strong film studies programs provide a variety of interdisciplinary options that prepare graduates for success in this competitive field.

What are the best computer engineering programs of 2020? Here are our top 5:

Rank School Location
1 Lipscomb University Nashville, TN
2 Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA
3 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
4 National University La Jolla, CA
5 Asbury University Wilmore, KY

If you are determined to have a career in the film industry, pursuing a master's degree can be a sensible choice for achieving advanced literacy in film studies, especially for postsecondary teaching careers. Graduates may also pursue opportunities in related communications fields, such as public relations and educational media. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for producers and directors will grow by 12% between 2016 and 2026, which is much faster than average.

What Are The Best Online Master's in Film Programs?

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

Lipscomb University

Nashville, TN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 65%

Lipscomb's 36-credit master's in film and creative media enables emerging storytellers to hone their skills under the tutelage of accomplished entertainment industry professionals. This online program leads degree-seekers on a journey through cinematic story structure and professional motion picture production. Learners immerse themselves in the creative crafts and practical realities that drive the film industry.

This MA program culminates in a capstone project, in which students write their own screenplay and create a production plan. Along the way, learners connect with industry leaders through many networking and experiential learning opportunities.

Small class sizes ensure ample opportunity for student-instructor interaction, with faculty members doubling as student mentors. Applicants must submit a screenplay sample or a short video clip where the prospective student served as director, editor, and/or camera operator.


Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah, GA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 68%

At SCAD, visual artists can explore the creative and technical aspects of film and TV production through a master of arts program in motion media design. SCAD students recently produced visuals featured in the Super Bowl telecast, exposing their work to households across America.

Built to serve as a professional talent pipeline, this program awards the first design-oriented motion media degree. Graduation candidates benefit from recruitment opportunities with industry powerhouses like AMC, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists, Industrial Light & Magic, and Participant Media.

The curriculum grounds students in the aesthetic theory of motion picture production design through detailed introductions to concept visualization, storyboarding, cinematography, editing, and media theory. Learners must complete a final project, and they also have the option to complete an internship.


Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Students pursuing Regent's online master's in film and television learn the technical and creative skills needed to pursue artistic careers. Coursework takes a practical approach to the entire motion picture production cycle, familiarizing students with the realities of TV and moviemaking.

Degree-seekers can concentrate their learning in one of three areas: producing, production, or scriptwriting. Producing specialists train for leadership roles, while the production concentration focuses on technical skills and critical analysis. Scriptwriting students learn how to create professional screenplays under the guidance of seasoned veterans of major studio productions.

The program also covers essential practical skills, like pitching project ideas, navigating copyright issues, and negotiating contracts. Learners emerge qualified to work in film and television, advertising media production, and live theater.


National University

La Jolla, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 36%

Based in Southern California, NU offers an online master's in film studies. This program may be particularly appealing to students interested in movie history, film theory, and critical analysis.

Exploring critically acclaimed and historically significant films from the U.S. and around the world, students develop advanced cinematic vocabularies. Topics like auteur theory and film genres also figure prominently, providing a sound and thorough knowledge base for doctoral study.

NU's program proceeds one course at a time, using compact, four-week terms. This entirely online program culminates in a capstone project, in which students produce original research projects focused on a genre, director, or cinematic history period.


Asbury University

Wilmore, KY Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

Asbury's online graduate film studies programs award master of fine arts degrees. This type of terminal degree represents the pinnacle of academic achievement in creative fields. Graduates may qualify for postsecondary teaching roles, as well as for professional opportunities in movie and TV development and production.

Online students can choose from two program options: a master's in film and television production and a master's in screenwriting. The production degree emphasizes the technical, creative, and practical skills required for directing, cinematography, and editing roles, while the screenwriting degree helps students master the art of visual storytelling.

Asbury's faith-based institutional values inform the program's curriculum. Classes also feature high levels of peer collaboration, encouraging teamwork and creative partnerships.

What Else Can I Expect from an Online Master's in Film Program?

Distance learners pursuing an online master's degree in film studies typically have considerable flexibility in tailoring their studies to their areas of interest. While program details vary among schools, the list below features descriptions of three sample courses commonly offered in film studies programs at the graduate level.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Film

  • Advanced film theory: This course examines theoretical models and approaches employed in academic analysis of film as a cultural medium. Topics may include authorship, cultural studies, reception studies, formalist and realist theories, postmodernism, and genre theory. Students may focus on one major figure, approach, or issue, and participate in film screening lab work.
  • Advanced film history: This course explores major cultural, technological, and artistic trends shaping film history, and traces the development of film as an art form dating from the 1890s. Representative genre films are selected and screened in class. Topics may include historiography, film censorship, notions of cinematic realism, cinematic technique, film narrativization, and technological innovation.
  • Documentary production workshop: Graduate students in this course gain a range of practical skills useful for the production of documentary projects. With a focus on collaboration, time management, professional ethics, and critical analysis, students acquire competencies in all phases of field production through experience gained in researching, writing, shooting, and editing documentaries.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master's in Film?

Online master's degrees in film typically involve 36-45 credits and two years of full-time study. In exceptional cases, diligent students may accelerate their pace and complete a two-year program in three semesters plus one summer session. Some programs enable students to choose a coursework-only track or write a research paper or thesis, with the latter option extending degree completion time.

While cohorts are not common in graduate level film studies programs, if you do choose a program structured around cohort learning, your studies proceed in tandem with your cohort, which graduates as a group. Individually paced programs may offer more flexibility in scheduling, enabling you to complete your degree sooner. Many programs allow you to undertake work in related disciplines so that you can specialize in an area of interest, such as African studies or scriptwriting.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Film Degrees

To ensure schools and programs meet proper standards of academic rigor and quality, they undergo a peer review process conducted by accreditation agencies. It is in your best interest to investigate the accreditation status of programs and schools you are considering, since federal financial aid is only available to students enrolled in institutions accredited by federally recognized agencies. Transfer credits, too, are generally only accepted for coursework completed in properly accredited programs.

Regional accreditation, the most respected and popular designation, is handled by six U.S. regional bodies, one for each geographic region. National accreditation generally applies only to for-profit, vocational, technical, or religious schools. The National Association of Schools of Theatre conducts field-specific accreditation for programs in film studies and theatre arts. Another resource available to distance learners is the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, a private nonprofit organization specializing in recognizing distance education programs.

Two agencies, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), oversee U.S. accreditation standards. The ED maintains a list of trusted accreditors, and CHEA maintains a comprehensive database of accredited educational institutions and programs recognized by one or both of these agencies. To help ensure that your online master's degree in film studies meets approved standards of quality and continual improvement, you can take advantage of these public service resources to verify the accreditation status of schools that interest you by searching the ED and CHEA websites.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Film Graduates

Master's in Film Salary

Salary trends can vary widely in the film industry. Note that experience and location can influence salaries just as much as educational background and specific job responsibilities. The table below features PayScale data regarding expected salaries for five practical and popular film-related professions at the early, middle, and late career stages.

Top Paying U.S. States for Music Directors and Composers
Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Film/TV producer $67,657 $48,000 $67,000 $83,000
Associate producer, film/TV $47,505 $44,000 $52,000 $60,000
Creative director $85,850 $54,000 $79,000 $106,000
Production assistant $36,101 $32,000 $35,000 $37,000
Film editor $49,572 $41,000 $53,000 $63,000

Master's in Film Careers

Careers in film are notoriously competitive, and graduates with a master's degree in film studies typically rely heavily on tenacity, resilience, and determination to succeed. Graduates typically focus their career paths around theoretical areas like history and analysis, or practical areas like directing, production, post-production, and distribution. Some graduates pursue teaching or postgraduate research in film. Experience, networking, and personal recommendations are critical for career success in all areas of the field.

Producers and directors

Film producers and directors supervise the financial and artistic aspects of film making. They interpret scripts and bring them to life in motion picture and television entertainment. Their duties include casting actors, selecting scripts, managing the work of assistants, determining budgets, hiring production teams, and securing distribution channels for films.

Median Annual Salary: $70,950
Projected Growth Rate: 12%

Film and video editors

Film editors work as technicians to fit pieces together, manipulate images, and cut unnecessary scenes to assemble a finished film. Their responsibilities include reading scripts and understanding the director's vision, working with sound editors, trimming film footage, and selecting scenes for dramatic entertainment value, performance quality, story continuity, and proper timing.

Median Annual Salary: $59,040
Projected Growth Rate: 13%

Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary film studies teachers instruct students in film theory, film history, and other related subject matter at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Their duties include classroom instruction and grading, developing research programs, supervising graduate students, and integrating interdisciplinary material. They also supervise research and publish scholarly material in the field.

Median Annual Salary: $75,430
Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts

Graduates with film master's degrees often work in documentary journalism or screenwriting for feature-length screenplays. Film journalists may write reviews to report and inform the public while offering critical takes on film from theoretical and historical perspectives. They can work for magazines, websites, digital media, radio, and newspapers.

Median Annual Salary: $38,870
Projected Growth Rate: -9%

Art Directors

Art directors hold responsibility for the design and overall visual style of a film, including factors like makeup, costuming, hair styling, color schemes, location aesthetics, and other visual aspects. They supervise the artists who develop concept art and layouts, and coordinate the artistic aspects of film production and editing.

Median Annual Salary: $89,820
Projected Growth Rate: 5%

Professional Organizations

Students and recent graduates in film studies can join professional membership organizations to take advantage of networking opportunities, master classes featuring internationally recognized directors and producers, and awards events recognizing outstanding achievement in the field. Since networking is of particular importance to professionals in film studies, some organizations offer student internship opportunities and competitions. Scholarly interest groups are particularly useful for graduate students, as they feature a variety of opportunities for fellowship, support, and advocacy.

Financing Your Online Master's in Film Program

While funding a graduate education in film studies can seem daunting, your first step is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for grants, loans, work-study programs, and other funding sources available through the U.S. government. You can also pursue scholarships and grants available through private sources, and apply for graduate fellowships available at some schools. To learn more about your options, review our resources below.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.