How to Decode and Complete the Requirements for Your Masters of Fine Arts in Film Production Degree

Page content

Degree Completion

For those that have a standard liberal arts education it may be a little difficult to transition into the “art education” world of their film production Master’s of Fine Arts program. The way that the degree requirements work in a film production Master’s of Fine Arts program is much different and some how simultaneously more specific and more customizable. Here are a few tips on how to figure out and complete the requirements for your Master’s of Fine Arts of film production program.

MFA Requirements

Conventionally a film Master’s of Fine Arts program is two years of coursework and a year for thesis. Some times they will have some coursework while you are completing your thesis, and it may end up only being a total of two years. What you need to look at is how many credits of coursework is required and how many credits of thesis. This is going to tell you what is needed for completion in an overall sense, but from here you also need to decoe what required courses you have to have. Usually you will be provided with a worksheet that will outline the total number of credits you need to have to complete, which is usually around ninety, and then what specific classes you have to take and in which order. This is going to give you a general sense of what you need to get done from which you need to chart your progress.


Many degree programs will outline specific courses you must take and then general “types” of classes you must complete, which is somewhat vague. You need to contact your MFA adviser to make sure that the classes you are looking at will meet the qualifications for class types that you are required to have. For example, the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Master’s of Fine Arts program requires classes in film “history and aesthetics.” These courses do not necessarily have to be in their film school, but if they are not listed clearly to meet these qualifications then you must contact the department and have that class approved for that purpose.

Outside Courses

You may have to complete classes that are not part of the specifics of your degree, such as a liberal arts requirement or simply credits you must receive from a different department. You need to find out if this is true to your department early on because you will need to fit that into your coursework, but this is not true of every school. For example, the American Film Institute Conservatory is an MFA program that is going to have much more control over your degree and will not really require non-film courses.


Like with other class types, electives usually have some requirements. Try to figure out if you can use different types of courses to film elective requirements or if film internships can fill this spot. Usually film internships will meet the qualifications of the film electives, though film internships may actually be required for MFA degree completion. Make sure you are made aware of any non-course requirements that are necessary so you can plan for film internships early on. Normal courses in your department will usually count as electives, so make sure that you just chart your elective requirements and meet the credit number.


The thesis is the most difficult and defining part of a film Masters of Fine Arts program and you must get your project approved before starting and must have it defended and accepted after completion. This is an equally important part of your degree as the rest of the coursework, so read the thesis hand book before submitting for approval and then go through thesis preparation courses in detail. Every film school requires something slightly different, but usually it requires a concept to be approved and consistent check ins with your advisor over the year production process.

This post is part of the series: Making it Through Film School

Here are a few tips for working your way through your Masters of Fine Arts degree in film production.

  1. Tips for Completing a Masters of Fine Arts Program in Film Production
  2. Tips for Selecting Classes in a Film Master’s Program