Ph.D. in Cinema Studies

The Ph.D. curriculum draws on the methods of a number of disciplines, including art history, cultural studies, American studies, psychoanalytic theory, and philosophy. It involves intensive seminar level study in film theory, history and research methods. Graduates of the program have gone onto positions of academic leadership in the field.  The Doctor of Philosophy degree is conferred for advanced studies in which the student demonstrates outstanding original scholarship. It signifies the student can conduct independent research and has both a broad basic knowledge of all areas of his or her field and an intensive knowledge of one field in particular.


Over the first two years of the program, you’ll enroll in nine courses. In addition to the three courses listed below, a number of lectures and seminars are offered each semester in the department. Additionally, you will have the option to take up to two courses in other departments within NYU.

PhD Methodologies

In your first semester, you will meet with your cohort to examine a range of activities entailed in being in the program specifically, and in preparing for a career in cinema and media studies generally.  The course covers professional activities, research protocols, and practical exercises.

Directed Reading

In your third semester, you will complete a Directed Reading in your dissertation topic area with supervision by your anticipated dissertation advisor.

Dissertation Seminar

In your fourth semester, your cohort will come back together to prepare dissertation proposals through in-class debate, written feedback, and guests with experience in the process.  With regular presentations of work in progress, you will spend the semester finishing your dissertation proposal.

Qualifying Exams

You will be required to pass three Qualifying Examinations during your first two years in the program. The two written exams, one each in the fields of Film/Media History and Film/Culture/Media Theory, consist of 10-page essays completed over the course of a week and graded by three faculty members. The oral exam comprises questions relating to your specific area of research during your dissertation proposal, conducted and graded by three faculty members.

Read more about the Ph.D. Comprehesive Examinations.

Language Requirement

You will be expected to demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language.  Six languages are accepted toward fulfilling this requirement: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish.  Students for whom English is a second language may request an exemption from this requirement.  To demonstrate proficiency, you must pass an exam from either the department or the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


You will be given the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant during your second year of coursework.  Once your coursework and qualifying examinations are complete, you will be eligible to submit course proposals for adjunct teaching positions in the department.

Current students should consult the Ph.D. Handbook for rules and regulations.