Creative Writing MFA Programs
A master’s in creative writing degree prepares students to pursue a career as a writer. A master of arts or master of fine arts in creative writing both offer many career opportunities. Graduates may write novels or nonfiction, or they may work in
marketing, journalism, or public relations. They can also create their own blogs or write for websites.
Creative writing master’s degree applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university. Applicants may need to take the GRE and submit recommendation letters. The most important part of admission to a creative writing program requires proof of high-level writing skills through submission of a writing sample and a well-written statement of purpose.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the job growth rate for writers and authors to decline 2% between 2019-2029. Pursuing a master’s in creative writing degree may help graduates gain a competitive edge in the job search. Writers and authors earn a median annual wage of $63,200 per year.
Creative Writing Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What can you do with a degree in creative writing?
Creative writers can write fiction or nonfiction. They might write historical biographies, novels, poetry, children’s books, and plays. Creative writers may also use their writing skills in marketing, journalism, public relations, or as social media specialists or website content creators.
Q. What degree do you need to be a creative writer?
Creative writers do not need a formal degree to become a writer. However, many creative writers hold at least a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree in creative writing can help develop a literary style and writing techniques.
Q. How much do creative writing majors make?
According to the BLS, writers and authors earn a median annual salary of $63,200.
Q. How do creative writing degrees make money?
Creative writing degree-holders can write books for a living. Or, creative writing majors make money writing for blogs or building their own blog. They write for magazines or for businesses, or they offer copywriting services. Graduates may also tap into transferable skills like editing.
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What Are the Goals of a Creative Writing Degree?
A creative writing master’s degree develops fiction writers, poets, screenwriters, and more.
Learners can successfully analyze literary form, genre, structure, and style and create advanced work through workshop training. Students develop their skills through workshops and presenting their own writing to peers for commentary and discussion. Creative writing program enrollees may develop writing further through literature seminars.
Students may take classes in niche areas and focus on specialized topics such as practicum classes about literary publishing and teaching creative writing. Students benefit from workshops in their genre, literature courses, and electives or additional courses.
Most students present a final thesis or a full-length manuscript — a novel, book of poetry, selection of short stories or essays, or another type of creative project.
Why Get a Creative Writing Degree?
Aspiring writers enjoy various professional and personal benefits by pursuing a creative writing degree.
- Development of the Craft
- Creative writing programs allow degree-seekers to dedicate time to develop their writing skills for an extended period of time.
- Mentorship Opportunities
- Professors in creative writing programs can offer constructive feedback and invaluable mentorship resources.
- Workshop Time
- Workshops function as an important part of a creative writing degree. Workshops involve small classes where students read and critique each other’s work. Students become adept at revising and improving their writing for publication.
- Learn the Industry
- Many students make connections, meet authors, and learn the industry through connections provided by the school. Networking could give aspiring writers a leg up instead of trying to get published on their own.
- Final Thesis
- Most creative writing majors must produce a substantive piece of work ready or near-ready for publication.
What Are the Requirements for a Creative Writing Degree?
Formal admission requirements vary, though applicants should aim for a 3.0 GPA or higher. Admissions materials may include letters of recommendation, a writing sample, and a statement of purpose. Writing sample requirements may include a lengthy piece of fiction or nonfiction, several poems, or multiple pages of a script. Certain programs require applicants to submit GRE scores.
Successful completion of a master’s in creative writing generally includes 36 credit hours of graduate study. These credits consist of writing workshops, literature courses, and electives. Students usually submit a capstone project or thesis to culminate the degree.
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Professional Organizations for Creative Writing Students
Writing organizations offer wonderful resources for writers. Some writers associations charge membership fees, and others allow members to join for free. Writer organizations can help professionals find a literary agent and arrange meetings with editors. They can also help writers learn new techniques and keep up with changes in the publishing industry.
National Writers Union
The National Writers Union functions as a resource for writers in all genres. It advocates for the rights of authors, especially through contract advice and grievances. For example, the organization can go through contracts with writers and will even intervene if a writer's client does not pay for work.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators offers membership to writers in children's literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia. Members can get education and support through awards, grants, programs, and events. The organization acts as a consolidated voice for children's book writers and illustrators worldwide.
Women's National Book Association
The Women's National Book Association brings together women and men who wish to work together and promotes recognition of women's achievements in the book industry.
Novelists Inc. offers a global community to authors to learn about cutting-edge trends, acts as a resource in the competitive publishing industry, and offers professional brainstorming opportunities.
Scholarships for Creative Writing Students
Students who pursue a master’s degree in creative writing can find scholarships specific to the major. Once admitted to a particular creative writing program, students should also ask their college or university about available scholarships.
Horror Writers Association (HWA) Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must present an education plan to apply for the HWA Scholarship. However, the scholarship committee will prioritize the quality of the applicant’s work and the likelihood that the applicant will contribute to the development of the genre. The committee will also consider an applicant’s financial need.
Aspiring Writer Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Go On Girl! Book Club invites full-time first-year students, sophomores, or juniors at historically Black colleges or universities in the United States to apply for this scholarship. Applicants need U.S. citizenship status or permanent residency status. Candidates also need a cumulative 2.5 GPA or better and must submit a 500- to 1,000-word essay on a preselected topic.
William C. Johnson Distinguished Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants need a high GPA, experience as a Sigma Tau Delta officer at Northern Illinois University, and a strong critical essay. Candidates must provide proof of registration as a full-time undergraduate or graduate student or plan to enroll as a full-time undergraduate or graduate student during the next academic year.
Amount: Up to $6,000
Affordable Master’s in Creative Writing Programs 2021
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University of Washington-Seattle Campus
The University of Washington is one the nation's top public colleges. The MFA in creative writing offers tracks in poetry and prose. The two-year program continues a long tradition of developing some of the nation's finest authors. Students learn from faculty with prestigious fellowships from organizations such as the MacArthur Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The program only enrolls about 10-12 students each year. Participants complete 55 credits, a manuscript, and a critical essay. The curriculum includes writing workshops in poetry and prose. Students explore topics such as the history of literary criticism and theory and modern and contemporary critical theory. Participants read about 20-30 books as they develop the critical essay.
Students admitted to the creative writing program receive a funding package that includes a tuition waiver and monthly stipend. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
University of California-Riverside
The University of California-Riverside enrolls about 26,000 students on a scenic campus in California's inland empire region. The 64-unit MFA in creative writing offers tracks in creative writing and writing for the performing arts. Students complete workshops in a genre such as fiction or playwriting. Required seminars explore a variety of topics that change each quarter. Recent topics include advanced play analysis and folktale-derived sci-fi and fantasy.
Participants culminate the program with a project such as a novel, memoir, or short story collection. Admitted students receive a fellowship that pays full tuition and a stipend for the first year. During the second year, students pursue roles as teaching assistants to pay tuition and receive a modest monthly salary.
Admission to the creative writing program requires a bachelor's degree, a writing sample, and no GRE scores.
University of South Florida-Main Campus
Located in the heart of Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida enrolls 50,000 students. The MFA in creative writing offers concentrations in fiction and poetry. Students may also study other genres such as screenwriting. Participants typically complete the program's 45 credits in three years. The curriculum includes craft workshops and seminars. Students complete six core courses that explore topics such as poetry writing and the craft of fiction.
Writers may also pursue specialized knowledge such as Victorian literature and modern American literature. Enrollees serve as teaching assistants in the first year. A teaching practicum enhances this experience by examining various theoretical approaches to teaching writing in the classroom. Participants culminate the program with a book-length manuscript in fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry. Graduates leave the program prepared for editing and teaching positions.
Admission requires a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.2 GPA, and GRE scores.
California State University-Fresno
Fresno State's MFA in creative writing cultivates writers of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Enrollees learn about the history and traditions of the discipline. They study theoretical and formal approaches to creative writing and engage in extensive practice of their craft. Students develop a degree plan for a creative writing or creative writing: publishing and editing emphasis.
The 54-unit creative writing degree includes seminars that examine how to write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. A seminar on how to teach writing explores basic teaching methods through activities such as class discussions and curriculum design. Enrollees pursuing the publishing and editing emphasis complete a practicum at a professional literary magazine. Students culminate the degree with a book-length manuscript or collection of poems.
Admission to the MFA requires a bachelor's degree, writing samples, and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Florida International University
At Florida International University, students choose from a comprehensive catalog delivered on two main campuses. Writers can pursue the 42-credit MFA in creative writing at the Biscayne Bay campus. Enrollees complete seminars, workshops, and receive mentoring from faculty. They study the intricacies of form and theory to develop expertise in plot, character, and poetics.
Workshops explore advanced fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. One course teaches participants how to teach creative writing workshops and courses. Enrollees culminate the creative writing program with a publishable thesis and a final defense/examination. Writers cultivate their editorial experience by working on Gulf Stream magazine. They can also participate in events such as the annual FIU writers workshop and the Miami Book Fair.
Fellowships, teaching assistantships, and scholarships help pay for tuition. Past graduates enjoy careers as authors, editors, and professors. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley offers programs on campuses throughout the Valley. The 42-credit MFA in creative writing helps writers develop a significant body of work. The workshop environment provides scholarly training that builds students' expertise in literary structures and techniques. Participants complete coursework that introduces the creative writing professions. They also explore how to teach creative writing and studies in composition techniques.
Workshops examine fiction, poetry, and playwriting. Enrollees can pursue Spanish creative writing coursework focused on the various genres. Form and theory seminars explore literary theory, British literature, and Mexican American literature. Enrollees culminate the creative writing program with a book-length creative thesis and critical introduction. Students pursuing this creative writing degree receive individualized guidance from faculty, themselves authors.
Admission requires a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and a portfolio of creative work.
The University of Florida offers one of the country's oldest writing programs. Students complete the MFA in creative writing's (MFA@FLA) 54 credits in three years. The curriculum includes four workshops that focus on each student's genre: poetry or fiction. Students choose a series of seminars on various topics such as contemporary children's literature, digital English, and comparative and cultural rhetorics.
Enrollees complete a forms course that helps develop their craft. Writers can pursue elective courses of interest. Each year, editors and agents visit the program to hold manuscript conferences. This series also helps students network with industry contacts. MFA@FLA students receive a full tuition waiver and a teaching-assistantship package. Typically, about 36 students enroll in the program.
The Gainesville area offers a modest cost of living that helps make this an affordable creative writing degree. Admission requires a bachelor's degree, writing sample, and no GRE scores.
CUNY Brooklyn's two-year MFA in creative writing offers specializations in fiction, poetry, and playwriting. The 36-credit curriculum includes genre workshops and seminars. Students complete coursework that explores topics such as The Canterbury Tales, the short story, and comparative literature. All writers complete a series of courses that develop their craft. Students take 9-12 credits in additional coursework from the English department or a related unit such as modern languages and literatures.
Students further hone their craft through one-on-one and small-group reading tutorials. Gifted writers participate in on-campus readings of their work. A practicum focuses on how to teach college-level composition. Participants culminate the creative writing program with a full-length publishable thesis. The program offers fellowships and teaching assistantships to help students pay for this creative writing degree.
Admission requires at least 12 credits in advanced English or theater undergraduate coursework. The program does not require GRE scores for admission.
Founded in 1847, CUNY City College offers an MFA in creative writing in existence for more than 40 years. Some of the nation's most noted authors taught the program over the decades. Graduates maintain a distinguished legacy, including as Guggenheim Fellows and Pulitzer Prize winners. The 42-credit program boasts a diverse collective of students.
Students choose from several genres: fiction, nonfiction, and/or poetry. They complete a curriculum that consists of writing workshops, literature seminars, and critical practice courses. Workshops explore the genres and notable work within them. Students also develop their own work and share them with faculty and peers during workshops. Critical practice courses explore topics such as poetry beyond the personal, the publishing profession, and how to craft a novel.
A thesis tutorial helps students develop a publishable thesis. Admission to the creative writing program requires a bachelor's degree and writing samples.
University of Washington-Bothell Campus
The University of Washington-Bothell Campus offers an MFA in creative writing and poetics. In contrast to other MFAs, this program emphasizes focus areas of inquiry and not genres. Enrollees enjoy the liberty of experimentation across genres to suit their creative purposes. The creative writing degree offers other features not always available in MFAs. These include an evening program designed for nontraditional students, an optional residency in year two, and flexible full- or part-time thesis completion.
All students complete 51 credits that include six core courses of writing workshops and poetics seminars. Topics covered include between prose and poetry, between fact and imagination, and cultural change and writing. In year two, students work on their thesis and submit a poetics statement and creative work.
Enrollees benefit from Seattle's thriving arts scene. Participants also learn from visiting writers, literary festivals, and other activities. Admission requires a bachelor's degree and writing samples.