What Is an MFA Degree? Definition, Types, Pros and Cons

Postwar fiction and the emergence of creative writing is discussed in “The Program Era: The MFA, according to Mark McGurl, has had the greatest overall impact since World War II on American literature. Many serious writers arrive at their careers via the MFA. Even if you’ve heard of this degree and are aware that it involves a high level of creativity, you may still have questions about it, such as “What exactly is an MFA program? What does it offer? Is it only for aspiring novelists? How can I benefit from earning an MFA degree?”

Storytelling has always been the most effective form of communication in human history. Stories connect us, whether they are used to transmit knowledge from one generation to the next, to explain the inexplicable, or to transport us through time and space. As human beings, we are hardwired for stories. They “change our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. And the people who can tell the best stories will be the ones who shape the 21st century’s movers and shakers. Educating these storytellers, who convey their messages through literature, film, and other media — is what the MFA program at National University does on a daily basis.

Grad School: MA versus MFA (What’s the Difference?)

MFA majors

There are numerous MFA areas of study, and these can change depending on the institution. They offer a variety of majors and educational approaches. Here are eight common MFA majors:

1. Acting

Despite the fact that their areas of emphasis are different, acting and filmmaking are related in the MFA program. An acting MFA focuses on the actors in front of the camera or the audience, while a filmmaking MFA concentrates on what happens behind the scenes. Those who pursue an MFA in acting discover acting theory and techniques as well as how to develop as actors. Additionally, they might discover how successful actors perform.

2. Creative writing

For those interested in writing poetry, creative non-fiction, or fiction, creative writing is a popular MFA major. Students who pursue creative writing MFAs learn how to become better writers, the history of their craft, and also study literary classics.

3. Dance

A dance MFA major may concentrate on a particular style of dance or on all styles, depending on the school and the student. For instance, a dancer who specializes in ballet may want an MFA but not necessarily need one in general dance. To perform them, other dancers might want to be familiar with a variety of dance forms. For those interested in choreography as well as dance performance, dance can be a good MFA option.

4. Fashion design

Because it involves drawing, designing, as well as physically putting together and comprehending fabrics and materials in a way that is slightly different from other visual arts, fashion design is typically offered as a separate area of study, despite the fact that it may appear to be closely related to degrees in visual arts. Those who are interested in becoming fashion designers or working for a fashion company typically pursue fashion design MFAs.

5. Filmmaking

For those who want to work in television or film, filmmaking is a useful MFA major because it teaches skills for a wide range of filmmaking tasks, such as editing, directing, screenwriting, casting, and sound recording. While other schools may concentrate on more specialized subjects, some may offer a general MFA in filmmaking. An MFA in filmmaking often includes film projects as assignments.

6. Photography

A MFA in photography may be offered as a separate major or as a component of a degree in visual arts. The theory and practices of photography can be very different from those of other visual arts in many ways. Students in the photography MFA program learn about various pieces of equipment, photo development, and photographic theory. They also are critiqued by their peers and professors.

7. Theater

MFA programs in theater may offer courses akin to those in acting and filmmaking. However, live productions are a theater MFA student’s main focus, and they do have different considerations than filmed productions. An acting concentration may be a part of or separate from a theater MFA major, with the latter program focusing on the production side of theater.

8. Visual arts

Due to the value of in-person instruction, there may not be as many schools offering MFAs in the visual arts. The term “visual arts” can refer to a variety of artistic mediums, such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, and drawing. While other programs may offer specific MFAs for various types of visual arts, some programs may offer an MFA in visual arts and allow students to select their area of concentration.

What is an MFA degree?

A graduate degree in the visual and performing arts, design, or creative writing is known as an MFA. It appeals to people who have a strong passion for a certain artistic medium or creative field and want to develop their abilities. Students in an MFA program learn by doing, gaining experience in their field while also learning about its history, trivia, and classic works.

Most people who decide to pursue an MFA do so because they want to work in the arts, whether it be as writers, editors, playwrights, dancers, actors, painters, or sculptors. Others employ their advanced degree to instruct college students.

Up to four years are needed to earn an MFA, but two to three years are more typical. A one-year program that is accelerated is likely to need year-round work and some credit from prior coursework or work experience. A professional internship, such as work at a film studio or a studio for fashion design, may be part of a four-year program.

MFA formats

There are typically two formats for MFA programs, including:

Low residency

You rarely visit campus in low-residency MFA programs because most of the instruction is online. Although these programs might only need a few months to a year of residency, the greater flexibility they provide in terms of schedule and location makes up for this. Because online courses may be able to accommodate more students and hire more professors who can teach remotely, low-residency programs may also have more openings.

High residency

High-residency MFA programs require you to attend courses in person. Since you must reside nearby, they have less location flexibility as well as less scheduling flexibility. Due to physical space constraints, enrollment in high-residency programs may be restricted. However, through classes, school activities, and even potential teaching engagements, they may present more opportunities for networking.

Requirements for MFAs

Depending on your school and major, there are different requirements for entry into an MFA program. You must already hold a bachelor’s degree, though it need not necessarily be in the fine arts since it is a graduate-level degree.

You must provide evidence of your work in the field of the MFA program you are applying for, regardless of the type. An artistic portfolio, writing samples, or an audition for a panel of judges may be required of you.

The price of an MFA program varies by university, program, and even individual student. Fine arts schools often give scholarships and financial awards. Many provide opportunities for student employment or can put you in touch with employers.

MFA vs. MA degrees

A Master of Arts (MA) degree focuses on a variety of artistic and creative subjects, much like an MFA. However, there are key differences. Since an MA frequently focuses more on the history and academics of a creative subject than the craft itself, it is regarded as a more scholarly degree. Since the aim may not be to create it but rather to understand it, it may include a wider range of artistic or creative endeavors.

A terminal degree, or the highest level of education available in that field, is an MFA. As a result, those with degrees can instruct at the college level. Many MA holders view a PhD in their field of study, which requires additional years of study, as the highest degree.

Pros and cons of MFAs

It is best when you keep in mind your own goals and interests when deciding what type of degree to earn and which school to enroll in. Here are some of the pros of earning an MFA:

Here are some of the cons of getting an MFA:


What does MFA stand for in degree?

May 19, 2022. Get Info on SNHU’s MFA. A Master of Fine Arts, or MFA, is a graduate-level college degree that students who study and engage in the performing, visual, or literary arts can obtain.

Is MFA a good degree?

The highest degree attainable in your field, an MFA is regarded as a “terminal” degree. As a result, prestigious and highly sought-after positions will demand that you uphold this standard of excellence. These positions might be those of director of a museum of fine arts or manager of an art gallery.

Is an MFA the same as a PhD?

MFA is not equivalent to PhD. mfa differs ‘terminal’ degree. it is any degree. Unlike other Masters programs, an MFA is typically a final or “terminal” degree.

What is the difference between a MA degree and a MFA degree?

The MA degree stands for Master of Arts, and it typically requires 120 course credits to complete, either in one year (full time) or two years (part time). An MFA, or Master of Fine Art, typically takes longer to complete than an MA because it typically requires around 150 credits.

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