Best Online Bachelor’s in Writing Programs

Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleBachelor'sin Writing2017
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Professional writers are the minds behind the content we read every day. Some specialize in creative compositions, such as novels, short stories, theatrical scripts, screenplays and songs. Alternatively, technical writers produce how-to-guides, product manuals, brochures and other materials used by consumers. Other writing majors find their calling in the field of journalism, crafting articles and editorials for newspapers, magazines and academic journals. Regardless of their specific job title, most writers begin their career as undergraduate students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in writing.

A large number of colleges and universities offer degree programs dedicated to writing, but many others offer English degrees with a writing concentration track. Most writing degree programs involve a large amount of workshopping, where students compose drafts and then submit them to fellow students for peer-review. Other courses cover topics like grammar and composition, comparative literature, editing and publishing. Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their bachelor’s degree in writing online. Web-based programs offer the same rigorous curricula as brick-and-mortar options, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule of many online writing programs is also ideal for students who have part-time jobs, childcare duties and other commitments that may interfere with campus-based learning.

Learn more about what you can do with an online bachelor’s degree in writing and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

WILL AN ONLINE WRITING DEGREE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

Online writing degree programs are designed to build on the fundamentals of English grammar and composition that most students first learn in middle and high school. Courses will cover methods and techniques for crafting comparative essays, academic research papers and speeches, as well as short stories, poems and other creative works. The best online writing degree programs also incorporate vocation training in areas like technical writing, copywriting and grant writing. In recent years, many writing programs have also started to include elements of web marketing, blogging and social media.

WILL AN ONLINE WRITING DEGREE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

Online bachelor’s in writing programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional, classroom-based education. Students are able to access course readings and writing tutorials, participate in virtual class discussions with fellow students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their home computer. Current e-learning technology also allows them study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY WRITING BACHELOR’S DEGREE?

Job availability to graduates of an online writing bachelor’s program will largely depend on their area of specialization. Students with Those with a background in technical writing often find work quickly, producing or managing content for manufacturing and retail companies, marketing firms, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Students who focus on creative writing may also find employment in content-producing roles while they work on literary submissions for book publishers and literary journals. Jobs in journalism ― both print and online ― are widely available to writing majors, as well. Other common pathways for writing majors include careers in editing and publication, marketing and education.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE WRITING DEGREE PROGRAMS?

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online bachelor’s degree in writing programs in the United States. If you are considering an online bachelor’s in writing, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific bachelor’s degree requirements and offerings.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Location Description
1 University of Colorado Denver 61.40 2/5 Denver, CO

Founded in 1912, UC Denver serves more than 18,000 students through two campuses in the Denver area. The school also offers a substantial selection of quality online programs, with online students at UC Denver boasting an even higher graduation rate than on-campus students. The school offers an English writing degree online, preparing students for work in fields such as business, advertising, publishing, entertainment, and the nonprofit sector. Along with written communication, the degree emphasizes skills necessary for success in writing-based fields, including independent work, time management, critical reasoning, research, and creative thinking. Online students an UC Denver also have access to the school’s experiential learning program, which connects students with internships and other opportunities to gain applicable job experience.

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2 Old Dominion University 60.67 2/5 Norfolk, VA

A public research university in Norfolk, Virginia, ODU boasts an enrollment of nearly 25,000, and the school is also one of the largest providers of distance learning in the country. ODU is a national leader and pioneer in online learning, having offered distance education courses in some form since the 1980s. Beginning in cooperation with the Virginia Community College System, the school now has over 100 degrees delivered completely online. ODU offers a technical writing degree online that stresses the practice of writing in a professional context, focusing on essential skills along with courses in business, human resources, and communication. In addition to writing skills, students gain knowledge of management, marketing, and public relations. The degree prepares students for careers in technical communication, marketing, public relations, grant writing, media analysis, and other related fields.

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3 Arizona State University-Skysong 57.94 3/5 Scottsdale, AZ

Operating through five campuses in the Phoenix metropolitan area, ASU is the largest public university in the country by enrollment, with a student body of over 80,000. U.S. News World & Report named ASU the “Most Innovative School in America” for 2016, based on the development of its curriculum and technology. The online writing degree at ASU is defined as a technical communication degree. Students in the program learn to produce, design, and manage technical information, studying principles of effective visual and written communication in order to make complex technical material understandable to all audiences. In addition to skills in drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading, students also learn to collaborate effectively, meet the needs of specific audiences, and evaluate information.

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4 Minnesota State University-Mankato 55.48 2/5 Mankato, MN

Located about 75 miles southwest of Minneapolis-St. Paul, MNSU is a major education center in Minnesota, serving nearly 18,000 students through on-campus and online programs. The flagship college of the Minnesota State Universities and Colleges system, the school’s mission is based around values of integrity, diversity, access, responsibility, and excellence, preparing students for both professional careers and lifelong learning. Students earning their technical writing degree online from MNSU study technical communication or business communication along with related courses in research, editing, and technical documentation. Students in the program can also select a relevant technical minor for specialization, choosing from fields such as automotive engineering technology, environmental science, community health, or manufacturing.

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5 Southern New Hampshire University 53.35 5/5 Manchester, NH

Located in Manchester, New Hampshire, SNHU was founded in 1932 as an accounting and secretarial school. From those humble beginnings, SNHU has grown into the largest provider of distance education in the country, serving an online student body of more than 60,000. The school’s massive online education program offers two distinct writing degrees: a communications degree with a professional writing specialization, and an online creative writing degree with concentrations in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting. The professional writing degree focuses on written communication strategies for business, including public relations and digital media. The creative writing program helps students develop their storytelling skills, with options for either a general degree or specialization in one of four tracks -- making this one of the best online creative writing programs available.

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6 Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College 48.94 3/5 Saint Mary of the Woods, IN

A Roman Catholic liberal arts college located northwest of Terre Haute, Indiana, SMWC is the oldest Catholic college in the state. Founded in 1840 as a women’s academy, the school finally became fully coeducational in 2015. SMWC is a pioneer in distance education, offering one of the nation’s first independent study programs in 1973. SMWC currently offers a wide range of online degree options. Its online writing degree combines both creative and professional writing, giving students a broad base of skills in writing, communication, and technical knowledge. Students gain competency in a range of technical and creative skills, from media reporting and nonfiction literature to editing and public relations. The program also explores writing in the context of modern web technologies, keeping students informed of the latest developments in social media and other platforms.

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7 University of Houston-Downtown 38.44 2/5 Houston, TX

One of four institutions in the University of Houston system, UHD serves students in the bustling downtown area of Houston, Texas, with a student body of over 14,000. UHD ranks as one of the top regional colleges and top regional public universities in the West, according to U.S. News & World Report. UHD offers a technical writing degree online that prepares students for writing careers in fields such as business, industry, media, and government. The degree is professionally focused, preparing students to create both digital and print media, from business documents to social media posts. Online students who are able to can also complete writing internships to gain hands-on experience in the field of their choice.

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8 The University of Texas at El Paso 37.88 2/5 El Paso, TX

Located in El Paso, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border, UTEP is a major educational institution in West Texas, ranking as one of the top colleges awarding degrees to Hispanics. The U.S. Department of Education also ranks the school as the lowest net tuition cost among public research universities. Founded in 2015, UTEP’s distance education program is new, but it maintains the level of academic quality that has come to characterize the school. UTEP’s online writing degree emphasizes writing and communication in a corporate setting, giving students the tools necessary to create corporate communications materials such as reports, brochures, internal communications, speeches and online content. Students also gain strategies for effective public relations, learning to control a company’s message through media outlets. Graduates are prepared for careers in advertising, marketing, public relations, technical writing, and other related fields.

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9 Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture 31.94 2/5 Santa Fe, NM

One of the country’s 37 tribal colleges, IAIA was founded in 1962 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A major proponent of Native arts and culture, the school is rooted in values of collaboration, excellence, creativity, respect, and integrity. IAIA is also the only higher education institution in the world dedicated solely to contemporary Native American art. Students earning their creative writing degree online at IAIA can pursue a range of styles, including, fiction, poetry creative nonfiction, journalism, and drama. One of the best online creative writing programs in the state, curriculum covers essential elements of writing, such as drafting and revising, along with a strong emphasis on Native and world literature. Students also gain an understanding of publishing practices and strategies for sharing their work. They commonly give public readings and are published in national literary anthologies.

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Time to Complete

4 to 5 years

Credit Hours

60 credits total/30 credits per year

Program Costs

$8,000 to $25,000 in annual tuition

Popular Minors
  • English (General)
  • Literature
  • Editing and Publishing
  • Technical Writing
  • Journalism
  • English Education
  • Communications
  • Theater
  • Film Studies
Accreditation

There is no programmatic accreditation for this major field of study at the undergraduate level. Students should defer to the regional/national accreditation of their four-year college or university.

Job Placement: Bachelor’s in Writing

Historically, writers and authors have faced stiff competition in the job market. Most fiction and nonfiction book publishers receive hundreds of manuscripts on an annual basis, but publish roughly 10 to 20 titles per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected this industry will grow 2% between 2014 and 2024, a difference of 3,100 jobs. Job prospects are much more favorable for technical writers, copywriters and other vocational writing occupations. Additionally, writing degree-holders often find work through blogs, online magazines and other web media.

According to a 2014 survey by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), experienced college graduates with a bachelor’s in ‘composition and speech’ face an unemployment rate of 4.7%. The following table compares unemployment rates for ‘composition and speech’ majors and other recipients of writing-related degrees.

Source: From Hard Times to Better Times’ by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW)

As the data shows, ‘composition and speech’ degree-earners face lower unemployment rates than all of the other listed undergraduate fields. Additionally, this 4.7% rate is the only one listed on the table that falls below the unemployment rate of 4.9% for all occupations nationwide.

Earning a Living

Students who graduate from online bachelor’s in writing programs typically enjoy the same earning potential, whether they specialize in technical writing, journalism or creative writing. The latest Payscale College Salary Report noted that students who major in professional technical/writing, journalism, general writing and creative writing earn comparable annual salaries. The results of this survey are listed in the table below.

Bachelor’s Degree Field Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10-20 years)
Professional and Technical Writing $42,700 $72,400
Journalism $41,200 $69,400
Writing $38,000 $67,000
Creative Writing $38,900 $65,900

Source: The 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

Of the bachelor’s degree fields listed on this table, professional/technical writing majors earned the highest salaries at both the entry-level mark and mid-career marks. However, all four groups experienced 10-year salary growth in the range of 69% to 76%.

In addition to major fields of study, salary expectations for writing degree-holders also depend on the employee’s specific job title and experience level. Other factors to consider include company size and city/state of employment. Using PayScale data, the next table features career salary growth projections for five of the most common writing career pathways.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Writer/Author $43,000 $53,000 $53,000 $72,000
Technical Writer $49,979 $61,620 $66,258 $75,534
Journalist $35,837 $45,114 $55,441 $62,664
Copywriter $44,601 $55,436 $60,754 $59,376
Editor $41,940 $52,652 $57,527 $61,762

Source: PayScale

Of these five careers, journalists experienced the highest rate of career salary growth: a 74.9% increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Writers and authors placed second, with a 67.4% increase in earnings after 20 years in the workforce.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in writing will be qualified for dozens of jobs, although individual eligibility will depend on their area of specialization. Four common professional pathways for writing degree recipients are highlighted below.

Writers and Authors: Writers and authors produce creative content for books, magazines, literary journals and advertising media. According to 2014 data from the BLS, two-thirds of writers and authors are ‘self-employed’; most of these individuals work for multiple clients on a freelance basis. Roughy 25% also work a part-time schedule.

Technical Writers: Also known as ‘technical communicators’, these professionals translate instructional materials into readable, user-friendly content. Their job entails extensive research into products and services in order to effectively write about them. The work of technical writers can be found in product manuals, brochures and other promotional materials, as well as online.

Editors: Editors are responsible for reviewing and approving written materials before they are published in print or online; many editors have a writing background. The editing process involves key steps like proofreading, fact-checking and, if applicable, modifying the content to meet certain stylistic guidelines.

Reporters, Correspondents and Broadcast News Analysts: This is one of the most common career paths for journalism majors. Reporters and correspondents produce articles for newspapers, magazines and other publishers of nonfiction; many specialize in certain areas (or ‘beats’), such as sports, arts and entertainment, travel or food. Broadcast news analysts are typically hired to provide opinions and subjective commentary on current events.

Occupation Median Annual Salary
Writers and Authors $60,250
Technical Writers $70,240
Editors $56,010
Reporters, Correspondents and Broadcast News Analysts $37,720

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to writing is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for professional writers. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • Society of Professional Journalists: Founded in 1909, the SPJ today represents roughly 7,500 members nationwide. The organization’s flagship magazine is published 10 times per year, and the website features jobs leads, professional development courses and an extensive resource library.
  • Association of Writers and Writing Programs: The AWP offers membership, career resources and advocacy to writing professionals across the country. The organization represents more than 550 college writing programs and 150 nationwide writer’s conferences.
  • Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators: This organization offers training, grant support and advocacy for writers and illustrators of books aimed at young readers. The SCBWI maintains more than 80 local chapters across the globe.
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.