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Unlike a Master of Arts (MA) program, which emphasizes the scholarship of a discipline, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program focuses on the creation and practice of the discipline. An MFA is a terminal degree that typically takes one to three years to complete and often qualifies graduates to teach at the university level.
MFA in Creative Writing
MFA in Creative Writing programs provide students with concentrated time to write and receive feedback and expert guidance on their writing. Programs typically offer concentrations in at least poetry and fiction, and include classes on craft and technique, writing workshops, and opportunities to meet established writers. Top programs provide opportunities for writers to make contacts with agents, editors and publishers.
While many schools offer full-time MFA in Creative Writing programs, others offer what are called low-residency MFA programs. Most low-residency programs take two years to complete and require students to spend one to two weeks on campus a couple of times per year to take part in intensive seminars. Both traditional and low-residency programs typically expect students to have completed a book-length creative thesis.
Notable full-time programs include those at the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, Boston University, and Cornell University. Notable low-residency programs include Antioch University and Bennington College in Vermont. The Tools for Writers page of the Poets & Writers web site offers additional information and advice on choosing an MFA in Creative Writing program.
MFA in other Fine Arts
For artists, earning an M.F.A. demonstrates advanced abilities in an art specialty field, such as graphic design, painting and drawing, or visual communications. Programs typically last two to three years and include a written thesis, an exhibition of the student's work, and an oral critique. Students pursuing an MFA in Studio Arts typically select a program in a particular form of art, such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, drawing, printmaking, photography, and bookmaking.
Admission to MFA in Graphic Design programs requires a strong portfolio that illustrates your design skills and knowledge of design software. At some schools, students with more limited design experience may have the option of taking an additional first year of foundation courses before beginning a formal program. Program courses are a blend of theory and studio and typically include type design, typography, motion graphics, design theory, and design history. Students must produce and defend a design thesis project.
MFA programs in Acting are typically very competitive; the application process often includes preparing monologues and traveling to audition sites to perform an act live in front of an admissions committee. MFA in Playwriting and Screenwriting programs seek candidates with excellent writing abilities and often give their students the opportunity to produce their own work. Since making and maintaining contacts is so important in these fields, consider programs that provide substantial industry networking opportunities.
MFA in Dance programs require auditions in performance and choregraphy, and many require their applicants to have professional dance experience before applying.
Students interested in pursuing an MFA in one of the above fields are encouraged to contact faculty members in Davidson's Art Department for suggestions and advice regarding specific schools and programs.
Publishing Graduate Programs
Students who are seeking a formal academic introduction to publishing may wish to consider pursuing specialized graduate degrees or certificate programs. While these programs are not necessary for entry into the field, they can help, particularly for graduates with little to no experience in the industry.
While only a limited number of schools offer these programs, a variety of degrees and certicates are available, including MS in Publishing, MA in Writing and Publishing, and Certificate in Publishing. Some schools also offer short-term publishing summer institutes. Look for programs that bring in publishing professionals from around the country, as these programs often provide strong networking opportunities.
Sample programs include the Columbia Publishing Course, the NYU M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media and Summer Publishing Institute, the Denver Publishing Institute, and the DePaul MA in Writing and Publishing. Bookjobs.com maintains a complete list of publishing programs on its website.
Journalism Graduate Programs
Masters programs in journalism are typically one to two years, and give students the opportunity to focus on, at the minimum, either print or broadcast journalism. Many schools have additional specialty programs or concentrations in fields like criticism, television reporting, and magazine writing. Degrees offered include the MS, the MA, and the MJ (Master of Journalism).
An often-discussed downside to journalism school is its cost: programs tend to be expensive, and a graduate degree typically does not increase entry-level salaries. PhD programs are also available, and are typically populated by professionals with significant experience in the field.
Sample programs include those at Columbia, Stanford, University of Maryland, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.