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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study a Master of Fine Arts degree?

An MFA degree is an opportunity to explore, develop and refine your creative skills. This postgraduate qualification prepares you for a professional career in the creative arts. Our guide lets you know what you can expect.

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If you are creative and innovative, you need a qualification that will cater to your abilities and enhance your skills. You’ll want an intellectually challenging degree with several specialisations with both theoretical and practical components. A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) offers you the chance to elevate your artistic practice and expertise while preparing you for a professional career. We help you navigate through this creative field and degree with our guide. You’ll discover what you’ll learn, the specialisations available, entry requirements and potential career paths. 


What is a Master of Fine Arts?

A Master of Fine Arts degree is a postgraduate qualification focusing on professional artistic practice in a distinct creative field or area. The degree is often the highest qualification you can obtain in the creative arts and is known as a ‘terminal degree’. An MFA differs from a Master of Arts or MA as it is highly specialised. You will be expected to display a high level of skill and ability for entry, including examples of performances or portfolio work. 


You may be required to have studied an undergraduate degree in the relevant field you want to pursue for an MFA or at least a related subject. You do have some choices for the types of MFA degrees and disciplines you can study, including:



Why study for a Master of Fine Arts?

As mentioned, an MFA degree is considered the highest level of education for some creative subjects. You will need to be prepared to create, develop and present a body of artistic work to complete your degree. This means an MFA requires initiative, dedication, and discipline, plus an understanding of contemporary social and cultural trends. MFA graduates are qualified to teach at colleges and universities, whereas a PhD is considered the top qualification after an MA for other subjects, requiring further years of study. 



Networking opportunities

MFA degrees encourage networking and provide opportunities for students to meet industry-relevant professionals. For example, on a creative writing MFA, you may be encouraged to meet publishers and send samples of your work to publishing houses.


Universities will be able to support you with this process and may already have useful connections to offer you. This is appealing for many who undertake the MFA as forming relationships can elevate your work and career, providing you with opportunities to showcase your talent. You will also be surrounded by like-minded people, who will be trying to break into the industry. Your classmates will become excellent connections that may help you in the future. 


Learn from the best

Another benefit of the MFA is that lecturers have experience in the field so you will receive expert guidance and training. This allows you to learn from the best and most skilled, plus receive personal advice and support about your strengths. 


Build a portfolio

Students studying for an MFA course are typically required to produce a portfolio of work of professional quality. This provides students with a strong body of work ready to be used when applying for work.


Broaden your mind

Studying an MFA abroad is an even more expansive experience as you will get to know another country and culture, opening up your mind as you develop your creative practice. You might also want to consider studying in a country with a strong reputation for the discipline you want to study.


For example, New York in the USA is widely known for its creative scene with many galleries, art collectors, museums, musicals, films, and networks of creative professionals. London in the UK is another hub for actors, screenwriters, fashion designers, and musicians


Want to study for an MFA in creative writing in the USA? Check out the following institutions:



Or, if you’re looking to study fine art in the UK:




What will I learn in an MFA degree?

Much will depend on the specialisation you select as to what the curriculum you will undertake looks like. One element you should expect is practical work and presentation/exhibition requirements. You are encouraged to explore, experiment and innovate as much as possible during your degree. 


You will study core elective theoretical modules and practical modules throughout your degree. For example, if you decided to pursue a qualification in art, your curriculum could include:


  • Professional and academic skills 
  • Contemporary art theory 
  • Art practical project 
  • Digital and art culture 
  • Publishing 
  • Marketing 
  • Sustainability 
  • Creative thinking


When studying for an MFA, you’ll attend seminars, lectures, tutorials, talks and presentations as part of your course. Your assessment may involve written assignments, portfolio submissions, presentations, performances, and exhibitions. 



What are the entry requirements for an MFA? 

Specific entry requirements will vary depending on the course you choose, but there are a few common requirements that you need to have such as:


  • Undergraduate degree (minimum of a 2:2 result of equivalent)
  • Examples of work
  • Audition/interview 
  • Proof of English language proficiency (IELTS/TOEFL). You will need a minimum IELTS score of between 6.0 and 6.5 with no band lower than 5.5. 


Most MFA programmes take two to three years to complete if studied full-time. If you have other commitments like work or family, you could consider studying part-time or learning online for more flexibility. 


What to do after an MFA degree?

Many successful creative professionals have completed an MFA to get to where they are today. Some of the roles you may take on include:


  • Art director
  • Author
  • Editor
  • Curator
  • Lecturer
  • Illustrator 
  • Designer
  • Photographer
  • Art critic
  • Performer
  • Art therapist
  • Fine artist


MFA graduates enjoy fairly good employment prospects, with over 70 per cent employed or in further study (Graduate Prospects). Salaries do vary depending on the specialisation you choose and your experience. You will also have many transferable skills on your CV that employers look for. 


So now you know more about studying for an MFA, are you ready to apply for one yourself? Use our course matcher tool to see which programmes meet your preferences and qualifications. You may also find our guides to creative subjects and institutions helpful, including:



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