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What is an MFA?


Students holding an intense passion for the arts may want to consider pursuing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. An MFA degree signifies that a professional artist has completed a professional development series of rigorous courses on the art form of their choice and signals that someone is adept in their specific craft. You typically need a college degree before pursuing this graduate-level credential concentrated in one or more of the following art forms:

  • Visual arts
  • Performing arts
  • Graphic Design
  • Creative writing

According to guidelines established by the College Art Association of America, an MFA is a terminal degree similar to that of a professional degree such as a Ph.D. or the Ed.D. Not to be confused with an MA, or a Master of Arts degree, students choosing to pursue an MFA usually want to work in artistic careers like a Creative Director for Graphic Designer.

How Can Student Apply for an MFA?

If you plan on applying to a specific program, schools such as Southern New Hampshire University can offer resources and advice on how to submit a worthy application. SNHU is one of the many schools that offer an MFA for artistically inclined individuals who want to hone in on their craft. To earn an acceptance letter into a competitive MFA program, you must have already earned a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in some particular art form. Applicants must also provide letters of recommendation, a compelling personal statement, and a portfolio in his or her application package.

How Long is an MFA Program?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all length for MFA programs. Some programs can last up to three or four years while others can last less than a year. Typically, a strong MFA program averages between two and three years with demanding requirements and serious commitment. If you need to juggle work and family issues with your MFA program, you might want to consider taking an online MFA program that allows you to study part-time or remotely online. It is truly a rewarding experience for artists who want to learn the disciplinary principles of their creative processes.

How Much Does an MFA Cost?

Depending on which school program you decide to go through with, costs for an MFA can vary. presents some of the top graduate programs for MFA programs in creative writing, including schools, such as Boston University, with tuition and additional fees of approximately $36,000 for an intensive one-year MFA program. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks, for instance, offers an intensive three-year MFA program of approximately $13,000 for its local residents. The average cost for a two-year, low-residency MFA program ranges between $20,000-$30,000, which includes living expenses for a short time spent on campus. If you decide to do a work-from-home type of MFA program, schools such as Murray State University in Kentucky cost state residents only $12,000 for four semesters and $32,500 for non-residents.  

What Career Paths Does an MFA Offer?

Securing an MFA opens many career opportunities across a broad range of industries. It is a valuable skill to have on a resume and organizations are constantly looking for fresh new talent with exceptional communication skills and new artistic abilities. Here are a few careers MFA’s can expect to enter in their respective fields:

  • Post-Secondary Teachers
  • Art Directors
  • Writers or Authors
  • Editors
  • Multi-media artists and animators

Whether you want to solidify your passion for animating cartoons or engage in the principles that will improve your artistic skills, pursuing an MFA can be a rewarding experience. If you have a passion for the arts, this is the program for you.