Doctor of Philosophy programs are "academic" rather than "professional" because they focus on developing theories and knowledge rather than applying them. That may be why few universities offer degrees in film production beyond the master's level. Ph.D. programs in film concentrate on research and teaching rather than film production. However, some film studies departments across the country require their doctoral students to participate in a film production component.

East Coast

Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts offers a Ph.D. program in film and visual studies. Primarily a research program, doctoral students in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies examine film in cultural, historical and philosophical contexts. The Harvard Film Study Center offers fellowships for graduate students interested in developing nonfiction films.


The University of Kansas in Lawrence is home to the School of the Arts. Its film and media department has a Ph.D. program. Although most of the required courses are in history and theory, students must fulfill a production requirement. The program's goal is to graduate students who are competent in the analysis and critique of film, as well as in the creative component.

Central California

In 2011, the University of California at Berkeley introduced a Ph.D. program in film and media. Students connect film with a variety of other disciplines, such as history, law and literature, in order to analyze contexts and influences. As part of the program, students must complete a digital media project. The Santa Cruz campus of University of California has a doctoral program in film and digital media, and the program's goal is to combine theory and practice. In fact, the department prefers students who have previous experience in film making.

Los Angeles, California

The University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts offers a Ph.D. in media arts and practice. Each student establishes a curriculum to address personal interests and goals. The purpose of the program is to combine theory and practice, so students interested in film production can develop their curricula along those lines. The School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA has a small doctoral program. Although the focus is on research, each student develops an individualized plan of study. This approach allows students to include film production in their coursework.

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