Online certificate programs in creative writing are usually offered as continuing education or graduate-level programs, but some undergraduate certificate programs are also available. Both writing novices who want to develop their skills and professional writers seeking to refine their abilities can find an online program, and some programs may be offered to both audiences. Programs may be dedicated to a particular genre, like novel writing or fiction, or may allow students to take classes from numerous genres.
Programs in this field may be completed fully online. Potential students should be aware that some programs may not result in any credit, although many programs do award credits that may sometimes be applied to a degree program.
Certificate in Creative Writing Programs
Beginning or professional writers can refine their writing skills through an online creative writing certificate program. Besides writing, students learn to analyze others' writing and to give and receive feedback. These are all useful skills in any job market. Some creative writing certificate programs require that applicants have a bachelor's degree.
Program Information and Requirements
Online creative writing certificate programs usually allow students 3-5 years to finish their education. However, because students take just 7-12 classes to successfully complete the program, a full-time student could complete the certificate program in 3-6 semesters. Because a creative writing program involves the basic tasks of word processing and online communication, such as e-mail or an online forum, it's entirely possible for students to take a creative writing certificate program totally online.
To earn an online creative writing certificate, students need access to a computer with an Internet connection, word processing software, and e-mail software. Additional software, called plug-ins, may also be required for viewing electronic documents or watching multimedia. Students view lessons using software that works inside a Web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox). The software allows students to turn in and receive assignments or to communicate with the instructor and classmates.
List of Common Creative Writing Courses
Most online creative writing certificate programs begin with basic writing classes. These required classes might be in traditional lecture format or workshop format, meaning that students give and receive feedback on each other's writing. Additional writing classes progress through intermediate and advanced levels; they teach a specific element or genre of writing. Each student also takes 3-5 elective classes that focus on his or her area of interest, such as poetry, creative non-fiction or the novel.
Beginning Creative Writing Workshop
A beginning creative writing workshop focuses on developing an idea into a publishable work. Most students in writing workshops work on a short story or novel. Students learn about the essential components of a work of fiction, such as plot, character, setting and dialogue. Learning is reinforced through writing exercises. Instructors usually provide individual feedback on each student's work, while students learn how to analyze and critique manuscripts, using their classmates' works-in-progress.
Introduction to Fiction
Introductory fiction classes cover the basic structure of a work of fiction and other elements that give fiction its depth, such as conflict, tension, point-of-view and imagery. Students may analyze works by accomplished writers and discuss them in class. Some instructors require an interpretive essay or original writing from the student as part of the final grade.
Writing for Creative Non-Fiction
In this class, students learn the many forms that creative non-fiction can take, such as the memoir, personal essay, commentary or editorial. They learn how the elements of a work of fiction can also apply to creative non-fiction. Coursework usually requires the student to write at least one personal experience as a work of creative non-fiction. The class may also discuss and analyze the work of well-known authors or writing that the students have produced.
Career Information for Graduates
Students who graduate with a certificate in creative writing have learned how to develop, write and critique others' writing as well as how to self-edit their own work. These enhanced writing and critical thinking skills would be important for students pursuing employment as editors at publishing houses, magazines or literary agencies. Graduates can also choose self-employment, either getting paid piece by piece for their creative writing or self-publishing their own work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2015, the median yearly salary for writers was $60,250.
Continuing Education Information
Some schools that offer online creative writing certificate programs allow students to apply the credits they've earned toward a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing degree. In addition, it's now possible to find creative writing MFA programs that are completely online. Low-residency creative writing MFA programs, in which students are on campus just once or twice per year for short periods of time, are another option. MFA graduates may find employment as creative writing teachers at a community college, university or college.
Online certificates in creative writing are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as for continuing education. Students in these programs may study a wide range of genres or specialize in a particular area to best suit their career goals as writers and authors.