Screenwriting and playwriting entail telling stories designed for the screen or the stage. Read on to learn about degree options for screenwriters and playwrights, and find information about job growth and average salaries for writers and authors in general here.
As a screenwriter, you would write scripts for films and television, while as a playwright you would create original plays for stage production. The common goal of both screenwriters and playwrights is to tell stories through memorable characters and dialogue. You may also write for new media, such as Web series.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of job openings for writers and authors in general is expected to increase by just 3% nationwide, or slower than average, between 2012 and 2022. In May 2012, the BLS reported that writers and authors overall, which includes screenwriters and playwrights, earned a mean salary of $68,420. Writers in radio and television broadcasting made a mean salary of $62,360, while those in the motion picture and video industries had a mean salary of $102,080. In the same year, California and New York were among five states with the highest levels of employment, as well as the highest wages, for writers and authors (www.bls.gov).
Although a degree isn't necessary to become a screenwriter or playwright, an educational program can help you develop your craft and improve your writing skills. Educational programs in screenwriting and playwriting can be found at the certificate, associate's, bachelor's and graduate levels. Degree programs in these areas can help you expand your narrative skills by focusing on the elements of story structure, character, scene development and dialogue. Some programs also stress the development of industry connections and networking.
At the associate's degree level, you may find programs with creative writing concentrations, which can be a good starting point for your studies. At this level, playwriting and screenwriting are less commonly found fields of study, but they're still available. You may also find bachelor's degree programs in creative writing devoted to screenwriting, playwrighting or both, as well as Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing programs. Graduates are prepared to become professional screenwriters and playwrights or work in other aspects of film and theater production.
If you're interested in a doctoral degree, you might want to consider a concentration in film studies or theater studies. These programs can focus on the study and analysis of movies and plays, along with specific artists, according to their historical, cultural and artistic significance. A doctoral degree would qualify you to work in academia.
You'll need good writing and narrative skills, as well as a passion for the craft, since the film and theater industries can be competitive and stressful. If you choose this profession, you'll work on your own, so you can make your own hours. Time-management skills come in handy in order to meet deadlines for projects.