Getting a screenwriting degree can open many doors for you in the world of film and television. The courses you take when getting a screenwriting degree help you to think critically and creatively, prepare you for a job post-college, and connect you with lifelong contacts you can turn to when you are looking for a job or want feedback on your writing later in your career.
61 Best Academic Screenwriting Programs in the U.S.
Here’s a list of schools with screenwriting and filmmaking degrees in the United States:
1. University of Southern California — Los Angeles, California
USC is one of the most popular schools for filmmaking, boasting alumni like Ron Howard and George Lucas, and it’s known for its screenwriting programs. Offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees, coursework includes dramatic writing, plot structure, video production, film economics, and film history.
2. University of California — Los Angeles, California
The other major film school is UCLA, which offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Screenwriting through their prestigious School of Theater, Film, and Television. UCLA also has a Professional Studies Program in Screenwriting where students focus solely on writing screenplays.
3. Loyola Marymount University — Los Angeles, California
Loyola Marymount‘s School of Film & Television offers an MFA in Screenwriting. Part of the portfolio students build in the program includes screenplays and teleplays.
4. New York Film Academy — New York City, New York
NYFA offers an MFA in Screenwriting with courses that focus on pitching, film studies, and acting. Students complete a short film or scene from a script by writing, directing, and editing it. NYFA students can also take advantage of online courses in screenwriting.
5. Chapman University — Orange, California
Chapman University offers a graduate degree in screenwriting with courses in cinematography, production, design, and directing.
6. New York University — New York City, New York
NYU‘s Tisch School of the Arts offers a certificate in dramatic writing with an emphasis on screenwriting. Focusing on character development and story conflicts, students will develop story ideas and read and analyze screenplays.
7. Emerson College — Boston, Massachusetts
The Department of Visual Media & Arts at Emerson College offers a screenwriting certificate program. This series of workshops give students the tools to grow their writing skills and practice form and structure.
8. Boston University — Boston, Massachusetts
Boston University‘s College of Communication offers an MFA in Screenwriting. Students complete several screenplays and can compete in the Fleder-Rosenberg screenplay contest. Successful students from this program include Jason Hellerman, who wrote “Shovel Buddies.”
9. American Film Institute — Los Angeles, California
The American Film Institute offers a screenwriting fellowship where students write short screenplays and work with students in directing and producing fellowships to finalize their work.
10. The University of Texas — Austin, Texas
The MFA in Screenwriting program at UT Austin is highly competitive because they only accept around seven students each year. Students learn about characterization, conflict, and adaptation while writing three original screenplays.
Other Playwriting and Screenwriting Schools in America
Many schools may offer both playwriting and screenwriting, often incorporating both types of classes into a degree’s coursework. Some schools may only offer undergraduate filmmaking, which can provide a great foundation for future professional screenwriters, or in theater, where students learn writing for the stage. Other schools may offer graduate degrees that specialize in either screenwriting or playwriting, with some schools incorporating both genres into a single program.
Here are some other programs that offer playwriting and/or screenwriting to consider:
- The University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, Michigan: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- Emory University — Atlanta, Georgia: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- University of Cincinnati — Cincinnati, Ohio: Screenwriting
- Drexel University — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- DePaul University — Chicago, Illinois: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- Ohio University — Athens, Ohio: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- Bennington College — Bennington, Vermont: Screenwriting
- Franklin College — Franklin, Indiana: Scriptwriting
- Judson University — Elgin, Illinois: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- Pacific Union College — Angwin, California: Screenwriting
- Central Washington University — Ellensburg, Washington: Screenwriting
- Yavapai College — Prescott, Arizona: Screenwriting
- Metropolitan State University — St. Paul, Minnesota: Screenwriting
- Scottsdale Community College — Scottsdale, Arizona: Screenwriting
- Metropolitan Community College — Omaha, Nebraska: Screenwriting
- The Savannah College of Art & Design — Savannah, Georgia: Dramatic Writing
- University of the Arts — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Screenwriting
- Point Park University — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- Academy of Art University — San Francisco, California: Screenwriting
- Columbia College — Chicago, Illinois: Playwriting
- Pellissippi State Community College — Knoxville, Tennessee: Scriptwriting
- Minneapolis Community & Technical College — Minneapolis, Minnesota: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- SUNY Purchase College — Harrison, New York: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- New York Film Academy — Los Angeles, California: Screenwriting
- Bard College at Simon’s Rock — Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Screenwriting
- Marlboro College — Marlboro, Vermont: Screenwriting
- Harvard University — Cambridge, Massachusetts: Screenwriting
- Northwestern University — Evanston, Illinois: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- Full Sail University — Winter Park, Florida: Screenwriting
- Regent University — Virginia Beach, Virginia: Screenwriting
- Texas Tech University — Lubbock, Texas: Playwriting
- Yale University — New Haven, Connecticut: Playwriting
- The University of Iowa — Iowa City, Iowa: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- Brown University — Providence, Rhode Island: Playwriting
- Carnegie Mellon University — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Dramatic Writing
- Pepperdine University — Malibu, California: Screenwriting
- University of California — San Diego, California: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- Florida State University — Tallahassee, Florida: Screenwriting
- The New School — New York City, New York: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- California State University — Fullerton, California: Screenwriting
- Catholic University of America — Washington, D.C.: Playwriting
- California State University — Northridge, California: Screenwriting
- CUNY Hunter College — New York City, New York: Playwriting
- University of New Mexico — Albuquerque, New Mexico: Dramatic Writing
- Palm Beach Atlantic University — West Palm Beach, Florida: Screenwriting
- Hollins University — Roanoke, Virginia: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- The Julliard School — New York City, New York: Playwriting
- National University — La Jolla, California: Screenwriting
- California Institute of the Arts — Santa Clarita, California: Screenwriting and Playwriting
- University of Alaska — Anchorage, Alaska: Playwriting
- Northwest College — Powell, Wyoming: Screenwriting
Is a Screenwriting Degree Required to Be a Writer in Hollywood?
So you want to be a professional screenwriter, but you may not know which path is best for you. Although it may help, you don’t necessarily need a screenwriting degree to find success as a screenwriter. Some things you do need to succeed in this venture include personal experience, natural writing talent, a unique voice, a strong work ethic, and some level of training, whether it be a formal degree, a few workshops under your belt, or work in the industry.
The pros of earning a degree include:
- You surrounded yourself with like-minded, writing-focused professionals who you can build strong friendships and industry connections with.
- You get to analyze stories, plot, and characters to improve your own, often branching out into different genres.
- You establish good writing habits, including ways to get rid of writer’s block.
- You learn how to format a script with industry-standard guidelines.
- You develop important business techniques, like pitching, writing script coverage, and registering your script with an industry organization.
- You can earn a degree that allows you to teach others how to improve their writing.
Here are even more reasons to get a degree, plus some other degree programs to consider instead. An in-depth checklist like this can help you figure out what you want and need in a screenwriting degree.
If you’re ready to pursue a screenwriting degree, there is no time like the present to consider all your options and forge the path the best fits your needs. You can learn more about film and how you can improve your skills by applying to the Nashville Film Institute here.