Writing is one of the foundations for human communication. As such, writing is a valuable skill in most industries. Careers for writing majors vary by degree level, location, and personal interest.
After earning a degree in writing, students can pursue several career paths and opportunities for personal and professional growth. In addition to developing communication, grammar, and reading comprehension skills, writing graduates learn to think critically and analytically.
Why Pursue a Career in Writing?
Writers tell stories, communicate ideas, and offer information to many different types of audiences. Writing students gain insight into how to use the written word to better express themselves, describe their surroundings, and detail events and circumstances from historical and current perspectives.
A degree in writing builds marketable skills applicable to careers across economic sectors. Within a writing curriculum, students can learn practices and techniques for specialized types of writing, including technical, creative, and business writing.
Writing Career Outlook
Salaries for writers and authors vary by field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many writers and authors work as independent content creators. They can also find jobs in the advertising, public relations, and publishing industries. Writers earn a median annual salary of $63,200.
Technical writers can find lucrative positions with computer, IT, manufacturing, and consulting companies. Technical writers earn a median annual salary of $72,850. The BLS projects 7% job growth for technical writers between 2019 and 2029.
The table below shows average annual salaries for a few common writing careers.
Skills Gained With a Writing Degree
Degrees in writing build communication, research, and organizational skills. As students learn rhetorical tools and techniques, they develop the skills needed to structure their work in accessible, clear formats. Technical, science, and academic writers often carry out extensive research as they write, while creative writing programs foster innovation and imagination.
Communication skills allow writers to understand and be understood by others. By learning communication techniques, students build vocabulary and find avenues to express themselves. Communication skills also include listening, observing, and asking questions.
To become effective researchers, students learn to use databases, search engines, and comparable resources for finding information. Research skills are qualitative and quantitative in nature, both of which integrate planning, scheduling, data collection, and critical analysis. Researchers need to recognize appropriate materials, use a variety of media, and interpret content from multiple sources.
Organizational skills allow professionals to delegate, make and keep to schedules, and present information clearly. Organization in writing includes identification of a main idea, providing support and evidence, and effectively explaining content in an understandable way.
Writers must learn to find inspiration all around them, developing their perspectives and imaginations. By workshopping their work, reading other writers, and increasing their understanding of topics that interest them, writers learn to tell stories using their unique voice.
A writing degree trains students about proper sentence structure, punctuation, and parts of speech. Understanding grammar rules allows writers to share their ideas in a clear, coherent manner that demonstrates mastery of language.
Writing Career Paths
With a degree in writing, students can access a variety of career paths across the workforce. Specialized writing jobs in fields such as technology, public relations, and publishing give learners opportunities to use their skills to create content intended for specific audiences.
Advertisers, marketers, and journalists all need solid writing skills, making these positions well-suited for individuals with a degree in writing.
- Technical Writer
Technical writers produce documents related to topics like software and systems computing, engineering, and information technology. Technical writers convey complex information in accessible formats, often using field-specific jargon, citation styles, and conventions. They may also write, edit, and revise training manuals with clarity and concision.
- Content Writer
Content writers create articles, blog posts, and comparable content on websites. These professionals must understand different writing styles and techniques to reach target audiences. They can find work with marketing firms, nonprofit organizations, and corporations.
Journalists report on current events, writing for print media and online news sources. Journalists possess strong communication skills, which they use to carry out interviews, pursue leads, and offer information to readers.
- Medical Writer
Medical writers produce articles and reports geared toward scientific and medical professionals. Medical writers also contribute to health websites, produce literature for patients, and explain complicated medical information with accessible terms.
Editors read work by writers and content creators to ensure accuracy, clarity, and quality. Editors read copy, make improvements and changes, and coordinate materials for periodicals, newspapers, and websites. They may establish timelines for book authors, help create titles, and find ways to craft a written work to optimize sales and appeal.
How to Start Your Career With a Writing Degree
A writing program introduces learners to concepts, techniques, and conventions for writing, often providing specialized instruction in technical, business, or creative writing.
While many writers may not hold a degree in the field, employers often prefer candidates with an undergraduate degree in English, journalism, or a related discipline. By earning a graduate degree in writing, students gain an advanced understanding of how to produce effective, engaging written content.
Associate Degree in Writing
With an emphasis on composition, rhetoric, and structure, associate programs in writing help students develop strong writing skills. An associate degree in writing introduces students to writing styles and conventions. Learners may study creative writing, fiction, and poetry.
Graduates can pursue entry-level careers in journalism, communication, and publishing. An associate degree in writing also prepares graduates to transfer into bachelor's programs.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Writing?
Writers produce content for companies across economic sectors. Through articles, manuscripts, and blogs, writers provide information and stories to audiences. Writers can work as freelancers or in permanent positions with businesses and news agencies.
Journalists research and report on news events. They work for newspapers, online news outlets, and magazines. Journalists also write stories for radio and television. Journalists identify important topics, find ways to convey information in relevant and clear formats, and review and edit their work.
Bachelor's Degree in Writing
The curriculum of a bachelor's degree in writing blends general education courses with foundational and advanced writing classes. Learners study composition, rhetoric, and language, building essential skills to relay information through writing. Graduates can pursue writing careers in education, public relations, and multimedia communication.
Online writing bachelor's degrees also offer students the opportunity to specialize in a specific type of writing. Options include creative writing, technical and scientific writing, and business writing.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Writing?
- Technical Writer
Technical writers produce specialized written content such as instruction manuals and training guides. They may specialize in an area like information technology, engineering, or manufacturing.
- Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists promote a person, idea, product, or brand. They prepare, write, and publicize a strategic message, often engaging with audiences across media platforms.
- Copy Editor
Copy editors review written content. They collaborate with writers to create an appropriate tone and style. They also provide comments and proofread work.
Master's Degree in Writing
A master's program in writing builds editorial and communication skills, enhances literary knowledge, and breeds creativity. Writing master's degrees prepare students for careers in education, editing, and publishing. Graduates can also work independently as freelancers and novelists.
Many master's programs in writing include specializations in areas like technical or creative writing.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Writing?
- Managing Editor
Managing editors work in the publishing industry, overseeing the content and production of books and magazines. They work with writers and fellow editors to ensure content adheres to the vision, guidelines, and goals of a publication. They also supervise staff, engage with advertisers, accept and reject pieces, and oversee daily operations.
- Senior Technical Writer
Senior technical writers may oversee the creation and production of specialized content in fields such as information technology, engineering, and manufacturing. Senior technical writers possess advanced knowledge and skills that can be used to create instruction manuals, technical training materials, and comparable documents. They may supervise junior-level technical writers, providing editorial and content-specific guidance.
- Creative Director
Creative directors shape and implement the aesthetics of publications, promotional materials, and advertising campaigns. They work with writers, editors, and graphic designers to provide content for websites, lead teams in brainstorming sessions, and offer guidance in the development of creative projects.
- Marketing Manager
Marketing managers supervise advertising and marketing campaigns, working with creative writers, artists, and fellow marketers to promote and sell goods and services. They assess the performance of a marketing campaign, design marketing strategies, and carry out market research to optimize promotions and initiatives.
Doctoral Degree in Writing
With a doctoral degree, writers can excel in leadership roles, serving as managers, administrators, and executives.
Doctoral programs in writing include advanced coursework in rhetoric, writing theory, and research. Most doctoral degrees focus on a specific area of writing, like technical communication and rhetoric, applied linguistics, or creative writing.
Doctoral programs culminate in a dissertation or project based on original research and ideas. Students pursuing a doctoral degree in creative writing often produce a manuscript of work intended for publication, while technical communication and rhetoric doctoral students produce a project related to an issue within the field.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Writing?
Writers who earn a doctorate can teach at colleges and universities. These professors may provide lectures about composition and grammar, develop curricula, and mentor students. They may also participate in departmental initiatives and publish their own work.
- Technical Program Manager
Technical program managers establish budgets, oversee projects, and serve as technical leaders for writers and creative designers. These professionals also ensure effective communication between workers and vendors. A doctorate can help professionals stand out from the competition.
- Academic Dean
Academic deans manage faculty and staff at educational institutions. They assist with curriculum development, evaluate academic programs, and promote research and collegiality. They also oversee budgets, allocate funds, apply for grants, and adhere to the overall institutional mission.
How to Advance Your Career in Writing
Writers can advance their careers by earning a more advanced degree, pursuing professional certification, and engaging in continuing education.
Writers who focus on general content can take classes to gain specific skills. Writers and content creators may want to study editing, publishing, and related competencies as they explore all aspects of the writing process. They can also pursue certifications through professional organizations and complete open courseware.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Writers do not typically need a license or certification to find a job. However, writers who want to hone their abilities and expand their skills can pursue certifications through professional organizations, private agencies, and training programs. Many certifications require a college degree and experience in the field.
In conjunction with the American Medical Writers Association, the Medical Writing Certification Commission offers a medical writer certified credential to demonstrate understanding of medical writing essentials. Additionally, members of the National Resume Writers' Association can earn certification as resume writers and online profile experts.
Continuing education courses keep writers informed on trends, strategies, and practices in the discipline. As writers produce more content online, they must understand how to meet the needs of employers, engage readers, and increase readership. Continuing education courses help writers gain these skills.
Colleges and universities offer continuing education programs in screenwriting, memoir writing, and publishing. Many of these classes are offered in conjunction with open courseware providers like Coursera and edX.
Coursera maintains extensive offerings in writing. Classes explore topics such as writing a novel, science writing, and strategies for content marketing. Additionally, edX provides courses related to professional, business, and academic writing.
Going back to school can signal to potential employers that writers are dedicated to their craft. Online classes, in-person training, workshops, and continuing education programs serve a similar purpose.
Catapult — an online community of writers — offers classes and workshops in nonfiction, fiction, and memoir writing. Additionally, Writer's Digest University provides webinars, boot camps, virtual conferences, self-paced courses, and workshops for writers at all stages of their careers.
Scribophile also provides writing workshops and access to a network of writers that allows members to share their work and receive thoughtful, constructive feedback.
Networking, joining a professional organization, and engaging with online communities can help writers explore new ideas, find information, and gain access to useful resources.
How to Switch Your Career to Writing
Professionals with certain educational backgrounds and skills can transition into a career in writing. For example, technology professionals often have the knowledge needed to work as technical and science writers. Professionals with strong research and communication skills often make good writers.
A degree or certification in writing can expedite this professional transition. Signing up for workshops and online courses can also help.
Where Can You Work as a Writing Professional?
The publishing industry provides high levels of employment for writers, authors,and editors in states like New York and California. Technology firms and companies throughout the nation also employ writers.
The top industries for writers vary based on a worker's specialization, genre, and experience. Editors and publishers often find work creating content for newspapers, books, and periodicals. Alternatively, science, technical, and medical writers work across the healthcare, manufacturing, and research and development sectors.
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
This industry includes direct mail, outdoor advertising, independent media representation, and media-buying professionals.
Average Salary: $78,200
- Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers
This industry includes media companies who contract for, purchase, and distribute original works created by writers. Companies that produce greeting cards, calendars, and maps also qualify.
Average Salary: $63,440
- Independent Artists, Writers, Performers
This industry includes individuals who create artistic and cultural works, perform in artistic productions, and generate content. Consultants, technical experts in these crafts, and athletes or celebrities who make endorsements and public appearances are also part of this industry.
Average Salary: $95,800
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
This field deals with strategic planning; budgeting; control and production matters; and overall policies, practices, and planning in businesses.
Average Salary: $73,330
- Motion Picture and Video Industries
This industry includes anyone associated with the creation, production, and distribution of movies, videos, television programs, and commercials.
Average Salary: $89,300
States with the highest number of writers include California and New York, which house multiple areas with strong technology, publishing, and business sectors. More than 7,500 writers live in each state, earning an average annual salary of over $90,000.
Writers who live in the District of Columbia earn the highest average annual salaries, where typical wages approach $104,000. Writers and authors who live in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas are also especially well compensated.
Interview With a Writing Professional
Dr. Josie Urbistondo
As chief essay officer for Write Your Acceptance, Dr. Josie Urbistondo helps students draft college application essays. At the University of Miami, she teaches freshman composition and rhetoric. She has also taught graduate-level political science writing, developmental composition, Caribbean pop culture, and American literature 1865-present. Urbistondo earned her Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Miami after receiving an MA from New York University and a BA from Florida International University.
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in the humanities and social sciences? Is it something that you were always interested in?
Like many impressionable teens, I looked to those closest to me and thought I'd emulate them. My aunt helped to found a series of early education centers in disadvantaged communities and also teaches early education, so I thought to follow in her steps.
Undergrad rolled around, and I worked part time in her centers and served as a counselor for an elementary after-school program. While I love the kiddies, I learned the space wasn't for me.
I decided to take an exploratory semester in college and enrolled in courses that looked incredible. Cue English literature. I met an inspired professor who lit up in the classroom, and I knew I wanted to do something with writing and expression, so I continued tweaking my education from there.
- What makes a humanities and social science degree unique?
I don't hail any one major as superior simply because so much of success stems from what a student puts into their academic experience.
However, the humanities and social sciences are unique because these majors are about people: how we interact in the world, see ourselves and others, and therefore how we understand one another or wage war on one another. These disciplines think critically about who we are.
At their best, they nudge us to become better versions of ourselves as they demand us to question past and present actions to do better in constructing the future. In college, the future stares right back at us, and we decide how to conduct ourselves in the world as we model how to do just that.
Whether we consider history, politics, literature, social work, or economics, all of these majors teach transferable skills, tools for innovation, adaptability, and critical thinking. These sound like fun, common buzzwords, but when we consider what we ask our students to accomplish in writing and sociology, we ask them to gaze upon the world as one huge Rubik's Cube that will never be solved.
But the play is not to solve it. It's to understand intellectually and psychologically the impact each move makes on the next. These majors are a mirror image of our world, and we demand students to acknowledge their place within the world and what contributions they will make.
- What was the job search like after completing your degree?
I mean, which time? I never had a perfect plan, which is why I empathize with my students about selecting a major, which is so daunting, and then assure them that if they pursue intellectual curiosity, connection, and collaboration in college (both within and beyond the classroom), the least formative aspect about their future may be what major they selected.
After completing my BA in English, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, so I went straight to graduate school.
While completing an MA in English at NYU, I took internships in the marketing department of Workman Publishing and also interned for the editorial team of the Spanish-language Reader's Digest: Selecciones. I loved the classroom, but I couldn't remain a student forever.
I considered publishing, taught at a community college, and, honestly, all of my experiences were so incredibly rich and would have taken me different directions. Ultimately, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in literature. When I graduated, I decided not to go on the typical job market track that all of my peers opted for.
I am super fortunate to have been invited to remain at the University of Miami as faculty and have been there ever since. However, four years ago, I launched my own business — Write Your Acceptance, Inc. — working with students on college application essays. So I hear the major angst from both my freshmen at UM and my high school juniors and seniors!
Founding WYA, I have discovered entrepreneurial muscles I had never flexed in my life. I have learned marketing, business operations, how to build a website, and minimal coding. It took me saying "yes" to a lot of things beyond my comfort zone to meticulously build my career. It is not for everyone, but it is right for me.
This is the ultimate takeaway I hope every student who I work with, teach, and inspire holds dear. Or like they say, "do you" — academically, professionally, and personally.
- Why did you decide to move into teaching? Is this a common career path for humanities and social sciences graduates?
Teaching can seem like a natural fit. However, I have peers on alumni boards who are all English majors, and each one followed a different career path. From financial analysts to lawyers and journalists, I hear it all.
I teach because the classroom is an intellectually sacred space. There's a sense of respect for truths that have been stumbled upon and grappled with for decades, if not centuries, in the very same spaces we frequent.
To teach is to share with the next generation my love of questioning, reasoning, and pushing boundaries. I strive to instill that learning is never-ending for the rest of your life, and those lessons make you stronger, kinder, and wiser — and that the alternative is never better.
Usually, the alternative comes when we approach learning as transactional and not as innate as breathing and something we need to be.
- As someone who works with students applying to college, what advice would you give students who are thinking about selecting a major?
Selecting a major should be a dynamic decision. It's a choice that students make every day, every time they attend a course, every time they finish a project or complete a requirement. It's not just a one-time deal.
Therefore, yes, they should investigate their passion and see "what they are good at" as they apply to colleges and declare majors. Most schools now ask students to pre-declare or at least select a school when applying.
However, my main advice to students is twofold: know that the major is but one fraction of the educational equation. Make sure you assume an active role in your learning. Find internships or service learning or even civic engagement experiences to participate in. Sometimes these moments of growth may ignite a fire you didn't know existed.
Also, be comfortable knowing that the major you declare may not be your final major. Once you declare your major and when you chat with your advisor, don't only enroll for the next semester. Construct a wide-reaching plan where you consider multidisciplinary courses and service learning projects where you get out into the broader communities and serve others, blending heart and intellect.
- What advice would you give to students considering a degree and career in the humanities and social sciences?
Connected to the previous advice, I always tell students that it's not an all-or-nothing game. Therefore, if students are STEM-oriented and they want to pursue engineering, great — but also take courses in other disciplines.
Similarly, when students tell me they want to pursue a degree in the humanities or social sciences, I tell them that those courses will be easy to locate and take. Now, find courses that push you beyond your expected limitations, go out and question something, learn something you think you'll never use, and see how it enriches your experience.
- Any final thoughts for us?
In an increasingly segregated political climate, humanities and social sciences courses allow students a space to learn to disagree without feeling attacked.
To thrive in diverse professional spaces, learners should develop comfort with knowing how to express their opinions and how to counter an argument, all while preserving a level of decorum and dignity.
However, these are not the only places students can find this. I urge students to find pockets of community where they can exercise this skill in a respectful and enriching manner.
Resources for Writing Majors
Professional organizations, colleges and universities, and groups who foster communities of writers provide resources for writing majors. Students and professional writers can take part in online forums and in-person events, gaining access to networking and collaboration opportunities.
Resources for writers also include continuing education programs, career guidance, mentorship programs, and publications.
- Professional Organizations
Association of Writers and Writing Programs: AWP is a professional and academic writing society that cultivates networking, resource sharing, and continuing education among its roughly 50,000 members. AWP conferences attract a large volume of celebrity and novice writers annually. Writers can also compete for grants by submitting creative works to the AWP Award Series, the Intro Journals Project, and four other award programs.
American Society of Journalists and Authors: Creative nonfiction writers and journalists can network with other industry professionals and find new clients within ASJA. This society was founded in 1948 to provide a space to share industry standards and knowledge. Members can list their biography and credentials in the public ASJA directory for businesses and publications seeking writing assistance.
International Women's Writing Guild: This organization was formed in 1976, tracing its roots back to women's rights movements, the New Age movement, and the Human Potential movement. Guild members have published over 4,000 fiction and nonfiction books on a vast array of topics. IWWG hosts seasonal writing conferences in cities across the United States.
Military Writers Society of America: This professional organization is a support system for military personnel, their loved ones, and researchers who write about the American military experience. MWSA hosts an annual conference where members are honored for noteworthy works. Members can also contribute columns, articles, and poetry to the MWSA Dispatch.
Writers Guild of America East and West: There are two separate unions known as the Writers Guild of America that serve television and film writers in Eastern and Western U.S. states. Both organizations provide contract negotiation assistance and advocate for workers' rights in the motion picture and television industries. Make sure to check regional coverage so that you can earn the union benefits specific to your area.
- Open Courseware
Creative Writing Specialization - Wesleyan University: Offered through Coursera, these five creative writing courses cover short story writing, narrative essays, and memoirs. Students explore plot development, character creation, and description. The series culminates in a capstone project.
Writing About Literature - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: This course examines how authors engage with their own work and the works of others. Students explore remixing, sampling, and rethinking texts and genres as they learn to incorporate ideas and techniques from famous fiction writers. Assignments include research essays, character studies, comparison papers, and a research project.
Academic and Business Writing - University of California, Berkeley: Hosted through edX, this introductory class covers grammar, vocabulary, structure, and editing for academic and business writers. The course fosters English language and communication skills, refines persuasive writing techniques, and teaches techniques to develop essays.
How to Write a Novel: Writing the Draft - University of British Columbia: Designed to help writers move from an outline to a developed draft, this class focuses on scene design, dialogue, character development, and plot. Students learn the essentials of fiction writing, engage in discussion with fellow writers, and receive feedback to strengthen their own work.
The Writer Magazine: Offering inspiration, guidance, and publishing information to practicing and aspiring writers, this publication traces its origins back to 1887. Each month, issues incorporate profiles of successful artists, articles on topics such as freelancing and marketing, and strategies and tips for finding an agent or an editor.
Assessing Writing: Assessing Writing offers practical information about how to evaluate and validate writing. The journal explores techniques such as workplace sampling, portfolio development, and classroom assessment from an international perspective.
Written Communication: This journal covers topics like writing assessment, the relationship between technology and writing, writing as it relates to speaking and listening, and cognition and composition.
Anomaly: Anomaly promotes written works produced by marginalized and underrepresented populations. Anomaly encourages innovation and experimentation in writing and the arts and relies on a staff made up of volunteers. The journal publishes two issues each year and takes donations instead of subscription fees.
Poets.org: Poets.org offers information on poets, access to a poem library, materials for poetry teachers, and information on poetry events. The website also provides information about National Poetry Month and celebrations held around the country. Additional resources include American Poets Magazine, which is published twice each year to promote poems, essays, and other works from American poets.
Writer's Digest: Writer's Digest assists writers as they improve their craft. The magazine offers online workshops, publications, and conferences.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is a writing degree worth it?
It depends. Writing can be a competitive and challenging field. However, writing majors can pursue fulfilling positions in business, education, technology, and publishing.
- How do I start a career in writing?
The quickest way to start a career in writing is to just start writing. Writing takes perseverance, creativity, and dedication — characteristics enhanced by formal training. While earning a degree in writing, students hone their ability to communicate clearly, build grammatical and rhetorical skills, and develop organizational and critical thinking abilities.
- What can I do with a degree in writing?
With a degree in writing, students can enter the publishing world, working as a contributor or editor. Specialized knowledge can lead to positions as technical writers, creative content creators, advertisers, and journalists. Additional career opportunities include roles in public relations, multimedia production, and information services.
- How can I make a living as a writer?
All professionals who want to make a living from writing need to produce or edit content. They can also hone their craft by completing continuing education programs and open courseware.