Online PhD in Writing: Doctoral Program Overview

Dec 03, 2019

Essential Information

While online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in creative writing are generally unavailable, partially online master's degree programs in creative writing are fairly common. Online Master of Arts in Creative Writing or Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing provide instruction on the structure and voice in poetry, fiction and non-fiction, all of which may be offered as specializations at some schools. Writing workshops and on-campus residencies are common in these programs; very few programs are offered completely online. For students who hope to turn their writings into a book, there are graduate certificate programs in novel writing that are available entirely online.

Students interested in pursuing advanced degrees in creative writing typically possess a bachelor's degree in English, creative writing, literature or a related field. Once admitted, short residencies are usually requisite for students pursuing an online program in this field.

Online Master's Degrees in Creative Writing Overview

Creative writing programs are a component of school's fine arts department. Applicants need a bachelor's degree in English, creative writing, literature or another related field. Students in these programs are introduced to the techniques, style and form used in screenplays, novels, non-fiction books, poetry and plays, as well as to the business of publishing and techniques for marketing their work.

Program Information and Requirements

Creative writing master's degree programs typically take three years to complete and consist of online coursework and in-person workshops. Students must complete about 18 course credit hours online, by e-mail and Blackboard or other online course management platforms.

Although classes may be completed online most programs require students to participate in short residency programs. The length of these residencies ranges from one semester to three summers. Many of these residencies are held abroad. During these residencies, students participate in workshops and lectures given by publishing professionals and authors.

Common Courses

Online creative writing programs seldom require specific courses. Instead, students are asked to choose a concentration area and develop an individualized program of study. Most programs require students to complete a course on the structure of their genre.

Advanced Fiction Writing

This course focuses on the craft of writing fiction, including points-of-view and the available forms for writing fiction. Students author works and participate in critiques of their and other student's works. Typically, this course is offered in all genres of creative writing.

Craft and Form

Students in this course learn the methods by which authors develop ideas, research those ideas if necessary and determine the best format for their work. Students often write essays or pieces of work using the different methods and discuss the problems they encountered and their satisfaction with the end result.


Most programs require students to complete a thesis in the form of a work of fiction, a screenplay or a compilation of poetry. Specific thesis requirements are established by the student's chosen focus during the program. For example, a student who concentrated on fiction writing must author a portion of a work of fiction.

Career Information

Graduates of a master's degree program in creative writing can work as an author. Authors research and produce original content for publication in print or online. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, authors and writers earned a median yearly salary of $62,170 ( Graduates can also work as an editor who gathers, reviews and prepares written works for publication. As of May 2015, editors' median salary was $59,480.

Program graduates can also work as a college professor of creative writing or English. As of May 2018, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $66,590.

Continuing Education Information

A student having earned a master's degree in creative writing can work as an author or editor without continuing education. A graduate may choose to continue on to earn a Ph.D. in creative writing to become a university professor. Ph.D. programs are not available online.

Fully online doctoral degrees in writing are extremely rare. However, graduate programs at the M.A. and M.F.A. level offer creative writing programs that are available in a distance-learning format, though there are typically on-campus requirements. These degrees will help further develop a student's writing skills and technique; an online graduate certificate program in novel writing may be a good option for individuals who are determined to write a book and pursue a fully online program.

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