United States Masters of Fine Arts Programs | MFA Degree
Masters of Fine Arts, also called MFA degrees, offer students the opportunity to study diverse subjects, from filmmaking and theatre to creative writing and graphic design, at the graduate level. Master of Fine Arts programs typically require 2-3 years of full time study and may offer some practical and applied learning, as well as lessons in technique and theory.
What is a MFA Degree?
A Master of Fine Arts (MFA, or M.F.A.) degree is considered a ‘terminal’ degree, meaning it is the highest academic degree available in the Fine Arts. Though there are exceptions, an MFA is typically enough credential for individuals aspiring to teach Visual Art, Design, Dance, Photography, Theatre, Film/Video, New Media, and Creative Writing at the university level. To apply for admission into a Master of Fine Arts program, students must possess a Bachelor’s degree, such as a Bachelors of Fine Art. Some MFA degree programs may also require a portfolio or audition as part of the admission procedure.
Working towards a MFA degree allows students of the arts to demonstrate and refine artistic and creative abilities, enhance conceptual development and improve techniques within a specialty field. Students may choose to focus their MFA program on a number of different areas, including administrative roles such as theatre management or arts administration. Potential areas of focus are listed below.
- Visual arts
- Creative writing
- Graphic design
- Performing arts
Masters of Fine Arts Programs Potential Curriculum
General Master of Fine Arts Degrees are typically oriented toward creative production. Many classes are designed to help each student acquire the technical and theoretical resources, as well as the confidence, to set up professional practice in today's art world. Individualism of thought and execution is often
encouraged so that artists develop in order to meet the challenges in professional careers. Masters of Fine Arts courses may be offered in a wide range of subjects, as today’s artist works in different careers, mediums and industries. That said, common topics students in MFA programs might explore may include those listed below.
- Fine Arts: including theory and techniques to compose, produce or perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, painting, printmaking, and sculpture, studio arts, art history
- Design: techniques, tools and principles involved in precise technical plans, blueprints or drawings
- Personal service: meeting quality standards, professionalism and client care
- Sales and marketing: how to show, promote or sell products and services with marketing strategy and other sales techniques
- English, social sciences, natural science
We asked Michael Graber, Managing Partner for Southern Growth Studio, how earning a MFA degree has influence in the business sector:
“MFAs listen to the wants and needs of real people. They gain a critical contextual awareness for whom they are designing products.”
Michael Graber, Managing Partner for Southern Growth Studio Click to Tweet
What Can I Do With A Master in Fine Arts?
Fine Artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original artwork using a variety of different methods and media. Some of the industries with the highest levels of employment in this occupation include:
- Independent artists, writers, performers
- Motion picture and video industries
- Miscellaneous store retailers
- Newspaper, periodical book, and directory publishers
- Software Publishers
Other potential career paths for graduates of Masters of Fine Arts programs might include:
- Art Directors: responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, movie and television productions
- Photographers: use their technical expertise, creativity, and composition skills to produce and preserve images that visually tell stories
- Multimedia Artists and Animators: create animation and visual effects for television, movies, video games and other media
- Web Developers: design and create websites
- Graphic Designers: create visual concepts by hand or computer software and develop layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports
- Technical Writers: prepare instruction manuals, journal articles and other documents
- Writers and Authors: develop content for advertisements, books, magazines, movies, television, songs and other publications
- Art, Drama and Music Teachers: teach courses in drama, music, and the arts including fine and applied art, such as painting and sculpture, or design and crafts. Some do a combination of both teaching and research.
FUN FACT: The Master of Fine Arts differs from the Master of Arts in that the MFA, while an academic program, centers around practice in the particular field, whereas programs leading to the MA usually center on the scholarly, academic, or critical study of the field.
Find Masters of Fine Arts Degree Programs
GradSchools.com has helpful search tools. The tools can assist you in determining which Master of Fine Arts program corresponds to your academic and vocational aspirations. You can begin with a location search; use the city, state or country tabs to determine where schools offering MFA programs are offered. Then refine by learning format. You can study a Masters of Fine Arts on campus, or in some cases opt for a distance learning format. Online MFA programs are offered in some fields and may be a good fit for the currently working professional or busy adult, as they offer the flexibility of scheduling study at one’s convenience. The hybrid format combines web-based learning with on campus courses, which also may work if you are trying to balance your Masters of Fine Arts education with other factors.
Take the Next Step
Whatever creative path you are drawn to, earning a Master in Fine Arts Degree might help you refine your talents, cultivate new skills and prepare for a variety of career paths. Advanced education might provide artists an opportunity to develop their portfolio, which is essential, because art directors, clients, and others look at them when deciding whether to hire the artist or to buy their work. Why not let use the search tools on GradSchools.com to help you find an MFA program that will take your ingenuity and artistry in your craft to the next level!
- New York City, NYNew York City, NY
This full-time graduate program provides an in-depth study of the relationships between art, law and business and how they influence the commercial art world...
- New York City, NY
Colorado State University
Use your creative talents and develop new skills to meet the rising demand for arts management professionals, creative entrepreneurs, and leaders in cultural community development.
- New Brunswick, NJNew Brunswick, NJ
Rutgers University of New Jersey
The Program in Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies (CHAPS) emphasizes the development of a broad understanding of heritage contexts and policies along with development of professional skills.
- Columbus, OHColumbus, OH
Columbus College of Art & Design
The MFA focuses on individual artistic/design development and creative leadership.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
One of the best online graduate education programs in the country, according to the 2013 U.S. News and World Report survey.
- Incline Village, NVIncline Village, NV
Sierra Nevada College
A unique low-residency program focused on creative problem solving, fostered by critical thinking, with an emphasis on community...
- West Hartford, CTWest Hartford, CT
University of Hartford
This prestigious program is the ONLY Low Residency MFA in the country that is dedicated exclusively to Illustration.
- Brooklyn, NYBrooklyn, NY
The mission of graduate studies in the History of Art & Design Department is to provide students with the skills and knowledge to pursue careers as art and design historians and professionals in museums, galleries, and libraries, or to pursue graduate...
- Brooklyn, NY
- Denver, CODenver, CO
University of Denver
We offer a master’s degree in Art History and an optional concentration in Museum Studies with courses in world art with emphasis on European and American art from the Middle Ages to present, Pre-Columbian art and Asian art.
Vermont Studio Center
Vermont Studio Center, along with Johnson State College, offers a 60 credit (3 year) low-residency M.F.A. program for both American and international...
- Logan, UTLogan, UT
Utah State University
- Cullowhee, NCCullowhee, NC
Western Carolina University
Since our graduate program is not large, students are usually in small classes. In fact, the student-faculty ratio is about one graduate faculty membe...
- Framingham, MAFramingham, MA
Framingham State University
The Master of Education with a concentration in Art is designed for students who are interested in furthering their knowledge of art at the graduate l...
- Cheney, WACheney, WA
Eastern Washington University
Portfolio of Art Specialty; Quarterly admittance; Contact department for further information...
- Madison, NJMadison, NJ
The Drew University Master of Fine Arts in Poetry Program is a two-year, low-residency program for poets and poet translators.