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Timing the Degree

There are two schools of thought on when it is the best time to join film school. The first proposes that given the value attached to youth in the film and digital media industries, wisdom lies in pursuing and completing a degree early on. The other proposes that no matter how much value is placed on youth there is an undoubted advantage in securing a high-quality, competitive degree from a film school of repute and that students gain from attending film school after having tried their hand at working in any of the related industries for a few years.

As an instance, the film school that tops the list of the world’s best according to the Hollywood Reporter, the American Film Institute, is attended by students who are older than the average graduate student (about 27 years old) and usually obtain a place after having worked for at least a couple of years in the industry.

Studying Film & Television: Degrees at a Glance

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that to obtain a higher-level position in the film & television industry, such as director, writer or producer, you may need to have a bachelor’s degree. Even with an undergraduate degree, you will likely need to start in assistant positions and gain several years of professional experience to move up the ranks in this field. Earning a graduate degree in film & television studies can provide you with time to hone your skills, build a portfolio and make connections with industry professionals. Doctoral degrees in film & television studies might appeal to you if you want to teach at the collegiate level.

The BLS predicted that producers and directors would see an 11% employment growth rate (about average) over the 2010-2020 decade, while screenwriters would see a slower-than-average 6% growth during that time. Postsecondary teachers were expected to see a job rate increase of 17% during the same decade.

  Master’s Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want an advanced overview of the film & television industry so that they might find jobs in production, editing or similar fields Individuals who want to teach film & television at the postsecondary level or act as consultants
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) – Director or producer ($71, 000)* – Film editor ($53, 000)* – Screenwriter (includes all writers and authors - $56, 000)* Postsecondary teacher ($64, 000)*
Time to Completion About 2 years 2-4 years
Common Graduation Requirements – Core film courses – Thesis or graduate project – Core courses – Possible foreign language requirement – Dissertation – PhD exam
Prerequisites – Bachelor’s degree – Portfolio or resume Bachelor’s or Master’s degree
Online Availability No No

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

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