Graduate Programs

Our Graduate Programs are designed for students with research interests in the analysis, histories, and theories of moving image-based visual culture, from the 19th through the 21st centuries. Students work closely with faculty to extend their formal intellectual training and explore film and electronic media as evolving global phenomenon. Advanced training in Film and Media Studies will develop students' scholarly understanding of all forms of the moving image, as well as the artistic, cultural, industrial, philosophical, political, and social implications of these forms.

The Graduate Certificate and MA program emphasize multiple approaches to the academic study of film and media. Graduate alumni have gone on to pursue careers in curating, research, teaching, and other professional activities related to moving image media.

MA Program


The MA degree will advance a student’s scholarly understanding of all forms of the moving image and their artistic, cultural, industrial, philosophical, political, and social implications. Coursework towards the degree emphasizes multiple approaches to the academic study of film and media. In addition, a required Practicum in Film and Media Studies provides students with mentored opportunities to explore curating, researching, teaching, and other professional activities centered on film and other moving image media.

Launch Pad

Our program offers the advantages of small class size and an extraordinary level of faculty attention. Our approach to film and media education gives students a secure analytical and historical foundation for future PhD work or potential flexibility to enter a number of professional environments that require expertise in moving image media — including but not limited to film. Students may apply the skills and knowledge that they acquire in the program to continued graduate study, or to administrative, archival, curatorial, or writing careers focused on all forms of the moving image.


Students already enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis may wish to consider this program as part of an accelerated BA/MA option.

Applying to the MA

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MA Requirements

Students must fulfill the basic requirements for the A.M. degree as set forth in the Bulletin of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. In addition, A.M candidates must adhere to the course of study described below, which consists of 36 hours of credit (12 courses), and a comprehensive examination. Students entering the program from outside the university should expect to take two years to finish the Master’s degree if they take nine hours per semester, less time if they take more.

Area I: Required Courses (15 hours total)

Visual Analysis

FILM 501: Advanced Moving Image Analysis and Criticism

Moving Image Theory

FILM 419 Theories of Mass Media or FILM 420 Film Theory or FILM 502 Seminar in Film and Media Theory (rotating topics)

Historiography of the Moving Image

FILM 421: Film Historiography or FILM 423 Histories of Media Convergence

Television and Visual Studies

FILM 503: Seminar in Television Studies (rotating topics) or FILM 504: Seminar in Digital Studies (rotating topics) or any 400 or 500 level FMS course in television or electronic media.

Cinema and Television beyond the United States

Any 400 or 500 level national, regional, or transnational cinemas or television studies course offered in FMS.

Area II: Electives (18 hours)

In choosing electives, students may select any 400 or 500 level FMS course not used for Area I. In addition, they can select up to six hours in FILM 500: Independent Study that is in a study area of film and media not ordinarily covered by regular course offerings. Any FILM 500 must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Six hours of courses at the 400 or 500 level offered through other departments or programs that are relevant to the degree’s intellectual focus may also be taken to satisfy this area with the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies. Sample elective courses offered by FMS include:

FILM 422: Film Stardom, Performance, and Fan Culture

FILM 432: Global Art Cinema

FILM 450: American Film Genres

FILM 451: American Television Genres

FILM 452: Advanced Screenwriting

FILM 4529: Seminar in Cultural Theory

FILM 454: American Film Melodrama and the Gothic

FILM 456: Soundtrack Studies: Music, Voices, Noise

FILM 458: Major Film Directors (rotating)

FILM 460: Taboo: Boundary and Transgression in American Cinema

FILM 485: Visualizing Orientalism: Art, Cinema, and the Imaginary East, 1850-2000

FILM 505: Travel in Space: Contemporary Cinemas of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China

Area III: Practicum in Film and Media Studies (3 hours)

Students must complete one course (3 hours) in professional development that brings to bear academic knowledge and skills associated with the study of Film and Media Studies. Every student will present a written proposal/plan to the Director of Graduate Studies and to the faculty mentor/advisor they select for their practicum. Both faculty members must give permission to the plan. The practicum may take a number of forms, but in every case, the experience must be planned in a way that contributes to the student’s professional development. It might consist of work curating films for a screening or mini-festival accompanied by screening notes, a website, or other forms of writing that enhance the academic value of the event. The student might organize a scholarly symposium or lecture to further the understanding of a particular aspect of the moving image at Washington University in St. Louis. The practicum may also consist of archival or curatorial work in film, television, or other forms of the moving image (such as digital art) at an archive, museum, or other non-profit organization (such as a film festival), in which the student will have an on-site supervisor. Students interested in combining primary research with their development as a “public intellectual” might write a book proposal and develop a bibliography in anticipation of writing a book, or they may develop a website with consistent and significant critical, historical, or theoretical usefulness to those interested in film and media studies, such as one that offers critical analyses of current films, bibliographic information addressing one area of research in the field, etc. The practicum student might practice grant application writing. Or, the practicum may be oriented towards teaching, with the creation of a course syllabus and sample lectures delivered by the graduate student in a venue organized by faculty. Students may initiate other projects, but any practicum requires a faculty mentor and in circumstances in which there is a collaborating organization, a letter of endorsement of the practicum from the student’s on-site supervisor at the organization. This supervisor will also provide a letter upon completion of the practicum detailing the student’s work and its quality. The faculty advisor will award the grade for the practicum.

Area IV: Comprehensive Exams

During their final semester of course work, the student takes a comprehensive written examination and meets with the examining committee for an oral defense. The examining committee will consist of the Director of Graduate Studies, and two other faculty members, core or affiliated in FMS. These exams are based on reading and screening lists as well as on coursework. The student must meet expectations for knowledge of the field appropriate for a Master’s degree student in the humanities. Normally, if the student expects a May graduation date, then they must complete their examinations by April 7 of the Spring semester. All coursework should be completed by the end of the semester in which the examination is scheduled. The student should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies in the program to obtain the Master’s degree reading and screening lists.

Applied Learning Experiences

The Film & Media Studies Program is committed to preparing graduate students for a wide range of career opportunities through applied learning experiences.  We believe that graduate education should foster a range of skills, including verbal communication, critical judgment, and leadership.  We also believe that a graduate degree in film and media should expand the academic, pedagogical, and media production knowledge acquired in FMS coursework and bring that knowledge to bear on other aspects of film and media culture which interest the student. The graduate practicum encourages our master’s students to become contributing members of the Washington University community as well as of broader film and media communities.  Our master’s students are required to complete a practicum (one course, or 3 credit hours) that may take many forms but which should be relevant to their interests and plans for the future. FMS-based applied learning experiences are intended to provide our master’s students with the skills needed to pursue careers in such fields as academia, education, film curating and programming, publishing, the media industry, and law, among others.

Graduate Certificate

The Program in Film & Media Studies offers a Graduate Certificate for which it is now accepting applications.   This program is designed to provide PhD students with interests in the theories and history of “visual culture” an opportunity to extend their formal intellectual training into one of the 20th and 21st century’s most influential artistic and cultural arenas.   The Graduate Certificate Program in Film & Media Studies assures that graduate students accepted into this program acquire appropriate graduate level knowledge in film and media studies approaches to criticism, history, and theory.  While providing substantial knowledge in the discipline of Film & Media Studies, completion of this program also gives a student a secondary research and instructional specialty and enhances the ability to do interdisciplinary research.  

Fifteen units are required for the Graduate Certificate in Film & Media Studies.  Six of those hours may also count towards the PhD requirements. In employing this overlap, students who earn the Graduate Certificate in Film & Media Studies with their PhD may complete a total of eighty-one units rather than the seventy-two units required for the PhD alone.  Students should check with their doctoral home unit.  Students in the Graduate Certificate Program must fulfill all requirements of the PhD expected by their respective home departments and the Graduate School in order to receive the Certificate.  Students interested in applying for the Graduate Certificate in Film and Media Studies should contact Prof. Gaylyn Studlar.

Selection of Candidates and Admission Criteria

It is recommended that students apply to the Film and Media Studies Certificate Program before the end of their second year of Ph.D. study. Entering Ph.D. students in Graduate Arts & Sciences departments will follow the standard application and advising procedures of their major departments. A student interested in the certificate should discuss that interest with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) of their home unit. FMS recommends that this discussion occur in the first or second year of doctoral study and after at least one course in FMS has been taken. Students should use the Graduate School Application to indicate their interest in the certificate if they wish to be considered for acceptance in the program simultaneous with their entry into Graduate School.

If the DGS gives permission for the student to apply, then they should send to the FMS Director of Graduate Studies the following: (1) a letter of interest detailing their reason for applying to the certificate, their qualifications, and how the certificate will enhance their doctoral studies; (2) a writing sample, preferably dealing with a film/media topic of no longer than 25 pages; (3) a letter of recommendation from a professor at Washington University; and (4) a note from the DGS of the home unit indicating approval of the student's application.

If recommended for entrance by FMS, the student is notified to prepare and submit to the Graduate School a formed signed by FMS and the home unit that includes a list of courses that the student plans to count in the certificate. When the Graduate School gives its approval, the student is formally accepted into the FMS Certificate Program.  When filing their degree plan before graduation, the student also will need to notify the Graduate School that they have completed all FMS certificate requirements.

Teaching Opportunities

Graduate certificate students in Film & Media Studies are encouraged but not required to complete at least one semester as a teaching assistant to an undergraduate course within the FMS Program. Advanced FMS graduate certificate students, especially those who are writing a dissertation with film or electronic media content, have the intention of teaching film and media studies in their academic career, and already have significant teaching experience, will be encouraged to develop a lower level undergraduate course in the Program in Film and Media Studies that they might teach on their own during the regular or summer terms. We would encourage the development of a course that might be crosslisted between their home unit and FMS, and all graduate certificate students who teach in film and media studies will be under the mentorship of a FMS faculty member.

Graduate Certificate Requirements

Required courses for the Film and Media Studies Graduate Certificate:

Core Courses (9 credits):

  • Film 501    Advanced Moving Image Analysis and Criticism  3 credits
  • Film 421    Film Historiography 3 credits OR
  • Film 502    Seminar in History of Film and/or Electronic Media (rotating topics)  3 credits

One of the following theory courses is required as part of the core:   

  • L53 419 Theories of Mass Media  3 credits
  • L53 420 Film Theory  3 credits
  • L53 450 American Film Genres (genre theory)  3 credits
  • Any 400 or 500 level course in film or electronic media theory.

FMS Certificate students also have two electives (six units) that may be taken at the 400 or 500 level and developed in an advising plan subject to approval of the FMS advisor and of the Director of Graduate Studies of the student’s home unit:

Two Electives (6 credits):

  • Elective in Film & Media L53 400 level or higher  3 credits
  • Elective in Film & Media L53 400 level or higher  3 credits

ELECTIVE:  Courses originating in FMS or crosslisted with FMS, or offered in another unit and approved by the student’s FMS advisor.

A student may choose to take one Independent Study of three credits (L53 500) with an FMS faculty member as an elective.  This study should relate to a specialized topic mutually agreed upon by the student, his/her FMS study advisor and the Chair of the Graduate Certificate Program.  Although students are expected to benefit from elective courses offered by Film & Media Studies core and affiliated faculty, they may take other, film-related courses as may be offered by other departments and by faculty not affiliated with FMS.  To be included in the graduate certificate coursework, classes that fall within this category require approval by the student’s advisor in Film & Media Studies and her their home unit Director of Graduate Studies.


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