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Individuals who pursue an online master’s in film or film studies will engage in the theory and application of different media genres. Students learn how to approach films through a critical lens as well as explore the film industry from a business perspective. Classes touch on various topics, including lighting, storyboarding, scriptwriting, and creating your own film projects.

Aspiring film industry workers don’t need a master’s degree to be eligible for related positions. Still, it can give participants an advantage in their job search and increase their earning potential. An online master’s in film prepares graduates for film industry positions, doctoral work, or teaching opportunities at the community college level.

The average tuition for a graduate-level film degree is between $15,000 and $20,000. If attending full-time, participants can finish the 30- to 50-credit programs in two years or less. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the media and communications industry will likely increase by 6% over the next few years, and the average salary for these positions is $62,340.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Film Program

Choose your area of study

Institutions use different naming conventions for their film-related graduate degrees, but they all fall under a Master of Arts (M.A.) or a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) umbrella. M.A. programs are humanities-driven and more focused on the practical application of knowledge. MFA degrees concentrate on a specific artistic discipline. Not every master’s emphasizes the same aspects of the film industry, so consider your direction before applying to a program. Areas of concentration include producing, screenwriting, and motion media design.

Research schools and programs

Once you’ve selected an area of study, research each school’s accreditation status. Only attend colleges and universities that meet the accreditation standards of a nationally-recognized agency. Otherwise, you may find barriers to credit transferability and financial aid options. For film programs, there is no specific accreditation; however, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) offers a credential for visual arts programs.

After confirming that each school meets basic accreditation standards, consider the following:

  • How will you attend class? Coursework is predominantly online, though some film programs integrate brief in-person workshops and conferences. For online coursework, faculty facilitate either scheduled sessions or independent, asynchronous assignments. For film degrees, participants will likely commit significant time to an independent film project.
  • What support services do online students have access to? Online students should receive similar benefits and support services as traditional on-campus students. Seek programs where online attendees receive free tutoring, counseling, academic advising, student software discounts, and reliable tech support.
  • Does the program include an internship or hands-on experience? Select programs that integrate practical applications. Some film degrees require a thesis component and encourage students to graduate with a portfolio of promising work.

Research each program’s website and online student experience page. If you need help finding answers to your questions, attend information sessions and contact an admissions advisor.

Prepare for tests and applications

Successful applicants for graduate degrees in film have some academic or professional experience in the field. Most programs request a portfolio of your work or some film-related assignment to review alongside your application materials. Few programs require standardized testing.

Before applying, review each program’s admissions requirements to ensure eligibility. Because of the specialized nature of this field, graduate film degrees can be competitive and have a limited number of spots. To submit your application by the deadline, ensure you’ve allowed ample time to pull together transcripts, recommendation letters, and other materials.

Select your program

Upon receiving your acceptance letters, decide which program to attend (and commit to the associated enrollment fee). Compare each program’s affordability, online delivery format, and professional advancement opportunities. Select the program that best meets your financial and career goals.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Like any graduate degree, the tuition for an online master’s in film is a financial commitment. Speak early and often to your selected school’s office of financial aid; these individuals can help you identify funding opportunities and a payment plan that works for you.

Graduate school scholarships and assistantships are competitive but worth applying for nonetheless. Some programs provide military discounts or credit for previous professional experience. All attendees should complete the FAFSA; while you might not want to take out loans, it’s helpful to determine the federal funding options for which you’re eligible.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Film Programs

Best Online Master's in Film Degree Programs

Regent University

National University

Asbury University

University of Georgia

Arizona State University

Quinnipiac University

Tiffin University

Lipscomb University

Savannah College of Art and Design

The New School

Emerson College

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How We Rank Schools

For this list, we focused on master’s degrees in film. These degrees include Master of Fine Arts (MFA), which are terminal degrees, and Master of Arts (MA), which are liberal arts-oriented programs. Some programs concentrate on film theory and criticism, while others are oriented toward advanced technical skills for filmmaking.

We only included programs with regional accreditation as a measure of quality. Degrees and credits from regionally accredited institutions are generally widely recognized and accepted by other schools.

The programs on this list are offered in both online and on-campus formats. Some programs allow students to earn their degrees in a combination of online and in-person classes.

Once we narrowed our list of programs, our team reviewed each based on their reputation, faculty, flexibility, course offerings, outcomes, and cost. We then assigned each program an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

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

Online master’s in film students engage in theoretical discussions and practical, experiential activities related to professional roles in the film industry or further academic study. They’ll examine different genres and forms of criticism, practice the fundamentals of storytelling and editing, and explore new funding and marketing strategies for bringing a film from script to screen. Many programs integrate internship or project-based coursework with actual media companies, helping students get a foot in the door of this highly competitive industry.

Some master’s in film are just 30 credit hours, though some require as much as 50. Nonetheless, full-time attendees can finish in two to three years. Online film degrees are predominantly remote, but many feature scheduled coursework and some in-person workshops and networking opportunities. All programs conclude with a final evaluation, typically a thesis or final project that prepares graduates for the next step in the film and media industry.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in film program

  • The Story Development Process. Through the lens of the modern entertainment industry, this course introduces students to the screenwriting process, exploring the steps involved from story concept to page.
  • Marketing, Distribution, and Exhibition. Participants discuss the necessary financing and marketing plan for a successful media project. Students learn about traditional distribution methods and new marketing avenues and technology.
  • Editing Practice and Theory. Students study the theory and application of film and video editing. Participants use software editing applications and techniques, emphasizing post-production practice.
  • Sound for Picture. Students learn how to create and edit sound for film and television. Featured techniques include sound mixing and automated dialogue replacement (ADR).

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Film?

Career outlook

In the ever-evolving world of media and entertainment, a master’s degree in film offers a gateway to exciting career opportunities. Whether you aspire to be a director, screenwriter, editor, or production manager, an online master’s in film can provide you with the skills, knowledge, and industry insights to make your mark in the world of cinema. Many occupations in the film industry are growing at a faster-than-average rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For example, the need for film and video editors and camera operators is expected to increase by 12 percent over the coming decade. These individuals make a median salary of $60,360 annually.

Career paths

With the rise of streaming platforms, online distribution channels, and independent film production, the opportunities for film professionals have expanded beyond traditional avenues. The demand for skilled professionals who can create high-quality content remains strong. As the industry evolves, so do the job prospects for individuals with a master’s in film, with roles ranging from film production and direction to post-production and visual effects.

Here are some of the more common career paths for those with a master’s degree in film:

  • Screenwriter — craft compelling narratives for films, TV shows, and other visual media
  • Film editor — assemble footage, fine-tune each scene, and ensure a seamless flow for the story being told
  • Film critic — provide insights, reviews, and commentary on films of all kinds
  • Cinematographer — oversee the capturing of the visual elements of a film
  • Film producer — oversee the entire production process

Film Director

Earning Potential: $71,680-$173,680 annually

Education Required: master’s degree in film or related field

A film director makes business and creative decisions about films or other productions. They are responsible for guiding actors, cinematographers, and the production team, and they work to translate a script into visual storytelling. Directors make critical decisions on shot composition, camera angles, and performances, shaping the film’s tone and emotional impact. They collaborate with various departments to ensure the film’s vision, oversee editing and post-production, and bring their artistic insights to all aspects of filmmaking, creating a cinematic experience that resonates with audiences.

Special Effects Artists

Earning Potential: $51,040-$124,310 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in film, visual effects, or animation

A special effects artist uses their creativity and technical expertise to create visual illusions and enhance the cinematic experience. They use computer-generated imagery (CGI), practical effects, and advanced techniques to craft elements such as explosions, supernatural creatures, and otherworldly environments. Collaborating with directors and production teams, they bring fantastical worlds to life, integrating visual effects with live-action footage. Special effects artists play a pivotal role in enhancing storytelling, evoking emotions, and immersing audiences in the cinematic world through their mastery of digital and practical techniques.


Earning Potential: $63,200-$121,670 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in film, creative writing, or related field

A screenwriter is a master storyteller who writes narratives for film and television. They conceptualize characters, plotlines, and dialogue, translating ideas into scripts. With a keen understanding of structure and pacing, screenwriters create the blueprint that guides directors, actors, and production teams in bringing stories to life. They weave plots, develop authentic characters, and infuse scripts with emotion and tension. Screenwriters collaborate with directors and producers to refine and adapt their work to ensure it resonates with audiences.

Online Master’s in Film Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master's in film degree program?

Film program websites should outline specific application instructions. Follow these carefully and be mindful of deadlines. Before officially applying, determine whether your undergraduate coursework and GPA meet eligibility for program acceptance. For questions or concerns, speak to an admissions counselor or program advisor.

While exact requirements vary, a typical application for an online master’s in film degree includes the following:

  • A completed application form
  • Official transcripts from an accredited undergraduate program
  • Letters of recommendation
  • An application fee
  • A professional resume
  • ​​A sample or portfolio of your film-related work
  • A film-related writing assignment

Some programs also require that candidates interview with a faculty member.

How much does an online master's in film degree cost?

According to U.S. News & World Report, the average tuition for an online master’s in film is $15,000 to $20,000. Online tuition is often on par with in-person costs; you might save some money on student fees, but many institutions charge a flat tuition rate. Your residency status is a determining cost factor; in-state tuition is more affordable.

Film students must also factor in the cost of books, necessary visual equipment, and editing software. You might also invest in an updated computer and reliable internet for this software to function. Online attendees living near campus could leverage on-campus computer labs featuring the necessary software. Finally, you’ll be responsible for your film production costs.

How long does it take to earn an online master's in film degree?

Online graduate students can enroll in coursework full-time or part-time. Full-time students can complete the program in two to three years. Individuals supporting families and other professional obligations may instead attend part-time, spreading coursework across three to four years.

Is an online master's in film worth it?

Earning an online master’s in film degree can provide numerous benefits. This advanced degree can help you stand out in a competitive industry, demonstrating your commitment to honing your craft and expanding your expertise. Additionally, a master’s degree can open doors to leadership roles and allow you to take on more creative and challenging projects.

According to BLS data, professionals with a master’s in film often command higher salaries than those with just a bachelor’s degree. The median annual wage for individuals with a master’s degree in film can vary depending on the specific role and years of experience, but it generally falls within the range of $50,000 to $120,000.

An online master’s in film program offers unique advantages. It allows you to access learning materials and engage with instructors and peers from the comfort of your own home or another convenient location, providing flexibility for individuals with busy schedules or those who prefer remote learning environments.

Furthermore, the networking opportunities provided by an online master’s program are invaluable. You’ll have the chance to connect with other aspiring filmmakers, industry professionals, and potential collaborators. These connections can lead to internships, job opportunities, and partnerships that significantly impact your career trajectory.

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