Earning a Master’s in Film Studies Online

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September 22, 2021

Should I Pursue a Master's in Film Studies Online?

By studying film history, theory, and criticism, film studies graduate students assess movies and the industry as a whole. Unlike a master's in film production, which teaches students how to make media texts, an online master's degree in film studies trains graduate students to critique and analyze them.

Prospective film studies students can earn a master of arts (MA) in film studies or a master of fine arts (MFA) in film studies. The MFA, while sharing similar coursework and sometimes yielding similar career opportunities as the MA, represents a terminal degree and focuses more on creative applications over theory and analysis.

The MA in film studies allows graduates to pursue careers as film critics, film instructors, and film curators and preservationists. What's more, an online master's degree in film studies offers flexibility and accessibility over an on-campus program, allowing students to attend top programs without having to relocate.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Film Studies Graduates

Master's in Film Studies Salary

Students with a master's in film studies work in media, education, and entertainment. These fields offer lucrative opportunities, with the annual mean wage at media networks over $80,000 while employees in arts, entertainment, and recreation earn an average of $63,000 a year. As professionals advance in their careers, they often see salary increases.

Top-Paying Jobs for Film Studies

Job Annual Mean Wage
Producer and Director $107,450
Film and Video Editor $90,010
Media and Communications Worker $77,220
Editor $76,250
Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technician $55,720

Master's in Film Studies Careers

Graduates with a master's degree in film studies work in media, entertainment, and the arts. Professionals may work as a film archivist to preserve significant films, or as a film critic, instructor, or art director. These careers draw on the analytical skills one gains during an online master's degree in film studies.

Director or Producer

Annual Median Salary: $71,620

Directors and producers create motion pictures, commercials, television shows, and other forms of media. They may select scripts, cast actors, hire crew members, and oversee the production process. Producers also promote finished works. A background in film studies prepares directors and producers to work within a genre or critique potential projects, although additional education in film production and technology may be required.


Annual Median Salary: $47,360

Archivists preserve important documents, materials, and records. They authenticate archival materials, decide which items should be preserved, and classify archival records. In film studies, archivists preserve significant films and organize exhibits to screen films in the collection. Professionals with a film studies master's degree may require additional archival training.


Annual Median Salary: $61,820

Writers create written content for books, magazines, advertisements, and scripts. They conduct research and work with editors and clients to create a finished draft. Writers with a background in film studies may work as movie or television critics. They can also work as screenwriters, creating scripts for films or television.

Postsecondary Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $76,000

Postsecondary teachers teach college students in their subject areas. They give lectures, create examinations, and measure student learning. Graduates with an online film master's degree generally qualify for positions at a community college, teaching film studies to undergraduates.

Art Director

Annual Median Salary: $92,500

Art directors create the visual style for magazines, newspapers, movies, and television productions. They determine how to represent a concept visually, develop its overall look, and oversee design staff. A background in film studies prepares graduates for careers as a movie, television, or media art director.

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

During an online master's degree in film studies, graduate students strengthen their ability to analyze and critique films. They explore film theories, study different eras and genres of cinema, and complete seminars in specialized topics. Courses may vary depending on the school and program.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Film Studies

Advanced Film Studies

Many online master's in film studies programs begin with a course on advanced film studies, where graduate students explore techniques for film analysis, formal elements of cinema, and film theories. Students strengthen their ability to analyze films through screenings, readings, and writing assignments.

Film Theory and Criticism

In this class, students examine the history of film theory and criticism. Coursework emphasizes different theories of film, its relations to other arts, and the role of audiences. Students also learn about prominent film theorists

Women and Film

Graduate students explore the representation of women in U.S. film, both through critiquing films and reading critical assessments. The course may employ feminist theory, historical film analysis, and other tools to understand the construction of women in film and how it changes over time.

Independent Cinema

Courses on independent cinema examine independent films, exploring their narrative choices, styles, and cultural impact. Students consider criticism of independent films from scholarly and popular sources. Depending on the course, students may look at contemporary independent films or films from a particular period.

World Cinema

Film studies graduate students may take seminars on world cinema, which may focus on many periods and cultures or a single nation's cinema. Topics may include South Korean cinema, French New Wave cinema, or Chinese cinema. Students examine how film engages with social, political, and cultural issues.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Film Studies Prepares For

Careers in film and entertainment usually do not require a license or professional certification. Earning a master's degree meets the educational requirements for most positions within the industry. Professionals considering other fields, such as teaching below the postsecondary level, may need a license depending on the state.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations help students earning a master's in film studies online connect with professionals in their field and transition from graduate school into the workforce. Many organizations offer professional development tools, networking opportunities through conferences, and resources like webcasts and webinars. Members can access job boards to identify openings in their field or apply for grants to fund a film project. Students often benefit from membership discounts.

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