Online Creative Writing Graduate Program Options

Dec 03, 2019

Essential Information

Master's programs in creative writing are offered in both fully online and hybrid formats. The hybrid option often requires taking on-campus courses, writing seminars, and/or field studies. In general, Master of Arts programs are less intensive than Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs; some MFA programs prepare students for both writing and college teaching careers. Students can often specialize in a writing field of their choice, like children's literature or fiction.

Master's Degree in Creative Writing

Graduate degree options in creative writing include Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees. Some universities offer these programs online, mainly for working professionals who want to further their creative writing skills. A Master of Arts degree can be completed in a year to a year-and-a-half, while a Master of Fine Arts can take 2-3 years, depending on the program. M.A. programs tend to be broad in nature, while MFA programs allow students to dig deep into a creative writing specialty of their choice, such as novel writing or poetry.

Program Requirements and Information

These programs often require that students in master's degree-level creative writing programs choose a genre to guide their studies. Common specializations include fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and play writing. Graduate-level creative writing programs sometimes require that students attend classes on campus during periods known as limited residencies. These on-campus experiences can last six weeks or longer, and they can allow students to interact with, and learn from, other creative writing professionals. Some programs require students to complete field study periods where they put their creative writing skills to use in their own communities, writing about local issues that matter to them.

The nature of an online program requires that students have working computers with Internet access. E-mail and computer software like PDF readers, audio and video players, are also required. Course materials may download faster with a high-speed Internet connection. Other software, textbooks and instructional materials may be required for these courses. Students learn of specific requirements at the start of their classes.

List of Popular Courses

Whether a creative writing student is interested in fiction, poetry or non-fiction, many of these courses are available online. Students take courses in specific genres. They may be required to deliver lectures and to stage public readings of their work. Some programs are taught using the cohort method, meaning that each group of students in workshops and classes begins and ends the degree program at the same time. In a cohort program, students follow a predetermined course sequence.


Students explore the fiction writing process through short assigned exercises. Participants give and receive feedback in workshop-style courses. Students may be required to share their work, depending on the course schedule. Courses may focus on a specific sub-genre of fiction, such as mystery writing, or they may look at fiction as a broad category.


Students learn about the different styles of poetry and the use of linguistic conventions. Students practice such poetic concepts as iambic pentameter and syllabication. Word choice is examined in relation to the creation of meaning and cadence in poetry. Students critique each other's works in workshop-style sessions.

Creative Non-Fiction

Courses on creative nonfiction are taught in workshop format. Students write and discuss a variety of genres, from food and travel writing to memoirs and diaries; this course may also include information on creating and pitching nonfiction book proposals. Required reading may include essay collections and short story collections as well as longer works.

Career Information

Graduates of creative writing programs can find employment in book publishing, magazines, writing, or even public relations, as all of these areas require the ability to clearly express oneself. Many authors and writers are self-employed, according to the BLS. Working as a writer may lead to advancement into editing positions. As of May 2018, the average salary of writers and authors in general was $73,090, while writers in advertising and public relations earned an average of $75,880. For those in newspaper and book publishing, average earnings were $59,290, as reported by the BLS.

Master's programs in creative writing can come in the form of a 12-18 month M.A. program, or a 2-3 year MFA program. An MFA program usually requires students to specialize in a genre of creative writing, while M.A. programs typically have a broader spectrum of study. Both programs are available in fully online and hybrid formats.

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