Graduate Programs in Creative Writing with Career Information

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Master's and doctoral degree programs in creative writing, while very competitive for admission, promote a cooperative climate once admitted whereby writers help one another grow and develop through critique-oriented workshops. Students also explore the history and structure of their particular specialty, which may include poetry, children's literature, and fiction, among others. Both master's and doctoral programs often encourage or require college-level teaching opportunities, with a doctoral thesis, as well. Some master's programs are offered in low-residency formats, where students complete some coursework online and interact with a faculty mentor, then come to campus for workshops and seminars.

In order to enroll in a master's program (lasting one to three years), students need a bachelor's degree in English or another liberal arts major and a writing portfolio. Doctoral degrees (lasting two to five years) require a master's in creative writing or a related major.

Masters in Creative Writing

Fewer than 150 liberal arts and fine arts schools offer a master's program in creative writing, and most sift through thousands of applications to accept one or two dozen candidates per year. Writers of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction will learn to master the rules of written English, understand the conventions governing most forms of creative writing and gain an appreciation for the writers and works that have helped establish those conventions.

Approximately half of the coursework involves creative writing, reviewing the work of other students and using the analysis of professors and peers to further focus their own efforts. Some programs cap the first year with a portfolio review, which is intended to guide candidates along their particular creative tracks. Many master's candidates will be offered part-time teaching positions to help offset the costs of tuition. Programs generally encourage students to take courses beyond their specialty. Some courses include:

  • Creative nonfiction
  • Writing workshop
  • Critical analysis
  • English literature
  • American literature
  • Teaching college composition

Ph.D. in Creative Writing

Nearly half the schools offering master's programs in creative writing also offer doctoral-level programs, which vary in length depending upon the course load and complexity of the doctoral thesis. The thesis is typically a finished work of creative writing, which the college will publish in its own press or help get published elsewhere. In addition to their coursework and thesis, students will have opportunities to contribute to their colleges' literary journals. Those students interested in a teaching career may pursue additional educational courses or internships at nearby secondary schools. Some typical courses covered in the doctoral programs include:

  • Playwriting
  • Fiction workshop
  • Nonfiction workshop
  • Comparative literature
  • Critical analysis
  • Modern rhetoric

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Jobs for writers and authors are competitive and the job market is expected to decline from 2019-2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Candidates with computer or engineering experience may find work as technical writers, which is a job category for writers that the BLS projects will grow by 7%, faster than average over the 2019-2029 decade. The mean annual wage for writers and authors in 2019 was $73,860. Technical writers earned an average of $76,860 annually, according to the BLS.

Popular Career Options

Many creative writers are self-employed, working as freelancers who take on different assignments as opportunities present themselves or balancing the requirements of several part-time jobs simultaneously. Some career-related positions include:

  • Novelist
  • Poet
  • Playwright
  • Journalist
  • Biographer
  • Technical writer
  • Textbook author
  • Manuscript editor
  • Proofreader
  • English professor
  • Scholarly author

Continuing Education Information

Writers often work collaboratively with content specialists, providing the communication skills and narrative structure to complement the specialists' understanding of the topic at hand. Other writers will pursue degree programs in other subjects and capitalize on their writing skills to communicate their own findings.

In master's and doctoral degree programs in creative writing, students refine their skills established in other liberal arts degrees in order to have a more professional foundation in writing different types of material for a more varied number of careers. Some students will choose to pursue an unrelated degree in a different field, capitalizing on their training as a creative writer to help them in creating reports and papers.

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