Film Director Degree and Certificate Programs with Class Info

Film degrees exist at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and teach students about the film industry and prepare them for careers in directing. For those who cannot commit to full-time film studies, certificate programs are offered as well.

Essential Information

A degree in film is the first step on the path toward a filmmaking and movie-directing career, and are available at a variety of levels. Certificate programs may be combined with other degree programs or professional experience and provide theoretical and historical courses to give students a cursory overview of film studies. A two-year associate's degree program in film studies will provide students with a diverse overview of all aspects of filmmaking, including directing, screenwriting, production, cinematography, art direction and production and post-production. Students in four-year bachelor's programs obtain more hands-on experience during the filmmaking process. The aim of a master's degree in film studies, which takes two-years, is to develop undergraduate film students into full-time professional filmmakers. The Ph.D. in film studies is the highest level of study in the field. Online courses and programs in this field are rare, but there are a few available.

Certificate In Film Studies

Film studies certificate programs are meant to provide a quick course of study and tend to vary in terms of program length. They may also be appropriate for students of other degree programs who would like to earn certificates as a supplement to their studies. Most certificate programs do not require any previous college-level experience, but ask applicants to provide high school records or a GED. For students seeking a certificate as a supplement to other studies, most film departments require an interview with the department chair or faculty member to discuss the student's goals, expectations and interests.

Certificate programs provide a basic overview of film studies in addition to general education requirements. Though not as detailed as a degree program in film studies, certificate programs typically consist of five or six dedicated film courses that may include:

  • Introduction to film studies
  • Theory of film
  • History of film
  • Global cinema
  • Film criticism

Associate's Degree in Film Studies

Most associate degree programs in film studies require a high school diploma or equivalent for application. Most students in these programs are new to film studies and take general education classes in the humanities, math and science in addition to filmmaking courses that cover all aspects from screenwriting to editing. An associate's degree in film would provide sufficient training to begin working as a production assistant or director's assistant. An associate's degree in film studies will provide an overview of the technical, historical and aesthetic elements of filmmaking. Courses typically include:

  • History of film
  • Film criticism
  • Introduction to screenwriting
  • Introduction to cinematography
  • Production planning for film and video
  • Film genres

Bachelor's Degree in Film Studies

A bachelor's degree in film studies includes more detailed coursework in a variety of areas. Applicants to a bachelor's program are generally required to submit SAT or ACT exam scores, a high school diploma or GED, and meet coursework prerequisites in humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and math. Students in bachelor's programs obtain more hands-on experience during the filmmaking process. These programs cover all aspects of filmmaking, film history, theory, criticism and goes into greater detail than the coursework of a 2-year associate's degree. Students are also able to focus on specific elements of filmmaking, such as direction, and are usually expected to submit a final project (usually a short film) to complete the program. General coursework usually includes:

  • Screenwriting and advanced screenwriting
  • Broadcast, film and video production
  • Motion picture editing
  • Feature film scriptwriting
  • Sound design and synchronization
  • Applied film studies

Master's Degree in Film Studies

Graduate programs in film studies encourage students to develop their own voice and aesthetic ideals through directing, producing and shooting their own films. Students are also immersed in the newest filming and editing technologies while creating their work. Applicants to this 2-year program should have a bachelor's degree in film and may need to submit GRE scores. Some schools favor applicants that have completed internships in the industry.

Master's programs in film train students in the technical aspects of filmmaking and direction. Courses may include:

  • Art film and video production
  • Studio techniques
  • Editing techniques
  • Feature production

Ph.D. in Film Studies

Ph.D. candidates conduct research into advanced and specialized topics dealing with direction, production, editing and cinematography. The length of these programs depends on the needs and schedules of the students who choose to enroll. Nearly all doctoral programs require applicants to have completed advanced degrees in film and to submit examples of their film work with their applications. Some students enter directly into Ph.D. programs after completing their bachelor's degree. However, many wait until they complete their master's degree before they apply to Ph.D. programs. Students who complete doctoral program in film often remain in the academic sector as instructors and tenured faculty members. Those who acquire jobs in the film industry often work as directors and producers or as studio representatives.

The majority of Ph.D. programs in film studies emphasize individual research and completion of film projects. Courses are based upon individual interests and student work closely with faculty mentors to complete their research and dissertation - typically a full-length film. In addition to independent work, some advanced courses may include:

  • Film and technology
  • Set design and cinematography
  • Social representation in film
  • Documentary filmmaking
  • Historiography

Popular Career Options

Certificate holders have limited career options within the film industry. Most students who complete certificate programs move onto degree programs or internships at production companies or film studios.

Associate's degree program graduates either obtain entry-level assistant jobs or apprenticeships in the film industry. Some of these jobs include:

  • Production assistant
  • Director's assistant
  • Assistant cinematographer

Bachelor's degree graduates are usually able to find a variety of entry-level positions in the film industry or with independent production companies. Some of these jobs include:

  • Film lab technician
  • Production specialist
  • Screenwriter
  • Cinematography technician

Graduates of master's programs have a choice of many advanced positions in the film industry or education. These include:

  • Film producer
  • Head screenwriter
  • Film director
  • Cinema studies teacher

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of film producers and directors was $68,440 as of May 2015. Meanwhile, for students interested in eventually working in education, most postsecondary teachers typically earned a median salary of $63,000 annually that same year. The BLS predicts 9% job growth for producers and directors from 2014-2024, while postsecondary teachers can expect to see job growth of 13%.

A film degree is good preparation for a career working as a director, with certificate, undergraduate and graduate degrees available in this field. Film studies generally consists of a thorough education in the history, criticism and practical aspect of film, including the technical production aspect of filming and editing.

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