The program in Film and Media Studies (FMS) provides students who are interested in the history, criticism, and theories of moving image-based visual culture, from the 19th through the 21st centuries, an opportunity to extend their formal intellectual development and explore film and electronic media as evolving global phenomena. The certificate and the master's degree in FMS advance a student's scholarly understanding of all forms of the moving image and their artistic, cultural, industrial, philosophical, political, and social implications.

The certificate is by application and is open to PhD students in other academic units. It consists of 15 course units in FMS. Six units of the certificate may be counted in the student's PhD requirements. The master's degree emphasizes multiple approaches of academic study that may lead to curating, researching, teaching, and other professional activities centered on film and other moving image media.

Students already enrolled at Washington University with a major in film and media studies may wish to consider the master's program as part of an accelerated AB/AM option. Washington University students who are admitted in the combined AB/AM program may have up to 9 units of FMS course credit at the 400 level considered for application to AM degree requirements. Students who are currently enrolled as undergraduates at Washington University and are seeking the combined AB/AM degree should use the standard application form of the Graduate School to apply.

Students applying to the Film and Media Studies master's from outside the university should follow the standard application procedures of the Graduate School (available on the Graduate School Forms webpage). Graduate Record Exam scores indicating an aptitude for graduate study are required, as well as strong letters of recommendations from three instructors who can speak to the applicant's academic skills relevant to graduate study in film and media studies. Applicants who have completed an undergraduate degree and show outstanding promise in writing about film and media but do not have formal film/media studies background may be admitted. All applicants to the master's program in FMS should have a strong academic foundation in critical writing and thinking. At least one writing sample of no less than 3,000 words is required, and a letter of approximately 500 words describing the candidate's interest in film and media studies and how their intellectual background has prepared them for graduate study in FMS.

All applicants to the certificate, AB/AM, or master's degree in FMS are welcome to consult with the director of graduate studies about the application process.


Graduate Certificate in Film and Media Studies

Required courses for the graduate certificate:

Core Courses (9 units):

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

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

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

Certificate students also have two electives (6 units) that may be taken at the 400 or 500 level and developed in an advising plan, subject to approval of the Film and Media Studies adviser and of the director of graduate studies of the student's home unit.

Two Electives (6 units):

Each 3-unit elective course in Film and Media Studies must be at the 400 level or higher.

Elective: Courses originating in Film and Media Studies or cross-listed with Film and Media Studies, or offered in another unit and approved by the student's Film and Media Studies adviser.

A student may choose to take one Independent Study of 3 units (Film 500) with a Film and Media Studies faculty member as an elective. This study should relate to a specialized topic mutually agreed upon by the student, their Film and Media Studies adviser, and the chair of the graduate certificate program. Although students are expected to benefit from elective courses offered by Film and 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 Film and Media Studies. To be included in the graduate certificate courses, classes that fall within this category require approval by the student's adviser in Film and Media Studies and their home unit's director of graduate studies (DGS).

Master's in Film and Media Studies

Course of Study

Students must fulfill the basic requirements for the AM degree as set forth in this Graduate School catalog. In addition, AM candidates must take the course of study described below that consists of 36 units of credit and a comprehensive examination.

There is one course of study for the AM in Film and Media Studies. There is no thesis option in this degree. Students complete 36 semester units (12 courses) defined by the three areas listed below. During their final semester of courses, students take a comprehensive written examination and meet with the examining committee for an oral defense. The examining committee will consist of the DGS, the student's adviser, and one other faculty member, core or affiliated in Film and Media Studies. These exams are based on reading and screening lists as well as on courses. The student must meet expectations for broad 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 the examinations by April 7 of the spring semester. All courses should be completed by the end of the semester in which the examination is scheduled.

Students should consult with the director of graduate studies (DGS) in their first semester in the program to obtain the master's students' reading and screening list and consult regularly with their adviser. Students entering the program from outside the university should expect to take two years to finish the master's degree if they take 9 units per semester, less time if they take more.

Area I: Required Courses (15 units total)

The requirements for Area I may be fulfilled through the following courses:

  1. Visual Analysis
    Film 501 Advanced Moving Image Analysis and Criticism
  2. 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)
  3. Historiography of the Moving Image
    Film 421 Film Historiography or Film 423 Histories of Media Convergence
  4. Television & Digital Studies
    Film 503 Seminar in Television Studies (rotating topics) or Film 504 Seminar in Digital Studies (rotating topics) or any 400- or 500-level Film and Media Studies course in television or electronic media
  5. 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 units)

In addition, during their matriculation, students must take 18 units of credit at the 400 or 500 level to satisfy electives for the master's in Film and Media Studies. In choosing electives, students may select any 400- or 500-level Film and Media Studies course not used for Area I. In addition, they can select up to 6 units 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 DGS. Six units 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 DGS.

Area III: Practicum in Film and Media Studies

Students must complete one course (3 units) that consists of professional experience that brings to bear academic knowledge and skills associated with the study of Film and Media Studies. Every student presents a written proposal/plan to the DGS and to the faculty mentor/adviser they select for their practicum. Both faculty 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. 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 nonprofit 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 participate in other activities related to moving image exhibition or archival preservation or to grant application writing. The practicum may also be oriented toward 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 adviser will award the grade for the practicum.

Area IV: Mentored Teaching Experience

Believing that graduate education should foster a range of skills, including verbal skills and the ability to organize presentations about the subject, FMS requires every AM student to have three semesters of Mentored Teaching Experience (MTE) within FMS, including participation in at least one FMS course in which the student leads an undergraduate discussion section. The course number for MTE is LGS 600 (pass/no pass).

For returning AM students (who started the program in fall 2016), two MTEs in FMS will be required. One must involve leading a discussion section in an FMS undergraduate course.

Only one MTE may be taken in any given semester.