Film Director: Career and Salary Facts

Learn what it takes to prepare for a career as a film director. Explore salary potential and job growth projections to determine if this is the right career path for you. Schools offering Digital Cinematography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Film Director?

As a film director you'll make most of the creative decisions during filming and will be the visionary behind the overall look of the film. Film directors typically begin by interpreting a script and conducting any necessary research on the topic. They then select actors and actresses, work with costume and set designers and coordinate camera operators and other staff. Film directors also play a large role in post-production as they work closely with film editors to ensure the final product matches the desired vision. These professionals approve all decisions of a production and are often involved in the promotion of their film. The chart below outlines the education requirements, earning potential and job outlook for a career as a film director.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree is typical; master's degrees are available
Education Field of Study Film studies or related field
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% (for all producers and directors)*
Median Salary (2015) $68,440 (for all producers and directors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Background Do I Need to Become a Film Director?

There are a variety of film schools on the West Coast, East Coast and in between that may prepare you to be a film director. Degrees that might be a good match for your directing plans could include a Bachelor of Arts in Film & Television or a Master of Arts in Cinema Studies. You could also start out as an actor or writer, or you could direct regional plays or commercials before making the transition to directing films. While many film directors have a college degree, others forge a career based solely on their talent and experience.

One unique training option is offered in the form of a highly selective program offered by the Directors Guild of America. Once accepted, individuals participate in up to 400 days of paid, on-the-job training and seminars. If you successfully complete the program, you'll be invited to join the Directors Guild.

What Traits Are Needed for This Career?

Creativity and talent are necessary if you wish to become a film director. Commitment to your craft and patience are useful qualities for a successful career. Because film crews can involve over 100 people, management ability is an important trait in a director as well. In addition, your ability to work long hours doesn't hurt.

What Kind of Duties Would I Have?

Although directors usually must answer to an executive producer, you'll pick most of a film's personnel. You'll take part in meetings with film executives, casting sessions and hiring rounds for actors and screenwriters. You'll also be involved in choosing and supervising music composers and art directors.

What Kind of Salary Could I Earn?

In 2015, $68,440 was the median annual wage for all producers and directors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The same source predicted 9% growth in the number of producer and director jobs for the period of 2014-2024. Performing arts companies were a lower-paying employment sector for these professionals, granting an average salary figure of $62,350 as of 2015. In contrast, the average salary for motion picture producers and directors was $105,550 in that same year, so if you find success at the box office you may see your star - and your income - rise in Hollywood.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Writers and authors, art directors and top executives are a few related careers that require at least a bachelor's degree. Writers and authors create the written content for a variety of media, such as scripts, books, magazines and more. Art directors are responsible for developing and maintaining a particular visual style throughout a production, magazine, newspaper or other form of media. Top executives oversee and coordinate the various activities of an organization or company.

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