Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Programs in Illinois

Oct 08, 2019

Depending on their area of artistic specialization, students have a range of opportunities in the state of Illinois to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Many artists wish to earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in their artistic discipline, whether visual arts, writing, or music. These highly hands-on, professional programs typically take two to three years to complete. Here, you can learn more about five specific MFA programs in the state of Illinois, as well as some common admission requirements.

Illinois MFA Programs

Columbia College Chicago

At Columbia College Chicago, students can pursue an MFA in Music Composition for the Screen. Participants focus on the process of developing scores for movies, TV shows, video games, and other multimedia productions. Throughout the program, composers can develop a portfolio made up of professional recordings. A final, five-week capstone internship in Los Angeles provides the opportunity to work with an established composer as well as to direct a recording session of the final thesis project. Several other MFA specializations are available at Columbia College Chicago, including fine arts, photography, and poetry.

Southern Illinois University

Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, offers an MFA in Playwriting. Students focus on writing collaborative weekly short plays, as well as yearly full-length plays. During the third year of study, the thesis play is performed during a festival. Program participants also have weekly meetings with the department head to discuss the business skills required for playwrights. Other MFA specializations at Southern Illinois include creative writing and interdisciplinary media arts.

University of Illinois

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers an MFA in Acting. Each semester focuses on the development of a particular acting skill, such as classical theatre or modern drama. Students are encouraged to seek summer work at theatre festivals. In addition to the acting courses, at least one course in the history of theatre is required. Other MFA programs at the University of Illinois include creative writing and dance.

The University of Chicago

At The University of Chicago, visual artists are able to pursue the MFA in Visual Arts. Students can focus on a range of media, including sculpture, photography, and painting. Students can engage in the artistic community through a visiting artist series and faculty-led field trips to locations outside of Chicago. Other MFA options at the University of Chicago include creative writing.

Illinois State University

Students can pursue an MFA in Art through the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts at Illinois State University. MFA candidates can focus on a range of disciplines, including glass, printmaking, and ceramics. During the course of their program, students will have the opportunity to have a solo exhibition in a student gallery. Other MFA options at Illinois State include the MFA in Theatre with focuses including directing and lighting design.


Applicants to MFA programs should expect to submit standard application materials, including transcripts, a personal statement, and recommendations. A crucial component of the MFA application will be the representation of the artistic skills of the applicant, whether through live auditions or portfolios. If a portfolio is required, it should be tailored to the specific program to which the student is applying: for example, those applying to a music composition MFA program will be asked to submit recordings of compositions, while those applying to a writing MFA program may be asked to submit a range of writing samples. Interviews may also be required.

A variety of MFA programs are available throughout Illinois, including playwriting, music composition, acting, and visual arts. Students should plan to display their artistic acumen when applying to these graduate programs.

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