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Pursuing Graduate School in Cultural Studies or Film Studies

Careers for English Majors / Finding ProgramsTimeline for Preparing for Graduate School The Application Portfolio / Some Graduate Programs 

undefinedWhat is Cultural Studies? 
Cultural Studies is an emerging discipline that attempts to study the elements that come together to make a culture: gender, sexuality, race, history, religion, various forms of media, beliefs, etc. Scholars in this field study nontraditional texts, including television, media, popular culture, film, advertising, and the Internet. Much like English, Cultural and Film Studies are interdisciplinary fields that allow and encourage the use of methodologies or approaches from history, sociology, psychology, anthropology, communications, philosophy, and many other fields. Those who seek a degree in this field generally believe that the analysis and evaluation of culture is a liberatory process that can and will result in political and social change. Due to the political nature of the field, its definition is constantly evolving.

What is Film Studies? 
Film Studies is the study of film through theory, criticism, and individual interpretation. Film Studies is merely a specified branch of Cultural Studies, and has the same goals and methods.

Goals of Cultural Studies/Film Studies Graduate Programs

  • In Cultural Studies and Film Studies graduate programs students learn to undertake academic, scholarly research and publication at advanced levels.
  • Students who do not love the readings and workloads in SFLM 482, SEGL 483, and SEGL 490 will not love the readings and workloads in graduate programs.
  • Master's programs generally take two years to complete and focus on research-based seminar work, culminating in a master's thesis and/or comprehensive written and oral examination of knowledge.
  • For Ph.D. programs, the 2005 Survey of Earned Doctorates lists 9.7 years as the median time in graduate school from start to completion of the Ph.D. in literary fields. For English Language and Literature, 55.9% of Ph.D. graduates have definite employment plans at time of graduation. 
  • See Phil Agre's "Advice for Undergraduates Considering Graduate School" 

Finding the Right Cultural Studies/Film Studies Graduate Program for You

There are Cultural and Film Studies programs across the country that offer Masters of Arts/Sciences and Doctoral degrees. Graduate programs are much more personalized and specialized than undergraduate degrees. Students must consider several factors in selecting a graduate program that will fit your particular needs: 

  • Consider job placement rates to see which programs successfully prepare their students for college-level teaching and careers in other fields. Individual programs will also track their placement rates, and you may want to ask program directors about placement rates as you research potential programs.
  • With whom will you study? Which authors within the field of Cultural Studies or Film Studies do you admire? Research the faculty in Cultural Studies and Film Studies graduate programs, and select only those programs where you can find faculty who will serve as your mentors as well as instructors.
  • Where would you like to study? Although you may pursue a Cultural Studies or Film Studies focus in English graduate programs throughout the country, only 30 schools offer dedicated Cultural Studies or Film Studies graduate programs. If you limit yourself geographically, you may also limit your ability to gain acceptance into the program that is right for you.
  • How will you pay for graduate school? In graduate school the cost of tuition is not the main factor in determining the cost of attending graduate school, and attempting to remain "in-state" is not necessarily the most cost effective choice. Research the available funding for graduate students as you research other qualities about the programs. Many programs offer teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or editorial assistantships that provide a stipend and/or tuition waiver. In other programs, students may receive fellowships, grants, or other financial support. An out-of-state program with guaranteed financial support may be less of a financial burden than an in-state program with fewer funding sources for students.
  • Will you be accepted? Most graduate programs accept fewer than 20 students each year. Acceptance rates are often less than 10%. Students accepted into the most competitive students have often been published in academic undergraduate journals, have presented at undergraduate conferences and/or have won national grants or fellowships even before they applied to graduate school. Consider the acceptance rates of graduate programs and ask questions of program directors to find programs that fit your level of experience and preparation.

Consult the Timeline for Preparing for and Applying to Cultural Studies/Film Studies Graduate Programs  

    What should be in my portfolio? 

    • Applications for your selected schools.
    • Approximately 3 letters of recommendation from professors in related fields
    • 1-2 writing samples that demonstrate an ability to communicate in an organized, effective, and analytical manner within your chosen field (or a related field, if necessary)
    • statement of purpose that describes why you want a graduate degree and what you plan to study
    • A copy of your transcripts from every institution you have previously attended

    Some Cultural Studies Graduate Programs

    According to the 2007 edition of Peterson's Graduate Schools in the U.S., there are 18 universities that offer degrees in Cultural Studies. They are listed here along with the degrees offered and the tuition of the college:

    • Biola University, CA -- M.A., Ph.D. ($4,538)
    • Claremont Graduate University, CA -- M.A., Ph.D. ($26,236)
    • Cornell University, NY -- M.A., Ph.D. ($30,000)
    • Cornerstone University, MI -- P,M   $7,698
    • George Mason University, VA -- Ph.D. ($279/credit Resident, $705/credit NR)
    • Simmons College, MA -- M.A ($850/credit)
    • Southern Illinois University Carbondale-- M.A. ($192/credit Resident, $480/credit NR)
    • Stony Brook University, NY -- M.A. ($6,900 Resident/$10,920 NR)
    • Union University, TN -- M.A. ($5,400)
    • University of Alaska Fairbanks -- M.A. ($3,996 Resident, $8,154 NR)
    • University of California, Davis -- M.A., Ph.D. ($8,407 Resident, $14,694 NR)
    • University of Chicago, IL -- M.A., Ph.D. ($31,680)
    • University of Houston - Clear Lake, TX -- M.A. ($1,962 Resident, $4,617 NR)
    • University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus -- Ph.D. ($4,087 Resident, $7,637 NR)
    • University of Pittsburgh, PA -- M.A., Ph.D. ($29,386)
    • The University of Texas at San Antonio -- M.A., Ph.D. ($172/credit Resident, $422/credit NR)
    • University of the Sacred Heart, PR -- M.A. ($3,150)
    • Valparaiso University, IN -- M.A. ($355/credit)

    The closest college to Spartanburg, SC that has a Cultural Studies program is George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. The university offers a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies that requires 48 hours of courses in theory, methods, topic, and a specialization culminating in a dissertation. Although they do not offer a Master's in Cultural Studies, they suggest enrolling in an affiliated field (English, History, Sociology, or Interdisciplinary Studies) simultaneous to enrolling in their Ph.D. program. They require a full portfolio (listed above) as well as GRE scores to be considered for admission. Foreign language competency is required for completion of the program. They have over 65 faculty members, and offer fellowships and assistantships to eligible students.

    The college that is the furthest away from Spartanburg, SC is the University of California, Davis. UC-Davis offers a M.A. and Ph.D. in Cultural Studies, but generally accepts students who clearly state they are interested in both programs. They require a full portfolio (listed above), GRE scores, a Resume/CV, and a Personal History Statement that explains how your background reflects your desire to pursue an education at their university. They enroll only 10 students from 150 applications into the Cultural Studies program per year. The Ph.D. program requires 64 hours of graduate coursework, a foreign language requirement, a dissertation, and a minimum GPA of 3.0.

    Some Film Studies (Theory/Criticism) Graduate Programs  
    According to the 2007 edition of Peterson's Graduate Schools in the U.S., there are 12 universities that offer degrees in Film Studies:

    • Boston University, MA -- M.A. ($29,988)
    • Claremont Graduate University, CA -- M.A., Ph.D. ($26,236)
    • College of Staten Island of the City University of New York -- M.A ($5,440 Resident, $10,200 NR)
    • Emory University, GA -- M.A., Ph.D. ($30,246)
    • New York University -- M.A., Ph.D. ($22,020)
    • Ohio University -- M.A. ($7,162 Resident, $7,992 NR)
    • San Francisco State University, CA -- M.A. ($1,707 Resident, $1,707 plus $339/hour NR)
    • University of Chicago, IL -- M.A., Ph.D. ($31,680)
    • The University of Iowa -- M.A., Ph.D. ($5,488 Resident, $15,972 NR)
    • University of Kansas -- M.A., Ph.D. ($4,291 Resident, $11,018 NR)
    • University of Miami, FL -- M.A., Ph.D. ($1,140/credit)
    • University of Southern California -- M.A., Ph.D. ($30,472)

    The closest college to Spartanburg, SC that has a Film Studies program is Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Emory University offers a M.A. and Ph.D. certificate in Film Studies. That M.A. has 2 options for completion: 1) Take 8 courses, a comprehensive take home exam, and an oral defense of your exam answers; 2) Take 7 courses as well as a Thesis Research project to be approved by the student's advisor. The Ph.D. certificate program requires that a student major in a separate, but related, field (English, Women's Studies, Art History, etc) with a concentration in Film Studies. The subsequent dissertation utilizes both fields of study a chosen topic. They require a full portfolio (see above) and GRE scores for consideration.

    The college that is the furthest away from Spartanburg, SC is San Francisco State University in California. The university offers a M.A. in Cinema Studies, and requires previous coursework in film theory and criticism for applicants to be considered for the program. They require a full portfolio as listed above, Resume, and thesis proposal; no GRE score is required. A total of 30 hours are necessary to complete the program. A M.F.A. in Cinema is also offered, but this is aimed at students who are interested in pursuing a career in film production or direction.

    Compiled by Rachel McAllister and Dr. Celena E. Kusch, Fall 2007

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