This is a ranking of the best online Screenwriting colleges in the U.S.
About Screenwriting in College
We designed this ranking looking at the online degrees and/or certificates offered. Preference is given to schools with at least an online bachelor’s degree in Screenwriting, or in Writing with a Screenwriting specialization, over online certificate programs.
We also factored in college data from the National Center for Education Statistics for graduation rates and acceptance rates.
This ranking was designed for online students to make the most informed decisions concerning online Screenwriting degree options and schools.
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.
Featured Online Screenwriting Degrees:
What do Screenwriters earn per year?
The median wage for Writers and Authors is $67,120 per year, and is projected to have a nine percent (9%) job growth according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Screenwriter Salaries||Average Base Pay/Median Salary|
What do Screenwriters do?
Many within the field are self-employed or work freelance. Screenwriters can develop content for advertisements, commercials, documentaries, movies, music videos, and many other types of media. Screenwriters develop scripts, promote (or sell) their stories, and edit scripts to fit the needs of 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 movies and feature films.
Screenwriters can also create and sell their screenplays to production studios. The low end average sale price for a screenplay is $72,000, and the high end is $136,000, per screenplay, according to StudioBinder.
One strategy to help get the attention from Hollywood or other studios to sell your screenplay, is to build a large following on social media. In short, become a social media influencer to the degree that you can manage. Having established social visibility can increase your chances of selling your screenplay or script.
What do Screenwriters learn in School?
Screenwriting education can be put into two categories: generalist and specialized. Generalist screenwriters can write scripts for any genre or media needs. Specialists may (depending on the online program) specialize in a particular genre. These genres can include horror, science fiction, romance, true crime, documentaries, drama, comedy, etc.
Classes can include:
- Adapting Media to Screenplays
- New Media: Writing and Publishing
- Creating the Dramatic Television Series
- Advanced One-Hour Pilot Writing
- Creating Memorable Characters Through Their Core
- Advanced Screenwriting Workshop
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is often required for full time positions with movie studios and production companies.
Tips from Screenwriters:
The ranking methodology gives priority to degrees first, then certificates and lastly online courses or other instruction opportunities (such as workshops).
From the degree-granting institutions: the degrees offered (such as undergraduate and/or graduate degrees in Screenwriting), and completely online programs were given pride of placement above single degree options and hybrid programs.
The Best Online Screenwriting Colleges
|1||Regent University||Virginia Beach, Virginia|
|2||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, New Hampshire|
|3||Grand Canyon University||Phoenix, Arizona|
|4||National University||La Jolla, California|
|5||Azusa Pacific University||Azusa, California|
|6||Academy of Art University||San Francisco, California|
|7||University of California-Los Angeles||Los Angeles, California|
|8||The New School||New York, New York|
|9||Missouri State University-Springfield||Springfield, Missouri|
|10||New York Film Academy||Burbank, California|
School of Communication and the Arts
Virginia Beach, Virginia
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.
Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Southern New Hampshire University, one of the most prolific and largest online schools in the U.S., offers these online Screenwriting programs:
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and English: Screenwriting
- Online Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing: Screenwriting
The online Screenwriting bachelor’s degree teaches students how to write creatively for different genres of film, including:
- Feature-length and short films
- Television episodes and miniseries
- commercial and internet-based video
Online students learn how to create the structure of stories, and how to develop characters. SNHU offers students the opportunity to publish their writings in their online journal called The Penmen Review.
SNHU doesn’t require SAT or ACT scores, and also doesn’t require an application fee.
Program Length: 120 credits
SNHU accepts up to 90 credits in transferred classes, and offer credit for prior learning, which can be an advantage for students.Get Information
Grand Canyon University
College of Fine Arts and Production
Grand Canyon University is one of the largest universities in America, with many undergrad and graduate online degree options.
The College of Fine Arts and Production offers the Online Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film: Screenwriting program.
This comprehensive undergraduate degree requires 120 credits.
- 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 weeks in duration. Upon graduation students can apply to entry level potions in advertising agencies, digital design agencies, corporate film production agencies, and other creative entities.Get Information
La Jolla, California
National University offers the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program.
This MFA is an online program with no residency requirements.
The faculty who teach the screenwriting classes are professional screenwriters, and all live and work in Los Angeles, and are actively engaged in the tv and film industry.
Online students take 5 core classes, with 3 being about writing screenwriting, creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction, in preparation for their thesis.
This MFA in Creative Writing can potentially prepare students for job opportunities in these fields:
- Independent film
- TV writing and development
- Commercial and/or industrial film
- Educational and/or instructional media
- Digital entertainment media
Azusa Pacific University
Department of Cinematic Arts
Azusa Pacific University offers the online Master of Arts in Screenwriting degree.
This program is 30 credit hours, and students take most classes online in the spring and fall semesters.
There are a few classes that are taken on campus, technically making this a hybrid program.
Selection of required courses:
- Directing for Screenwriters
- Screenwriting: Story and Character
- Writing the Feature Screenplay
- Adaptation for Film and Television
Azusa Pacific University is in close proximity to Hollywood, allowing for students to learn from lectures and collaboration opportunities with industry professionals.
Academy of Art University
San Francisco, California
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. This brings 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 of Fine Arts degree. For the bachelor’s, a total of 132 units are required for graduation.
- 36 core units
- 42 major units
- 9 elective units
- 45 liberal arts units
University of California-Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Through the UCLA Extension online students can choose from three online Certificates in Screenwriting:
- Television Writing
- Feature Film Writing
- Screenwriting: Film and TV Comprehensive
The Television Writing Certificate is for students who want to write for short or long screenplays for television. Students take four required courses, with two electives. The courses include:
- Half Hour TV I
- One Hour TV II
- Half Hour Intensive
- Special Topics for Film & Television Writers
The Feature Film Writing Certificate is for online students who want to learn to write up to two screenplays for films. Students learn how to write for scenes, dialogue, and also learn the business aspects of feature films. There are four required courses and two electives. Courses include:
- Feature Film IV
- Feature Film I
- Beginning Feature Film
The Screenwriting: Film and TV Comprehensive Certificate combines the other two Certificates, creating a comprehensive instruction for TV and Feature Film. There are eleven required courses, which includes four electives from which to choose.
- Pre-Production and Production for Film and Television
- The Business of Entertainment
- Feature Film I
- Advanced Feature Film
Online students learn pre and post-production in filmmaking.
The New School
School of Media Studies
New York, New York
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
Missouri State University-Springfield
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 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.
New York Film Academy
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. New York Film Academy offers online workshops 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What degree do I need to be a screenwriter?
Screenwriting degrees that may lead to a screenwriting career are typically in the realm of Liberal Arts programs, and are within Creative Writing, English, or Film degree programs.
Is there a degree for screenwriting?
Yes. Screenwriting degrees are available online and on-campus at colleges and universities across the United States. These include bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Screenwriting may be an emphasis within Creative Writing, English, or Film degree programs.
Do you need a bachelor to be a screenwriter?
No. But a minimum of a bachelor’s in screenwriting degree can help aspiring screenwriters learn the skills of the trade, and develop industry contacts, and assist in all other necessary regards to make professional screenwriting a live career potential.