Cinema Major and Undergraduate Degree Program Information

A cinema major may refer to two different kinds of degree programs. Cinema studies programs examine film as a literary art form, while film production programs instruct on the technical and artistic skills needed to create a movie.

Essential Information

Both cinema studies and film production programs are available to undergraduates as either associate's degrees, which take two years, or bachelor's degrees, which take four years. For admission, 2-year colleges typically expect a high school diploma or GED, but some may accept non-graduates and help them complete remedial coursework. Community colleges may require standardized tests like the SAT or ACT and may have grade requirements, and some bachelor's programs may require a portfolio.

These programs can lead to varied careers as production assistants, cinematographers, film critics, screenwriters and editors. Graduates of bachelor's cinema studies programs can also go on to study at the master's level to hone their skills, or they can pursue doctoral degrees to obtain positions in academia.


Associate of Arts in Film Studies or Cinema Studies

An associate's of arts degree (AA) in cinema studies is designed for transfer to a 4-year university and is similar to an English literature degree, but participants study films and television shows instead of books. Students improve their critical thinking ability and analyze the artistic and cultural aspects of the film industry.

The curriculum for an associate's degree in film studies includes coursework teaching the technical side of film, encouraging students to view and dissect films as literary works onscreen and to consider the business side of the film industry. Coursework includes Western culture, literature and civilization. Some other common courses included are:

  • Film studies: critical analysis
  • Speech and communication
  • Scriptwriting
  • Cinema: comedy and drama
  • English literature
  • Media literacy

Associate in Science in Film Production Technology

A film production technology associate's of science degree (AS) is about creating cinema. This degree focuses on the art of developing hands-on movie-making skills, using camera, lights and sound recording equipment. Some programs require students to complete introductory courses satisfactorily before they can apply to take more advanced classes in film production technology.

In addition to digital editing, cinematography, 3D animation and camera techniques, course lists may include these classes:

  • Film and video production
  • Audio production
  • Stagecraft and set production
  • Film gripping
  • Film and TV lighting
  • Film studies and history of film

Bachelor of Arts in Cinema and Media Studies

A cinema and media studies bachelor of arts degree (BA) program addresses literary analysis of film and video. Students analyze how films are shaped by the culture in which they were made and, in turn, how films shape culture. Courses examine special groups, or focus on the work of one particular director in depth.

These programs may require that the student submit a portfolio directly to the cinema studies department. This portfolio likely involves a list of the student's previous creative endeavors or a statement about the student's goals for cinema studies. Some require an essay about a given aspect of film studies. Specific course topics include:

  • Film theory and film criticism
  • History of American cinema and film
  • History of world film and cinema
  • Gender, race and class in cinema
  • Popular culture and film
  • Media and politics

Bachelor of Arts in Cinematic Arts: Film and Television Production

This degree program prepares students to become filmmakers. Students learn to deal with cameras, lighting and sound and develop skills in writing scripts and directing actors to tell a story smoothly and clearly.

Applicants may have to submit extra materials directly to the film production department program. This likely involves a personal statement about one's academic and career goals within the cinematic arts and a list of prior creative and artistic projects. The student may need to provide a writing sample, such as a film outline or dialogue scene. Another requirement may be a sample of the applicant's previous video or photography work.

Some courses may address legal and ethical issues of the filmmaking world, like copyright and privacy. In addition to pre-production, lighting and post-production, coursework spans the entire process of preparation, filming and processing and covers:

  • Cinema techniques and cinematography
  • Single-camera and multi-camera production
  • Studio and field production
  • Sound design for films
  • Film editing
  • Screenwriting

Popular Career Options

The associate's degree in film production technology readies the graduate for multiple types of technician roles on the movie set. AS graduates in film production technology may also serve as assistants to staffers with more experience or education. Film industry job opportunities include:

  • Set design assistant or stagehand
  • Sound engineering technician
  • Grip (lighting technician)
  • Camera assistant
  • Assistant film editor

Film studies graduates may work for publications like newspapers or magazines, writing about and reviewing films. They can also work for museums or enter non-technical roles within the film industry itself. Career options include:

  • Film journalist
  • Film critic
  • Museum film specialist
  • Film publicist or developer
  • Screenwriter

Job Outlook and Salary Info

A BA or BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in Film and Television Production qualifies the graduate to begin a career in multiple specialties of cinema, such as film direction. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), producers and directors are expected to see a 9% growth in jobs from 2014-2024. The BLS stated the median annual wage of producers and directors was $68,440 in May 2015; the lowest paid workers made less than $31,780, while the top paid workers made more than $181,780 per year.

Continuing Education Information

Some students choose the associate's degree in film production technology because they want entry-level assistant careers with film studios or broadcast TV stations. Others may earn a bachelor's degree in film production or cinema studies to gain career positions with more responsibility. Students can also use the cinema and media studies program as a springboard to other non-technical fields of graduate study, such as law. Some students may choose further academic work in the film production aspect of cinema studies.

Many schools offer a Master of Arts (MA) in Cinema and Media Studies or a Ph.D. program. An MA or MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program is an option for students who want to refine their filmmaking skill. Those who want to become professors or academic researchers can apply for a Ph.D. program.

Cinema and media can be studied from a technical or artistic perspective, and there are both associate's and bachelor's degree programs available for each approach. To this end, students of cinema and media have choices for the program that best suits their needs.


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