Online MFA in Creative Writing: Program Overviews

Dec 03, 2019

Essential Information

Master of Fine Arts degree programs in creative writing may be offered completely online, although an on-campus residency component may be required. Residencies usually involve writing workshops that allow students to work with faculty mentors, critique each other's work and network with publishing professionals. Some residencies last five or seven days and occur possibly once or twice per year. Although many MFA programs do require residencies, there are some that do not. Some programs may offer internships. Applications to these programs require a portfolio of creative work.

An advanced degree isn't required to be a creative author, but an MFA can help writers develop their voice and distinguish their work. Individuals who want to teach can also benefit from completing a master's degree program. Prospective writing teachers may need to complete additional training and certification requirements for some employers.

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Through the online Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program, students complete creative pieces of writing in many styles and genres, which are analyzed by fellow students and professors. The programs provide the opportunity for students to learn what editors and publishers are looking for in terms of voice, plot, characterization, rhythm, form, and length. The goal is for students to create publishable work. Students gain practical experience in many genres so they can tailor their work and expertise to the style of writing they prefer.

In order to be accepted into one of the many online creative writing master's degree programs, students must have at least a bachelor's degree. Some programs also require that students have a portfolio of their work, which administrators can evaluate prior to acceptance.

Program Information and Requirements

Though some of the MFA in Creative Writing programs are available completely online, the majority of them have on-campus requirements as well. These are usually completed during a short time period, such as a week or a month, during which students attend intensive workshops. The program takes two years to complete, including the residency requirements. Online courses are accessed through Blackboard, or another educational server, which students use to access courses, interact with other students and complete assignments.

In addition to a computer and a reliable Internet connection, students also need to have certain computer software programs, such as Microsoft Office. Other programs, such as Adobe Flash and a media player, may also be required.

List of Common Master's Courses in Creative Writing

Online master's programs in creative writing do not have any general education requirements, but they do require students to publish work. Although most programs don't require that students complete an internship, students must attend on-campus workshops. These workshops are designed to further students' chances at publication, which is the ultimate goal of the programs.

Short Story Writing

This class covers the elements of a good short story. Students study short stories in order to identify techniques that could help them as they write their own. They learn how to develop characters, use dialogue and craft a plot that tells the story in a succinct but interesting fashion.

Poetry, Composition, and Critique

Students taking this course examine their own poetry to discover where they are succeeding and where they need work. They study published poetry and read texts to help them learn to express themselves poetically.

Fiction Writing

Students examine advanced principles in writing fictional stories, including different forms and ways to tell a story. This is often covered through workshops, where students share their work with others in order to discuss it and receive feedback.

Creative Nonfiction Course

This course covers techniques students can use to make their nonfiction writing more interesting to readers. Students use elements of fiction in personal essays, travel articles, and book reviews.

Career Information for Graduates

Graduates from this master's degree program can pursue work as writers or authors, or work in writing-related careers such as advertising, publishing, and journalism. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for writers is expected to remain flat between 2018 and 2028. Writers in the publishing industry, including books, magazines, and newspapers, had mean annual wages of $59,290 as of May 2018, while writers in advertising and public relations positions earned a mean annual salary of $75,880 (

Continuing Education Information

Individuals who would like to pursue additional education after the master's degree program can earn a doctorate degree in creative writing. This program, however, is not available online. MFA graduates may choose to use their writing expertise to pursue doctorate degrees, master's degrees and post-master's degrees in other subjects, such as business, tourism, and law, as well.

Online MFA programs in creative writing are readily available, although many of them do include a brief residency requirement. An MFA is not required in order to pursue a career in writing, but studying writing techniques at an advanced level can help writers hone their craft and tailor their work to the most common publishing preferences.

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