Screenwriters combine storytelling, art, and music in what may be the perfect fit for those with such creative talents. Whether it’s for the big screen, television, or even video games, screenwriting is a varied and unique field which tends to have flexible hours, a median wage of over $61,000 per year, and is expected to have a two percent job growth according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many within the field are self-employed or work freelance developing content for advertisements, movies, music videos, and many other types of media. Other tasks of screenwriters include developing scripts for shows, promoting or selling their stories, and editing or doctoring scripts to fit the needs of show directors. Factual research may be required depending on the script.
Screenwriters can work at all levels from the local theater with live actors to Hollywood and the big screen shows. The key skill for screenwriters is to be able to combine dialogue with visual features to create an engaging and attractive performance for the target audience. Without a screenwriter, there is no show. A minimum of a college degree is often required for full time positions and excellent writing skills are the key to a lasting career.
8 Best Online Screenwriting Colleges
1. University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
The School of Theater, Film, and Television offers a Professional Program in Screenwriting Online. This graduate level certificate track occurs over three academic quarters. Students will participate in 30 video lectures and weekly screenwriting workshops.
The video lectures expose students to the theories and techniques of analyzing films and other scripts, providing ample exercises and sample writings. The screenwriting workshops allow students to submit their own work for reviews and critiques by professors and peers. With a limited class size of eight students, the workshops allow for a more personalized educational experience and bonding with fellow classmates. At the end of the three quarters students will be awarded a certificate of completion.
2. New York Film Academy (New York City, NY)
The passion and mission of the New York Film Academy is to prepare its students to succeed in all areas of the visual and performing arts. As such, screenwriting is at the heart of the curriculum. Students have a wide variety of educational options, including these terminal degrees:
- Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting
- Master of Arts in Screenwriting
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting
- Associate of Fine Arts in Screenwriting
Online screenwriting workshops include:
- Story and Structure workshop
- Television Spec workshop
- Television Pilot workshop
- Writing for Comic Books
Online workshops typically run for 15 weeks with weekly classes. Instructors will provide feedback between sessions and may be available for live Skype discussions upon request.
There are two screenwriting degrees offered at Southern New Hampshire University. First is the undergraduate Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and English: Fiction Writing. This program requires a total of 120 credits with courses such as:
- Context of Writing: Writers/Publishing
- The English Language
- Literary Theory
Students may take up to 33 free elective credits.
This undergraduate program sets students up nicely to continue their education with the second available degree, the Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing. The Master’s program further explores the advanced theories and concepts of screenwriting with a special emphasis on visual storytelling.
4. Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA)
Regent University operates the School of Communication and the Arts which offers the Master of Fine Arts in Film – Television: Script Writing. This is both an on-campus and online terminal degree program, consisting of 44 total credit hours. Course topics include:
- Aesthetics for the Contemporary Communicator
- Redemptive Film
- Story Structure for Stage and Screen
Upon graduation, students should expect to have a portfolio of three full-length scripts minimum. Other similar degree programs offered at the undergraduate level include the Bachelor of Arts in Animation, and the Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies with a concentration in English.
5. New School (New York, NY)
For the Certificate in Screenwriting from the School of Media Studies at the New School in New York City there is no formal admissions process. Students must meet basic eligibility requirements with most being accepted to the program. There are six total courses, with four required sequential classes:
- Script Analysis
- Screenwriting 1: The First Act
- Screenwriting 2: Writing the Screen Play
- Screenwriting 3: Rewrite and Polish
The additional two elective courses may be selected from the Screenwriting or Film Studies curriculum. Examples of these courses include:
- Sitcom Writing 1: Writing the ‘Spec’ Script
- Sitcom Writing 2: Writing the Original Plot
- Episodic and Procedurals: Crafting the Original One-Hour Pilot
- Screenwriting for the Web
6. Missouri State University (Springfield, MO)
Missouri State University offers a Graduate Certificate in Screenwriting for Television and Film. To apply for the program, students must submit a writing sample of five to ten script pages, or five to ten pages of prose. Once granted admission, students get a 15 hour graduate type of experience, which prepares the students’ script portfolio for working submissions on a professional level.
Students who wish to further their education may pair the Graduate Certificate training nicely with terminal degrees such as the Master of Professional Studies: Producing and Screenwriting, Master of Arts in Communication, Master of Arts in Writing, or the Master of Arts in English.
7. Grand Canyon University (Phoenix, AZ)
Founded as a Baptist school for higher education, Grand Canyon University continues to maintain its ‘biblically rooted mission’ throughout all the available programs, including the College of Fine Arts and Production’s Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film: Screenwriting program. This comprehensive undergraduate degree requires 120 credits broken down into:
- 34-40 general education credits
- 60 major credits
- 20-26 open elective credits
Students will cover a variety of class topics including:
- Acting, financing, budgeting and distribution
- Audio production and design
- Advanced screenwriting
- Development and production of television commercials
- Visual storytelling and the creative team
Online courses run seven to eight weeks in duration. Upon graduation students should be able to apply to entry level potions in advertising agencies, digital design agencies, corporate film production agencies, and other creative entities.
8. Academy of Art University (San Francisco, CA)
The mission of the School of Motion Picture and Television at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco is to foster “creativity and independence in film-making as an art” in all of its students. All of the degrees offered, from the Associate of Arts through the Master of Fine Arts, are taught by industry experienced professors who work in conjunction with over 60 of the top online entertainment specialists to bring a quality curriculum to all students. The various fields of study offered include:
- Producing and Production Design
Screenwriting is available online as an Associate’s or Bachelor’s of Fine Arts. A total of 132 units are required for graduation with 36 core units, 42 major units, nine elective units, and 45 liberal arts units.
Online Screenwriting Colleges Ranking Guidelines
As always at Successful Student, this ranking was made for students, and rankings are based on academic reputation, type of degree (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Certificate) and the variety and depth of course offerings.
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