MA vs. MFA Acting: Which is Best?

January 21, 2015

It’s a question many prospective acting students consider at some point in the college decision making process – when it comes to MA vs. MFA acting, which is best?

On the face of it, it doesn’t appear that there is much difference between the two acting degree programs. Both are intensive courses, designed to bring the student up to an advanced proficiency in acting for film, as well as preparing him or her for professional work out in the field after graduation.

MA vs MFA acting

Even the names have caused confusion amongst some, with only one letter of difference between the two program titles. However, there are a number of key differences between them that should be considered when deciding which one will most benefit your personal situation and acting career.

The Difference Between a MA and MFA Acting Program

In a nutshell, the ‘MA’ stands for ‘Master of Arts’ while MFA is an acronym for ‘Master of Fine Arts’.

While both are prestigious qualifications and signify to prospective casting agents that the student has studied acting to the highest level, the primary difference between the two programs is the overall learning goal.

Simply put, the MA acting program is more ‘liberal’ in its course overview; that is to say, it spreads focus out across numerous areas of the performing arts. On the other side of the coin, the MFA acting program is strictly focused on acting itself, giving students an extremely in-depth and intensive understanding of the craft.

MFA acting program

As such, the main question prospective students should ask themselves is whether they want to advance their acting career, or gain a rough overview of the craft as a whole. While both programs can benefit an acting career in a big way, the MFA program can be seen as more of an ‘actor’s acting’ degree than the more generalized MA acting program.

Course Length

Another important distinction between the two programs is the time it takes to complete them.

Naturally, the MFA course – being more intensive – takes longer to complete, typically comprising of three years of study (whereas the MA acting program is usually conducted across two years). However, it should be noted that some MFA acting programs are offered on an ‘accelerated’ basis, providing students with the same high level of training condensed into the same two years it would take to achieve an MA acting qualification.

Prerequisites for the MFA Acting Program

At this point, the MFA acting program probably sounds more attractive (particularly for those with a serious interest in acting for a living) but it’s vital to know what you can expect from the qualification.

Difference between MA and MFA

Both the MA and MFA qualifications will increase your chances of gaining paid work quite considerably following graduation, but it’s important to realize that they do not guarantee it.

Keeping in mind that such programs are no magic bullet for success, students will maximize their chances by investing themselves fully into their studies. Particularly with the MFA acting program, actors will be required to have an extreme amount of dedication to the craft and a willingness to immerse themselves in the various facets of the art form.

MA Acting vs. MFA Acting: In Conclusion

The decision over whether to choose an MA or MFA acting program, ultimately, is a personal one; it’s also one of the biggest decisions you’re likely to make in your acting career, so do be sure to go into it fully armed with all the information.

Continue your education in performing arts and acting at New York Film Academy with our MFA in Acting for Film program. Hone your acting skills with practical hands-on acting experiences. Visit our MFA in Acting for Film program page to learn more.