How Much Can You Make in a Film Career?
Graduates of online film school programs can enter several careers, depending on their area of interest and degree level attained. While no college degree guarantees a career or salary, several options are available for graduates.
This section takes a look at common roles held by graduates of film programs. The section also provides details on average salaries and projected growth to help you find a position with adequate pay and job stability. Details are specific to those with bachelor's degrees in film. Review the common roles highlighted below, but conduct more research to find a position that best fits your needs.
- Film and Video Editors
Median Annual Salary: $58,990
Job Growth (2016-2026): 13%
Professionals in these roles take raw film footage and edit it with cutting-edge software. They work with directors to identify usable footage, correct any abnormalities, and call for any scenes that need to be reshot. They may work on films, television shows, commercials, or video journalism.
- Producers and Directors
Median Annual Salary: $71,680
Job Growth (2016-2026): 12%
Producers and directors work on TV shows, films, commercials, and theatre productions to take a writer's script and translate it into performances for audiences. They select the cast, oversee budgets, approve design decisions, oversee music and costume selections, and keep the project on schedule. They may also promote the completed piece in interviews and at film festivals.
- Multimedia Artists and Animators
Median Annual Salary: $72,520
Job Growth (2016-2026): 8%
Straddling the line between graphic design and film production, these creative individuals draw and design animations used in television shows, movies, and commercials. They work with producers and directors to ascertain needs and then create mock-ups to help clarify artistic vision. After receiving approval, they set to work animating the screenplay.
Median Annual Salary: $62,170
Job Growth (2016-2026): 8%
Writers serve as the backbone of the film industry, creating the stories and screenplays that other members of the industry then bring to life on the screen or stage. They develop plot lines, research historical time periods for accuracy, and liaise with editors to create a clear and compelling script.
- Art Director
Median Annual Salary: $92,780
Job Growth (2016-2026): 5%
Art directors concern themselves with visual design for movies, television shows, magazines, periodicals, and other design-heavy publications. They set the design concept and work with graphic designers, marketing professionals, and other stakeholders to create a final product aligned with customer and consumer expectations.
When reviewing salary information for jobs in the film industry, remember that several factors can influence wages, including level of degree attained, amount of experience, job title, and geographic location. Industry also matters; producers and directors working in motion pictures earn annual mean wages of $107,450, while those in performing arts bring home an average of $67,320. In terms of location, film professionals in California earn annual mean wages of $118,830, while those in Maryland earn $80,630.
What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Film Degree?
Given the wide breadth of courses available through online film school programs, students can often tailor their degree to meet their professional goals. When reviewing the courses highlighted in this section, remember that these represent only a sampling of available classes. You should research the websites of individual schools to get a fuller sense of availability and decide whether the institution in question adequately serves your academic needs.
This course teaches students about methods and styles of animation. Learners gain an understanding of common software, including After Effects, Flash, Photoshop, and Dragon Stop Motion.
Degree seekers learn about narrative tools for structuring screenplays and scripts, with a focus on how this art form has evolved since the ancient Greeks began writing mythic stories.
Students in this class gain basic technical skills surrounding camerawork, lighting, and sound. Learners work on a culminating project throughout the semester that demonstrates new skills gained.
This course gives students skills in using makeup to alter image, with special focus on anatomy, lighting, concept maquettes, facial molds, and prosthetics.
This course covers topics such as writing for a live audience, creating narrative arcs, developing web series, and scriptwriting. Learners decipher differences between working on television and film sets.
How to Choose the Best Online Film Program
Before beginning a film bachelor's degree online, you likely want answers to a number of questions. Factors such as cost, school reputation, accreditation status, availability of degrees, admission and graduation requirements, faculty experience, and structure of online coursework all play a role in making a final decision on where to attend. We surveyed students to learn more about common questions, many of which are answered below.
- What strategies should I follow in choosing my film courses?
When choosing courses for a bachelor's degree in film online, you should try to learn as much as possible about the industry in general terms. Because this is often learners' first exposure to formalized learning about film, they may find a new area of the discipline that speaks to their interests and passions that they did not know about previously. If you hope to specialize in a particular area, use electives or plan on pursuing that topic at the master's level. Broad knowledge will serve you well in entry-level positions.
- Should I have any concerns related to completing a film degree online?
Given the visual nature of film studies, these types of programs transfer particularly well to distance learning. Students receive feedback and critiques on their projects from both peers and professors while interacting with each other via forums, chat programs, email, and video conference. They can also easily complete and upload projects onto the digital learning management platform.
- How do internships and fieldwork requirements work in an online film degree?
Any required internships work the same way for online and campus-based programs, but the process for finding them may look a little different. If attending a school far away from your place of residence, you may need to do extra legwork to find a suitable internship site and gain approval from the department. If attending a school nearby, you may be able to select from a list of pre-approved internship locations.
- What should I look for when reviewing faculty bios?
Faculty bios can provide significant insight into how well a program prepares you for specific roles. When reviewing these, pay special attention to the focus area in which each professor specializes, as a school without teachers possessing insight in your chosen area can leave you feeling unprepared. Also ensure that faculty members spent some time working in the industry.
- Should I seek out a particular curriculum focus?
At the bachelor's level, online film schools tend to offer generalized plans of study that help students gain a foundational understanding of many competencies and skills used in the industry. That said, departments that incorporate a number of electives can be a great fit if you want to focus your degree in an area such as film history, screenplay writing, television production, or editing.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Film Programs
Online film school can cost a significant amount of money. Fortunately, several avenues exist for lessening these costs and helping students avoid significant amounts of loan debt. Two of the most popular options are scholarships and grants, as these types of funding do not require repayment. You can find popular scholarships below, but also research schools, film departments, state and federal governments, professional associations, and local businesses to find more funding options.
This $2,000 award assists students from Sarasota or Manatee County, Florida, who are currently pursuing a degree in film, motion design, illustration, creative writing, or animation. Applicants must attend an accredited college in Florida, maintain a GPA of 2.75 or above, and provide at least one example of their work. They must also include several short essays about why they want to work in film. Applications are due July 31.
The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences offers this $10,000 award to students working towards a degree in film or television studies. The award benefits students who have made a positive impact in their community. Applications are due March 15 each year, and students must provide official transcripts, evidence they meet the GPA requirement, letters of recommendation, a completed application, and answers to essay questions.
This $1,000 award assists New Jersey students pursuing studies in the arts, including film. Candidates provide a narrative essay outlining their artistic interests and financial need. Applicants must also show proof of acceptance to an accredited program, examples of original work, and evidence of community involvement. Applications are due May 10.
Applicants seeking this $1,000 award must identify as at least 25% Asian and/or Pacific Islander and pursue a degree in visual or performing arts (e.g., film, theatre, photography, graphic design, or mass communications). Candidates must also possess a GPA of 3.0 or higher, demonstrate leadership potential, and submit an essay and artistic portfolio. Applications are due May 6.
This annual scholarship awards up to $7,000 to a junior or senior student majoring in film, television, or a related topic. Applicants must show financial need, professional potential, and academic excellence. They must also attend an accredited four-year institution and submit their applications and supporting materials by April 15 of the awarding year.