Definitions

Master of Fine Arts

Master of Fine Arts

In the United States, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is a graduate degree typically requiring two to three years of study beyond the bachelor's degree level and usually awarded in visual arts, creative writing, filmmaking, or theater/performing arts. Coursework is primarily of an applied or performing nature with the program often culminating in a major work or performance.

MFA programs have generally required a bachelor's degree prior to admission, but many have not required that the undergraduate major be the same as the MFA field of study. The most important admissions requirement has often been a sample portfolio or a performance audition.

The MFA differs from the Master of Arts in that the MFA, while an academic program, centers around practice in the particular field, programs leading to the MA are usually centered on the scholarly, academic, or critical study of the field.

The MFA has traditionally been seen as a terminal degree, meaning that it is considered to be the highest degree in its field. In the interest of further developing the connection between creative production and continued academic research; however, some universities have established competing Ph.D programs in fields such as creative writing, visual arts, and theater. Similar PhD programs were abandoned in the 1960s and 1970s.

The College Art Association developed the following statement regarding the definition of the M.F.A. for visual arts:

"The M.F.A., unlike most master's degrees, is used as a guarantee of a high level of professional competence in the visual arts. It is also accepted as an indication that the recipient has reached the end of the formal aspects of his/her education in the making of art, that is to say, it is the terminal degree in visual arts education and thus equivalent to terminal degrees in other fields, such as the Ph.D. or Ed.D.

First and foremost, the profession demands from the recipient of the M.F.A. a certifiable level of technical proficiency and the ability to make art. [...] The need for thorough training of the mind, the eye, and the hand is self-evident."

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