Best Schools for Screenwriting

By Kelsey Fox
November 2021

Best Undergraduate Degrees in Screenwriting
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The 20 Best Undergraduate Degree Programs for Screenwriting

Best Schools for Screenwriting

Do you dream of seeing your story come to life on the screen? Pursuing a degree in screenwriting can be a weighty decision. After all, the entertainment industry is a tough market! But most often, those who succeed in screenwriting are educated in the field. So we set out to find the 20 best undergraduate degree programs in screenwriting.

See Also: Top 10 Online Degree Programs for Art

How We Rank the Best Schools for Screenwriting

There are a lot of great schools, so finding the 20 best academic screenwriting programs took some work. First, we made a list of colleges and universities offering fine arts and film and media arts programs. We considered bachelor’s degrees, minors, and certificate programs. We also included fine arts schools, research universities, and liberal arts colleges.

The best undergraduate degree programs for screenwriting can be different from one another. For example, some offer many concentrations, while others focus on only one topic. Future screenwriters usually look for specific features before choosing the best screenwriting program. So, we didn’t try to rate each program according to its features. Instead, we tallied data like graduation rate and class size. 

Here’s how it adds up:

Annual Undergraduate Tuition:

  • Under $70,000: 1 point
  • Under $60,000: 2 points
  • Under $50,000: 3 points
  • Under $40,000: 4 points
  • Under $30,000: 5 points
  • Under $20,000: 6 points
  • Under $15,000: 7 points
  • Under $10,000: 8 points

Annual Percentage of 20-Year Return on Investment (ROI):

  • 0-2%: 1 point
  • 3-4%: 2 points
  • 5-6%: 3 points
  • 7-8%: 4 points
  • 9%+: 5 points

Graduation Rate:

  • Below 60%: 1 point
  • Below 70%: 2 points
  • Below 80%: 3 points
  • Below 90%: 4 points
  • Below 100%: 5 points

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

  • 20:1 and More: 1 point
  • 15:1 and More: 2 points
  • 10:1 and More: 3 points
  • 5:1 and More: 4 points

Note: We based our points on out-of-state tuition. In a tie, we gave the school with the lower tuition a higher ranking.

Related: 10 Best Online Schools for Graphic Design

20. Bennington College


Bennington, Vermont

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $55,950

Total Points: 8

Bennington College is one of the best colleges for screenwriting on our list. But the curriculum is a little different than other schools. Bennington does not follow a specific series of courses. Instead, screenwriting students at Bennington design their own course of study.

As a result, there are many options to pursue your screenwriting degree. Three of these include:

  • Scene and Structure
  • The Story Studio
  • Advanced Screenwriting

Students might like this bit of trivia, too. Bennington was the first college to have visual and performing arts in its liberal arts curriculum.

19. Savannah College of Art and Design

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing

Savannah, Georgia

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $38,075

Total Points: 8

Savannah College of Art and Design, also known as SCAD, offers a BFA in Dramatic Writing. It teaches students how to draft stories for theater, film, and television.

At SCAD, students in the screenwriting program team up with other students to see their written work come to life on the screen. Three of the most interesting classes include:

  • Truth in Acting: The Methods
  • Writing the Television Spec Script
  • Improvisation for Writers

Students at this top screenwriting school get to learn from professional writers. One of those writers is Michael Nolin, who wrote Mr. Holland’s Opus.

18. Point Park University

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $32,750

Total Points: 9

Point Park University has one of the best undergraduate screenwriting programs in the US. It’s a 126-credit hour film and media arts program. The program emphasizes the theory of storytelling. Plus, it features hands-on development of feature-length screenplays.

Students complete courses geared towards their interest in the fine arts at first. Then, they work on major coursework. Some of the class options include:

  • Acting and Directing for Writers and Filmmakers
  • T.V. Animation Writing
  • Classical and Modern Drama
  • Intermediate and Advanced Screenwriting
  • Writing the Situation Comedy
  • Video Game Writing

A senior thesis is required, while an internship for this screenwriting program is optional. Many successful Point Park University alumni currently work in the entertainment industry. They include Melina Kanakaredes, writer/director Gino Anthony Pesi, and comedian Dennis Miller.

17. Columbia College Chicago

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Television Writing and Business

Chicago, Illinois

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $27,176

Total Points: 9

Moving on with the best screenwriting schools, we have Columbia College Chicago. It’s a private college specializing in fine arts and media. This is one of the best screenwriting programs for students interested in writing and producing. Columbia’s BFA includes writing skills and business for television.

Columbia students spend their first year completing various screenwriting courses. These include subjects like Business of Media and Aesthetics of Storytelling. To prepare for graduation, they work on capstone thesis projects. These projects take place in an actual “writer’s room” environment — just like in the real world.

Columbia College Chicago boasts a long list of notable alumni. The list includes SNL cast member Aidy Bryant and the rapper Common. Additionally, actress Michelle Monaghan and Pat Sajak attended Columbia.

16. Academy of Art University

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing for Film, Television, & Digital Media

San Francisco, California

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $25,424

Total Points: 9

The Academy of Art University is one of the best colleges for screenwriting. It’s a private, for-profit arts school in sunny San Francisco, but you can also study online. The screenwriting program is called Writing for Film, Television & Digital Media.

Some of the required coursework includes:

  • Characters & Backstory
  • First Steps in Television
  • T.V. Pilot Creation
  • Screenplay Analysis
  • Cinematic Storytelling
  • Respect for Acting

In the program, you will learn how to develop engaging scripts. You will also learn basic industry standards. Some of the school’s notable alumni include actress Raven-Symoné and fashion designer Lauren Conrad. Shrek and Shark Tale director Vicky Jensen also went to this University.

15. Metropolitan State University

Bachelor of Arts in Screenwriting

Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $8,114 

Total Points: 9

Metropolitan State University is a public university located in the Twin Cities. MSU has one of the best universities for screenwriting in the country. In this program, students can earn a B.A. in Screenwriting.

To begin the 120-credit hour program, students complete five courses and an internship. They then move on to three elective courses of their choice. Potential coursework includes:

  • Projects in Screenwriting
  • Screenwriting Individual Internship
  • Film Production and Editing II
  • Cinema, Self and Other
  • Cinema in the Cities:
  • Contemporary Cinema
  • American Film: Tradition and Trends
  • Women in Film
  • World Cinema

Students may also choose to minor in Theatre, Digital Media, Creative Writing, and more.

14. Drexel University

Bachelor of Science in Screenwriting & Playwriting

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $54,516

Total Points: 10

Drexel University is one of the top screenwriting colleges in the country. They offer a B.S. degree in screenwriting and playwriting. The program focuses on the principles of dramatic writing. But it also provides students with opportunities for hands-on learning.

There are only 12 students allowed in one writing course. So, you can expect individual attention from your instructors. Coursework includes classes like Writing the Short Film and Off-Campus Show Development. Students are also required to complete a senior project of professional scope.

13. The University of the Arts

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $46,680

Total Points: 10

The University of Arts in Philadelphia is one of the oldest fine arts schools in the nation. Additionally, the school is one of the best schools for screenwriting on the East Coast.

Students earn a BFA in Screenwriting with this program. It is a hands-on program for students to perfect the art of screenwriting. This is accomplished through intensive classes like:

  • History of Television
  • The Art of Editing
  • TV Story Analysis
  • Writing the Feature Film
  • Directing Actors for the Screen
  • Screenplay Adaptation

Students can also pursue an internship opportunity during their last year

The University of the Arts has some notable alumni, including actress Ana Ortiz. Also, the authors/illustrators Jan and Stan Berenstain graduated from the school.

12. New York Film Academy

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

Burbank, California

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $32,542

Total Points: 10

New York Film Academy is one of the top schools for screenwriting in the country. The Academy is known as a leader in filmmaking education. Students can pursue an accelerated BFA in Screenwriting at NYFA.  It’s a three-year program that includes intensive hands-on experience.

This screenwriting program is about building a portfolio of writing samples. And by the end of the first semester, students’ portfolios will already consist of:

  • Short treatments for two possible feature-length films
  • A short film script
  • A developed treatment for a film

The Academy boasts other screenwriting programs, too. These include an MFA and an Associate’s of Fine Arts. Screenwriting workshops are also available. Plus, they offer a one-year program that does not culminate in a degree. Bill Hader, Aubrey Plaza, and Damon Wayans, Jr. all graduated from NYFA.

11. Chapman University

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

Orange, California

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $54,924

Total Points: 11

Chapman University is a private school located in Southern California. It offers several film-related degree programs, including a BFA in Screenwriting.

The BFA is a 66-credit program. In it, students study the history of film and different forms of scriptwriting. They also learn the development process of film, television, and feature-length screenplays.

Electives include Film and American History, Theories of Personality, Cultural Anthropology, and more. All of the courses are sure to benefit future screenwriters. Many notable alumni have graduated from Chapman. These include comedian Leslie Jones and Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer.

10. DePaul University

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Television w/ a concentration in Screenwriting

Chicago, Illinois

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $41,202

Total Points: 11

DePaul University is a private Catholic university located in Chicago. The school’s BFA in Film and Television has the option of 11 concentrations. One of those is screenwriting.

DePaul’s city location means students often have the opportunity to work on the sets of real T.V. series. In the past, this has included Chicago PD and Empire. At first, the screenwriting concentration consists of a series of core classes. Then, students work on their major and take classes like:

  • Story Development
  • Film Structure
  • The Art of Adaptation

DePaul has many successful alumni. They include Gillian Anderson, Judy Greer, and John C. Reilly.

9. Marymount Manhattan College

Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts w/ a concentration in Creative Media

New York, New York

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $35,628

Total Points: 11

Marymount Manhattan College is a private liberal arts school located in Manhattan. It’s known as one of the best screenwriting colleges in the country. One reason for this is Marymount offers a flexible B.A. in Communication Arts.

The program allows students to design their own educational path. One example is the school’s concentration in Creative Media. This unique focus immerses students in their choice of filmmaking topics, including:

  • Writing for Television
  • Screenplay Writing
  • Storytelling Across the Media

Two of the school’s most notable alumni include actresses Laverne Cox, and Moira Kelly.

8. Judson University

Bachelor of Arts in Media Writing

Elgin, Illinois

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $29,870

Total Points: 11

Judson University is a private Christian liberal arts school near Chicago. They offer a B.A. in Media Writing that covers the history, theory, and rules of writing for “old” and “new” media.

Required courses include Media Writing, Screenwriting, and Public Relations. Judson’s screenwriting program is great for those who want a broad view of theater and media.

Students can also spend a semester at the L.A. Film Studies Center. This offers the chance to work with Hollywood professionals in courses and internships.

7. Loyola Marymount University

Bachelor of Arts in Screenwriting

Los Angeles, California

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $50,683

Total Points: 12

Loyola Marymount University is located right in Los Angeles. This means many Loyola students find themselves interning on actual Hollywood sets!

The university’s B.A. in Screenwriting consists of a series of exciting courses like:

  • Beginning Screenwriting
  • Intermediate Screenwriting
  • Completing or Rewriting the Feature
  • Writing the T.V. Situation Comedy
  • Writing for Production I & II
  • Directing for Screenwriters
  • Adaptation: One Medium to Another
  • Elements of Screenwriting
  • Seminar in Critical Writing in the Art

The list of notable alumni is a long one. For example, Mila Kunis graduated from Loyola Marymount, as did director Francis Lawrence. Additionally, actress Linda Cardellini and actress Busy Phillips went to Marymount.

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6. University of Southern California

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing for Screen & Television

Los Angeles, California

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $58,195

Total Points: 14

USC is one of the top colleges with screenwriting majors. That’s because the school has the added benefit of being located in L.A.—the heart of the filmmaking industry.

USC offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing for Screen & Television that lets students work with real industry professionals in workshop-style classes. Required courses include:

  • Visions of Diversity in the Cinematic Arts Units
  • Introduction to Television and Video Units
  • Race, Class, and Gender in American Film Units
  • History of the International Cinema II Units
  • Breaking the Story Units
  • Introduction to Hour-Long Television Writing Units

A few of USC’s most notable alumni include George Lucas, Judd Apatow, and Will Ferrell.

5. University of Cincinnati

Certificate in Screenwriting

Cincinnati, Ohio

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $11,660 (in-state), $26,994 (out-of-state)

Total Points: 14

The University of Cincinnati offers a unique screenwriting certificate. It includes introductory-level courses focusing on storytelling and script formatting. Wat’s great is that you can add it to any undergraduate major at the school.

You’ll need to decide if they’d like to focus more on television writing or film writing. Then, you can complete a series of electives that include classes like:

  • Television Genres
  • Film Structure
  • Writing the Television Spec Script
  • Topics in Screenwriting
  • The Business of Screenwriting: Pitching, Portfolios, & Studio Development
  • Creating the Web Series

The program teaches students both the creative and business sides of screenwriting.

4. Central Washington University

Bachelor of Arts in Film Production w/ a Screenwriting Minor

Ellensburg, Washington

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $8,273 

Total Points: 14

Central Washington University offers an interesting 34-credit minor. Students can get a Bachelor of Arts in Film Production with a Screenwriting Minor. A practicum is also required. The program consists of courses such as:

  • Scriptwriter in Development and Production
  • Writing for Screen Genre
  • Writing for Serial Media
  • Writing for Serial Media
  • Advanced World Cinema
  • Advanced World Cinema

3. SUNY at Purchase College

Bachelor of Arts in Screenwriting and Playwriting

Purchase, New York

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $8,923

Total Points: 14

SUNY offers an undergraduate degree in writing for the screen and the stage. It’s a B.A. in Screenwriting and Playwriting that includes courses like:

  • Playwriting
  • Plays and Playgoing
  • Screenwriting
  • Theatre Histories
  • History of Film Art
  • Writing for Television
  • The Writer and the Documentary

The school has an excellent student-to-teacher ratio. Classes average just 15 students at a time. Former Purchase attendees include Stanley Tucci, Edie Falco, and Parker Posey.

2. University of North Carolina School of the Arts

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $9,358

Total Points: 15

University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) is a public fine arts school with a great screenwriting program. The university grants high school, undergraduate, and graduate degrees. One such degree is a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting.

Among schools for screenwriting, UNCSA is unique. With this program, students spend the first two years of the program practicing their skills in various filmmaking areas. Then, at the end of a student’s second year, they are formally admitted into the screenwriting program.

The magic happens during the second year of the screenwriting program.  Students prepare an entire feature-length screenplay and prepare it for the professional marketplace.

See also: Choosing a College Major Based on Your Personality

1. Ohio University

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film w/ a Minor in Screenwriting/Digital Storytelling

Athens, Ohio (Main Campus)

Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $12,612

Total Points: 15

If you’re seeking a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film, Ohio University is a great choice. With this program, students can tailor their degrees. All they need to do is minor in Screenwriting/Digital Storytelling.

The six-course minor begins with an introductory course on Media & the Creative Process. Students then choose between short-form scriptwriting or traditional script analysis and production. The final four classes come from a list of advanced courses, including:

  • Media Criticism
  • Screenwriting: the Adaptation
  • Directing the Scene
  • Media and the Muslim World
  • Advanced Screenwriting

What are Screenwriters?

Best Schools for Screenwriting

First, let’s talk about the definition of a screenwriter.

Screenwriters create scripts for film, television, commercials, video games, and other visual media. They develop the characters we come to know and love. And they bring the worlds we see onscreen to life. They are the ones who write screenplays that directors shoot. Screenwriters are also called scriptwriters.

How Much Do Screenwriters Make?

Your earnings as a screenwriter will depend on many different factors, including where you live, your level of experience, and more. But, according to PayScale, screenwriters can make:

 Screenwriters Programs

Average: $78,611

Top 10%: $206,000

Bottom 10%: $34,000

Yet, as you might imagine, a screenwriter’s earnings can vary widely. Many scriptwriters belong to the Writers Guild of America (WGA). The WGA is a labor union specifically for television, film, news, and other media writers. This group sets minimum wage agreements for freelancers and paid staff writers.

As a professional member of the Writers Guild, you will earn no less than what is found in the organization’s Schedule of Minimums.

Do You Need a Degree To Be a Screenwriter?

The short answer is no. You don’t need a formal degree to get into screenwriting. In fact, many famous writers never attended a traditional university. But, if you want to give yourself the best chance at learning the craft and building a career, a degree can definitely help you get there. And it will provide you with a firm foundation to build from.

If you want to be a skilled screenwriter, a degree can help you reach your goals. Your instructors, guides, and mentors can teach you professional skills to benefit your career. You’ll also gain the confidence to know you can succeed in the industry. Here are just a few benefits of pursuing a degree in film or screenwriting.

Gaining a Broad View of the Industry

Even if your main goal is to become a screenwriter, learning all the different parts of making films is essential. For example, understanding directing, sound, and other processes will help you in every aspect of filmmaking. Also, you’ll learn terminology and proper structure. Plus, a broad knowledge of the industry will ensure your scripts have depth and value.

Learning How To Collaborate

Best Screenwriting Degree Programs

Making movies or TV shows is always a collaborative effort. Films are not created by just one person, And there may be many people involved in a project. Typically, it takes a team of great writers to create exciting and memorable scenes. So learning how to collaborate and work with others on a project is a lesson that applies not just to a film degree but also to many other aspects of life.

Meeting People With Similar Interests

Networking is one of the keys to developing a satisfying career. But it’s hard to network if you don’t know anyone else working in your field. When you pursue a degree program in screenwriting, you’ll get to meet those who share your passion. They may be fellow students, professionals in the industry, or your professors. You’ll get to connect with like-minded people. Then, when it comes time to get a new job or advance your career, you can all be there for each other.

Mastering New and Important Skills

You probably have a good idea of how to write a script right now. And you may think you know all there is to know already. However, there are probably many things about the industry you don’t understand yet. Additionally, you are likely not even aware of some of the crucial skills you might be missing. A screenwriting degree can teach you some basic scriptwriting structure. This way, you’ll become proficient in all aspects of your future role as a screenwriter.

Gaining Knowledge of Tools and Software

Writing a script is not as easy as sitting down and typing out some dialogue. You’ll need to use different tools and software to bring your story to life. And those take time to master. In your filmmaking classes, you’ll get the opportunity to learn about (and use) industry-standard software so you can work like a pro. Plus, you’ll get the chance to make mistakes, ask questions, and hone your tech skills as you go along.

See Also: Top 30 Schools for an Online Computer Science Degree

Developing Patience and Flexibility

Being flexible and patient is an acquired skill. Things often don’t go as planned in filmmaking, and circumstances can change quickly. Deadlines and schedules also may need to be modified. Many times, you’ll have to come up with a plan B. Adjusting your expectations and rolling with the punches is a key aspect of filmmaking. The best screenwriting programs will teach you the flexibility and patience you need to succeed.

Best Screenwriting Schools

Screenwriters: What Do They Do?

So, exactly what are the day-to-day responsibilities of a screenwriter? In general, screenwriters are freelancers who work for themselves, which is a significant perk of this career.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have deadlines to meet. All screenwriters will eventually need to collaborate with directors, producers, executives, and others. The general daily duties can include:

  • Creating a framework (also called a treatment) for a screenplay
  • Researching and developing ideas for a screenplay
  • Writing a new script
  • Adapting an older story into a script
  • Meeting with executives to pitch an idea or screenplay
  • Working with professionals who create the visual elements of the story
  • Collaborating with directors and producers to adjust and revise a script

Typical Courses in a Screenwriting Degree Program

As we mentioned before, you don’t need any specific training or education to be a screenwriter. However, you can benefit from attending a college that offers a screenwriting degree program. That’s because screenwriting courses are geared toward the practical skills you’ll need to succeed in the field.

Some of the college courses you might find in a screenwriting degree program include:

Top Schools for Screenwriting
  • Film and Other Arts
  • Introduction to Cinema: History & Aesthetics
  • Visual Analysis
  • Visual Perception
  • Classical Film Theory
  • American Film History
  • Contemporary Film Theory
  • Computer Applications for Film Study
  • Software for Screenwriting
  • Digital Video Production
  • Acting for the Camera
  • Film and Television Industry Standards
  • Screenwriting
  • Fictional Film
  • American Television History
  • Culture, Media and Society
  • Animated Film
  • European Film History
  • Playwriting and Screenwriting
  • Documentary Film
  • Experimental Film
  • Visual Storytelling
  • Videogame Theory
  • Writing the Character-Centered Screenplay
  • Television Criticism
  • Dramatic Writing
  • Writing the Genre Film
  • Film and Media Arts
  • Cinema Directing
  • Film Criticism
  • Narrative Studies
  • Creative Writing
  • Professional Success within the Fine Arts
  • Writing Meaningful Dialogue
  • Film Authors
  • Film Genres
  • Screenwriting
  • Adapting Media to Screenplays
  • Creating Authentic Cinematic Conflict

What Else Can I Do With a Screenwriting Degree?

Many students complete screenwriting degrees to create feature-length screenplays. But you can do many other things with a degree in screenwriting. Here are just a few:

Marketing and Advertising Copywriting

Copywriters are writers who create content with the goal of selling or increasing brand awareness. This role is closely related to marketing. Copywriters may write things like:

  • Scripts for TV commercials
  • Scrips for spoken advertising like podcasts or radio ads
  • Social Media Ads
  • Marketing Emails
  • Press Releases
  • Website pages like “about us” pages, landing pages, or product descriptions.

Video Game Writing

The gaming industry is booming. There is a need for talented writers to develop video game characters, dialogues, and storylines. Many games have complex narratives and scenarios. Amazingly,  someone writes every word of them from beginning to end.

For example, scriptwriter  Darby McDevitt wrote the narratives for the Assassin’s Creed series. And writer Marc Laidlaw wrote Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Part of the enormous success of these games can be attributed to these talented writers.


Many well-known actors started out as screenwriters. For example, Saturday Night Live actress Kristen Wiig co-wrote the screenplay for Bridesmaids, a 2011 comedy. And Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote and starred in Good Will Hunting.

Talented actors like these all worked behind the scenes extensively. And their performances were undoubtedly enhanced thanks to a broad knowledge of screenwriting.

Moving Forward

In addition to entering one of the above fields, students may want to learn more about screenwriting. Luckily, you have that option too. You can continue with your education and choose from among many graduate screenwriting programs.