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Movie Directors: Job Description & Career Requirements

Find out what it takes to become a movie director. Discover the education requirements and salary potential for this career, as well as some other careers that might interest you.

Career Definition for Movie Directors

Movie directors are responsible for the interpretation of a written script, using their vision and creativity, along with organizational and technical skills, to deliver a complete motion picture. A career in directing movies is a high-pressure job, working under strict deadlines, budget concerns, and balancing numerous personalities and responsibilities. The 2007 Celluloid Ceiling Report indicates that the overwhelming majority of movie directors are male, although opportunities for female directors are growing.

Education Bachelor's degree, master's degree, certificate program
Job Skills Production scheduling, business skills and budgeting, diplomacy, creative vision and narrative interpretation, interpersonal skills
Median Salary $71,620 for all producers and directors (2017)*
Career Outlook 12% for all producers and directors (2016-2026)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Movie directors can pursue bachelor's or master's degree programs or obtain training in film theory and technical skills through a certificate program. Certificate programs in movie directing vary in length but generally take less time than earning a bachelor's or master's degree. With either option, aspiring movie directors study film-making and film theory, cinematography, editing, lighting, and related tasks.

Required Skills

Movie directors need creativity and vision to bring a written narrative to the big screen. Diplomacy is also a required skill for movie directors, balancing the demands of a production schedule with the needs of the cast and crew. Movie directors also need good business skills to keep projects on schedule and under budget.

Economic and Career Outlook

Careers in movie directing and producing are expected to grow by 12% from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Movie directors face fierce competition, and the financial insecurity of the job may be a challenge for some. Movie directing jobs are more plentiful in areas where the film industry is firmly established, like New York and Los Angeles, and jobs in those locations are more likely to pay more. Salaries vary widely and are highly unpredictable. The BLS published the median annual salary among producers and directors as $71,620 in May 2017.

Alternative Career Options

Actor/Actress

An acting career might be a better choice for those who like working in the movie business and want to be the star of the show. Actors and actresses perform character roles in movies, television, and stage productions. They may research the character, learn scripted lines, and discuss their performance with the director. While some actors learn their craft through degree programs at colleges and universities, some may take a few training classes. Many actors belong to a union, such as the Screen Actors Guild. Actors work schedules and pay can be highly variable.

The BLS reported in 2017 that the median hourly salary for actors and actresses was $17.49. Jobs for actors and actresses are expected to increase at the faster-than-average pace of 12% from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS.

Art Director

Those more interested in directing the look and feel of movie backgrounds instead of directing actors might be interested in the career of art director. Art directors who work in the movie business provide creative concepts for sets and scenery and supervise the art staff in a film production. A bachelor's degree and experience in graphic design or a related field are typically required.

The BLS projects that this career field will grow by 5% during the 2016-2026 decade, but the salary potential is a bit better than that of directors. In May 2015, the BLS reported that art directors in the motion picture industry had a median annual salary of $112,800, while art directors in all industries had a median salary of $92,500.


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