Master of Fine Arts

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 (BFA—though the term of study varies by country or university. The MFA is a creative degree usually awarded as a terminal degree in 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] 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.

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 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. There are exceptions to this standard in the arts, notably in the case of music performance, where the MFA is not seen as a terminal degree in the context of the more standardized Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree.

Development of PhD programs

To explore the connection between creative production and academic research, some universities have established practice-based PhD programs in fields such as creative writing, visual arts, new media, design and theater. While this has had an effect in creative writing, and to a lesser extent in design and new media, the influx of graduates from practice-based PhD programs has not appreciably changed the standard for the MFA as the terminal degree in most arts disciplines. This is an ongoing contentious topic and is the frequent subject of academic panels, especially at the annual College Art Association conference. The CAA 2008 guidelines regarding the MFA strongly re-affirmed that the PhD is not required as a terminal degree in the visual arts.

See also


  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

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