The Institute offers programs leading to the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Master of Arts (MA), Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), and undergraduate and advanced certificates.
Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) programs take four years, or eight semesters, and a minimum of 120 semester units to complete. To obtain the BFA degree, candidates must fulfill all of the course requirements of their programs, including 48 Critical Studies units, and pass faculty reviews of their work. In some programs, BFA candidates are required to complete a final project.
The School of Critical Studies offers a 30 semester-unit Master of Arts (MA) in Aesthetics in Politics. The MA is a one-year, full-time year program of study. To receive the MA degree, students must fulfill all program unit requirements and complete a thesis, which may assume a plurality of forms.
Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs take either two or three years to complete, depending on the individual program. To receive the MFA degree, students must fulfill all program unit requirements and pass at least two faculty reviews of their work—once at mid-residency and again prior to graduation. MFA students are further required to spend their final semester in residence at CalArts and complete a final project of professional quality.
The Performer–Composer Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) program in the School of Music requires a minimum of 3 years of full-time residence and 60 units in total, with a minimum enrollment of 10 units per semester. DMA students must complete courses, a series of exams and projects, and a culminating "Doctoral Project" whose components both present a meaningful synthesis of performance and composition and also demonstrate the significance and originality of the student's work.
Students who are not pursuing a BFA degree may obtain a Certificate of Fine Arts as the culmination of a course of study that does not require Critical Studies credits. Students who are qualified at the MFA level in their chosen field but do not hold an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution may work toward an Advanced Certificate of Fine Arts. Generally, very few applicants are admitted to CalArts to carry out such courses of study.