Online Master's Programs in Film Studies

Earning a master's in film studies online helps graduates pursue careers in film and television production. Whether you already work in the industry and want to expand your skills or you want to change careers, this versatile degree can help you achieve your goals.

This guide details common careers and job growth projections, covering professional opportunities for graduates with an MS/MA in film studies. Keep reading to learn about degree outcomes, graduation requirements, common courses, available specializations, financial support, and professional resources.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Film Studies Program?

Graduates of master's in film studies online programs gain valuable skills that serve them in the motion picture industry and beyond. Students learn how to communicate well and articulate their opinions, work independently or collaboratively, employ resourcefulness and creativity to achieve desired outcomes, and think outside the box. Degree-seekers who opt for a specialization also build advanced and nuanced skills in a particular subdiscipline, differentiating themselves from competitors.

When looking at potential master's in film studies online programs, some learners may be curious about the differences between campus-based and online degrees. Regardless of setting, all students engage with lectures, watch assigned films and shows, complete readings, submit assignments, communicate with peers and professors, and participate in group projects.

What Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Film Studies Program?

As you review common courses below, remember that specific plans of study can vary significantly based on school. Check with individual institutions to get a better sense of what to expect in different film studies master's programs.

  • Icon
    Film Theory and Criticism: Usually taken in the first semester of studies as a foundational course, this course examines some of the major theories and frameworks for understanding and criticizing works of film. Learners discuss major theories such as narratology, structuralism, psychoanalysis, and semiotics as a way of understanding films.
  • Icon
    The History of American Cinema: This course serves two purposes: to give learners a full understanding of American cinematography and to discuss the evolution of Hollywood studios over time. Learners trace the rise of American films, beginning in the 1920s and moving through the heydays of the 1930s and 40s before discussing its subsequent decline in the 1960s and more recent renaissance.
  • Icon
    World Cinema: This survey course highlights parts of the world known for producing interesting cinema and those places that are starting to make a mark. Specific interest is given to Asian, British, French, German, Mexican, Australian, and New Zealand film.
  • Icon
    Screenwriting: Students focus on understanding major modes of screenwriting while also developing skills in the genre. Learners examine well-known screenwriters of the last century and study various types of writing, such as comedy, drama, and horror.
  • Icon
    Television Studies: With an emphasis on helping students understand both historical and contemporary television, this course examines some of the issues and shifts within the medium. Degree-seekers consider how the advent of streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, have transformed show creation.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

In addition to completing all coursework requirements, students enrolled in a master's in film studies online program must also participate in some type of final project. Those who want to work in the industry often produce a culminating assignment such as a critical analysis, script, or production schedule.

Students more interested in academics typically decide to research and write a thesis about a particularly interesting or unique topic in the field. This project involves conducting primary and secondary research and developing a compelling thesis statement.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master's in Film Studies Program?

Film studies programs cover a lot of information. Since the schools cover so much, many schools offer specializations to help degree-seekers focus in a particular area. Browse some popular options below and check with individual programs for specific offerings.

  • Cinematography: Students pursuing this specialization want to learn more about the theories and methods behind how a film is shot. They explore filming techniques and different types of camera equipment in depth.
  • Screenwriting: Rather than focusing on what a film looks like, screenwriters focus on how it sounds. This specialization teaches students about various practices around writing a script and provides an awareness of and appreciation for well-regarded scripts.
  • Production: Learners in this track examine the five major areas of film production: development, pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution. Specific topics include scene setups, set design, and filming strategies.

How Much Can I Make With a Career in Film Studies

Salaries for graduates of master's in film studies online degrees can vary drastically based on title, location, degree, and experience. We touch on a few common roles for graduates in the section below, but remember that no degree guarantees a specific title or salary.

Camera Operator

Camera operators work behind the scenes to capture shots that make a film memorable and unique. They work with directors and producers to solidify their vision, decide on the proper type of camera equipment and lenses, and review raw footage.

Median Annual Salary: $58,990

Job Growth 2018-2028: 11%

Video Editor

Once the camera operator completes the job, the video editor takes over. These professionals possess a keen eye for details and know how to bring raw footage together to create a compelling film or television show. They work closely with other project members to achieve desired outcomes.

Median Annual Salary: $58,990

Job Growth 2018-2028: 11%

Producer/Director

Producers and directors act as managers of the whole process. They select scripts, audition actors, work with set and costume designers, develop and maintain budgets, and make decisions about filming style and tone. They also liaise with camera operators, video editors, and publicity professionals to ensure the project comes out according to their vision.

Median Annual Salary: $71,680

Job Growth 2018-2028: 5%

Online Master's in Film Studies Program Accreditation

Before enrolling in any master's in film studies online program, learners should ensure the school and department maintain proper accreditation. Within the world of film, the National Association of Schools of Art & Design provides the gold standard in accreditation.

More generally, degree-seekers should ensure their chosen school holds proper institutional accreditation. Most four-year institutions seek regional accreditation as it is considered the more rigorous between regional and national. Use the U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to check the status of prospective schools.

How to Pay for a Master's in Film Studies Degree

Deciding to pursue a master's in film studies represents a huge step, both academically and financially. Because earning a degree comes with many expenses, several options exist to cover costs.

  • Federal Student Aid: By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year of enrollment, learners qualify for various grants, work-study programs, and student loans. Federal funds are disbursed on a first-come-first-served basis, so try to submit your application early.
  • Fellowships: Many schools and film institutes offer fellowships that allow students to participate in meaningful projects in exchange for funding. Some schools cover all tuition and provide a small stipend for fellows.
  • Employer Assistance/Reimbursement: If you already work in the industry, inquire if your employer can help cover costs. The Employer Assistance Program allows for up to $5,250 to be kept from taxable income each year you are enrolled.

Scholarships for Master's in Film Studies Students

Student Academy Awards

Who Can Apply: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards this scholarship to students who submit a short film demonstrating innovation and promise.

Amount: $5,000

Apply for Scholarship

Randy Falco Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Hispanic or Latinx students pursuing a master's degree in film studies or a related subject can apply to this award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Amount: $10,000

Apply for Scholarship

Princess Grace Foundation Film Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students who demonstrate a commitment to the film industry qualify for this award, provided they submit an application by June 1.

Amount: $7,500

Apply for Scholarship

Support Creativity Scholarship

Who Can Apply: We Support Creativity supplies this annual award to graduate students pursuing any degree related to the creative arts, including film studies. The organization sets no GPA requirement.

Amount: $1,000

Apply for Scholarship

Steve Kaplan TV & Film Studies Award

Who Can Apply: ASCAP provides this scholarship to film studies learners who demonstrate a commitment to film music composition.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional associations benefit all members of the film studies industry by creating meaningful networking opportunities, providing leadership development initiatives, offering awards, and working to champion and further the industry.

  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies: SCMS members gain access to an annual conference, teaching and research resources, a career center, the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, several awards, and student resources.
  • The American Society of Cinematographers: ASC members can take advantage of master classes, industry news, an awards ceremony, local and national events, education and outreach programming, and a store.
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: In addition to hosting the Oscars, AMPAS provides access to career services, an events calendar, the Margaret Herrick Library, a museum, educational programs, and grants.
  • Motion Picture Association: MPA serves members by offering industry profiles, film ratings, career opportunities, research studies, industry reports, policy initiatives, and networking opportunities.
  • National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences: When not hosting the annual Emmy Awards, NATAS provides national committees, local chapters, scholarships, student awards, member directories, a full calendar of events, and a job bank.