We have studied template effects in molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) of ferromagnetic MnAs thin films on (001) GaAs substrates. When As2 flux was first supplied without Mn flux on the (001) GaAs prior to the MnAs growth, the surface reconstruction was disordered c(4×4), a more As‐rich surface than c(4×4). The growth direction of the MnAs thin film grown on this surface is  and the easy magnetization axis was found to be along the  of MnAs and the  of GaAs. In contrast, when one monolayer of Mn was first deposited on the c(4×4) GaAs surface and then As2 flux was supplied to grow MnAs, the growth direction of the MnAs thin film was found to be mainly , and the easy magnetization axis was along the  of MnAs and the  of GaAs, 90° different with respect to the substrate. These results indicate the importance of the very first monolayer in controlling the epitaxial orientation and magnetic properties of epitaxial ferromagnetic MnAs thin films. © 1994 American Institue of Physics.