Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree Programs in Tennessee

Masters of Fine Arts

Masters of Fine Arts, also called MFA degrees, offer graduate students the opportunity to study diverse subjects, from film-making and theater to creative writing and graphic design. MFA programs typically require 2-3 years of full time study and may offer some practical and applied learning, as well as lessons in technique and theory.

Tennessee Masters Programs in Fine Arts

How Can I Earn a MFA Degree?

A Masters of Fine Arts (MFA, or M.F.A.) degree is considered a ‘terminal’ degree, meaning it is the highest academic degree available in the Fine Arts. Though there are exceptions, an MFA is typically enough credential for individuals aspiring to teach Visual Art, Design, Dance, Photography, Theatre, Film/Video, New Media, and Creative Writing at the university level. To apply for admission into a Master of Fine Arts program, students must possess a Bachelor’s degree, such as a Bachelors of Fine Art. Some MFA degree programs may also require a portfolio or audition as part of the admission procedure.

Working towards a MFA degree allows students of the arts to demonstrate and refine artistic and creative abilities, enhance conceptual development and improve techniques within a specialty field.  Students may choose to focus their MFA program on a number of different areas, including administrative roles such as theatre management or arts administration. Potential areas of focus are listed below.

  • Visual arts
  • Creative writing
  • Graphic design
  • Photography
  • Filmmaking
  • Dance
  • Theatre
  • Performing arts

Masters of Fine Arts Programs Potential Curriculum

General Master of Fine Arts Degrees are typically oriented toward creative production. Many classes are designed to help each student  acquire the technical and theoretical resources, as well as the confidence, to set up professional practice in today's art world. Individualism of thought and execution is often encouraged so that artists develop in order to meet the challenges in professional careers. Masters of Fine Arts courses may be offered in a wide range of subjects, as today’s artist works in different careers, mediums and industries. That said, common topics students in MFA programs might explore may include those listed below.

  • Fine Arts: including theory and techniques to compose, produce or perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, painting, printmaking, and sculpture, studio arts, art history
  • Design: techniques, tools and principles involved in precise technical plans, blueprints or drawings
  • Personal service: meeting quality standards, professionalism and client care
  • Sales and marketing: how to show, promote or sell products and services with marketing strategy and other sales techniques

Popular Masters Degrees in Fine Arts

ProgramInstitutionDegree Awarded
Master of Arts in New Media StudioEast Tennessee State UniversityMA
Master of Fine Arts ProgramMemphis College Of ArtMS
Art, Art History and DesignUniversity of MemphisMA
Masters of Fine ArtsUniversity of TennesseeMFA
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We asked Michael Graber, Managing Partner for Southern Growth Studio, how earning a MFA degree has influence in the business sector:

“MFAs listen to the wants and needs of real people. They gain a critical contextual awareness for whom they are designing products.” Click to Tweet!

Michael Graber, Managing Partner for Southern Growth Studio

What Can I Do With A Master in Fine Arts?

Fine Artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original artwork using a variety of different methods and media. Some of the industries with the highest levels of employment in this occupation include:

  • Independent artists, writers, performers
  • Motion picture and video industries
  • Miscellaneous store retailers
  • Newspaper, periodical book, and directory publishers
  • Software Publishers

Other potential career paths for graduates of Masters of Fine Arts programs might include:

  • Art Directors: responsible for the visual style and images in magazines, newspapers, product packaging, movie and television productions
  • Photographers: use their technical expertise, creativity, and composition skills to produce and preserve images that visually tell stories
  • Multimedia Artists and Animators: create animation and visual effects for television, movies, video games and other media
  • Web Developers: design and create websites
  • Graphic Designers: create visual concepts by hand or computer software and develop layout and production design for advertisements, brochures, magazines, and corporate reports
  • Technical Writers: prepare instruction manuals, journal articles and other documents
  • Writers and Authors: develop content for advertisements, books, magazines, movies, television, songs and other publications
  • Art, Drama and Music Teachers: teach courses in drama, music, and the arts including fine and applied art, such as painting and sculpture, or design and crafts. Some do a combination of both teaching and research.

Top Salary Metro Areas in Tennessee: Art Directors
Metro AreaAnnual Mean SalaryEmployment
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN$74,720180
Memphis, TN-MS-AR$68,04050
Chattanooga, TN-GA$64,71030
Knoxville, TN$62,90030

Bureau of Labor Statistics


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

Top 5 Graduate Schools with Masters of Fine Arts Programs in Tennessee

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