• Recording Industry
    Hands-on experience
    is part of being at MTSU
  • Recording Industry
    Students are guided by
    Grammy-winner Professor John Hill
  • Recording Industry
    Songwriter and pianist, Joseph Akins brings his creative expertise to teaching
  • Recording Industry
    Helping with the PBS special "Pa's Fiddle" provided real-world experience

Master of Fine Arts Degree - Recording Arts and Technologies

The purpose of the Master of Fine Arts program is to prepare students for advanced work in audio production, recording, and integrated electronic media. Students will develop a strong foundation in audio production and an understanding of the theoretical concepts of closely related disciplines. The program fosters creativity and prepares students with a strong technical component utilizing the latest advancements in software and hardware. A diverse range of technical and artistic projects are produced, culminating in a final project of professional caliber. The degree plan also offers preparation for select graduates to teach at the postsecondary level in the field of audio recording and production.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who is the MFA for?
  2. What would be an example of a creative area?
  3. Do I need an undergraduate degree in audio engineering?
  4. How soon can I start?
  5. When should I apply?
  6. How many students will you accept each year?
  7. Is financial aid available?
  8. What is the admissions process like?
  9. What should be included in a creative portfolio?
  10. What classes are offered?
  11. Where can I get more information?


Who is the MFA for?

The MFA is an unusual degree, in that one of the primary qualities sought in new students is creativity. This creative background may be in audio engineering or in a field closely related to what might be described as "entertainment technology." Though creativity is fostered and developed throughout the program, a strong creative area is expected of all incoming students. An interest in audio production is not enough. This creativity is demonstrated through the portfolio required as part of the admissions process. The MFA is not an appropriate degree for someone who does not have substantial creative output in some related field or a previous degree in audio engineering/music technology. If a student’s strength is audio recording/technology, then the question that should be asked is “What is it about my recordings that sets them apart from those of everyone else who has a similar background?”

What would be an example of a creative area?

This will be different for each student and might consist of songs that you have written, audio recordings you have engineered, videos you have shot and edited, computer games you have authored, music scores of pieces you have composed, websites you have created, etc. Of course, the portfolio will be very different for each applicant depending on his or her background. 

Do I need an undergraduate degree in audio engineering?

Though some MFA students have previous degrees in audio engineering/music technology, the MFA does accept students who may not have a previous degree in audio engineering. Some students with little or no audio background may be asked to complete foundation audio courses during the summer before starting class in the fall.

How soon can I start?

The MFA accepts new students only in the fall term.

When should I apply?

The admissions committee will begin looking at new applications in late March and will continue to review applicants until all places are filled.

How many students will you accept each year?

The MFA accepts a limited number of students. In past years, 12-14 students have been accepted.

Is financial aid available?

The MFA normally has two or three assistantships to award each fall. These may be awarded to incoming students and are sometimes awarded to students currently in the program who have shown the aptitude for teaching an undergraduate course in our department. Assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis. It is recommended that applications for assistantships be submitted early in the application process since the admissions committee may begin awarding assistantships as soon as late March. Consideration for an assistantship requires that the applicant has submitted all the materials required for admission, as those materials comprise the primary means of evaluating the candidate’s suitability for an assistantship, and an applicant must have been admitted unconditionally in order to receive an assistantship. Though an assistantship could possibly be available as late as early July, in past years most assistantships have been awarded by the end of the spring.

Information about other sources of financial aid can be found on the following webpage:  http://www.mtsu.edu/graduate/student/financing.php
(This information can also be accessed by going to the MTSU homepage and under “Future Students”, selecting “Graduates”, then selecting the link, “Financing Your Education”.)

Another significant source of financial assistance is the “Academic Common Market.” This is a group of states that have agreements permitting graduate students who are permanent residents of those states to enroll at MTSU at the in-state tuition rate. This provides a savings of approximately $30,000.

What is the admissions process like?

Admissions are competitive and an applicant’s materials are compared with those of all other applicants. The primary factors considered in determining a student’s suitability for admission include the creative portfolio, undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and the letter of intent.

The quality of the creative portfolio is usually the determining factor in admission. 

Review of applications by the MFA Admissions Committee will begin in late March and a limited number of students will be accepted. Admissions are competitive and your materials are being compared with all other applicants. This process may take several weeks, however, places could also be filled in a shorter time. It is to your advantage to have your application submitted by April 1st. Later applications will be considered but there will be the possibility that all the places in the MFA may already have been filled.

The following link will take you to the application page detailing specific requirements for admission to the MFA and will provide a link to the online application form: http://www.mtsu.edu/graduate/programs/reat.php

What should be included in a creative portfolio?

A portfolio of works should be representative of the candidate’s creative achievements in the areas of audio recording, composition, songwriting, video, film, multimedia, web design, or areas that could generally be described as “entertainment technology”. Most applicants’ portfolio works will come from just one or two of the areas described above, however, some will have done creative work in more than one of these fields. It is extremely important to document your contribution for each item you submit. For example, if you submit an audio recording, state if you were the composer, performer, engineer, producer, or did several of these tasks. The admissions committee will be evaluating what your specific contributions were to each project. The portfolio has no specific guidelines because applicants come from a wide variety of creative backgrounds and each student’s portfolio will reflect their particular expertise, however a professional presentation of materials is expected.

Submit what you think is your best work. This may only be three or four examples but may include as much as you wish. If you have extended examples (a 20 minute video documentary or a dance mix, for example) you may wish to edit them. In addition to your submissions, include a list of ANY other projects on which you have participated and list your job on each project. In your portfolio documentation list the hardware and software with which you are familiar. List related technologies with which you are familiar and describe your competency. This might include: Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, iMovie, etc.

Audio examples should be submitted on an audio CD that is playable on either a Macintosh or PC computer or on a commercial CD or DVD player. MP3s are not acceptable. Video and/or film examples should be submitted on a DVD that is playable on either a Macintosh or PC computer or on a commercial DVD player.

QuickTime Video Requested
Though it is not required applicants are asked to submit a brief QuickTime video of them describing their background and reason for seeking the degree. This is a way for the admissions committee to get to know you beyond your written documentation. A QuickTime data file is adequate or this may also be submitted as a playable DVD if you prefer.


The M.F.A. degree is a 60-hour, six-semester program as outlined below including 36 hours of required courses, 15 hours of guided electives, plus 9 hours of work on a final project. It is expected that students attend full time taking 9 to 12 hours per semester. Guided electives will be selected from Recording Arts and Technologies courses and approved courses from other departments. Up to 6 hours of guided electives may be from other departments upon permission of the student’s advisor. A maximum of 12 hours of 5000-level courses may be counted toward the degree.

Click here for the MFA degree outline.

Click here for MFA course descriptions.

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