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Film History Graduate Programs

Many schools throughout the United States offer graduate degrees in film history or similar disciplines. Learn about the general admissions requirements and courses involved in such programs.

You can earn a master's or doctoral degree in film history or related fields, such as film studies. This guide will provide details on how you can earn these degrees.

Coursework for Film History Graduate Programs

Curriculum for graduate film history programs ranges from critical analysis film theories and the history of the American film industry to documentary filmmaking and foreign-language films.

Introduction to Film Theory and Criticism/Method

You will typically take courses that provide you with an introduction to film theory and criticism and/or method. The focus of these classes is to teach you the tools necessary to analyze films within the constructs of theory. You may undertake individual or small group research projects during these courses.

Foreign-Language Films

Some graduate programs may include the study of foreign films as part of the coursework. This can include courses such as European film history, Soviet and post-Soviet era films, and Italian fascism in films. Some programs may require that you illustrate proficiency in foreign languages by passing reading tests.

American Cinema

Some programs may offer classes that focus solely on American cinema. Such classes will deal with the history of the overall American film industry. Other classes may focus on specific types of films, such as the western genre.

Documentary Films

You could take coursework in documentary filmmaking as part of your elective credits in some graduate programs. Such courses can focus on how documentary films often serve as a vehicle for activism on current societal issues. You may also learn about theory and practice for this genre.

Master's Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

Most graduate programs in film history have a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation as part of the curriculum requirements. Some programs provide a thesis or dissertation seminar to help you prepare for your project. You will provide a written research paper, which usually involves an oral presentation or defense of your work.

Film History Graduate Program Admissions Criteria

You will typically need a bachelor's degree in order to apply to a master's program in film history. Doctoral-level programs usually require you possess both a bachelor's and master's degree in order to apply. You may need a minimum grade point average for some master's or doctoral programs. Most programs require you to provide transcripts as proof of your degree, and if required, the minimum grade point average.

The application process for most film history graduate programs is online and requires a payment of a non-refundable fee at the time of submission. You may need to complete a second, supplemental department application for some programs, which may involve another fee. These fees can range anywhere from $20 to $110. You may be able to upload your unofficial transcripts during the application process; however, some programs may also require you mail an official copy.

The application process for most programs also includes additional documentation. Standard documentation for most programs includes the following:

  • Resume or detailed work experience
  • Personal essay or statement of purpose
  • Educational writing sample
  • Official scores from tests like the GRE
  • Two or three recommendation letters or contact information for references

In summary, students interested in film history have choices at both the master's and doctoral levels. Coursework looks not only at Hollywood films but also foreign offerings; programs culminate in a thesis or dissertation.


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