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mfa film online

This article ranks the top five best online master’s degrees in film. Why become a film student? For many, it is an art and a passion that they want to pursue as a career. There is an idiom that says that if you love your job you will never feel as though you have worked a day in your life. While this may not be true, considering the amount of hard work that goes into artistic projects such as films, it is certainly worth pursuing your dream job.

Movies are an integral part of a lot of people’s lives all over the world. Most people have tons of memories that all center around films; like the first time you went to a theater, the first scary movie you were ever allowed to watch, first dates, time spent with friends and family, and so much more. It is interesting that even though movies are part of the everyday lives of so many people, the world of cinema remains a mystery to the majority of them. The worlds, the characters, and the stories are all so immersive, and they stick with people after they watch a movie, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Films have sparked revolutions, ignited love stories, and encouraged imaginations for decades, and they’re not going to stop any time soon.

Movies are perfectly designed to create experiences for the viewer, and that’s part of what makes them incredible. What a lot of people don’t know is that each of those experiences is expertly crafted by a massive team of people! While the average crew consists of around 600 people, some movies have crews that exceed a couple thousand. As of right now, the largest film crew ever reported was a whopping 3,310 people who were behind the creation of Iron Man 3. Avatar noted as one of the most stunning films ever made, had a crew of 2,984.

Cinema is a big world. A Masters in Film can prepare you to join that world. Whether you want to work in writing, directing, producing, editing, or something else, a graduate degree in film is the perfect way to make sure that you’re prepared for what your career may entail. Many of the individual areas within the film industry, such as production or writing, are growing at an average rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What’s more, people are consuming more media now than at any other time in history, and there is a constantly growing demand for more.

Film is a rewarding field, and it’s growing at a healthy pace. If you want to become part of it, a graduate degree in film or a related field can prepare you to take the next step in your career.

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Masters Degrees in Film

Not everyone who pursues this area of interest is going to go to a famous LA Film School and end up on the big screen, but there are plenty of career options for you with this degree. You could see yourself working in a studio, a theater, a university, or even in business. The skills that you learn in this type of program are ones that are widely applicable. Upon graduating, you will be ever more creative, resourceful, and effective in communication than you were when you entered the program, and those types of things are desirable in any career.

A film degree will have a curriculum that combines art and communication and includes critical background information about how the film and television industries work. You will learn about censorship, studio business practices, conducting research, marketing, media distribution, and more. Many degree programs at the master’s level allow for more customization than at the undergraduate level as well; so, if you have a bachelor’s degree in film studies but are passionate about a career in one specific area like script-writing or animation, you can choose a program that focuses on that specifically.

There are several different types of degrees to choose from, too. There are Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, Master of Humanities, and many others in film and related fields. With more and more schools offering online classes and programs, there are now online master’s programs in film and other associated degrees available.

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Earning a Masters in Film Online

Online education has been growing exponentially for decades now. There are plenty of reputable schools that offer online degree programs, sometimes more than a hundred programs at a single school. When it comes to a master’s in film, you do have a smaller range of schools from which you can choose. Despite that, we still dug deep into your options and determined which schools had the best offerings. You can read about them here in this ranking; each school brings something different to the table.

The benefits of earning your degree online are innumerable. The most prominent feature of most online programs is the ability to complete your coursework asynchronously. You won’t have to log in and work at set times; instead, you can complete your classes on your own time and study when it is convenient for you. Even the programs that are synchronous or happen to involve visits to campus are designed to fit into the lives of busy adults, whether they have professional obligations, a family to take care of, or both. Online programs also tend to be more affordable, with fewer fees and material costs and, sometimes, in-state tuition rates. You are also eligible for financial aid and scholarships as an online student. In fact, there are special scholarships for online students.

You won’t have to move, quit your job, or abandon your other responsibilities or hobbies to earn your degree. Another benefit to choosing an online degree is that you’re not limited to what schools near you have to offer! Below, you’ll find all of the schools that offer online master’s degrees in film (or a related area), ranked based on the following methodology.


In order to rank the Best Online Masters Degrees in Film, we started by creating a list of schools that met some initial ranking criteria. Each school had to be based in the United States, operate in a not-for-profit manner, hold proper accreditation, and, of course, offer at least one online master’s program in film. Fully online and hybrid programs were both included, as well as related degree programs that weren’t specifically in film. (For example, there is a master’s degree in screenwriting included in the ranking).

Once we had a list of schools, they were each given a score based on these three factors:

  • Freshman Retention Rate (⅓ of the final score)
  • Graduation Rate (⅓ of final score)
  • Affordability (⅓ of final score)

The highest possible score an institution could receive was 300 points. In the ranking, schools are presented in ascending order based on their final score, with the first school receiving the highest score, and so on. It is important to note that no school is ever awarded preferential treatment of any kind and we are confident that anyone could repeat these results using the methodology above.

In addition to the schools’ own websites, information for this article was gathered from a number of reputable sources, including the National Center for Education Statistics and U.S. News & World Report. Any cost information used or presented in this article is represented by the Residential Cost of Attendance reported by CollegeData.

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  1. MERIT: 232
    View Profile Average Cost: $27,009

    Master of Advanced Study in Film and Media Studies

    ASU, Online Degree Programs, Online College, Online courses, online masters, online master degrees, online bachelor's degreeArizona State University is a great school to start off the list for the best online masters programs in film. ASU has been ranked as the most innovative school in the country for half a decade now, according to US News & World Report. So, it’s no surprise that they have a multitude of innovative online options for their students to choose from. The Online Master of Advanced Study in Film and Media Studies is one of them, and it has been ranked among the best online masters programs in film. The program consists of a total of 30 credits and offers multiple start dates throughout the year.

    Students are not welcome to transfer in any credits; all thirty credits of this film degree must be earned at ASU. The curriculum is broken down into nine credits worth of core courses, 18 credits worth of electives, and an applied project that accounts for the remaining three credits. Each of your courses lasts for a duration of seven and a half weeks, and there are ten classes that you’ll take to graduate. All of the classes are presented online and asynchronously.

    There are only three required courses associated with this masters degree in film. These are Hollywood Film Historiography, Film Analysis, and Cultural History of US Television: Theory and Method. There is an extensive list of electives you can choose from to supplement these classes, and some options include Media Industries, Film Authorship, Fundamentals of Cinema & Television Narrative, and more.

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  2. MERIT: 214
    View Profile Average Cost: $30,028

    Masters in Film-Television

    online masters programs, virginia beach, online learning, film and video, online master's degreesThe online Masters in Film-Television at Regent University has ranked among the best online masters degrees in film. You can choose to earn this degree as a Master of Arts in Film-Television or a Master of Fine Arts in Film-Television. There are multiple concentrations available in either option, but not all of them are offered online. If you choose to earn the MA, you can study Producing or Script Writing; if you choose the MFA, you can study Script & Screenwriting.

    The program consists of a minimum of 30 credits, some concentrations may require more, or there may be additional requirements for students who don’t have an undergraduate degree in film. Regent University’s online film degree program is only open to students who already hold a bachelor’s degree. There are eight start dates offered throughout the year.

    This program, depending on your concentration, may include a culminating project, practicum hours, a thesis, or any combination thereof. You will take your classes asynchronously and study topics like the business of film, sound production, lighting, cinematography, finance and marketing, media distribution, writing, and more. This is a very comprehensive and flexible program.

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  3. MERIT: 198
    View Profile Average Cost: $57,317

    Master of Arts in Motion Media Design

    SCAD, online master of arts in film studies, masters in film degrees, online learning, online masters programsThe Savannah College of Art and Design has a program that ranked among the best online masters degrees in film, and that is the Master of Arts in Motion Media Design. Motion media design is where graphic design meets filmmaking and video production. Art director, visual effects artist, graphics coordinator, and animator are all positions you could hold with this type of film degree.

    SCAD is routinely recognized for its excellence; in fact, the eLearning program offered at the college has won multiple awards in the past. This online masters degree in film, specifically in motion media design, typically consists of 45 credit hours. However, the program website states that you may be assigned additional intensive courses and need to complete between 50 and 70 credits to graduate. All of the courses you will take are entirely asynchronous, and this is a fully-online program.

    There are not very many courses required of you; there are seven core courses, and you can choose two electives. The required classes you’re going to experience include Contemporary Art, Visualization and Concept Storyboarding, Motion Media Cinematography and Editing, Media Theory and Application, Studio Business Practice, Dynamic Typography, and a Motion Media Design Final Project.

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  4. MERIT: 190
    View Profile Average Cost: $23,672

    Masters in Screenwriting

    online masters program, online mfa in screenwriting, film and video, online education, online learningWestern Colorado University offers a Master of Arts in Screenwriting or a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting. Both of these options are very low-residency and come in at number four on our list of the best online masters programs in film. The program is presented in a hybrid format; and while it is described as low residency, MFA students will have to spend two weeks on campus prior to beginning the program, after their first year of study, and after their second year of study. Students pursuing the MA instead will only have to attend two summer sessions.

    On campus, students will participate in lectures, readings, discussions, writing, and more. The on-campus requirements always take place in July and are held at the Western campus in Gunnison, Colorado. The MFA track requires 60 credits and will take 25 months to complete, and the MA track will take just 13 months to complete as it is only 30 credits. MFA students are required to complete a thesis.

    Officially, this is not a masters in film but a Master of Arts in Creative Writing with a Concentration in Screenwriting for Feature Film and Television. The curriculum includes courses such as Screenwriting Genre; Television Drama and Situation Comedy; Film History and Analysis; the Visual Narrative and; Screenwriting Competition, Representation, the “Option.”

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  5. MERIT: 162
    View Profile Average Cost: $36,200

    Master of Humanities in Film Studies

    Online masters degrees, online masters programs, online masters in film, masters degree in film, film industry, online collegeTiffin University finishes off our ranking of the best online masters programs in film with its Master of Humanities in Film Studies. This program consists of 30 credits in total, and you can graduate in as little as a year and a half if you study full-time. There is a part-time option available, which would take about two and a half years to complete. This is a slightly different type of program compared to the others we’ve explored; this degree could lead to a hands-on career in film or to a teaching career in the field.

    Tiffin boasts a total of six different start dates throughout the year, but it appears that you can only enter this program three times per year, in January, May, and August. All of the online classes offered at Tiffin are presented asynchronously, so there will be no set times that you need to work on your coursework. There are three courses in the humanities core, and those are Aesthetics, Literary Theory, and Introduction to Graduate Humanities. The remainder of your credits will come from your concentration and your capstone requirements.

    This is an exceptional online Masters in Film Studies because it is presented in such a flexible manner. The only requirements outside of the humanities core is a class in Film Theory and your end of course project or exam. There are 15 credits worth of electives! Tiffin offers diverse and interesting options like Classic Hollywood Cinema, Teaching College Art, Cult and Independent Film, Film Censorship, and more.

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If any of the above online masters programs in film interest you, feel free to visit the school links to request information to learn more details about the program and admissions requirements. Read on to find more about film degrees and careers.

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What is a Film Degree?

online masters programs in film, film production, television production, online learning, digital filmmakingA film degree is any degree related to filmmaking, which actually includes a variety of different degrees. The study of film is actually very broad! Camera equipment, production, directing, scriptwriting, screenplay, editing, animation, lighting design, sound production, and studio television production all fall under the umbrella term of a film degree, and there are plenty more that could be included in that category. The most common areas of study that the term ‘film degree’ refers to include filmmaking, film studies, and film theory.

Film degrees are offered in a variety of fields like we already discussed. They are also offered at various levels of education. Students can earn a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Fine Arts in film; there are easily hundreds of different Masters-level degrees that are film degrees too. You could earn a Master of Arts in Film Studies, a Master of Arts in Screenwriting, or any one of the many facets of cinema. There are also Master of Fine Arts degrees in many areas, and you can even earn a doctorate film degree, like a PhD in Film Theory, and so on.

When you earn a film degree, you will cover a range of topics that are all part of the process in creating films and shows, and you will also gain skills that go beyond the camera and editing software such as marketing, distribution, legal issues, and more. At the undergraduate level, you just scratch the surface of film and explore the fundamentals like current technologies in filmmaking, the screenwriting process, directing and cinematography, and so on.

As is the case with most fields, if you would like a more specialized film degree, you will need to take the next step in your academic journey and pursue a masters degree. Masters-level film degrees offer a variety of concentrations, from art direction to animation, from writing a script to producing the finished product, and more. This allows you to gain skills that prepare you for a specific career in the film industry and cover more about the business side of things at the same time.

At the doctorate level, a PhD in Film will require very in-depth study about film, culture, and more. Typically, people who earn these will teach at universities or have other careers in academia.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Masters Degree in Film?

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The amount of time that it takes to earn a masters in film is not going to be the same for every student. The average time to completion in a masters degree program is two years; however, there are many different factors that might make your situation differ from average. At the individual level, the program you choose, the amount of time you can dedicate to your studies, the pace at which you pursue your degree, and any prior experience you may have can either add to or take away from that two-year timeframe.

If you choose to study full-time, you would be taking more courses at once than you would if you studied part-time. Going the part-time route can add a few months, a year, or more to the total time it takes you to earn your master’s degree in film. If you choose a program that requires more credits for graduation, you might take some more time as well. The typical master’s program is around 30 credits, but some have 40, 50, or more. If you have more that you need to do, you might take longer as well.

Most students are interested in faster ways to earn their degree, though. If you want to earn your masters in film faster, there are a few things to consider and explore. When you’re looking for a degree program that suits your needs, look at the transfer policies if you have any credits you think might transfer. You can also check if a school offers an accelerated program of study, condensed course format, or year-round study.

Online programs can also help you to shorten the time it takes you to earn your master’s degree in film. The fastest masters degree in film can be earned online in a hybrid format from Western Colorado University. It takes a mere 13 months to complete. Tiffin University offers an online masters degree in film that takes just 18 months. So, the amount of time it takes to graduate is entirely up to you!

How Much Does an Online Master’s Degree Cost?

online master's degree, online masters programs, online masters in film, online film degreeThe cost of an online master’s degree in film is not something that is set in stone. The cost of a degree program is actually very individualized because every student is going to have a unique financial situation. Determining the average cost of a master’s degree, in general, is much too difficult because the cost varies so much between fields, but when it comes to a masters degree in film, the average cost ranges from $7,600 to $26,000 per year.

The average cost per credit hour in the United States is $594, and according to, the average annual net cost of attendance for college is $16,910. But, there are some schools that charge much less (or much more!) per credit. The cost per credit may also vary based on the level of the course, the program of study, and how you’re taking the course. In-state students are typically going to pay a lower rate than out-of-state students, but there are a lot of universities that offer the in-state tuition rate to their online students.

Online students are still eligible for the same financial aid packages that traditional students are eligible for, too. This is something that students considering an online degree for the first time may not know. As long as you meet the course load and GPA requirements, you can get financial aid. You are also eligible for a number of grants and scholarships. In fact, most scholarships can be applied to an online degree program unless explicitly stated in their terms and conditions. If you’re unsure, you can always ask when you apply for it. You can also check out the scholarships for online students that exist to help you lower your costs.

There are too many factors that contribute to calculating the price you will pay for your online master’s degree in film for us to tell you what that might be, but we hope that these average rates and pointers have helped. We used the tuition calculator available on the Arizona State University website, since ASU offers the best online masters degree in film, and the total tuition and fees per one academic year for an online student that resides out-of-state came out to $11,284.

What Can I Do With a Masters Degree in Film?

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A masters degree in film provides students with great opportunities because it covers the artistic skills they’ll use on the job, but it also covers a lot of business skills as well. Decision-making, writing, research, planning, and analyzing are all skills that you’ll pick up as you’re earning your master’s degree in film, and they are desirable throughout the entertainment industry and beyond. So, there are a lot of things you can do with a masters film degree.

There are a few main categories in the area of film production, so that is what we’re going to go into here. Firstly, there are producers and directors. This might be the most common choice for graduates with masters degrees in film. The growth rate of this career was reported by the BLS to be about average, if not slightly faster.

Producers are usually involved in the business side of filmmaking. This could include hiring crew, creating a budget, and making sure that it is adhered to, raising money for the project, and more. Directors are the perfect complement to that, and they are in charge of everything that happens in front of the camera, whereas the producer takes care of everything behind it. Directors work closely with the crew as well as the cast of the film to control the creative direction and design the finished product.

Art Director is another fairly common career path in filmmaking, but it is growing at a very slow rate of just 2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Art directors work with the director of a film. The main responsibility of the art director for a movie is to make sure that there is a consistent visual style throughout every scene of the movie. This requires a lot of tasks, like examining every aspect of the set design, costume design, makeup and special effects, and even the cinematography itself. They are crucial to creating the immersive experience of a movie.

You typically only need to hold a bachelor’s degree in order to pursue a career as an animator, but the additional skills that you can gain with a master’s degree may help you land this type of position more easily, receive better compensation, and have more room for advancement. This career requires a knack for storytelling, strong aesthetic skills, and a passion for art because that’s what you’d be doing most of the time. You would use computer programs and artistic mediums to design and create models, illustrations, animation sequences, and visual effects for movies.

Editing is another common career you could pursue. Most people who work in this position hold a bachelor’s degree, but there are advanced things that are covered in masters degree programs that will help you on the job. Your tasks as an editor would require you to work alongside the director to create scenes and to use advanced film editing software to create the desired outcomes for each shot.

Outside of those, there are tons of other options. You could be a travel coordinator, casting director, foley artist, promoter, and so much more. Depending on the area of film that you focus on in your studies, you will have a very diverse set of careers to choose from.

What Is The Average Salary After Getting a Masters in Film?

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There are a lot of different things that play a role in determining your salary. Your location, your level of experience, your degree, and several other things can all come together and tip your salary higher or lower than average. The unique thing about the film industry, too, is that median salaries are very difficult to calculate. Some directors earn less than $35,000 a year, and some of them earn close to $200,000. The salary ranges are much more broad in the entertainment industry. On top of that, many positions will allow you to earn royalties on the films that you work on, which could lead to significantly higher income like the sky’s the limit income.

With that said, we’re going to list out some of the common careers you can get with a masters degree in film and their average salaries. All salary information was collected from PayScale. We’d like to note that some sources reported much higher numbers.

  • Director: $60,596
  • Producer: $68,151
  • Set Designer: $49,154
  • Director of Photography: $72,000
  • Costume Designer: $35,555
  • Prop Master: $44,987
  • Makeup Artist: $49,263
  • Editor: $44,357
  • Composer: $50,241
  • Art Director: $64,349
  • Animators: $51,061

Didn’t Find What You Were Looking For?

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If you’re an artistic person, but you don’t want to earn an online masters degree in film, some of these other creative degree programs might be more up your alley.

If you’re still trying to decide if an online college is the right choice for you, these resources might be helpful.

Also, if you’re ready to dive into distance education but haven’t selected a school, we rank the Top 100 Best Online Colleges every year!