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The 10 best U.S. schools for pursuing a film degree

Some students like to stand in the spotlight, while others shine behind the camera. If you prefer looking through a lens, a film, video and photographic art major may be for you.


Classes within this major prepare graduates for careers in cinematography, film production, photography and the visual arts.


Students interested in visual arts will take classes that expose them to filming, editing, and production techniques. Classes in production, lighting, video and picture editing and cinematography provide the necessary skills to help students capture the world on film.


Once these skills are perfected, graduates find positions with film companies, news studios, and advertising agencies or pursue self-employment.


College Factual’s ranking is heavily weighted by outcomes like graduate rates, student loan default rates, and average starting salary. View the whole ranking here, and learn more about the methodology in this article. Salaries are estimates made with data from PayScale.


Note that this is a ranking of bachelor’s degrees, not graduate programs.


The University of Southern California admitted its first class in 1880. Since then, it has maintained a strong reputation for providing a top education, especially in film and television production. The program offers a range of classes that develop technical skills, while also fostering creativity and storytelling.


Classes in film history develop a passion and understanding for the field, while editing, production design, web producing and cinematography introduce and perfect skills. Students from USC have done well in the film industry because of their education and proximity to many jobs. Graduates earn an average starting salary of $48,000 and a mid-career salary of $72,000.



The Tisch School of the Arts at New York University is home to the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. Students in the Department of Film and Television take classes in film techniques while gaining professional training that leads to a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts Degree.


Hands-on classes in sound image, frame, and sequence, production, animation and documentary are supplemented by the school’s core curriculum in writing and art history. The workshop-style classes are taught by faculty members who have experience in the film industry and prepare students for a successful career in the field. NYU graduates earn an average starting salary of $41,000 and the highest mid-career salary of $90,000.



The University of California School of Theater, Film, and Television is one of the top professional schools in the country. The school works to provide students with a dynamic education that pushes them to become compelling storytellers through their work behind the camera.


Classes in film history, cinematography, editing, directing, digital media and animation give students the professional training to become innovators in the film industry. Along with exceptional class offerings, majors have access to the UCLA Film & Television Archive, which is the largest university-based moving image collection in the world. This program leads to positions of leadership in the industry, with students earning an average starting salary of $43,000 and average mid-career salary of $84,000.



The Department of Film and Media at UC-Berkeley has a strong history of offering rigorous training for careers in the film industry. The school developed a curriculum that exposes students to film theory, history, and genre while teaching them about innovative film techniques.


Classes in writing, film production, animation, foreign cinema and various genres are supplemented by field studies that allow students to gain professional experience through an internship in the industry. While this program does not have a strong focus on film production, UC-Berkeley offers production classes through the Digital Media Labs Consortium and access to other schools within the university.


Graduates of this program go on to find careers as film historians, critics, editors, filmmakers, and production assistants, earning an average starting salary of $45,000 and a mid-career salary of $77,000.



At Rhode Island School of Design, you can earn a BFA in Film/Animation/Video (FAV) and learn how to use the latest technology in the field while focusing on concepts, critical thinking, and content development. Students come from across the country to study at RISD. In fact, 87% of the student body comes from out-of-state.


With a student to faculty ratio of 10 to 1, classes are small at RISD. This allows FAV majors to work closely with faculty on ambitious hands-on projects. As part of the program, seniors conceive of and produce a final live action or animated film, which is screened at a public spring film festival.


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