Writing Degrees by Degree Program Level

Aspiring professional writers have a number of fields and specialties from which to choose. Some common educational programs in writing are bachelor's and master's degrees.

Essential Information

Prospective writers have the option to pursue either a bachelor's or master's degree in various writing fields. Programs in areas like technical writing, creative writing, speech writing or journalism are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Creative writing programs frequently offer a focus in a specific genre, such as novel writing, playwriting or poetry. At the undergraduate level, students study topics in basic grammar and punctuation, writing style, rhetoric and communications. Advanced studies might focus more on composition theory and provide workshops within the students' concentration area, providing the opportunity to develop a portfolio. A high school diploma and SAT or ACT scores are required for entrance into an undergraduate program. A bachelor's degree, GRE scores, writing samples and a letter of recommendation are required for admission to graduate programs.

Bachelor's Degrees in Writing

Bachelor's degrees in writing are often combined with literature degrees, although some writing-specific degrees, like creative writing, are also available. Students at the bachelor's level learn several types of writing styles, including technical writing,creative writing and speech writing. Courses in these programs teach the basics of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, style, tone and audience. Students also learn skills specific to each specialization. For example, students in technical writing programs learn how to write in a minimal, imperative style in the present tense, while students in rhetoric writing programs may learn about persuasive methods, as well as how to relate to different audiences. In addition to classroom lectures, students participate in critiquing workshops where peers evaluate each other's work under the supervision of an instructor. Classes that might appear in the curriculum are:

  • Technical writing
  • Rhetoric
  • History of rhetoric
  • Communication ethics
  • Introduction to creative writing

Master's Programs in Writing

Master's programs in writing typically specialize in one area. Graduates can choose programs in creative writing, technical writing, speech writing, play writing, television writing or poetry. Whatever the concentration, these programs feature pedagogical training, in addition to advanced coursework, to prepare graduates for leadership or teaching roles. Master's programs usually take one to two years of full-time study to complete. As with bachelor's programs in writing, students often spend time in both lecture sessions and workshops. Courses often cover advanced composition theory, while workshops help students develop a portfolio or thesis. Graduates are required to write a thesis, which can take the form of a long technical project, speech or book-length manuscript. Thesis projects are usually overseen by either an advisor or an advisement committee. Advanced coursework in these programs can include:

  • Composition
  • Rhetoric
  • Technical writing
  • Poetry
  • Novel writing

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that the employment of authors and writers is anticipated to grow 2% between 2014-2024, which is a slower rate than the average for all occupations nationwide (www.bls.gov). The employment rate for editors is expected to decline by 5% during those same years, but technical writers are expected to fare better with a predicted employment growth of 10%. In May 2015, the BLS reported median annual salary for writers at $60,250, editors at $56,010 and technical writers at $70,240.

For graduates with a master's degree in writing pursuing careers in teaching, the BLS predicts that employment of secondary teachers will grow 6% between 2014-2024. In May 2015, secondary teachers made a median annual salary of $57,200.

Continuing Education

Graduates who wish to pursue advanced degrees in creative writing might look into Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs. The MFA is a terminal degree, meaning the MFA does not meet the prerequisites for any higher degree like a PhD. An MFA also qualifies its holder to teach creative writing or composition classes at the university level. These programs are two to three years long and may culminate in a book-length creative thesis, like a collection of short stories, book of poetry, book of nonfiction or novel.

There are many options available for those wishing to pursue an education in writing. Bachelor's and master's degrees available vary in scope and can prepare students for a variety of occupations in which to utilize their skills and creativity.

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