SDSU’s low-residency MFA in Screenwriting program helps students become stronger writers and empowers them to take a more active role throughout the entire production process — from first draft to final product. Created in collaboration with the San Diego State University School of Theatre, Television, and Film, SDSU’s new Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Screenwriting program is a low-residency graduate program that will help you develop and elevate your craft as a script writer and share your visions in fields that thrive on visual storytelling. This two-year hybrid program is the first of its kind in the CSU system in this format and one of the few in the nation from a major, accredited university.


Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all in-person components of this program have either been paused, rescheduled, or moved into a virtual format until further notice.


Please email or call (619) 594-7700 to learn how these changes affect your program. SDSU will continue to monitor the situation and follow the guidance of our local and federal health agencies.


SDSU’s low-residency MFA in Screenwriting program helps students become stronger writers and empowers them to take a more active role throughout the entire production process — from first draft to final product.


About the program

It begins with a story you need to tell.

You have a unique vision to share on the media screen. You want to excite, enthrall, move, and perhaps transform the audience with your captivating characters, vivid dialogue, and riveting twists and reversals of plot. You strive to communicate that experience on the page of the script you write.

But do you know what form your story should take? Which platform should you use to communicate your vision? Will your story best thrive on the stage, or as a television series, or in a gaming experience?

What if you had the opportunity to learn how your story moves through the film production process? Knowing that process first-hand influences the way you weave your stories, and how you craft your vision on the page.

Estimated CostTotal Estimated Cost
Completion Time Completion Time
As short as 2 years
Course Format Course Format

Created in collaboration with the San Diego State University School of Theatre, Television, and Film, SDSU’s new Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Screenwriting program is a low-residency graduate program that will help you develop and elevate your craft as a script writer and share your visions in a variety of digital media formats, including film, television, and the web. This two-year hybrid program is the first of its kind in the CSU system in this format and one of the few in the nation from a major, accredited university.

Through workshop classes, you’ll work with your cohort and instructors, professionals in the field, to hone your writing skills and creative instincts to engage and excite audiences across the many forms of performance arts. You’ll also learn the basics of production in a two-week summer residency experience held in San Diego. You’ll develop your craft and vision in television, film (short and feature-length), stage, webisodes, gaming, and more. Upon completion, you’ll be better prepared to create stories designed for the next new media.

Request Info

Is This Program Right for Me?

This graduate-level screenwriting program is designed for twenty-first century storytellers who want to bring their ideas to life. The curriculum is applicable to those who currently work in media production, as well as those who are interested in launching a career as a professional screenwriter.

As screenwriters are being asked to take on more active roles in the production process, this program will also empower you to be effective on set and in post-production by helping you master the basics of the production process. These skills are necessary in today’s environment, as writer-producers are required to manage more than the words on the page.

The program is low-residency, which means that the majority of your courses will be 100% online. This makes the program ideal for working professionals who don’t have the time or the resources to participate in a full-time graduate program on a college campus.

What Can I Learn?

SDSU’s master’s degree in screenwriting examines current industry trends and delivers a by-the-minute curriculum that’s invaluable to those interested in a career in the increasingly competitive, highly diverse world of media production.

You’ll study screenwriting, television writing, playwriting, and film production as geared toward the writer. The MFA in Screenwriting program not only captures current trends of television writers with playwriting backgrounds, it empowers writers to be effective on set and in post-production, teaching them the basics of the production process.

You’ll develop an advanced ability to write complex, gripping narratives for film, television, theater, and other media. You’ll learn how to create characters that are original, relatable, and compelling, and you’ll learn how to use those characters to drive your stories. You’ll also strengthen your screenwriting skills with comprehensive examinations of film theory, film history, and critical theory as it pertains to storytelling.

This two-year degree program utilizes a blended instructional model in which courses are in an online format, and intensive face-to-face sessions during a summer residency in San Diego.

During the two-week summer residency, you’ll develop close relationships with your classmates and your instructors as you get invaluable hands-on experience working with production and post-production equipment, including cameras, lighting, soundboards, and in-studio editing software.

Upon successful completion of this program, you’ll be able to:

  • Create original screenplays, teleplays, and scripts for new media.
  • Use camera, sound, lighting, and post-production equipment in order to shoot, edit, and self-produce a short film or webisode.
  • Effectively communicate your ideas in written and verbal form, then utilize production skills to sell your creative products in the television and film marketplace, move them forward in the film festival circuit, or through online distribution.
  • Effectively articulate literary analysis that applies the concepts of film criticism, film theory, and dramaturgy to help develop, write, and rewrite your own scripts and those of your peers.

Learn More

The curriculum is delivered in a two-year, cohort-based format that will help you foster meaningful relationships with your classmates throughout the program. Courses focus on writing, production, and the business of media production. In the final portion of the program, you’ll have the opportunity to choose between two culminating experiences: a Master’s thesis and a public performance of one of your projects, or a capstone project paired with a performance.

Career Outcomes

Labor Analysis
Writers/Authors - Nationwide

Job Postings
Job Postings
In 2019

Projected Growth
Projected Growth
Over 10 years

Salary Range
Salary Range

Source: BLS & Burning Glass Technologies, 2020


In 2019, there were more than 130,000 writers and authors employed across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these writers develop content for various types of media, including advertisements, blogs, books, magazines, and movie, play, and television scripts. In the past 12 months, there were more than 2,559 job postings nationwide seeking poets, lyricists and creative writers; in that same time period, there were nearly 26,000 job postings for copywriters.

Nationally, writers and authors make a median annual salary of $63,200. For writers and authors who work in performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries, the median annual salary was $70,990.

Writers Guild of America, West (WAGW)
The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) published their Annual Financial Report in July of 2020. More than 6,300 writers reported employment in all work areas in 2019. Total earnings reported for dues purposes for those members rose 3.1% to $1.68 billion in 2019. This growth is attributed to the industry-wide increase in original production for streaming services.

Television And Digital Platforms

Employment Numbers


Employment Growth


Total Earnings

$1.17 Billion





Theatrical (Film) Projects

Employment Numbers


Employment Growth


Total Earnings

$493.1 Million





Television, Radio News, & Promotion - Informational/Interactive Programs

Employment Numbers


Employment Growth


Total Earnings

$14.1 Million





Request Info

Why Should You Choose Us?


SDSU is committed to serving a richly diverse population of students from all backgrounds. More than 54% of all SDSU undergraduates are students of color who come from many different backgrounds, which means that every classroom is a unique collection of personal and professional experiences. In fact, Forbes ranked SDSU in the top 30 universities nationwide for ethnic diversity. We’re also a proud Hispanic-serving institution, with more than 25% of our student population coming from Hispanic backgrounds.

Expert Faculty

Our faculty are industry veterans and active professionals with real-world experience, credentials, and connections that will help you build the skills you need to succeed in today’s screenwriting industry. Faculty members include television screenwriters, executive producers, and directors of prime-time television series, films, and Tony Award-winning Broadway productions.

Practical Experience

In addition to online lessons, you’ll have the opportunity to visit San Diego State University’s beautiful campus for two weeks during the summer between the first and second year of the program. You’ll get invaluable hands-on experience working with equipment in a studio and on a soundstage.


Other than the summer intensive, the entirety of the program is 100% online, making it ideal for busy working students who want to earn a master’s degree without putting their professional commitments on hold.


Graduation Requirements

To successfully complete the program and earn your Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting, you’ll need to complete 42 units of graduate level coursework, which consists of the following:

  • Core Writing Courses — 12 Units
  • Production Courses — 9 Units
  • Elective Courses — 15 Units
  • Culminating Experience — 6 Units

Course List

Core Writing Courses (12 Units)

TFM 0610: Seminar in Writing for Television and Film (3 Units, taken twice)*
TFM 0625: Seminar in Writing Short Narrative and Documentary Films (3 Units)
THEA 0515: Playwriting (3 Units)

Production Courses (9 Units)

TFM 0590: Directing for Film and Television (3 Units)
TFM 0607: Seminar in Intensive Television and Film (3 Units)
TFM 0627: Film Editing and Postproduction (3 Units)

Critical Studies, Film Business, and Writing Electives (15 Units)

TFM 0530: Selected Topics in Genre Studies for Television and Film (3 Units)
TFM 0601: Business Aspects of Film (3 Units)
TFM 0612: Seminar in Writing for New Media (3 Units)
TFM 0798: Special Study (1-3 Units)
THEA 0673: Advanced Graduate Playwriting (3 Units)

Culminating Experience (6 Units)

Plan A (Thesis)
TFM 0793: Capstone Public Presentation (1 Unit)
TFM 0797: MFA Research (1-3 Units)
TFM 0799A: Thesis or Project (3 Units)

Plan B (Non-Thesis)
TFM 0792: MFA Capstone Project (3 Units)
TFM 0793: Capstone Public Presentation (1 Unit)
TFM 0797: MFA Research (1-3 Units)

*More info to be determined.

Click here for information about our drop policy.


Out-of-State Applicants
While we welcome out-of-state students, SDSU Global Campus currently cannot accept applications from students residing in some specific states. Please check back often, as this list of approved states does change. View the list of authorized states here.

International Applicants
Please click here for detailed guidance on how to submit your transcripts.

Admission Requirements

Below is a list of general admission requirements for the MFA in Screenwriting program.

We understand that every student's academic journey is unique, and we encourage you to contact one of our Student Service Representatives to find out what you'll need to successfully apply to the program.

  1. Hold an acceptable baccalaureate degree earned at an institution accredited by a regional accrediting association, or have completed equivalent academic preparation as determined by the graduate dean
  2. Have attained a grade point average of at least 2.85 in an acceptable earned baccalaureate degree, or at least 2.85 in the last 60 semester (90 quarter) units attempted, or hold an acceptable post-baccalaureate degree earned at an institution accredited by a regional accrediting association
  3. Have been in good standing at the last institution attended

If you’re already pursuing a Screenwriting or Dramatic Writing MFA from an acceptable accredited institution, you may transfer up to 18 units upon review and recommendation by the graduate adviser and with approval of the dean of the Division of Graduate Affairs.

Application Instructions

SDSU admits students to the MFA in Screenwriting program in the fall semester only. To apply for SDSU’s screenwriting master’s program, you’ll need to complete the following steps:

  1. Apply to the University through Cal State Apply
  2. Submit materials to SDSU Graduate Division

    The following materials should be submitted together directly to:

    Graduate Admissions
    San Diego State University
    5500 Campanile Drive
    San Diego, CA 92182-8225
    • Official transcripts (in sealed envelopes) from all postsecondary institutions attended
      • If you have international coursework, you should submit both the official transcript and proof of degree. If documents are in a language other than English, they should be accompanied by a certified English translation.
    • English language score, if medium of instruction was in a language other than English ( SDSU institution code 4682)
      • All graduate and post-baccalaureate applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English should demonstrate competence in English. Those applicants who do not possess a bachelor’s degree from a postsecondary institution where English is the principal language of instruction should submit official TOEFL or IELTS results.
        • The minimum TOEFL required score for admission is 80 for the iBT test or 550 for the PBT test
        • The minimum required IELTS score for admission is 6.5
        • Please note scores should be recent (within the past two years)
  3. Submit a program application and program specific documents to the SDSU School of Theatre, Television, and Film
    • Essay #1: Personal Statement
      • A short essay (1000 words or less) describing your creative and career goals and how you think this program will benefit you. Please submit this essay in a PDF format.
    • Essay #2: Favorite Films/Plays/TV Programs
      • A list of three films, plays, or television programs you admire. Please write one paragraph for each that describes the ways they inspire you. Please submit this list in a PDF format.
    • Essay #3: List of Hobbies/Interests
      • A list and a brief description (in a sentence) of your hobbies and interests outside of film, television, and theatre. Please submit this list in a PDF format.
    • Résumé/CV
      • A curriculum vitae (CV) or résumé that includes any writing experience you have had in a PDF format.
    • Letters of Recommendation
      • Three letters of recommendation from academic and/or professional sources who can speak to your ability to achieve artistically and creatively in screenwriting and an MFA Program. At least one letter should come from an academic reference and at least one letter should come from a professor or professional acquainted with your creative activities.
    • Creative Writing Sample
      • A writing sample that demonstrates your level of craft with techniques of dramatic structure, character building, dialogue, and the visual language of film. Please submit one completed original narrative script between 25 to 120 pages in length (feature screenplay, teleplay or play script) in a PDF format.
      • Please submit original creative work — do not submit a television spec of an existing television show. As mentioned, in rare circumstances, authors may gain approval to submit a short story or excerpt of a novel.
    • Dramatic/Comedic Scene
      • A 2-5 page dramatic or comedic scene, written in screenwriting or playwriting format, that addresses this year’s prompt.
      • Current Prompt: Write a 2-5 page scene between two very different people on a blind date. One doesn't want to be there initially. The other needs this to be a success. The characters use something in the location to negotiate what they need. Value both dialogue and visual elements. Please use a screenwriting or playwriting format and submit your scene in a PDF format.
      • Please submit this sample in a PDF format.

After submitting the online Cal State Apply application, you will receive an email from San Diego State University that includes your SDSUid, which is needed to log into my.SDSU. You can use my.SDSU to check your application status, update your contact information, access your financial aid, and more. Please check back frequently to make sure all of the required materials have been received — you’re responsible for ensuring that all supporting materials are submitted by the deadline.

Admission to the program is competitive, and satisfying these requirements does not guarantee admission. The decision to admit is based on consideration of the entire application file; promising applicants in unusual circumstances are encouraged to apply.

Students accepted for graduate study in the Master of Fine Arts Degree in Screenwriting are fully matriculated in the university and meet all university requirements as established by the Graduate Council.

If you have any questions regarding the application process, please contact Stuart Voytilla, the program director, at

Financial Aid

This program is approved for financial aid. To begin the financial aid process, visit SDSU’s Financial Aid webpage. There, you'll be able to access the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

If you have any questions regarding the financial aid process, please call the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships on weekdays from 10 am–3 pm at (619) 594-7700.

We encourage you to apply for financial aid as soon as possible.

Program Cost

  Unit Cost Program Unit Range* Cost
Tuition $860 42 $36,120
Associated Students $19 42 $798
Technology $21 42 $882
Student Engagement $21 42 $882
Total Estimated Costs $921   $38,682

* Everyone is unique. Your admissions advisor will work with you to determine the right path that suits your needs.

 Back to Top >

Contact Information


2023 Fall2023 Spring2023 Summer2023 Winter
TFM 0610 Seminar in Writing for TV and Film (The Writers' Room: Creating a TV Series )
Writers’ rooms, long a staple of TV, are making inroads into screenwriting and other venues, so it’s necessary to understand the social and creative dynamics from the inside. Starting from zero, students in this eight-week intensive course will take part in the creation of a theoretical TV series from concept to the development of characters, situations and stories, culminating in teams being selected to write the first three scripts of the series. (This is strictly an academic exercise, not the creation of an actual series.) Non-dramatic and dramatic structures as they apply to non-fiction and fiction television programs and films. Writing full length script or scenario.
Course Date(s)

TFM 0610.01 Seminar in Writing for TV and Film (Big Bucks: The One-Location Script - Horror - Drama - Thriller)
One-location scripts have long been recognized as a sweet spot for first-time directors and Hollywood producers for their low cost and potential for high returns. Recently, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” (2017) catapulted into the critical stratosphere winning both the Oscar and the Writers’ Guild Award for the Best Original Screenplay. In this class, you’ll choose a genre, and examine how this subset, the one-location script, works with respect to story conventions, genre theory and spectatorship via script analyses and critical readings. You'll exit the class with a logline, character bios, outline, and the first ten pages of your ‘One-Location' script. Non-dramatic and dramatic structures as they apply to non-fiction and fiction television programs and films. Writing full length script or scenario.
Course Date(s)