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Creative Writing Graduate Schools with Degree Program Information

A graduate degree in creative writing allows students to hone and develop their writing abilities while taking advanced courses in literary theory and practice. Graduate creative writing applicants could choose a 2-year Master of Arts (M.A.), a 3-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Creative Writing.

Public and private universities around the country offer master's and doctoral degrees in creative writing. Graduate certificates in the field are also available.

10 Graduate Schools With Creative Writing Programs

Here are 10 schools that provide graduate-level training in creative writing:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
University of Iowa Iowa City, IA 4-year, Public MFA, Ph.D. $8,396 in-state, $25,574 out-of-state
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public MFA, Ph.D. $20,638 in-state, $41,688 out-of-state
University of Wisconsin Madison, WI 4-year, Public MFA $10,728, in-state, $24,054 out-of-state
Brown University Providence, RI 4-year, Private MFA $48,272
Columbia University New York, NY 4-year, Private MFA $42,280
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4-year, Private MFA $29,500
University of Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Private MA $51,624
New York University New York, NY 4-year, Private MFA $38,592
University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 4-year, Public MFA $11,040 in-state, $29,362 out-of-state
University of California - Davis Davis, CA 4-year, Public MA $11,220 in-state, $26,322 out-of-state
Syracuse University Syracuse, NY 4-year, Private MFA $33,312

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Here are some things to think about when choosing between graduate-level creative writing programs:

  • Prospective students should take a look at the program's curriculum, as some feature writing workshops, while others include more extensive theoretical coursework and research opportunities.
  • When choosing between research programs, students should make sure that there are faculty members at the school with whom they share research interests, as they may act as thesis or dissertation advisors.
  • Prospective students may want to find out if there are student-run literary journals where they might publish their writing or work on the editing staff.
  • Aspiring writers may want to look for schools that host creative writing lecture series that bring in experienced writers, from whom students can gain insight on the artistic and/or business aspects of creative writing.

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Programs

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing programs focus primarily on the art and the craft of writing. When they apply, students must usually declare a concentration in either poetry or fiction. Through small workshop classes, students develop their style and voice by writing extensively, and they constructively critique each other's work while maintaining an atmosphere of support and learning. Traditional lecture courses in literature and cultural studies are also required, and students may also be required to teach undergraduate creative writing courses. Depending on the school, MFA programs may last for either two or three years.

Master of Arts (MA) Programs

At some schools, it is possible to earn a Master of Arts (MA) in a broad field like English or humanities with a focus in creative writing. Like MFA programs, these programs include writing-intensive workshops, but students also take more courses in literature, culture and critical theory. MA programs take two years to complete, and the final thesis is a creative writing project in a genre of interest, such as fiction, nonfiction or poetry.

Doctoral Degree Programs

The curriculum for Ph.D. in Creative Writing programs is similar to that of MA programs, but they last for four years instead of two, so both the writing and the course credit requirements are more extensive. Also, Ph.D. candidates typically gain a significant amount of undergraduate teaching experience, which provides valuable training for future jobs as professors. Prior to graduation, students must submit and defend a dissertation.

Graduate Certificate Programs

Graduate certificate programs are available for experienced writers who want to improve their skills without committing to a full master's degree program. Through these programs, students take a few theoretical courses and participate in a writing workshop. They may also be able to network with published authors and aspiring professionals. Alternatively, there are graduate certificate programs for graduate students who are earning a master's or Ph.D. in another field, but want to augment their training by earning a graduate certificate in the subject.

There are a variety of graduate-level options available in creative writing, including graduate certificate, master's and doctoral degree programs. Students can choose between programs based on their academic interests, as well as extracurricular opportunities offered through the school.

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