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How Getting Your MFA Works


MFA Coursework
Want to be a filmmaker? An MFA program can give you the technical training you'll need to succeed in your field.
Want to be a filmmaker? An MFA program can give you the technical training you'll need to succeed in your field.
Heath Korvola/Getty Images

All MFA programs are different, and so are the courses they offer and require. Consider the University of Oregon's MFA in dance.

This three-year program requires two kinds of required core classes. Core theory courses include Research Methods and Music for Dancers, and core performance and choreography classes include Technique Lab and Workshop in Rehearsal and Performance. As a graduate student, you would need to fulfill this core coursework, and also select from a smattering of optional classes called electives. Under this scenario, Choreography, Production and Teaching Dance are examples of electives.

Besides electives, another way to shape your graduate education is by choosing a specific concentration within your subject area. If you're pursuing an MFA in creative writing, you can concentrate in poetry or fiction, for example. And even within your concentration, there are many subtle distinctions and paths that you can take. For instance, some schools offer an MFA in creative writing with a concentration in fiction, while other schools simply offer an MFA in fiction. The same is true for a number of other subject areas like painting, sculpture and photography.

If you want a program that allows you to jump from painting to sculpting to classroom discussion on art history -- while staying true to your concentration -- then a non-genre-specific MFA might best fit your interests. On the other hand, if you prefer to focus on one specific area or you're interested solely in a fairly esoteric discipline like costume design or lighting, then a more specialized MFA would be in order.

The MFA is offered in many subject areas. Despite their differences, all types of MFAs share one important commonality: To earn this degree, you must show the highest level of accomplishment by generating a unique body of work or a final project. This substantial final exhibit can take many forms: writing a book-length manuscript, directing a play, presenting a concert or much more.

Have you ever wondered what kind of careers an MFA prepares you for? Go to the next page to find out. You might be surprised by what you discover.


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