Creative Writing Degree and Certificate Programs

Oct 13, 2019

Essential Information

Prospective students of creative writing have several educational options that translate well into various career paths. Creative writing, fiction, poetry, and screenwriting are all common specialties pursued in creative writing certificate and degree programs. Creative writing certificate programs are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and typically last a year. Bachelor's programs in creative writing require four years of study to include general education, while a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is typically earned through a two-year program. A creative thesis is required for the master's degree.

All of these routes require submission of a writing sample prior to admission. Other requirements may include references and an essay for certificate programs. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to enroll in a bachelor's degree program, and a bachelor's degree is required for the master's program. Online courses and programs are available.

Certificates in Creative Writing

Certificate programs teach students techniques of writing short stories, novels and memoirs and the skill of developing characters, creating vibrant dialogue and proofreading and editing. Some schools require students to choose an area of specialization, including fiction, poetry or creative non-fiction. Courses in the programs are taught by established novelists, poets, and professional writers. Courses may focus on the writing of plays, films, novels or freelancing projects. Other study areas in the program include:

  • Publishing industry
  • Theme
  • Voice
  • Transitions
  • Descriptive essays

Bachelor's Degrees in Creative Writing

Creative writing undergraduate degree programs are offered as a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts. The program's curriculum consists of both reading and writing workshop courses, including studies in multiple genres and the writing of fiction, poetry, and drama. Students develop their craft by working collaboratively with other students and attending lectures given by established writers. The program culminates with a creative writing project that can be a novel, book of poetry or work of non-fiction. Coursework prepares students to become proficient at writing, research, editing and proofreading through peer review and workshops. Other areas of focus are:

  • Free verse
  • Automatic writing
  • Synopsis
  • Action
  • Visualization

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Master's degree programs in creative writing prepare students for careers as writers, editors, copywriters and a variety of other positions in the creative arts industry. The curriculum covers areas of writing such as non-fiction, fiction, poetry, drama and screenplays. Students attend writing workshops and work with writer mentors as they prepare their own original writing projects. Some programs allow students to gain writing and publishing experience through internships at student-published academic journals. Graduates are required to submit a creative thesis for completion of the program. Creative writing courses emphasize plot, characterization and a variety of other devices used in works of fiction, and techniques for writing in other genres. Coursework covers topics such as:

  • Dialogue
  • Syntax
  • Point of view
  • Story structure
  • Literary criticism

Popular Career Options

Graduates who hold certificates in creative writing are qualified for careers in a variety of settings, including public relations, digital publishing, and talent management. Possible job titles for graduates are:

  • Freelance writer
  • Editor
  • Proofreader

Career options for degree graduates include jobs as staff writers, editors, and proofreaders. Other possibilities for include:

  • Playwright
  • Novelist
  • Screenwriter
  • Professor (for master's degree graduates)

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Because an M.F.A. in Creative Writing is a terminal degree, graduates can obtain teaching positions at colleges and universities. Most jobs, however, are available at community colleges. English language and literature professors are projected to see job growth of 4 % from 2018-2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These professors earned a median salary of $66,590 as of 2018.

The BLS estimates that jobs for writers and authors will grow 0% between 2018-2028. In 2018, writers and authors held 123,200 jobs. According to the BLS, these workers made a median annual salary of $62,170 in 2018 (

Continuing Education Information

Graduates who want to become professors of literature or English can enroll in a doctoral (Ph.D.) program in creative writing or English literature to increase their job opportunities. A Ph.D. can also lead to a career as a literary scholar or independent researcher.

Creative writing degree and certificate programs prepare students to be proficient in the field of writing by studying multiple genres in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. Graduates could get a job as an editor, freelance writer, novelist, or professor, or they could pursue a doctoral program.

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