Show Runners


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Many show runners start out as screenwriters or other types of writers, so it’s a good idea to take as many English and writing classes as possible, as well as get involved in theatrical productions and take film history or filmmaking classes, if they are offered. Since show runners manage the entire production, it’s a good idea to also take courses in business management, mathematics, psychology, speech, computer science, and social studies to build your knowledge and skills in these areas. Mastering a foreign language will come in handy if you manage workers who do not speak English fluently or if you work on a production that shoots in a foreign country.

Postsecondary Education

You do not need a degree to become a show runner, but the majority of show runners have college degrees. More than 1,000 colleges, universities, and trade schools in the United States offer classes in film or television studies. Specific degrees are available in directing, cinematography, screenwriting, and producing. DePaul University offers a bachelor of fine arts in film and television with a concentration in show running. Schools that offer degrees in producing include Columbia College Chicago, New York Film Academy, Chapman University, and the University of California at Los Angeles.


Many colleges and universities offer certificate programs in screenwriting, producing, directing, and related fields. For example, New York University (which has one of the top film schools in the nation), offers a certificate program in TV and film producing. Students must complete the following courses: Building a Career as a TV or Film Producer; Film and TV Development as a Producer; Budgeting, Financing, and Casting for Film and TV; The Producer on Set: Principal Photography and Production; and Fix It, Sell It, Deliver It: A Producer’s Survival Tactics for Postproduction, Distribution, Sales, and Marketing a Film. They also must take one of the following elective classes: Digital Cinematography: Camera Techniques and Lighting or Writing and Directing the Short Film.

Earning a certificate is a good way to explore a career without forking over the tuition for a bachelor’s degree. Once you start taking classes in a certificate program, you’ll soon know if the program is a good fit for your skills and interests. Current professionals also earn certificates as a way to augment their skills. For example, a screenwriter might enroll in a producing certificate program to better understand the work of producers and the industry as a whole.

Other Education or Training

Colleges and universities offer courses on producing, screenwriting, film studies, and show running. For example, the University of California at Los Angeles offers an online, four-day Showrunners Boot Camp. Visit https://www.uclaextension.edu/writing-journalism/creative-writing/course/showrunners-boot-camp-script-x-4261ws for more information.

The Writers Guild of America West partners with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to offer an annual Showrunner Training Program (SRTP) to help senior-level writer-producers and recent creators develop the skills necessary to become successful show runners. The guild says that SRTP graduates have gone on to create, co-create or showrun over 150 series. Visit https://www.wga.org/members/programs/showrunner-training to learn more. The Writers Guild of America, East also offers a Showrunner Academy (https://www.wgaeast.org/programs/showrunner-academy).

The Producers Guild of America hosts seminars and workshops about a variety of industry-related topics at its annual conference. Recent sessions included Hit the Ground Showrunning; Saving Time & Money, From Script to Screen, With Adobe; and Making the Leap: Producing TV for Digital Distribution. Contact the guild for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for show runners.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

You will need at least several years of experience in lower-level producing positions to become a show runner. Some extremely talented writers move into show runner positions without having much or any experience as a producer.

Show runners need a wide knowledge base to do their jobs—from knowing how to prepare and manage budgets to being able to manage every aspect of the storytelling and production process. A successful show runner is a strong leader and confident about his or her abilities, but not an egomaniac. They should seek to create a collaborative work environment that is open to constructive feedback from staff. Other important traits for show runners include excellent communication, interpersonal, organizational, problem-solving, and time-management skills; creativity; patience; flexibility; and a willingness to continue to learn throughout their careers.