Cinema Studies Degree Program and Education

Earning a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in cinema studies would help you learn about the aesthetic, cultural and social influences of films. These programs also include some courses on film-making. Read more about degree program options in cinema studies, and explore the coursework. Get info on job options for graduates. Schools offering Film degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Levels of Study are Available in Cinema Studies Degree Programs?

The general focus of the undergraduate Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Cinema Studies programs is the history, aesthetics and cultural impact of cinema, both in the U.S. and globally. Many related programs also offer the opportunity for concentration in areas such as screen studies, cinematography, directing or producing. Upon completion of a cinema studies major, there are several options if you wish to continue your education in cinema studies.

If you are interested in the scholarly study of cinema, you could earn a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Cinema degree. This program focuses on research related to cinema, such as film history or the influence of film on a certain culture and typically prepares students for teaching or scholarly careers or continued study in doctoral degree programs.

If, however, you are more interested in cinema production, you could earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Cinema degree. It's typically a longer program than the M.A. and includes more coursework in independent production, either in film or animation, preparing students for careers in the film and television industry, such as producer or cinematographer.

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Cinema Studies generally allows for a more individualized course of study, permitting you to delve into a particular topic in cinema studies and conduct original scholarship.

Because of required hands-on activities, online degree programs from not-for-profit schools may not be available. That being said, some schools may offer individual classes online, such as screenwriting or the history of film. If you need to complete your degree online, some for-profit schools may offer cinema studies or closely related degree programs online.

Degree Levels Bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees
Common Courses Film history, production, film theory, film criticism, gender and film
Possible Careers Screenwriter, producer, actor, designer, professor
Median Salary (2018)$71,680 (for producers and directors)*
Job Outlook (2016-26)12% growth (for all producers and directors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Will I Take?

While you are completing your undergraduate work in a cinema studies program you will complete general education classes, such as world history or basic algebra, in addition to core classes and electives related to cinema. Core classes generally include studying national and regional films and creative cinematic movements from historical, technical, cultural and social perspectives. Some of the core classes that you take may include:

  • U.S. film history
  • World film history since 1945
  • Gender and film
  • Documentary film
  • Film and culture
  • Film theory

After completing core classes, you will be able to take elective classes. These classes usually deal with more specific topics in film criticism, theory and production. Some examples include:

  • Movie monsters
  • Silent movies
  • Eastern culture and movies
  • Mythology in film
  • Introduction to screenwriting
  • Documentary film production

If you enroll in an M.A. program, you'll likely take mostly theory-driven classes and perform independent research on topics related to cinema. You may also be required to complete a research thesis. If you plan on getting an MFA, you may take more hands-on classes, such as screenwriting and production. You may also take classes such as animation drawing and production. You may be required to complete a creative project and screen it publicly in order to complete the MFA degree.

A Ph.D. program may require you to take a few required classes in film theory or criticism, teaching and research skills, but a large part of the curriculum is self-directed according to your interests.

What Can I Do With My Degree?

After obtaining a B.A. in Cinema Studies, you could go on to continue your education or pursue technical training and experience, leading to a career as a freelance writer or designer, editor, producer, or possibly even K-12 teacher. With an MFA, you have a wider range of creative careers open to you, such as screenwriter, cinematographer, or actor. An M.A. or a Ph.D. may qualify you for scholastic related professions, such as editor or professor.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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