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The Best Screenwriting Schools 2023

The Best Screenwriting Schools
The Best Screenwriting Schools 2023
Rank School Location
1 University of Southern California Los Angeles, California
2 New York University New York, New York
3 University of California-Los Angeles Los Angeles, California
4 American Film Institute Conservatory Los Angeles, California
5 The University of Texas at Austin Austin, Texas
6 Columbia University in the City of New York New York, New York
7 Northwestern University Evanston, Illinois
8 University of North Carolina School of the Arts Winston Salem, North Carolina
9 California Institute of the Arts Valencia, California
10 Boston University Boston, Massachusetts

The Best Screenwriting Schools is a resource for students to make informed college and degree decisions for choosing the best screenwriting programs in 2023.

These schools have strong reputations in screenwriting.

These schools are all well-respected institutions that offer comprehensive screenwriting programs, and have a track record of producing successful screenwriters.

Other screenwriting programs, including undergraduate and graduate programs, are available as online degree programs.

Aspiring Screenwriters can learn writing skills within top screenwriting degrees at the best screenwriting schools in the country. This list ranks formal degree programs in screenwriting, which includes undergrad and graduate degrees.

What do academic Screenwriting programs teach?

The theater film and television industry needs screenwriters who can write for different visual media arts. A Screenwriting program teaches students television writing, film history, film writing, character development, film theory, film and media arts, hands on industry experience, film production and film economics.

Undergrad and graduate students learn to write screenplays. These can be a feature length screenplay for a movie, screenplays for television, or for commercials and ad campaigns. This can also involve the business side of movies, and include business administration instruction in the degree program.

Graduate and undergraduate degrees encourage individual learning but also learning from fellow students. Faculty members are a good resource for students. Successful alumni have gone into careers in the entertainment industry. Some popular programs will teach film history and how to write a feature length screenplay.

We want to see you succeed as much as you do. That’s why we’ve ranked the top ten colleges with screenwriting majors. We’re confident one of the colleges on this list will provide the education, networking opportunities, and insight you need to transform your writing career.

Read on to discover the country’s best options for screenwriting schools.

Featured Online Screenwriting Program:

The 10 Best Schools for Screenwriting

Below, find the Student Success picks for the best academic screenwriting programs in the nation.

This ranking is based on the resources available to students, the quality of the faculty, alumni success in film and screenwriting, and the academic influence of the schools in Screenwriting.

Many of these schools have highly selective admissions processes, which indicates the quality of the program. These schools have strong faculty and resources available to students, such as access to entertainment industry professionals and state-of-the-art facilities.

All schools are ranked based on Student Success criteria. More information about the ranking system can be found here.

1.

University of Southern California

School of Cinematic Arts

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

Consider pursuing your Bachelor of Arts in Writing for Screen & Television at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

This program prides itself on being the only one of its kind, offering a fully interdisciplinary experience in all major film and media arts disciplines.

Students will learn to write compelling and cohesive scripts for new media forms. You might write scripts for video games or online mediums.

USC aims to produce well-rounded students ready to step off campus and into the studio. You’ll be learning and growing right in the heart of Los Angeles.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree involves a four-year, 128-credit on-campus program of study. USC only admits thirty students to the program annually, in the Fall semester only.

Thus, the cohort size is intimate. The size ensures that each students learn through ample opportunities for development. You’ll get to hear your work read aloud by actors many times during the workshopping process.

Due to the program’s interdisciplinary nature, writing students learn directing and producing. This helps students understand the practical side of filmmaking, which strengthens their scripts.

2.

New York University

Tisch School of the Arts

New York, New York

New York University

NYU’s Tisch School of the Art offers the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing. This four-year, on-campus program teaches students a strong background in writing for theatre, film, and television.

Students gain exposure to various mediums. After completing a survey, they may choose a screenwriting concentration.

Many students choose multiple concentrations. For example, many screenwriting students focus on writing for film and television. You will choose your concentration at the end of your second year.

NYU takes a pragmatic approach to training students, exposing them to the realities of a profession in the arts. You’ll meet real, working professionals and learn about their experiences first-hand. The school uses a workshop model, and many students pursue internships across New York City.

Exposure to courses on dramatic writing for the theatre might prove helpful for budding screenwriters. NYU is aware of the recent Hollywood trend of hiring playwrights for television projects. On campus, you’ll be steps away from Broadway stages, bolstering your exposure to the great work on stage today.

3.

University of California-Los Angeles

School of Theater, Film, and Television

Los Angeles, California

University of California Los Angeles UCLA

Hollywood is an excellent destination if you hope to achieve a Bachelor of Arts in Film & Television with a writing emphasis at UCLA. This degree is a four-year, 180-credit, on-campus program.

Students complete their general education and pre-requisite courses during the first two years. They will spend their final two years engaging deeply in their film studies.

You’ll spend your junior year immersed in all aspects of filmmaking to gain a foundation in the industry. Before beginning your senior year, you’ll select your screenwriting concentration. That’s when you’ll begin the practical portion of your degree program.

All students in the program complete a professional internship as part of their studies. As the campus is in the heart of LA, you’ll be working with talented professionals. Every student leaves the program with notable experience on their resume, prepared to work in real writers’ rooms.

Other considerations include access to the UCLA Film & Television Archive and access to award-winning notable alumni.

A master of fine arts in Screenwriting is also available. The master of fine arts is a two year program, and has two specializations: feature film or television writing. Students write feature length screenplays or write for tv for their thesis portfolio. Though many students complete both concentrations in the master of fine arts program.

4.

American Film Institute Conservatory

Los Angeles, California

American Film Institute Conservatory

The American Film Institute offers a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting, one of the best graduate screenwriting programs.

You’ll enter the program as a fellow, with the goal of creating six tight, compelling full-length works during your two years in the program. The school’s location in Los Angeles puts graduate students right where they need to be when ready to step into the studio and gain practical, on-set experience.

All students leave the program having written at least three feature length screenplays, two television spec scripts, and an original pilot. These high-quality materials will be ready for submission or production.

As AFI is a conservatory program, all your coursework will focus on screenwriting. The curriculum is project-centered, so you will constantly have something new to work on, such as feature screenplays.

5.

The University of Texas at Austin

Department of Radio-Television-Film

Austin, Texas

University of Texas at Austin

If you are ready to create brilliant cinema, consider a Bachelor of Science in Radio, Television, and Film with a Screenwriting emphasis at UT Austin.

You’ll gain access to a suite of surround-sound dub stages, the latest color correction technology, and a massive dedicated green screen. It’s no wonder that UT Austin students begin hands-on experience in filmmaking starting in the first semester.

This four-year, 120-credit, on-campus program includes up to 48 credits of dedicated coursework in radio, television, and film. All students complete a series of comprehensive foundation courses. From there, you will choose a pathway, allowing you to focus on screenwriting through the lens of media studies or production.

The advanced screenwriting workshop mimics a real Hollywood writer’s room. You’ll gain skills through practical writing exercises and collaboration. There is room to focus on writing for film or television, allowing you to focus on the most enticing path.

UT students frequently pursue off-campus internship opportunities in New York, Los Angeles, and abroad.

6.

Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, New York

Columbia University

Columbia University is a world-renowned school for graduate degrees. If you’ve completed an undergraduate degree, your next step might be a Master of Fine Arts in Film from Columbia University. Columbia University offers a concentration in writing for film and television.

This three-year, on-campus program might be for you if your goal is to improve your writing craft, regardless of your preferred storytelling medium. Columbia is a “structure school” whose curriculum centers on the basic tenants of good stories. The program is aware of shifting media technology and seeks to equip students with the tools they need to transcend mediums and create meaning.

After your first year, you’ll have the opportunity to declare your concentration. Your second year features a year-long, workshop-style course where you’ll hear work aloud and hone your dramatic voice. Your third year is entirely dedicated to a thesis project.

As one of the best schools for screenwriting, Columbia is a highly selective program with an intimate cohort structure. The screenwriting program core faculty includes recognizable names from the film industry, including Christina Lazaridi and David Klass.

7.

Northwestern University

School of Communication

Evanston, Illinois

Northwestern University

If you’re ready for an interdisciplinary foundation in all things media, look into the Bachelor of Science in Radio, Television, and Film with a screenwriting emphasis at Northwestern University.

Students learn what makes a compelling script. This background in theory and history will prepare you to transform your own scripts into tightly structured, transformative works of art.

The degree is a four-year, on-campus program. If you choose the screenwriting concentration, you’ll gain access to a range of upper-level writing courses. The goal is for each student to leave the program with a comprehensive portfolio of production-ready work.

You’ll be in the heart of Chicago, where great, provocative works of art are being created daily. The unique art and theatre scene will provide a context of creativity as you discover and hone your artistic voice.

8.

University of North Carolina School of the Arts

Winston Salem, North Carolina

University of North Carolina School of the Arts

If you’re ready to pursue an undergraduate degree in screenwriting, the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting program at UNCSA is an excellent option. The screenwriting program will teach students with the belief that film is a writer’s medium.

The BFA in Screenwriting is a four-year, on-campus program. After your first two years of general study, you’ll undergo a rigorous portfolio review. This determines your acceptance into the selective undergraduate screenwriting cohort.

Once accepted into the program, you’ll gain access to the program’s year-long, writer’s room-style screenwriting labs. The highlight of the program is the Feature Screenplay course. All students graduate with at least one polished, feature-length script ready for submission or production.

UNCSA is one of the few options for screenwriting schools that keeps the future at the forefront. You will exit the program with an outline, ready to become your next complete script.

9.

California Institute of the Arts

Valencia, California

California Institute of the Arts

If you’re searching for the best colleges for a screenwriting degree program, don’t sleep on the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Video program at CalArts. It’s a four-year, on-campus program that emphasizes growth. While many screenwriting schools focus on commercial writing, CalArts seeks to foster independent works.

During your time in the program, you’ll become part of an interdisciplinary community of artists. You may find yourself sitting beside directors, cinematographers, and animators. All film and video classes are workshop-style and encourage experimentation with voice and form.

Still, the first year of study focuses on building practical vocational skills in production. You’ll focus on traditional and new forms of media, from documentaries to experimental short films.

Be aware that while you can build your own screenwriting concentration, you will also engage in interdisciplinary work. With that said, this program is excellent preparation for the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at CalArts.

10.

Boston University

College of Communication

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston University

While applying to screenwriting schools, consider the Bachelor of Science in Film and Television Screenwriting track at Boston University. The goal of this program is simply to help students make great movies. Boston University is a public university located in Boston Massachusetts.

The BS degree program at Boston University program is a four-year, on-campus screenwriting program, and every moment is student-centered. Boston University offers a student-run production company and a student-operated television station. The community has access to regular screenings and conversations with leaders in the industry.

Students spend their time participating in every aspect of the screenwriting and filmmaking process. Students customize their screenwriting program of study to suit their strengths and interests.

BU offers a popular summer internship program in Los Angeles. LA is where BU students frequently gain their first jobs and references in the industry.

Meanwhile, the program values diversity. It can be helpful to develop a unique dialogic voice without the influence of Hollywood trends.

Screenwriting as a Career

As a screenwriter, it will be your job to create compelling, effective scripts for visual media. Most future screenwriters imagine themselves writing scripts for feature length films or television programs. Some screenwriters work in new media formats, creating scripts for video games, web content, animation, and more.

Becoming a Screenwriter

To break into the field, screenwriters often begin by submitting a spec script or pilot. This should be an example of your strongest writing. Ideally, you’ll have samples demonstrating your ability to write across mediums.

While screenwriting begins as lonely work, the goal is usually to “get staffed” and gain access to a writer’s room. The writer’s room is a collaborative creative space. You’ll engage in conversations, hear your work read aloud, and make revisions.

Many screenwriters work on a per-project basis in their development process. You may receive a flat fee for selling a spec script. Sometimes, this is enough money to serve as your annual income.

Challenges of Professional Screenwriting

Ideally, you’ll enter this field with a sense of flexibility. Your best feature-length spec script may be a great calling card, but it probably won’t gain commercial acclaim immediately.

Essential Screenwriting and Dramatic Writing Skills

Many of the best screenwriting programs in the country are highly selective. The best screenwriting programs utilize a workshop-based model inspired by professional writers rooms. With that in mind, they seek to curate an intimate cohort of the best and brightest future writers.

Screenwriting Program

Nearly every program requires you to apply with a sample of your strongest work. The piece you submit should demonstrate your understanding of dramatic structure and characterization. They may ask you to submit a personal statement about the type of work you hope to create.

You don’t need to be a perfect polished screenwriter to gain admission to a great program. You merely need to demonstrate potential.

Here are some of the skills that programs look to cultivate during an academic program of study:

  • Research skills
  • Creativity
  • Persuasive writing
  • Resilience
  • Persistence
  • The ability to network
  • Collaborative skills
  • Willingness to revise
  • Technical understanding of scriptwriting

Ultimately, a screenwriting school needs to know if you can take criticism, revise your work, and persevere. Professional screenwriting is inherently collaborative, so you must work well with others.

Online courses and screenwriting programs are available as well.

What Can You Do With a Degree in Screenwriting?

Pursuing a Screenwriting degree does not mean you’re locked into a single job. You’ll gain profound insight into communication, collaborative processes, and media production. A foundation in dramatic structure can prepare you to write in any medium, including feature film.

Many budding screenwriters begin by working on film sets. You might start your career as a production or writer’s assistant. The right screenwriting schools can even prepare you to operate film equipment.

Here are other roles in which a screenwriting degree may be useful:

  • Copywriting
  • Teaching
  • Film or media critique
  • Video game scriptwriter
  • Podcast writer
  • Virtual content creator
  • Script reader
  • Talent agent or casting assistant
  • Producer
  • Editor
  • Speechwriter

Many screenwriters work on freelance projects in between jobs. A screenwriter with a master’s degree may find work teaching undergraduate-level writing courses.

What to Look For in Screenwriting Programs

As you begin applying to screenwriting colleges, deciding what’s important to you in a program is essential. Here are the most significant considerations to keep in mind during your search.

School Location

It’s no secret that most American film and television comes from Hollywood. With that in mind, many students choose to study on the west coast. Some of the best screenwriting programs are in and around Los Angeles, California.

Furthermore, some screenwriting students are more broadly interested in dramatic writing. Studying in a city with access to live theatre can be helpful. Consider a program in New York or Chicago.

Likewise, writing students may wish to consider an online program. This is ideal for programs without a practical element. An online option might be more appropriate for students pursuing Master’s degrees.

Art vs Commercial Emphasis

Is your dream to see your work produced on the big screen? If you’re eager for a major theatrical release, ensure your program will prepare you for commercial success. You might prioritize a program with access to mentors in the industry.

Some students may be more interested in creating smaller-scale art. You might choose a program that prioritizes independent production and student voice.

Cost of Tuition

A career in the arts can be competitive and challenging. Beginning your career in debt does not make it any easier. You might begin by comparing school costs, reading online reviews, researching scholarship opportunities, or writing grants. See our student’s guide for Financial Aid.

Transform Your Writing at the Best Screenwriting Schools in America

When you attend one of the best screenwriting schools, you’ll bring your writing to the next level by unlocking the secrets of structure, characterization, and playwriting and screenwriting dynamics to make feature length screenplays. Aspiring screenwriting can form the connections and relationships need to get your scripts out of the pile and into the entertainment industry.

Successful Student offers qualitative rankings of the best schools for many disciplines. Explore the country’s best colleges, and you’ll be on your way to discovering the degree for you.

More resources:

Where we got our college and program data:

  1. University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts: Bachelor of Arts in Writing for Screen & Television
  2. New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing
  3. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Theater, Film, and Television: Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television: Writing Emphasis
  4. American Film Institute (AFI) Conservatory: Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting
  5. University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) Department of Radio-Television-Film: Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film: Screenwriting Emphasis
  6. Columbia University School of the Arts: Master of Fine Arts in Film
  7. Northwestern University School of Communication: Bachelor of Science in Radio/Television/Film: Screenwriting Emphasis
  8. University of North Carolina School of the Arts: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting
  9. California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) School of Film/Video: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film/Video: Writing
  10. Boston University College of Communication: Bachelor of Science in Film & Television: Screenwriting Track
  11. National Center for Education Statistics

Chapman University Dodge College, New York Film Academy, Loyola Marymount University, and Emerson College also offer great screenplay programs.