Distance Learning PhD in Creative Writing: Degree Overview

Dec 03, 2019

Learn about online doctoral programs with creative writing courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in creative writing are unavailable in an online format, however, it is possible to earn a graduate certificate in creative writing online. Program options include focus areas in fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and also require studying genres outside the student's main focus area. Admission requires the applicant to hold a bachelor's degree in any area of study. The program at the University of Denver does not require the GMAT or the GRE in order to apply.

On-campus creative writing doctoral programs often combine the study of creative writing techniques with literary analysis and critical research. Specializations like non-fiction writing or poetry may be available, though specialization options vary by school. On-campus Ph.D. in creative writing programs require that applicants hold a master's degree in creative writing in order to be considered for admission.

Ph.D. in Creative Writing

While there are no doctoral degrees in creative writing available online, a number of schools offer on-campus Ph.D. programs in this discipline. Students in a creative writing Ph.D. program learn about literary analysis and the creative writing techniques used in different works, such as poetry or fiction. Graduates are prepared to work in a number of writing and editing careers.

Information About the Program and Requirements

Doctoral programs in creative writing can take between 2-5 years to complete depending on the program. Individuals interested in pursuing a Ph.D. program need to have completed a master's degree in creative writing or English, in addition to supplying GRE scores and writing samples.

Common Courses

Students in a Ph.D. program may choose a certain genre to specialize in, such as nonfiction or poetry, while still covering other areas. In addition to coursework, students attend seminars and workshops. Students are also typically required to complete a thesis or dissertation in order to graduate and may be required to complete work as a teaching assistant.

Travel Writing

Travel writing explores the narratives used to create travel pieces. Topics cover the history of travel writing, research, using dialogue and writing effective descriptions.

Fiction Writing

Students in a fiction writing course learn about crafting fiction through writing exercises and critiques. Students also examine the works of prominent writers and work on editing skills.


This course introduces students to the elements of poetry, such as structure, sound, organization and figurative speech. Students write and analyze poems, while working on creating strong narratives for a number of subjects.

Literary Translation

Literary translation courses cover the fundamentals involved in translating literary pieces into common English. Students learn about the theories and practices involved in translation, in addition to presenting their own work.

Non-fiction Writing

This course covers the techniques used in writing works of non-fiction found in everything from memoirs to journalistic pieces. Students learn about the history of non-fiction, in addition to various writing styles used in this genre.

Career Information

Graduates with a Ph.D. in Creative Writing may find a variety of career options as writers, editors or teachers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for those who go into teaching at the post-secondary level is expected to increase at a rate of 11% (faster than the average for all occupations) from 2018-2028, although the job market for post-secondary educators is expected to be competitive (www.bls.gov). The median salary for a post-secondary English language and literature teacher was $66,590 as of May 2018.

Job growth for those who pursue careers as writers and authors is expected to show little or no change from 2018-2028, according to the BLS. As of May 2018, the median salary for writers was $62,170, while the median salary for editors was $59,480. The BLS reported editors could expect the number of jobs to decrease three percent from 2018-2028.

Currently, no fully online Ph.D. programs in creative writing are available, and so pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing requires taking coursework on campus at the selected university. While the job outlook for writers and editors is not expected to have an upward trend in the near future, Ph.D. graduates can compete for positions teaching writing at postsecondary institutions, an occupation that is expected to continue to grow. A graduate certificate in creative writing is a fully online alternative to a Ph.D. program in creative writing.

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