Earning a Master's in Film Studies Online

An online master's degree in film studies prepares students for careers in the ever-changing world of national and international cinema. Among others, film studies graduates work as film archivists, programmers for cinemas and film festivals, education officers for museums, and writers and editors for film publications. If you have a passion for analyzing the theoretical, historical, or cultural aspects of film, then earning a master's in film studies may serve you well. This guide covers salary potential, available jobs, average costs, common courses, and networking opportunities within the area of film studies.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Film Studies?

Master's in film studies online degrees attract students from many walks of life. Some learners already possess a bachelor's degree in film studies and want to continue their education, while others have unrelated undergraduate degrees and seek to change careers. Film studies programs also appeal to those who want to specialize their knowledge in a theoretical, cultural, or historical area within the field.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Film Studies?

Pursuing Specialization

Unlike baccalaureate programs, online master's in film programs allow students to specialize their knowledge. Some degree seekers may feel drawn to studying the ins and outs of the film industry, while others may want to explore the various cultural effects of cinema. When looking at prospective schools, find a program that offers specializations or several electives in your area of interest.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Undergraduate film studies programs prepare graduates to compete for entry-level roles, but advanced degrees may open doors to higher positions offering more responsibility and higher pay. While these positions can be attained through years of hard work, individuals looking to move up the career ladder quickly often opt for a second degree.

Online Learning Technology

It should come as no surprise that the film industry harnesses technology when creating cutting-edge content. By completing an online master's degree in film studies, distance learners learn firsthand the innovative uses for communication technologies. The online nature of these programs may also help spark networking opportunities with professionals across the globe.

Prerequisites for Online Film Studies Programs

Some programs mandate prerequisites to ensure new learners feel up to the challenge of master's-level coursework.

  • Exams and Test Scores: Some programs may require students to submit GRE scores as a way of measuring them against other candidates. Applicants typically need scores in at least the 30th percentile, but every school requires different figures. GRE scores remain valid for five years after the test date.
  • Coursework: In general, online master's in film studies degrees do not require specific undergraduate coursework. Most programs mandate a GPA of 2.5 or higher; top-tier programs look for average grades of 3.0 or higher.
  • Recommendations: Schools commonly ask for at least two letters of recommendation from former professors, supervisors, or mentors who can speak to the student's work ethic, creative vision, and readiness for advanced studies. Learners should request these at least one month prior to the deadline to give the writers ample time for reflection.
  • Essays: Most programs require students to provide an essay or statement of purpose outlining what they hope to do with the degree and why they feel the school to which they are applying best aligns with their goals. Some schools may also provide specific essay questions to guide the applicant.
  • Interviews: The majority of online master's in film studies programs do not require interviews. The exception occurs when learners apply to highly competitive schools or programs. In these cases, applicants usually participate in an in-person or virtual interview so admissions panels can help differentiate candidates.
  • International Students: International applicants must provide TOEFL or IELTS scores to demonstrate their proficiency in English. They may also need to provide evidence of their ability to pay for the course and cover living expenses while enrolled.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Film Studies?

Salaries for graduates with a master's in film studies vary based on job, experience level, and location. For example, the annual median salary for someone who plans and coordinates film-related events falls around $42,000, but the highest 10% of those employed in the field earned more than $84,000. Likewise, the annual median salary for a film archivist falls around $52,000, but the highest 10% of those in the field earned more than $86,000. In short, a master's degree in film studies may help graduates earn higher wages as employers recognize their advanced competencies and skill sets.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Film Studies Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Managing Editor

Median Pay: $60,682

Managing editors oversee publications such as magazines, journals, newspapers, online websites, and blogs to create engaging content. They oversee writers, assign stories, create overarching editorial goals, and liaise with other members of the production team to ensure materials move from start to finish in a timely manner.

Writer and Author

Median Pay: $62,170

Job Growth: 8%

Archivists work in museums, historical societies, and libraries to document and organize large collections of documents, materials, manuscripts, and artifacts. They create systems of collection and organization and work to develop databases that the public can access.

Film Archivist

Median Pay: $52,240

Job Growth: 13%

Film archivists preserve and restore moving images in film, video, and digital formats. They may process and catalog media texts as well as locate and acquire new materials for their employer's archives. Film archivists may watch an inordinate amount of footage and then decide what to do with it so that researchers and the public can access and learn from it.

Film Programmer

Median Pay: $42,500

Job Growth: 11%

Programmers plan film-related events such as festivals, conferences, and conventions. They organize all aspects of the event, from initial meetings with clients and scheduling to registering guests and determining finances. Programmers should keep abreast of current trends in cinema, which film studies graduates would certainly know how to do.

Source: PayScale/BLS

Paying for an Online Master's in Film Studies

Completing an online master's degree in film studies does not just take time and dedication; it also requires money. Paying for an advanced degree can be difficult if students do not adequately research their options. Learners soon find that attending a public school in their state can help save significant amounts of money. Out-of-state schools sometimes allow online students to pay discounted rates. In addition to lower tuition, degree seekers should look for institutional and programmatic scholarships, foundation grants, and other sources of aid that do not require repayment.

Scholarships for Online Film Studies Master's Students

Many scholarships and grants exist to help students pursuing master's in film studies online degrees receive the funding they need without taking on exorbitant student debt. In addition to those spotlighted below, learners should research other foundations, nonprofits, corporations, and universities to find funding opportunities.

What to Expect from a Master's-Level Online Film Studies Program

Online master's in film studies degrees vary based on the individual institution. In general, students can expect to enroll on a full-time basis for two years before graduating. Learners need to complete a thesis and potentially a capstone project in order to meet all degree requirements. Virtual classrooms tend to use pre-recorded or live lectures, chat rooms, discussion forums, email, and phone to keep peers and professors connected to one another.

Major Milestones

  1. Capstone Coursework

    Capstone projects help students demonstrate the breadth and depth of their learning over the lifespan of the degree. These may include papers fit for an academic journal or conference presentations.

  2. Internships/Apprenticeships/Job Shadowing

    Though not always required, these types of opportunities help students begin building real-world skills while still enrolled. They also help greatly with networking and finding a job after college.

  3. Thesis Preparation and Defense

    Theses provide a great option for students who want to work in a research-focused or academic area of the discipline, as they allow learners to demonstrate mastery in a particular topic.

  4. Intent to Graduate/Completion Confirmation

    After meeting all course requirements, students can apply to graduate. This involves paying any outstanding fees, receiving final grades, and purchasing or renting a cap and gown.

  5. Application to Doctoral Program

    Learners with master's in film studies online degrees who want to advance into a doctoral program should begin working on their applications and gathering necessary documentation during their final fall semester. Students then send applications in during the early spring.


The list of sample courses below gives students a general sense of what to expect, but learners should review individual plans of study for specific information about their chosen programs.

World Cinema

This course exposes learners to cinematic global movements. Special emphasis may be given to Asian, British, French, German, Mexican, Australian, or New Zealand film.

Film Theory and Criticism

This class teaches students how to view films and other motion pictures through critical lenses, with emphasis on tools such as narratology, structuralism, semiotics, and psychoanalysis.

Understanding Television Studios

This course explores the operation of television studio, changes in TV production, and new technologies in use.

Historiography of Film

This course teaches students about the existing history around cinema and film. Learners sharpen their skills in research and archival retrieval to get a better sense of the industry's evolution.

Narrative Strategies

Students in this course look at ways to tell stories and use creative narrative tools to get their messages across. In addition to studying various methods, learners watch a variety of films to see these strategies in use.

Degree Timelines

Learners can choose from several degree timelines to find one that best fits their unique schedule. Keep your ideal timeline in mind when looking at prospective programs.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description


3 years

Part-time programs appeal to learners who can only take 3-6 credits per term. This option works for students with heavy workloads who need to take their time progressing through the plan of study.


2 years

Full-time programs take an average of two years and require students to pass 6-9 credits per term. Those working full time may face difficulty attending school full time as well. However, online learning can help professionals take on a larger course load, since distance learners do not have to commute and can complete assignments whenever is convenient for them.


1 year

Accelerated paths usually take one year. By taking shorter courses (usually 5-8 weeks each), learners can progress through classes in less time. Students who manage their time well find these programs appealing.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Whether still in school or a veteran member of the film industry, individuals can use professional organizations to help boost their careers. In addition to providing access to educational opportunities such as webinars, screenings, and master classes, many of these organizations also organize events and award shows. These events allow members to network and show off their work. Many organizations also provide access to job boards to help individuals find their next professional opportunity.

  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Known by all as the coordinating body of the Oscars, the Academy also serves many other functions. Members working in cinema total more than 8,000 as of 2019, with plenty of benefits for those who stay active in the Academy.
  • Association of Moving Image Archivists Dedicated to preserving moving image media, this organization offers workshops, webinars, and an annual conference.
  • Literature Film Association The largest scholarly society devoted to the study of the intersection of literature and film, LFA supports and promotes cinema studies. Its annual conference draws national and international film scholars.
  • Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association In addition to providing teaching materials and publishing two scholarly journals, PCA/ACA offers travel grants to help graduate students and scholars pay for expenses as they travel to its annual conference.
  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies SCMS provides members with exclusive job postings, teaching and researching resources, and a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. The society also hosts an annual conference.