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In the United States, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is a graduate degree typically requiring 2-3 years of study. In the United Kingdom, a (MFA) typically requires two years, whereas an (MA) usually takes one year of study, except in Scotland, where the MA qualification has supplanted the BA as an undergraduate degree and requires 4 years of study as opposed to the 3 normally required for a BA. The Scottish case aside, the MFA is a postgraduate study beyond the bachelor's degree level and usually awarded in visual arts, creative writing, filmmaking, or theater/performing arts. Coursework is primarily of an applied or performing nature with the program often culminating in a major work or performance.

MFA programs have generally required a bachelor's degree prior to admission, but many have not required that the undergraduate major be the same as the MFA field of study. The most important admissions requirement has often been a sample portfolio or a performance audition.

The MFA 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 are usually centered on the scholarly, academic, or critical study of the field.

The MFA is seen as a terminal degree, meaning that it is considered to be the highest degree in its field. In the interest of extending the connection between creative production and continued academic research, however, some universities have established competing Ph.D programs in fields such as creative writing, visual arts, and theater.



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