Film Studies Degree Programs and Majors Overview

Film studies programs allow students to analyze film from a critical, theoretical and historical perspective. Degree programs in film studies are available at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

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Essential Information

Degree programs in film studies teach students how to analyze and interpret cinematic art from diverse perspectives. Film studies programs are offered at the bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degree levels. Undergraduate programs offer an introduction to film studies, and can prepare students for careers in film, television, media, cinematography or social relations, while graduate programs offer opportunities for more specialized study, preparing students for work in these industries, as well as in academia. Such specializations may include film aesthetics, historiography, world film, American film culture, documentaries and European films, and more.

Prerequisites may include a high school diploma or GED for bachelor's degree programs, a bachelor's degree for master's degree programs, and a master's degree for doctoral programs. Some graduate programs request that potential candidates have fulfilled a language requirement. Doctoral programs usually require students to complete a dissertation or other final project before graduating.


Bachelor's Degree in Film Studies

Film studies bachelor's degree programs examine film as an art form, drawing on literature, art, history, world studies and multimedia. The most common bachelor's degree programs for film studies are Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Studies.

During the course of the program students develop skills in critical thinking, visual and technical analysis, research and expression, as well as learning how to assess the technical merit of films. Film studies programs typically are inclusive of diverse world views and include study of foreign films and their contribution to cinema as a whole. Interdisciplinary in nature, film studies curricula include coursework in film and film analysis, as well as literature, social sciences, history and art. Common courses include:

  • Film analysis
  • Film criticism
  • Film editing
  • Film directing
  • Screenwriting
  • Documentary film and video

Master's Degree in Film Studies

A master's degree program in film studies teaches students how to analyze cinema through the lenses of national cultures, literary theory, philosophy, social sciences and more. The most common degrees at this level are Master of Arts in Film Studies and Master of Fine Arts in Film Studies. As film studies programs are interdisciplinary in nature, the sponsoring department may vary by institution, resulting in differing program requirements.

Some schools require a minimum of 24 hours of coursework to obtain a film studies master's degree, while others can require 40 or more. Common coursework includes:

  • Film theory
  • Film historiography
  • Rhetoric
  • Film genres
  • Film criticism

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  • Cinematography and Film Production
  • Film and Cinema Studies
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Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Film Studies

Doctoral degrees in film studies emphasize a specific element related to film studies. Doctor of Philosophy in Film Studies degree programs are offered at a number of universities and emphasize core coursework, seminars, research and the development of a final research project or thesis. Students develop analytical skills and conduct research in order to bring new insight or information into the field.

Some programs require prior film studies coursework or demonstrable related experience (such as working as a film archivist) to enroll. Many programs require applicants to pass a qualifying exam, which measures students' ability and promise as scholars. Ph.D. programs in film studies require a minimum of 18 hours of core coursework, as well as a number of elective courses, research and dissertation development. Common courses include:

  • Film theory
  • Media and cultural studies
  • Authorship
  • Film and technology
  • Modernism in film
  • Literature in film

Popular Career Options

Graduates of film studies bachelor's degree programs go on to a variety of careers and earn a range of salaries. Because of the organizational and analytical skills they develop, film studies majors often go on to administrative and production careers. Popular career options include:

  • Editorial assistant
  • Film librarian or archivist
  • Producer
  • Scriptwriter or screenwriter
  • Press agent

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Graduates of master's degree programs in film studies have a lot of options when job hunting. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), producers and directors have an expected job growth of 9% for the years 2014-2024. They made a median annual wage of $68,440 in 2015

Those who earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Film Studies typically go on to jobs in academia or research. Many take jobs as film archivists, film historians or film consultants. In 2015, the BLS reported that drama, art and music postsecondary teachers made a median annual salary of $65,340. For the years 2014-2024, the BLS projected that the total number of postsecondary teaching jobs in this field would increase by 11%. Those who became archivists earned an annual median salary of $50,250 in 2015. Their jobs were expected to increase by 7% for 2014-2024.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of master's degree film studies programs may go on to pursue a Ph.D. in film studies. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of film studies programs, students may also elect to obtain a second master's degree in a related discipline, such as literature, rhetoric or art history.

Students with an interest in film studies can pursue degree programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. These programs look at the art of film from a variety of angles, preparing students for careers as archivists, teachers, screenwriters, and more.

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