Online MFA in Creative Writing: Program Overviews

Read about the program goals and requirements for an MFA in Creative Writing. Review descriptions for a list of typical courses offered through this degree program, and get career outlook and continuing education information.

Essential Information

Master of Fine Arts degree programs in creative writing may be offered completely online, although an on-campus residency component is required for some of them. Residency training usually involves writing workshops that provide opportunities for students to work with faculty mentors, critique each other's work and network with publishing professionals. Some programs have residencies that last five or seven days, and students may be required to participate once or twice per year. Online creative writing MFA programs may even offer internships.

An advanced degree isn't required to be a creative author, but an MFA can help writers develop their voice and distinguish their work. Individuals who want to teach can also benefit from completing a master's degree program. Prospective writing teachers may need to complete additional training and certification requirements depending on where they work.

Online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Through the online Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program, students complete creative pieces of writing in many styles and genres, which are analyzed by fellow students and professors. The programs provide the opportunity for students to learn what editors and publishers are looking for in terms of voice, plot, characterization, rhythm, form and length. The goal is for students to create publishable work. Students gain practical experience in many genres so they can tailor their work and expertise to the style of writing they prefer.

In order to be accepted into one of the many online creative writing master's degree programs, students must have at least a bachelor's degree. Some programs also require that students have a portfolio of their work, which administrators can evaluate prior to acceptance.

Program Information and Requirements

Though some of the MFA in Creative Writing programs are available completely online, the majority of them have on-campus requirements as well. These are usually completed during a short time period, such as a week or a month, during which students attend intensive workshops. The program takes two years to complete, including the residency requirements. Online courses are accessed through Blackboard, or another educational server, which students use to access courses, interact with other students and complete assignments.

In addition to a computer and a reliable Internet connection, students also need to have certain computer software programs, such as Microsoft Office. Other programs, such as Adobe Flash and a media player, may also be required.

List of Common Master's Courses in Creative Writing

Online master's programs in creative writing don't have any general education requirements, but they do require that students publish work. Although most programs don't require that students complete an internship, students must attend on-campus workshops. These workshops are designed to further students' chances at publication, which is the ultimate goal of the programs.

Short Story Writing Course

This class covers the elements of a good short story. Students study short stories in order to identify techniques that could help them as they write their own. They learn how to develop characters, use dialogue and craft a plot that tells the story in a succinct but interesting fashion.

Poetry Composition and Critique Course

Students taking this course examine their own poetry to discover where they are succeeding and where they need work. They study published poetry and read texts to help them learn to express themselves poetically.

Fiction Writing Course

Students examine advanced principles in writing fictional stories, including different forms and ways to tell a story. This is often covered through workshops, where students share their work with others in order to discuss it and receive feedback.

Creative Nonfiction Course

This course covers techniques students can use to make their nonfiction writing more interesting to readers. Students use elements of fiction in personal essays, travel articles and book reviews.

Career Information for Graduates

Graduates from this master's degree program can pursue work as writers or authors, or work in writing-related careers such as advertising, publishing and journalism. According to a May 2008 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for writers is expected to grow by eight percent between 2008 and 2018. Median annual wages for authors and writers in 2008 were $53,070. People in the publishing industry, including books, magazines and newspapers, had median annual wages of $49,280, while median annual wages for those in advertising and public relations were $58,740 (

Continuing Education Information

Individuals who would like to pursue additional education after the master's degree program can earn a doctorate degree in creative writing. This program, however, is not available online. MFA graduates may choose to use their writing expertise to pursue doctorate degrees, master's degrees and post-master's degrees in other subjects, such as business, tourism and law, as well.

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