A Bachelor’s in Film Studies is an excellent option for students looking to turn their love of movies into a career. With digital streaming platforms overtaking legacy distribution models, the television and film industries have grown tremendously in recent years. Global demand for professionally produced entertainment is surging with no signs of slowing down. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is projected to increase 17 percent by 2026. A bachelor’s degree in film studies qualifies graduates for entry-level positions in areas like directing and producing. It is also an ideal starting point for students considering the technical or academic sides of the movie industry. Below you will find the top 15 most affordable bachelor’s degrees in film studies that will give you a starting point in your research the education you need to succeed in this exciting field.
Students looking to pursue a career in film studies have a multitude of programs from which to choose. That’s why we developed this ranking list. Our goal is to help prospective undergraduates narrow down their options to find the bachelor’s in film degree that meets their professional and academic goals. We based our ranking on data obtained from each school’s website as well as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Using the NCES’s College Navigator database, we conducted a search for Bachelor’s in Film Studies degrees. We narrowed down the initial pool of 100 schools into the top 15 colleges and universities. We then awarded points based on categories such as:
- graduation rates
- the average cost of attendance
- student: faculty ratios.
Average Cost of Attendance
When comparing programs and determining whether or not a school is affordable, it’s important to make sure you are getting your money’s worth for your degree. Also, keep in mind that cost is not indicative of quality. Some of the best programs in the country are the most affordable. Conversely, some of the more expensive programs may not provide what you need in terms of your academic experience. For the purpose of this list, we provided in-state and out-of-state tuition costs for every school listed below, but we awarded points based on the average cost of tuition between the two.
Under $10,000: 3 points
$10,001 to $20,000: 2 points
$20,001 or more: 1 point
A school’s graduation rate is a strong indicator of the quality of its degree programs. Student learning outcomes and faculty are also measures of how satisfied students are with their academic experiences. For example, schools with high graduation rates might indicate that:
- students were impressed by the faculty
- they received the academic support they needed
- they found the school affordable compared to other similar institutions and programs
For this reason, we awarded the most points to schools with the highest graduation rates as noted by the ranges below.
More than 50 percent: 3 points
Between 30 percent and 50 percent: 2 points
Less than 30 percent: 1 point
Student: Faculty Ratio
There is a lot to be said for the learning environments and academic opportunities offered by larger colleges and universities. Advantagees include:
- majors to choose from
- more student clubs
- more extracurricular activities
However, some students thrive in a more close-knit environment. Smaller schools are more likely to provide:
- specialized and/or individualized studies
- opportunities for one-on-one mentoring
- close-knit relationships between students and faculty
Therefore, we awarded points based on the following table, giving schools with the lowest student: faculty ratios the highest number of points.
10:1 or lower: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Higher than 15:1: 1 point
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What are the Career Options for a Bachelor’s in Film Degree?
- How Much Can You Earn in This Field?
- What Else Can You Expect From a Bachelor’s in Film Studies Degree?
- Is Accreditation Important for Bachelor’s Degrees in Film Studies?
SUMMARY RANKING OF TOP 10 Best Affordable Film Studies Degree Programs:
- University of North Carolina School of the Arts
- CUNY City College
- CUNY Hunter College
- University of Alaska Fairbanks
- Miami Dade College
- Eastern New Mexico University
- CUNY Brooklyn College
- California State University-Long Beach
- Western Michigan University
- Rhode Island College
Ranking Top 15 Most Affordable Bachelor’s Degrees in Film Studies
15. New Mexico State University – Bachelor of Creative Media
Las Cruces, New Mexico
New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute (CMI) offers an affordable bachelor’s degree in creative media, a cross-disciplinary program that prepares students for careers in animation and visual effects as well as digital filmmaking. The 120-credit-hour curriculum low cost degree program focuses on the business, craft, and art of storytelling, and while students can choose an emphasis area, all students take coursework in digital arts and filmmaking. Practice and theory are integrated at every step, and students manipulate cinema, images, sound, and text using industry-standard technology. CMI houses a post-production lab, a state-of-the-art digital project system screening room, production space, and an animation lab.
Bachelor of Creative Media
Average Program Cost: $13,742
In-State Tuition: $6,461
Out-of-State Tuition: $21,022
Graduation Rate: 46 percent
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
14. San Francisco State University – BA in Cinema
San Francisco, California
The School of Cinema at San Francisco State University confers a low cost BA in Cinema that is comprised of 45 upper-division courses for the major, 12 of which may be in related disciplines outside of cinema. Core courses are offered in areas such as film history, filmmaking, and cinema studies, and students take a foundation course in critical studies. Students may also choose one of five areas of emphasis, including screenwriting, media and culture, fiction filmmaking, documentary filmmaking, and animation. Graduates receive a broad liberal arts education focused on the three core values of social engagement, critical thinking, and creative expression.
B.A. in Cinema
Average Program Cost: $13,194
In-State Tuition: $7,254
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,134
Graduation Rate: 54 percent
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 23:1
13. California State University-Sacramento – BA in Film
California State University-Sacramento offers an affordable BA in Film degree that consists of 120 units of study. Students may choose from a concentration in either film studies or digital film/video production. Both concentrations are comprised of the same 21-unit core, including courses in film theory and criticism, survey of world cinema, and Hollywood and America. The film studies option requires an additional 18 units in courses such as the theory of film/video editing, staging and lighting, and video art as well as a senior seminar in film capstone. The DF/VP option requires an additional 24 units of courses in areas such as writing short scripts, video production management, staging and lighting, and audio production as well as a senior practicum in video production.
B.A. in Film
Average Program Cost: $13,144
In-State Tuition: $7,204
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,084
Graduation Rate: 48 percent
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 25:1
12. St. Cloud State University – BA in Film Studies
St. Cloud, Minnesota
St. Cloud State University provides a low cost BA in Film Studies that immerses students in a rigorous study of the art of cinema, emphasizing creative and critical thinking. Offered by the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, the curriculum consists of 10 to 12 film courses per semester, and the school regularly adds new topics courses to keep the program fresh. Most classes draw upon films from around the world, offering a global perspective that is not limited to one particular focus on the field. Undergraduates pursuing this affordable degree program may also choose to gain additional experience through a minor in film production.
B.A. in Film Studies
Average Program Cost: $12,345
In-State Tuition: $8,228
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,462
Graduation Rate: 44 percent
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 21:1
11. Cleveland State University – BA in Film, Television, and Interactive Media
Cleveland State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences confers an affordable BA in Film, Television, and Interactive Media to students seeking entry-level positions in this field. This low cost 120-hour program includes 45 hours of courses within the major, including classes in communication, film, television production, media and technology, and mass media and society. Other requirements include courses in media criticism and screenwriting as well as broadcast and interactive media writing. Students focus their degree through electives, and the program culminates in either a film production or interactive media capstone course.
Film, Television, and Interactive Media, B.A.
Average Program Cost: $11,804
In-State Tuition: $9,778
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,829
Graduation Rate: 43 percent
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
10. Rhode Island College – Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies
Providence, Rhode Island
The affordable BA in Film Studies at Rhode Island College engages students in the study of moving images as a discursive practice that incorporates film theory, cultural contexts, aesthetics and style, genre studies, and film history. Students may also choose to immerse themselves in filmmaking through a sequence of courses from pre-production through post-production, creating in multiple forms of film such as animation, experimental cinema, documentary, and narrative filmmaking. Courses cover topics such as stop-motion animation, African-American cinema, Hollywood film scores, and television screenwriting. Students must complete 44 credit hours in the major in addition to general education requirements in order to earn their degree.
9. Western Michigan University – Bachelor’s in Film, Video, and Media Studies
Students interested in any aspect of production, television and radio broadcasting, or film may pursue Western Michigan University’s low cost undergraduate program in film, video, and media studies. The curriculum emphasizes the practical assumptions and theoretical framework that drive today’s mass media, and students gain practical experience in production, radio and television broadcasting, technical direction, news writing. Although not required for the degree, student participation in freelance work, volunteer work, and internships is encouraged. Students are required to 36 hours in major coursework as well as general education courses, and approximately 25 percent of WMU’s film, video, and media studies go on to pursue graduate studies after completing the program.
8. California State University-Long Beach – BA in Film and Electronic Arts
Long Beach, California
For more than five decades, California State University-Long Beach has prepared students for careers in the study and production of moving images. The Department of Film & Electronic Arts offers a 120-unit affordable BA in Film and Electronic Arts taught by a diverse faculty comprised of accomplished media historians and industry professionals. This low cost degree program is comprised of a comprehensive education in the theory and history of moving images with specialized training available in concentration areas such as production design, digital arts, production management, screenwriting, and sound design. Students may also choose to specialize in editing, cinematography, broadcast production, creative nonfiction production, or narrative production. Networking and internship opportunities are also available.
Bachelor of Arts in Film and Electronic Arts
Average Program Cost: $12,670
In-State Tuition: $6,730
Out-of-State Tuition: $18,610
Graduation Rate: 69 percent
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 24:1
7. CUNY Brooklyn College – BA in Film
Brooklyn, New York
Within the School of Visual, Media, and Performing Arts at CUNY Brooklyn College, the Film Department prepares students to become professionals in the motion picture industry. Students may pursue a 120-credit affordable BA in Film and choose from concentration areas such as industry studies, documentary, screenwriting, film production, and film studies. The diverse, rich, low cost programs offer peer collaboration and hands-on learning opportunities, and students are trained in all aspects of the discipline of the moving image, from the technical to the aesthetic. In addition to completing coursework, students have the opportunity to intern throughout New York City and enjoy the vibrant cultural and film life of the area.
6. Eastern New Mexico University – BS in Digital Filmmaking
Portales, New Mexico
The affordable BS in Digital Filmmaking at Eastern New Mexico University includes courses in film production as well as relevant studies in theater, music, and art. Through the curriculum, digital filmmaking majors will acquire core skills in editing, sound, cinematography, producing, directing, and screenwriting, and students may choose to specialize in a concentration area or pursue broader interests such as business or broadcast production. All undergraduates are required to complete a senior portfolio class to get feedback from faculty mentors, and students have the opportunity to participate in two student-run film festivals: the Sci-Fi Festival and Fear Fest.
Bachelor of Science in Digital Filmmaking
Average Program Cost: $8,901
In-State Tuition: $6,013
Out-of-State Tuition: $11,788
Graduation Rate: 33 percent
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
5. Miami Dade College – BAS in Film, Television, and Digital Production
Miami Dade College’s four-year low cost Bachelor of Applied Science in Film, Television, and Digital Production is designed to provide students with the practical, hands-on skills they need to succeed in the competitive and creative field of media production. The 120-credit affordable program consists of 41 credits within the major, and courses cover funding, editing, production, website design, scriptwriting, sound design, broadcast design, production management, and cinematography. In addition to completing the required curriculum of classes, students must also participate in a capstone experience that provides the opportunity to demonstrate the application of acquired competencies, skills, and knowledge.
Bachelor of Applied Science in Film, Television, and Digital Production
Average Program Cost: $6,250
In-State Tuition: $2,838
Out-of-State Tuition: $9,661
Graduation Rate: 31 percent
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 24:1
4. University of Alaska Fairbanks – BA in Film & Performing Arts
At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Department of Theatre and Film provides a 120-credit affordable BA in Film & Performing Arts degree with concentrations in theater or film. Majors take a shared core of classes in production design, film set production, and the fundamentals in acting before choosing an area of specialization. Other areas of study include digital video editing, directing for film and video, and an introduction to the study of film. All students gain practical experience through participating in main-stage productions, working on professional film sets, and closely interacting with faculty mentors and advisors. Through production work and teaching, the department prepares students to succeed in the industry while educating them across disciplines in the fundamental skills of creativity, communication, and collaboration.
3. CUNY Hunter College – BA in Film
New York, New York
The Department of Film and Media Studies at CUNY Hunter College offers affordable degree programs in the critical analysis and production of film, alternative media, and mass media. In addition to a media major, the school confers a low cost Bachelor of Arts in Film that consists of 120 credits of study, including 30 credits within the major. Coursework is broken down into analytical classes such as theories of film acting and practical film analysis, production classes such as screen directing and screenwriting, and electives chosen from either analytical or production courses. Film majors may choose to pursue a minor in media but cannot double-major in both film and media.
2. CUNY City College – BFA in Film/Video
New York, New York
CUNY City College is the only public institution to offer a low cost Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film/Video, and the program is one of the oldest in the country. Each year, approximately 25 undergraduates follow an intensive, rich, two-year curriculum that emphasizes documentary production and single-camera fiction. The affordable BFA is comprised of 120 credits, including 54 in the major, as well as a thesis project and an optional internship. Coursework is offered in areas such as screenwriting, documentaries, digital post-production, directing for film and video, and critical approaches to independent cinema. Although this is an undergraduate degree, the school does not accept recent high school graduates. Instead, this second-tier program requires a separate admissions process that happens once per year, and applicants must have a personal statement, a video portfolio, and three college-level prerequisites in media studies, media production, and film studies.
1. University of North Carolina School of the Arts – BFA
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Ranked among the top film schools in the nation, the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts offers an affordable Bachelor of Fine Arts in which students can select a concentration in areas such as screenwriting, production design, producing, editing and sound design, directing, cinematography, or animation. In the first two years of the program, undergraduates direct and shoot digital projects, take hands-on courses in every area of modern film production, and work with peers on original short films that they then submit to worldwide festivals. Students also have the opportunity to attend the UNCSA-hosted RiverRun International Film Festival, held every spring, and during the senior year, students travel with faculty mentors from their concentration to Los Angeles to screen their films for influential UNCSA alumni and industry executives.
BFA Picture Editing & Sound Design
BFA Production Design & Visual Effects
Average Program Cost: $17,210
In-State Tuition: $9,338
Out-of-State Tuition: $25,081
Graduation Rate: 70 percent
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 6:1
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for a Bachelor’s in Film Degree?
A bachelor’s degree in film prepares graduates for a variety of employment opportunities in the creative, technical, and practical sides of filmmaking. Although some may work in areas directly within the film industry, others seek positions in art direction, writing and editing, or broadcast news. These individuals are typically interested in all types of creative and art pursuits and are seeking a career that allows for more creative freedom than one would find in a more traditional film career. In the television and film industries, demonstrable skills tend to have a stronger impact on career opportunities than formal education, and a bachelor’s degree in film is sufficient for most entry-level careers such as:
- Art Directors: Art directors create a visual style in productions, including newspaper, magazines, television shows, movies, and even product packaging. Art directors are typically self-employed who work on a contract basis, and they have a significant amount of freedom to choose the projects they are most passionate about.
- Broadcast News Analysts, Correspondents, and Reporters: These professionals work in a variety of environments, including in-studio broadcasts and on-location reporting, as well as on local or national news outlets. They may also be employed by online spaces such as streaming or digital news outlets, working behind the scenes to help information reach its intended audience.
- Sound Engineering and Broadcast Technicians: These technicians maintain, operate, and set up the electrical equipment used to create concert, movie, television, or radio productions. Although a bachelor’s degree is helpful, a certificate may increase employment prospects.
- Directors and Producers: Directors work on set to provide crew members and cast with detailed instructions in order to achieve their specific dramatic and creative visions for the finished product. Producers secure financing, develop and acquire source material, and serve as the lead point person on business-related areas of television and film projects.
- Camera Operators: Camera operators work closely with cinematographers, or creative leads, to achieve the desired mood, tone, and look of a television production or film. Under the direct supervision of the director and/or cinematographer, camera operators draw on what they learned in film school to operate and calibrate the camera equipment.
- Film and Video Editors: Professional editors are vital in post-production. They work in editing bays, assembling raw footage into finished, polished scenes that comprise a completed television show or film. Editors need detailed technical knowledge of editing software and computer hardware, which students gain while completing a production-oriented bachelor’s degree in film.
How Much Can You Earn in This Field?
Anticipated earnings for this field vary according to a number factors such as the type of workplace, location, level of experience, and level of degree. In most cases, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational level required to seek employment in this industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that film and video editors and camera operators earned an average salary of $58,210 per year as of Mary 2017. The highest 10 percent earned more than $102,980, and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,580. The top industries in which camera operators work include:
- Video and motion picture industries: $59,240
- Technical, scientific, and professional services: $52,600
- Government: $51,430
- Television and radio broadcasting: $47,410
Similarly, film and video editors working in video and motion picture industries earned $63,770, those in television broadcasting earned $53,040, and those in technical, scientific, and professional services earned $55,000.
On the other end of the spectrum, directors and producers earned $71,620 per year in May 2017, according to the BLS. The highest 10 percent earned more than $164,290, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,730. The top industries in which producers and directors work include:
- Public relations, advertising, and related services: $90,070
- Video and motion picture industries: $86,890
- Television and broadcasting: $59,520
- Spectator sports, performing arts, and related industries: $58,860
In addition, some directors and producers earn a percentage of ticket sales. Although a few of the most successful directors and producers have extraordinarily high earnings, most earn a modest salary.
What Else Can You Expect From a Bachelor’s in Film Studies Degree?
Like any degree program, details will vary from program to program and school to school. Some programs focus more on the creative side of filmmaking, while others emphasize the technical aspect of the field. However, students in both theory-oriented and production-oriented gain an understanding of certain fundamental concepts. The foundational courses below are common to most bachelor’s degrees in film:
- Film Theory and Criticism
- Narrative and Non-Narrative Filmmaking
- Introduction to Film History
- Film Technologies
- Business of Film
- New Media and Culture
Since each program differs in its requirements, there are a number of factors that can affect how long it will take to earn an undergraduate degree in film. In most cases, bachelor’s degrees consist of 120 credits of study. Depending on whether a student enrolls on a full- or part-time basis as well as the format of the program, he or she can generally earn the degree within two to four years. Full-time students generally earn their degree more quickly than their part-time peers. Programs that offer cohort learning require students to work at the same pace as their peers, completing the program alongside them. These degrees may take longer than those that offer individualized options that allow students to complete coursework at their own pace. In addition, some schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to complete classes in five to eight weeks instead of 15 weeks.
Is Accreditation Important for Bachelor’s Degrees in Film Studies?
Regardless of the program you choose, it is important to ensure that it is accredited. Accreditation is the process by which different national and regional accrediting agencies ensure individual programs and schools are meeting specific academic standards. When a school has earned accreditation, it means that an accrediting agency has conducted a review and has vouched for the quality and validity of that school and the degree programs it offers.
Schools can be regionally or nationally accredited, regionally accredited colleges are more common. Although regional accreditation is typically more rigorous with stricter standards and, therefore, more prestigious, regional accreditation may also impact a student’s ability to transfer previously earned credits from one institution to another. For instance, a regionally accredited institution may not accept transfer credits from one that is nationally accredited. Additionally, some degree programs may hold specialized accreditation from major-specific agencies. In most cases, degrees in film are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.
There are two primary organizations that oversee the country’s accrediting bodies. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a resource for researching and finding accredited institutions that are eligible to receive financial aid and providing funding to students. In addition, the Department of Education (DOE) requires all students who are applying for federal financial aid to attend institutions that have earned regional or national accreditation. Both the CHEA and the DOE operate searchable databases that allow prospective students to easily determine whether a program and/or school they are considering is accredited.
Careers in film are growing at impressive rates, making now an ideal time to consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree in film. Whether you want to work behind the scenes as a camera operator or you have your heart set on directing the next Oscar-winning motion picture, we hope that our list of the most affordable bachelor’s degrees in film studies can help you get started in this exciting, unique, and rewarding industry.
This concludes our ranking of the Top 15 Bachelor’s Degrees in Film Studies.
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