What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Film Program?

An online master’s degree in film gives students a professional education comparable to what they would get from on-campus classes but with more flexibility. Individuals already working in the film industry can complete their degree requirements between productions or during breaks on set. Accelerated degree programs in film give students the skills they need to succeed in a short period of time. Before choosing an online master’s in film program, consider different program offerings to find the degree that best suits your needs.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Film

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Screen Writing and Script Writing Emphasizes analysis and creation of narrative structures for visual media, such as movies and television shows. Script writer or screen writer for serial television shows, movies and specialty productions
Film Production Focuses on the business and practical aspects of developing creative film and television projects. This includes courses in project management, film financing, distribution and marketing. Movie or television show producer
Film Studies Trains students to think critically about films and filmmakers while becoming well-versed in film terminology and the filmmaking process. Film critic, film studies teacher, film historian.

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Film

Different programs for a master’s degree in film have specific requirements based on the concentration specialty and program goals. Consider your personal career objectives when choosing a program, and pick a specialization that suits your long-term goals in the film industry.

Some courses you might encounter in a master’s of film online program include:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Advanced Film Theory Delves into genres, cultural relevance of different film projects and theories such as formalism and realism that feature prominently in the thematic structures of films.
Film History Investigate the artistic trends and technological challenges of film production in different eras.
Script Writing Study the narrative structure of films and television shows before creating your own scripts.
Film Business Learn about the practical aspects of making movies and television shows, including the business structures of film productions, how films are financed and distribution channels for completed films.
Film Production Workshops Students are guided through the production of a short film project from start to finish, either on your own or with collaborators.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Film?

Most people pursuing a master’s in film degree online take one to two years of full-time study to complete the program, depending on the specialization and courses chosen. Master’s programs in film generally require 30 to 45 credits, or about two to three courses per semester. Taking fewer classes per semester can stretch out the length of the program to three or four years of study.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Film Degrees

Master’s programs focused on film can get accreditation from one of six regional bodies, which offer accreditation for most types of degree programs throughout the U.S. Getting your master’s degree from an accredited school ensures that the program has been evaluated and the coursework teaches you what it claims. Credits from an accredited program are generally transferable, so you can switch schools or move into a different program without losing the credits you’ve already gained.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Film Graduates

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of directors and producers is expected to grow 12 percent between 2016 and 2026. This is faster than the average growth for all jobs

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

In general, jobs in the film industry aren’t dependent upon having a master’s degree. Most film industry jobs with degree requirements only ask for a bachelor’s degree. However, the specific knowledge gained during a master’s degree program in film can give you a boost over applicants who don’t have those specific skills.

Expected Salary

A career in film, bolstered by an online master’s in film degree, can bring in a good salary. Salaries vary widely in the film industry, depending on the specific project and funding mechanism. Many film industry jobs are on a per-project basis rather than being permanent full-time jobs. Even for the same job title, salaries vary widely. An independent producer for a small local production might make only a few thousand dollars for the project, while top Hollywood producers on studio-funded big-budget films make more than $20 million per project. Some average salaries for typical film industry jobs you can get with a master’s in film are shown below.

Median Salary for Several Film Industry Jobs

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

With a master’s in film, you’re more likely to move into the big leagues of film production, where salaries can increase astronomically as your reputation grows. In some cases, rates are set by unions, such as the Director’s Guild of America. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood get paid figures like those shown below on a per-project basis.

Film Crew Position Potential Fee per Project
Major Studio Film – Director $250,000-$20,000,000
Network Television Show, Single Half-Hour Episode – Director $25,000
Network Television Show, Single One-Hour Episode – Director $42,000
Network Television Show, Single Episode Script – Script Writer $25,000
Film Script Draft – Screen Writer $100,000-$1,000,000

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Career Opportunities

Film careers can be extremely competitive, and a master’s in film can help you increase your chances of landing a job in the industry. There are many different potential career opportunities, and your specific job prospects depend on the specialization you’ve chosen and your experience level. Some popular career options for film graduates include:

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Producers Producers run the business side of a film production. They secure funding, manage the hiring of above-the-line and below-the-line staff for the production, manage the budget and make sure the production staff have everything they need to make the film. $71,620 per year 12%
Script Writer Script writers write the screenplay for a television episode or feature film. $61,820 per year 8%
Film Archivist Film archivists process and catalog film collections for a museum, collection or archive. Film archivists might focus on historic films or culturally relevant films and might work for institutions, nonprofit organizations, governments or movie studios. $47,360 per year 13%

Professional Organizations

In the film industry, connections are essential to gain access to job opportunities. The project-based nature of most film work means that personal referrals are often used as a way to find out about upcoming job opportunities. Many jobs in the film industry are limited to union members, and entry-level jobs often include an opportunity to apply for union membership. Here are some of the top organizations for individuals with a master’s degree in film:

The Society for Cinema and Media Studies: This scholarly organization is focused on teaching and research. An annual conference and peer-reviewed academic journal provide information for students and professionals in film studies.

The Directors Guild of America: The DGA is a professional trade organization representing directors and members of a directorial team, including associate directors, production managers and production associates. The DGA offers training opportunities for members and has labor agreements in place with most major studios in Hollywood.

The Producers Guild of America: The PGA is a trade association representing television producers, movie producers and producers of digital content. The PGA provides health insurance and pension benefits for members and offers seminars and mentoring programs for new producers.

The Writers Guild of America: The WGA has two branches, WGA West and WGA East, which represent television, film and new media script writers in Los Angeles and New York. These two labor unions run independently while acting in concert on specific issues, such as labor negotiations and strikes.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Film

Online programs are typically more affordable than programs that require on-campus classes, but the costs may still be out of reach without assistance. The first step in getting financial aid for a master’s in film program is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form gives you access to financial aid sponsored by the U.S. government, including grants and loans. Private scholarships or grants may also be available to individuals pursuing a film degree online. Learn more about your available options with the resources listed below.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Francis D. Lyon Scholarship

Award: $2,500

Deadline: April 1

Eligibility: Undergraduate or graduate film students who are pursuing a full-time course of study during the next academic year.

Jack G. Shaheen Mass Communications Scholarship

Award: $2,500

Deadline: June

Eligibility: Students who are U.S. citizens of Arab heritage majoring in television, film, radio or journalism in an undergraduate or graduate program.