Film Studies Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a film studies degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Film Studies: Degrees at a Glance

Enrolling in a film studies program is ideal for those who are interested in cinema and motion picture history. With a degree in film studies, you can enter the fields of film, media, television and more. Undergraduates can focus their program by choosing electives in screenwriting, cinematography, directing or editing. Although bachelor's degree programs are widely available, associate's degree programs are not as easy to find.

With an undergraduate degree, you might have a career as a film editor, arts critic, broadcast and sound technician, producer or director. Although you'll have many job options, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job growth in this industry was not expected to be significant from 2010 to 2020. For example, film and video editors and camera operators were expected to see slow job growth at 4%, while producers and directors were projected to see the most growth at 11%, which is about average.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who wish to begin entry-level positions in media or who intend to transfer to a 4-year program Those who want to work in the film industry and advance in their careers
Common career paths (with approx. median salary) -Production assistant ($28,000)*
-Screenwriter ($56,000 - may require long-term on-the-job training)**
- Film critic (unavailable)
- Camera operator ($40,000 - may require experience and technical training)**
- Film and video editor ($53,000)**
- Producers and directors ($71,000 - may require 1-5 years of experience)**
Time to completion2 years, full time4 years, full time
Common graduation requirements - General education courses
- Major courses
- Approved electives
- Liberal arts coursework
- Major courses
- Internship
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED- High school diploma, GED or associate's degree
Online availability YesYes

Source: * (June 2012 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Film Studies

An associate's degree program in film studies includes courses and workshops related to cinema and film production. You can expect to learn about film history and criticism, which provides the foundational knowledge necessary to begin entry-level work in the film industry. You'll also learn to analyze films and watch them with a critical eye. After completing a 2-year program in film, you'll be prepared to enter 4-year degree program and continue your education in film studies and cinematography.

Pros and Cons


  • The associate's degree program prepares you for an entry-level career in film and media
  • Elective courses allow you to tailor your education to meet your needs and interests
  • Upon graduation, you will be prepared to enroll in a 4-year college


  • Many entry-level positions in the film industry do not require an associate's degree; a high school diploma or GED will suffice
  • Some employers may require additional training or certification for technical jobs
  • There are only about 12 2-year programs in film studies available in the U.S.*

Source: *U.S. Department of Education (2012 numbers).

Courses and Requirements

In addition to general education courses in subjects such as English, math, science and history, you'll complete core coursework in film studies. These courses encompass a wide range of subjects. You can choose elective courses to specialize in an area, such as production or criticism. Typical coursework may include:

  • Cinema studies
  • Women in film
  • Movie scriptwriting
  • History of cinema
  • Film criticism and interpretation
  • Film production

Online Degree Options

Online associate's degree programs in film studies are available, but they are uncommon. These programs require the same coursework as an on-campus program. You will gain a basic knowledge of the film industry and cinematography. While on-campus associate's programs rarely offer technical training, obtaining the technical skills needed for film careers is more difficult via online programs.

Stand Out with This Degree

Having significant work experience and technical skills are the best ways to advance in your career. Learn new technologies in your field by choosing elective courses in digital filmmaking or other technologies used in the film industry. Keeping up with emerging technologies is vital in an industry as fast-paced and competitive as film and media.

Bachelor's Degree in Film Studies

Earning a bachelor's degree in film studies prepares you to begin work in film history, arts management, filmmaking or producing. As a student, you will learn both the creativity and the technical skills needed to enter the film and media industries. You will study different genres, cultures and filmmakers to gain a broad understanding of the history and social context of films.

Pros and Cons


  • A bachelor's in film studies provides a broad education that will prepare you for a career in the film industry
  • Internships and degree projects will give you hands-on training to add to your resume
  • Depending on your needs, you may choose to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Bachelor of Arts


  • Job growth predictions for jobs in the film industry are only average or slower than average during the 2010-2020 decade*
  • You will likely start out as a production assistant and will need to work your way up
  • Jobs in the film industry, specifically producer and director jobs, are very competitive*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

As an undergraduate student, you will take a wide variety of courses to get a taste for all different types of cinema. In addition to coursework, you may be required to complete an internship in the industry of your choosing or complete a project under supervision of an advisor. Generally, coursework may include:

  • Film genres
  • Production techniques for film and video
  • Film editing
  • African American films
  • International films
  • Media, film and culture
  • Film criticism and theory

Online Degree Options

Some colleges and universities offer online programs in film studies. These bachelor's degree programs train students for the same careers in the film industry, and students are given a similar education as those in on-campus programs. Students in online programs may find it difficult to take advantage of internship opportunities and other networking options, however.

Stand Out with This Degree

Gaining significant work experience in your area of expertise is a great way to stand out with a degree in film studies. Take advantage of internship and other hands-on learning opportunities while in school to gain experience and to hone your technical skills. If you are planning a career as a media or film critic, volunteer to write movie reviews for your school or local newspaper. This will give you experience and you'll have published examples of your work to demonstrate your abilities to a future employer. Movie producers make business and financial decisions for a movie production, so if you plan on a career as a producer, take some business courses along with your film studies classes.

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