Master of Fine Arts

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MFA students take part in a workshop with American cinematographer Joe Pennella.

A Master of Fine Arts (MFA or M.F.A.)[1][2][3][4] is a graduate degree that typically requires two to three years of postgraduate study after a bachelor's degree (Bachelor of Fine Arts), though the term of study varies by country or university. The MFA is a creative degree in fine arts, including visual arts, creative writing, graphic design, photography, filmmaking, dance, theatre, other performing arts—or in some cases, theatre management [5][6][7] or arts administration.[8] The following terminal degree would be a PhD in Practice-Based Research or Practice-Led Research. Coursework is primarily of an applied or performing nature with the program often culminating in a major work or performance.


MFA faculty member Agnieszka Holland with her students.

Entry to an MFA program generally requires a bachelor's degree prior to admission, but many institutions do not require that an undergraduate major be the exactly the same as the MFA field of study. The most important admissions requirement has often been a sample portfolio of artworks or a performance audition.

Comparison with related degrees[edit]

The Master of Fine Arts differs from the Master of Arts in that the MFA, while still an academic program, centers around professional artistic practice in the particular field, whereas programs leading to the MA usually center on the scholarly, academic, or critical study of the field. Additionally, in the United States, an MFA is typically recognized as a terminal degree for practitioners of visual art, design, dance, photography, theatre, film/video, new media, and creative writing—meaning that it is considered the highest degree in its field, and is the qualification to become a professor at the university level in these disciplines.

Development of PhD programs[edit]

The PhD in Practice Based Research, and/or the PhD in Practice Led Research has exploded in popularity over the last 20 years, with dozens of programs being created at various universities in North America, and Europe offering this terminal degree. Over the last 20 years, this has become the natural extension of the MFA, and, (not without some controversy) the terminal degree in the field.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "College Art Association Standards and Guidelines Document: MFA Standards - Adopted by the CAA Board of Directors on April 16, 1977; revised on October 12, 1991, and October 26, 2008.". College Art Association. Retrieved March 16, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Association of Writers & Writing Programs Standards and Guidelines Document: AWP Hallmarks of a Successful MFA Program in Creative Writing". Association of Writers & Writing Programs. Retrieved March 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Master of Fine Arts Degree and Faculty Policies" (PDF). Co-published by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD), and the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST). Retrieved March 16, 2013. 
  4. ^ "The University Film and Video Association Guidelines for MFA Programs". University Film and Video Association (UFVA). Retrieved March 16, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Brooklyn College". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  6. ^ "Design and Production | Programs". 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  7. ^ "Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts - 2014-15 CSULB Catalog". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  8. ^ "Master of Fine Arts in Arts Leadership - Graduate Degrees - College of Arts and Sciences - Seattle University". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 

Further reading[edit]