Movie Director Degree and Certification Program Information

While there is no formal education for movie directors, both Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Film Production as well as Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Film and Video Production programs prepare students by offering courses in cinematography, directing, screenwriting and many other areas.

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Essential Information

A Bachelor of Fine Arts degree gives students experience in the field, and introduces them to all aspects of film production. Upon completion of baccalaureate studies, graduates could go on to pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Film and Video Production lasting at least three years. This degree can typically be completed in three years. MFA studies combine classroom instruction with hands-on experiences, since students are required to complete extensive film projects. Many master's programs offer areas of concentration, such as in editing, screenwriting, or cinematography. Graduates of these programs could be prepared to direct or edit documentaries, feature films, direct-to-video productions, TV shows or commercials.

Currently, there are no certification requirements for becoming or working as a movie director. Bachelor's programs require students to have a high school diploma or equivalent, ACT or SAT exam scores, and a portfolio. Master's programs require a bachelor's degree, letters of recommendation, a writing sample, and often a sample short film.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production

A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production does not guarantee a career as a movie director but does give students experience in the field. Students enrolled in a BFA program are introduced to all aspects of film production, including directing. Some film production departments may require students to complete a short film. The classes cover all aspects of film production and especially focus on the duties of a movie director. Some courses include:

  • Directing the actor
  • Screenwriting
  • Cinematography
  • Film editing and videography
  • Documentary film
  • Film history and theory

Master of Fine Arts in Film and Video Production

A Master of Fine Arts in Film and Video Production is a hands-on degree program that is usually completed in three years. Some students may take longer than three years to complete the degree if final thesis projects take longer than expected. Students enrolled in the program receive training in digital editing, directing, screenwriting and cinematography. Typically, the first year is composed of courses in the four major areas of film production: editing, screenwriting, directing and cinematography. Students then choose one of the major areas to focus on in their final two years of enrollment. The classes for an MFA program in film and video production emphasize gaining experience with all of the production tools needed to make a short film. Courses may include:

  • Screenwriting
  • Advanced editing theory and techniques
  • Cinematography
  • Directing the actor
  • Film history and theory
  • The business of filmmaking

Popular Career Options

Breaking into the film industry as a movie director is very difficult. Many BFA graduates cut their teeth in lower-level production jobs before taking on a project as a movie director. Some possible career options include:

  • Grip
  • Cinematographer
  • Producer
  • Movie director or assistant director
  • Camera operator
  • Screenwriter

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the number of jobs for producers and directors would grow 9% from 2014 through 2024, competition for all jobs will be stiff. Movie directing is a high-profile job that can command top salaries, which has led many people to try to enter the industry. According to the BLS, producers and directors earned a mean salary of $89,670 in May 2015. Directors in the motion picture and video industries had a mean annual wage of $105,550 in 2015, and directors at the top of the field can earn salaries of $181,780 or much higher.

Continuing Education Information

Although the MFA in Film and Video Production is a terminal arts degree, many graduates choose to pursue a Ph.D. in Film Theory and Criticism or an advanced degree in an area related to film production such as creative writing. The Ph.D. degree qualifies students to work as professors at the university and college level.

While no formal education is required, those interested in becoming movie directors will benefit from both Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Film Production and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Film and Video Production programs. That said, graduates may still have to take lower level jobs to break into the industry.

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