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The film industry boasts global revenues of over $100 billion. The TV and film industry supports more than two million jobs in the U.S., and the motion picture and sound recording industry alone employs more than 456,000 people.
Success in the film industry requires both creativity and strong technical skills. Many positions rely on professionals with specialized knowledge of film equipment or editing platforms. Pursuing a degree helps learners hone their skills and develop an understanding of the history, culture, politics, and philosophies behind successful films.
Our guide ranks the best online master's in film programs and compiles essential information to help you compare programs and select the degree that best aligns with your career goals. For even more information on film programs, consult our master's in film program guide.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Film Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 5:
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|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|
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2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Film Programs
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|Nashville, TN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Lipscomb's 36-credit master's in film and creative media enables emerging storytellers to hone their skills under the tutelage of accomplished entertainment industry professionals. This online program leads degree-seekers on a journey through cinematic story structure and professional motion picture production. Learners immerse themselves in the creative crafts and practical realities that drive the film industry.
This MA program culminates in a capstone project, in which students write their own screenplay and create a production plan. Along the way, learners connect with industry leaders through many networking and experiential learning opportunities.
Small class sizes ensure ample opportunity for student-instructor interaction, with faculty members doubling as student mentors. Applicants must submit a screenplay sample or a short video clip where the prospective student served as director, editor, and/or camera operator.
Savannah College of Art and Design
|Savannah, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 68%||
At SCAD, visual artists can explore the creative and technical aspects of film and TV production through a master of arts program in motion media design. SCAD students recently produced visuals featured in the Super Bowl telecast, exposing their work to households across America.
Built to serve as a professional talent pipeline, this program awards the first design-oriented motion media degree. Graduation candidates benefit from recruitment opportunities with industry powerhouses like AMC, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists, Industrial Light & Magic, and Participant Media.
The curriculum grounds students in the aesthetic theory of motion picture production design through detailed introductions to concept visualization, storyboarding, cinematography, editing, and media theory. Learners must complete a final project, and they also have the option to complete an internship.
|Virginia Beach, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Students pursuing Regent's online master's in film and television learn the technical and creative skills needed to pursue artistic careers. Coursework takes a practical approach to the entire motion picture production cycle, familiarizing students with the realities of TV and moviemaking.
Degree-seekers can concentrate their learning in one of three areas: producing, production, or scriptwriting. Producing specialists train for leadership roles, while the production concentration focuses on technical skills and critical analysis. Scriptwriting students learn how to create professional screenplays under the guidance of seasoned veterans of major studio productions.
The program also covers essential practical skills, like pitching project ideas, navigating copyright issues, and negotiating contracts. Learners emerge qualified to work in film and television, advertising media production, and live theater.
|La Jolla, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
Based in Southern California, NU offers an online master's in film studies. This program may be particularly appealing to students interested in movie history, film theory, and critical analysis.
Exploring critically acclaimed and historically significant films from the U.S. and around the world, students develop advanced cinematic vocabularies. Topics like auteur theory and film genres also figure prominently, providing a sound and thorough knowledge base for doctoral study.
NU's program proceeds one course at a time, using compact, four-week terms. This entirely online program culminates in a capstone project, in which students produce original research projects focused on a genre, director, or cinematic history period.
|Wilmore, KY||Cost: $$$$$||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 Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Film Program?
Pursuing an online master's in film isn't necessary to land your dream job, but earning a degree may set you apart from other candidates and increase your earning potential.
Launching a successful career in film typically requires at least some college education. Pursuing an online master's in film isn't necessary to land your dream job, but earning a degree may set you apart from other candidates and increase your earning potential. According to PayScale, professionals with a master's earn an average salary of $66,870, versus $58,020 for their counterparts with only a bachelor's degree.
An online master's in film typically consists of 30-60 credits and takes about two years to complete. Exact details vary by program, but most master's programs include an internship, practicum, or thesis requirement. Practicums and internships give students the opportunity to gain professional experience working with a film-related company or organization. A thesis involves an extensive research project that usually culminates in a presentation.
In addition to core coursework, some schools offer concentration options that give students the ability to align the degree to their specific career goals. Common options include screenwriting, film studies, and production.
Overall, film degrees cater to students with exceptional technical skills using a variety of equipment, such as cameras, microphones, lighting rigs, and editing tools. An online master's in film program develops these essential skills, but students must possess at least some natural ability for creativity, writing, and communication.
Working in this field also requires passion and a willingness to work long hours against tight deadlines.
Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Film Programs
Exact admission requirements for an online master's in film vary by program. In most cases, prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree and at least some professional experience. Schools typically also require GRE scores, a resume, transcripts, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation.
Most applications require a fee, so make sure you meet qualifications before applying. For more information, read our graduate admissions guide.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Film Program?
A master's in film program builds knowledge of the techniques, history, and philosophies of film. Many programs consist of advanced-level courses in key areas like editing, writing, and storyboarding. Curricula vary by program and concentration, but many programs offer similar courses. The following list details five common courses.
- Studio Business Practice
This course provides a comprehensive overview of the business side of film and emphasizes the role producers play in creating projects. Students learn about budgeting, insurance, copyright law, and human resources. The curriculum typically incorporates a project challenging learners to create a business plan for a media project or organization.
- Writing for Television
This course focuses on the writing techniques and process for creating content for television. Students explore the basic principles behind television's two main narrative forms: comedy and drama. Additional topics include ratings, pitching techniques, and marketing analysis.
- Lighting and Cinematography
Learners taking this course explore the basic foundations of filmmaking, including using lighting techniques to create specific aesthetics. Degree-seekers often create a media project using course concepts and applying editing techniques. The course may also explore the job responsibilities of the camera, grip, and lighting teams on a film set.
- Visualization and Concept Storyboarding
This course focuses on the theories and practices of concept development, including the role storyboards play in planning out projects. The course simulates real-world situations featuring industry tools, common production guide formats, and typical restraints students face in the film industry.
- Feature Film Scriptwriting
This course takes an advanced approach to screenwriting for feature films. Learners explore the various steps in the process, including creating the idea, developing treatments, drafting the step-outline, revising the final draft, and marketing the screenplay. The course often includes an overview of format, narration techniques, and dialogue. Students must typically complete an original screenplay and participate in peer reviews.
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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Film Degree?
Film careers typically require professionals to possess highly specialized skills in writing, producing, and/or video or audio editing.
The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation projects the highest job growth in the field for positions like producer, audio and video technician, director, and editor. Similarly, the BLS projects 18% growth for film and video editors and camera operators between 2019 and 2029.
Consult our guide to learn more about careers in film.
Designers create sets, design costumes, and manage props for film and television. Careers in this field typically require a degree or experience in fashion design, makeup artistry, or the arts. These professionals bring a director's vision to life by ensuring the set and actors adhere to the theme, time period, and mood of a production.
Earning a master's degree in film qualifies graduates to teach future generations of aspiring filmmakers. Some institutions may require a doctorate; however, many community colleges require only a master's degree, along with several years of work experience. Postsecondary teachers create lesson plans, grade assignments, provide mentorship, and work with colleagues to analyze and improve curricula.
Successful screenwriters often earn a degree in creative writing, English, or film. Screenwriting involves developing an original script or adapting a novel, event, or person's biography to the screen. Professionals in this field work in movie production, in television, or for video game companies. They must be creative and possess a knack for communicating with directors and executives to gain support for potential projects.
The film industry needs broadcast, video, and sound engineers to control sound on set and assist with editing in post production. Primary tasks include monitoring, operating, and adjusting the lighting, sound, and video during filming. Additional duties include managing set equipment and converting audio and video to digital formats for editing.
- Post Production
Post production includes several careers, such as film and video editor, photographer, producer, and animator. These roles involve fine-tuning films, commercials, and other projects to meet strict quality standards before they reach the public eye. Typical tasks include organizing footage, filming scenes, and collaborating with directors to get the best shot.
Film Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Film Programs
- Is a master's in film worth it?
It depends. Working in the entertainment industry offers exciting opportunities, but earning a master's degree in film requires a significant investment of time and money. The decision to pursue a graduate degree depends on your goals. Before making a final decision, research your career path to ensure the investment in a master's degree will generate a positive return.
- What can I do with a master's in film?
Launching a career in film doesn't necessarily require a master's degree. Some positions may even prefer candidates with several years of professional experience versus a graduate degree. However, a master's degree typically qualifies you for career advancement opportunities and roles like postsecondary teacher, art director, and executive.
- Is film a good career?
People with a passion for art and storytelling with strong visual, communication, editing, and writing skills generally succeed in the film industry. The industry offers a variety of jobs, but the competition tends to be fierce. However, the presence of alternatives to traditional film and television, like streaming services and independent film agencies, should create new opportunities for film professionals.
- How much money can I make with a master's in film?
Professionals with a master's in film earn an average salary of $67,040, according to PayScale. Earning potential varies based on experience, education, location, and position. According to the BLS, film and video editors earn a median annual wage of $59,810. However, directors, actors, and multimedia artists can earn much higher salaries.
- What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in film?
The highest earners in the field are likely film or TV producers and film directors. According to PayScale, all of these professionals earn average annual salaries near $70,000. However, highly successful directors and producers can earn much more.