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Writing Graduate Degrees and Certificate Programs Overview

There are numerous graduate certificate and degree programs for writers developing their craft. Program selection may be dependent on one's level of experience and prior education.

Essential Information

Students who hold a bachelor's degree can pursue graduate certificates or master's degrees in technical writing, journalism or creative writing. Admission requirements beyond a bachelor's degree for these programs may include specific undergraduate coursework in technical communications, writing or journalism, and some programs ask for writing samples.

In general, graduate certificate programs include fewer courses than master's degree programs and take less time to complete. Most master's programs require roughly two years of full-time study and culminate in a final writing project or a thesis. In general, these programs require the completion of 12-40 credits. Online coursework is possible in some technical writing graduate certificate programs, and creative writing master's programs often have low-residency options. Credits from a graduate certificate may be transferred towards a master's degree.


Graduate Certificate Programs in Technical Writing

Graduate certificate programs in technical writing or technical communications are offered both on-campus and online. Programs help students develop writing and communication skills suited for business and technical environments. Students learn to prepare well-written documents ranging from proposals to technical documentations.

Graduate certificate programs in technical writing require a bachelor's degree. Some programs require previous coursework in business or technical communications. Certificate programs require between 12 and 24 credit hours of coursework. Students take upper-level courses in English and communications. Courses might include:

  • Professional writing
  • Writing for information technology
  • Technical writing and editing
  • Document design

Master's Degree Programs in Technical Writing

Master's degree programs in technical writing or technical communications teach corporate communications skills that enable individuals to write and edit scientific, medical, business and technical materials. Programs in technical writing are often offered through English departments at colleges and universities.

In addition to a bachelor's degree, students may need to have completed coursework in literature, linguistics, speech or communications. Some programs require a background in a technical or scientific area. Master's degree programs in technical writing typically require 30-35 credit hours of coursework. Some programs require a thesis or research project or participation in an internship. Programs may allow students to select a concentration or area of interest. Topics covered include:

  • Technical writing and editing
  • Scientific and technical language
  • Organizational communications
  • Desktop publishing

Graduate Certificate in Journalistic Writing

A few schools offer graduate certificate programs in journalism. These programs build on the foundation gained during undergraduate study and explore advanced techniques and theories in the field of journalism. A bachelor's degree is required for admission into graduate certificate programs. Previous coursework in communications and journalism is helpful. Graduate certificate programs require around 15 credit hours of upper-level coursework. Courses might cover:

  • Reporting techniques
  • Feature writing
  • Narrative journalism
  • Writing for new media

Master's Degree Programs in Journalistic Writing

Many schools offer master's degree programs in journalism. Some programs focus on a specific area, such as medical journalism or environmental science journalism. Other programs take a broad approach. Students take an in-depth look at the theories and role of journalism as well as skills and techniques for reporting and writing.

In addition to a bachelor's degree, some programs require demonstrated writing ability through either previous coursework or a writing sample. Programs with a specific focus might require some background in that area. Students complete 30-40 credit hours of coursework covering journalistic skills and theories. Many master's degree programs require a thesis or research project. Courses might include:

  • News writing and editing
  • Media in society
  • Mass communications
  • Reporting and interviewing

Graduate Certificate Programs in Creative Writing

A graduate certificate program in creative writing provides further intensive study and practice in areas such as fiction, poetry and drama. Students may have the opportunity to participate in creative workshops and have their work critiqued by professionals and academics. A bachelor's degree is the typical requirement for admission into graduate certificate programs in creative writing. Certificate programs typically require 12-15 credit hours. Many programs include writing workshops as a major component. Other courses might include:

  • Fiction writing
  • Creative nonfiction
  • Poetry writing
  • Drama writing

Master's Degree Programs in Creative Writing

Master's degree programs in creative writing, including Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees, offer classroom study and workshops to further develop creative writing skills in fiction, poetry, drama and creative nonfiction. Programs often help students create a portfolio or a piece of creative work.

Students must have a bachelor's degree to be admitted to master's degree programs in creative writing. Some programs prefer an undergraduate degree in creative writing or a related area or a minimum amount of coursework in writing or journalism. Many programs not only teach the skills and concepts behind creative writing but also introduce students to the publishing industry and provide them with information on getting their creative works published. Courses might include:

  • Language and style
  • Screenwriting
  • Popular fiction
  • Creative nonfiction

Continuing Education

Professional organizations, such as the Society for Technical Communication, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, provide opportunities for continuing education and development. Many organizations also offer national and regional conferences to members. Those with a graduate certificate might be able to apply their credit hours toward a master's degree in technical writing.

The field of journalism is heavily impacted by technological advancements in the way news is delivered. Continuing education is necessary to keep up with changing trends. The Society of Professional Journalists and other professional organizations offer opportunities for continuing education.

Popular Career Options

Technical writers are employed in almost every industry, according to the BLS, but are concentrated in areas such as engineering, science and technology. In 2014, the top two employers were the computer systems design industry and the architectural and engineering industry. Other popular industries include software publishing, employment services and management, scientific and technical consulting services.

According to the BLS, reporters and correspondents worked in radio and television broadcasting and newspaper publishing. The bureau also mentions that there are writers and authors who are self-employed. While some writers focus on novels and screenplays, many writers find gainful employment with periodicals, newspapers, advertising agencies and public relations firms.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The employment of reporters and correspondents is expected to decline 8% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. Median salaries for reporters and correspondents were $36,360 annually in 2015. Writers and authors earned a median annual salary of $60,250 in May 2015, according to the BLS. Employment of these workers is expected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of 2% from 2014-2024.

Employment for technical writers is expected to increase 10% during the decade from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The expanding use of technical and scientific information is creating a higher demand for individuals who can effectively communicate on these subjects. Median salaries for technical writers were $70,240 annually in 2015, according to the BLS.

Writing graduate degrees and certificate programs may offer concentrations in creative writing, as well as reporting and technical writing, and can lead to various careers. While master's programs usually take two years to complete, certificate programs are often shorter.


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