Best Online Master’s in Creative Writing Programs of 2021

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Published on February 17, 2021

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An online master's in creative writingequips graduates with excellent writing, editing, and communication skills. While many graduates become authors and writers, they can also pursue opportunities in other fields. For example, graduates can apply their communication skills to management careers. Between 2019 and 2029, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 5% job growth for these professionals, who earn a median annual salary of $105,660.

This page examines online master's in creative writing programs, highlighting the best schools, covering common courses, and delving into potential careers.

For more information, check out our master's in creative writing program guide.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Creative Writing Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
#2 Lesley University Cambridge, MA
#3 Wilkes University Wilkes-Barre, PA
#4 Lindenwood University Saint Charles, MO
#5 National University La Jolla, CA
#6 Bay Path University Longmeadow, MA
#7 Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Campus Madison, NJ
#8 University of Houston-Victoria Victoria, TX
#9 University of North Alabama Florence, AL
#10 University of Nebraska Omaha Omaha, NE
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2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Creative Writing Programs

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Harvard University View School Profile Cambridge, MA

Harvard offers an online master of liberal arts in creative writing and literature through its Division of Continuing Education. Covering 12 courses, the program features a unique structure that allows students to "earn their way in" to the famously competitive school.

To start, learners enroll in two foundational open courses that explore the fundamentals of creative writing. Students who earn at least a "B" in both classes can then apply to the degree program, which counts these two initial courses toward graduation requirements. Applicants who submit applications meeting these requirements enjoy excellent chances of acceptance.

The 10 remaining courses offer students wide latitude, enabling writers to explore their intellectual and creative interests. Program participants also attend a required on-campus residency — one week or three weeks in length — which provides them with face-to-face learning and networking opportunities.

Lesley University View School Profile Cambridge, MA

Lesley, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers an online master's in creative writing that leads to a terminal master of fine arts degree. While learners complete most requirements through virtual platforms, the program includes five nine-day campus residencies that put writers in direct contact with peers, mentors, faculty, and publishing industry professionals.

Degree-seekers enjoy ample networking opportunities, and the program also supports partnership programs that present student work to agents, publishers, and prominent industry figures.

Beyond these opportunities, students also improve their skills through intensive workshopping to develop material. Program participants learn what it takes to succeed professionally while honing their voices and learning to harness their creative instincts.

Wilkes University View School Profile Wilkes-Barre, PA

Wilkes' graduate program in creative writing supports many forms and genres, including creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, playwriting, documentary and fiction screenwriting, and publishing. Depending on a student's chosen path, the program culminates in a master of arts or a master of fine arts degree.

Structurally, the program offers two formats: a low-residency option with two eight-day campus residencies per year and a "weekender" option in which learners convene on campus four weekends per semester. In both cases, degree-seekers complete the majority of their coursework online.

Graduates who earn this online master's degree in creative writing have enjoyed excellent professional success since the program's 2005 founding. As of 2020, alumni have produced more than 115 plays, 70 movies, 60 chapbooks or poetry collections, and 600 published works of prose fiction or nonfiction.

Lindenwood University View School Profile Saint Charles, MO

Lindenwood's master of fine arts in writing program features a residency-free, entirely online structure. Alternatively, degree-seekers who live nearby the school's Saint Charles, Missouri, campus can choose hybrid learning or pursue a traditional campus-based format.

Published writers, professional journalists, and experienced editors lead courses in which students explore the creative and practical aspects of authorship. Small classes adopt workshop formats, enabling degree-seekers to obtain valuable feedback on their in-process writing in a supportive yet demanding environment.

In total, the program covers 48 credits and culminates in a required thesis that reflects a student's chosen area of emphasis. Specialization options include fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

National University View School Profile La Jolla, CA

San Diego-based NU offers an entirely online master's degree in creative writing. This program accepts applications on a rolling basis and features start dates throughout the year. Classes last eight weeks and there are no campus residency requirements.

Culminating in a terminal master of fine arts degree, this program offers four specialization areas: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting. The program also accepts students interested in writing genre fiction and young adult fiction, making it a good fit for aspiring writers interested in these areas.

Degree-seekers benefit from one-on-one faculty mentorship and elective courses that broaden a student's understanding of literary theory and pedagogy. About 15% of program participants possess military backgrounds, reflecting NU's strong commitment to serving members of the armed forces.

Bay Path University View School Profile Longmeadow, MA

Bay Path's master of fine arts in creative nonfiction writing may be an attractive professional development opportunity for emerging writers interested in true stories. Degree-seekers can complete their program entirely online, choosing from a publishing track or a teaching track. Each pathway takes two semesters and includes intensive practicum requirements.

The program builds to a thesis component, in which students prepare a 150-page manuscript intended to form the basis of a future book. Along the way, learners benefit from extensive peer engagement and community-building opportunities.

Students also can participate in an annual summer writing retreat in Ireland. For admission consideration, candidates must hold a bachelor's degree and submit two letters of recommendation, a personal statement of purpose, and brief creative nonfiction writing samples.

Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Campus View School Profile Madison, NJ

FDU's master of fine arts in creative writing is a low-residency program that offers five concentration options to learners interested in specific formats and genres. Students can specialize in fiction, creative nonfiction, writing for children and young adults, poetry, and literary translation. The literary translation option is uncommon and may appeal to multilingual learners.

This MFA program features two annual residencies: one at the school's New Jersey campus and another in Wroxton, England; this latter experience allows students to interact with United Kingdom-based writers and publishing professionals.

Since 2014, program alumni have published nearly 30 books and received prestigious distinctions and awards, including the African American Book Prize and the Colorado Book Prize for Biography. Degree-seekers also benefit from direct introductions to New York-based literary agents, publishers, and book editors.

University of Houston-Victoria View School Profile Victoria, TX

UHV's master of fine arts in creative writing offers specializations in creative writing and applied literary translation. Both options include 36 credits and build strong student engagement through a process-oriented approach to professional development.

The master's in creative writing track includes a dense concentration of workshop-style writing classes and leads to a thesis project of the student's choosing. Learners in the applied literary translation path concentrate on creative and technical skills before displaying their integrated learning in a capstone project. Low-residency requirements apply.

To be admitted, candidates must qualify for general graduate admission and furnish academic transcripts. They must also provide a statement of purpose, GRE scores, at least two letters of recommendation, and a 20-30-page creative writing sample.

University of North Alabama View School Profile Florence, AL

Available in an entirely online format, UNA's master of arts in writing program offers specializations in technical writing, rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. The curriculum's design supports personal creative development and exploration, along with practical, career-oriented aspects of writing practice, research, and scholarship.

The program places strong emphasis on marketable, employable skills. Students apply composition theory to a variety of creative formats, building versatile and adaptable proficiencies.

Many degree-seekers in this distance-based program choose to pursue available paid internship opportunities, which enhance experiential learning and help developing writers build strong professional networks. Students local to the college's Florence, Alabama, campus can also pursue hybrid and in-class formats.

University of Nebraska Omaha View School Profile Omaha, NE

Learners who want to earn a low-residency master of fine arts in writing may be interested in attending UNO. Participants of this program complete 60 credits and choose a specialization in poetry, creative nonfiction, playwriting, fiction, young adult, or screenwriting

Students take online classes over the course of four 16-week semesters. They also complete a total of five 10-day residencies at the Lied Lodge & Conference Center in Nebraska City. During residency sessions, learners engage in workshops and readings and attend conferences, lectures, and craft discussions.

Applications are accepted throughout the year, and new students can begin the program at one of two start dates. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit a statement of purpose, creative writing sample, and contact information for two recommenders.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Creative Writing Program?

The typical online master's in creative writing program requires 30-60 credits and lasts approximately two years.

The typical online master's in creative writing program requires 30-60 credits and lasts approximately two years. In addition to developing writing, creativity, and critical thinking skills, learners can select courses and concentrations that help them reach their career goals.

A master's in creative writing program usually awards an MA or a master of fine arts (MFA), and these degree types may provide students with different experiences. The MA typically provides broader, more theoretical training in creative writing, while the MFA features more immersive, specialized, practical training.

Due to the more intensive, practical side of the MFA degree, students usually need to complete residency components. MA degrees tend to offer more flexibility, including fully online delivery options.

Notably, the MFA is a terminal degree, the highest degree available in the field. The MA is not a terminal degree, and students can go on to pursue further education such as a Ph.D.

Regardless of the degree type, concentrations play a big role in a master's in creative writing program and the eventual career paths available to graduates. Aspiring authors, for example, may choose fiction or poetry concentrations, whereas other students may choose publishing or editing. In programs that have no formal concentrations, learners can strategize their electives, internships, and major projects to make a similar impact on their career options.

Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Creative Writing Programs

Typical admission requirements for a master's in creative writing program include a bachelor's degree, a statement of purpose, and professional recommendations. Some programs also request a minimum GPA score and/or GRE test results.

For admission into an MFA, applicants must usually submit a writing sample, which can vary considerably in length and scope. Some programs may require applicants to submit a more extensive portfolio.

For more information, visit our graduate admissions guide.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Creative Writing Program?

In a master's in creative writing program, students can choose from a variety of courses, often depending on their specialization and interests. Students complete workshops, seminars, and special topics in various genres of writing. The following list highlights five common courses in these programs.

Story and Concept Development

In this course, students learn various methods for developing the main components of a story. They study brainstorming tactics, three-act structures, and different plot outline techniques. Some courses may delve into advanced character and thematic development methods, as well.

Writers and Publishers

This course may cover many angles, but students typically learn about the role of writers and publishers in the professional world. They learn about the processes involved in writing and publishing, legal and ethical standards, and the challenges faced by modern professionals in the field.

Editing

This course teaches students about the role of editors and the processes involved in editing a creative text. Covered topics include differences in genre, meeting audience demands, and methods for communicating with writers and authors.

International Writers

International writers courses examine the writing profession and art in various countries around the world. Learners study the development and evolution of creative writing. Students also explore how globalization has impacted and influenced creative writing and the profession as a whole.

Genre-Based Criticism

Genre-based criticism courses teach students how to read and think critically about the various genres of creative writing. Students examine methods of literary criticism, historical discourses and schools of thought, and the new age movements that shape modern texts.

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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Creative Writing Degree?

Graduates with a master's in creative writing benefit from a diverse career outlook The BLS projects 4% job growth for media and communications occupations between 2019 and 2029, equal to the average for all occupations.

Master's graduates may also acquire the leadership skills and advanced knowledge needed for various management careers, which boast even higher wages and projected growth numbers. Knowledge of modern publishing platforms and digital tools can help graduates reap the benefits of this evolving landscape.

See where a master's in creative writing can take you. Learn more about writing careers here.

true Writer or Author

Writers and authors write books, scripts, and copy for various media types, outlets, and publications. They research material, create drafts, and edit their work as part of the creation process. According to BLS data, 63% of writers are self-employed, 10% work in professional services, and 10% work in the information industry.

Editor

Editors review the work of writers and content creators, correcting mistakes, altering for clarity, and ensuring that texts meet the guidelines and standards of the publication. Editors often help writers develop their stories and provide suggestions and feedback to help them improve. According to BLS data, 35% of editors work for newspaper publishers, 14% are self-employed, and 10% work in professional services.

Public Relations Specialist

Public relations specialists improve perceptions of an organization by establishing a favorable image, handling communications, and speaking to the media. These specialists may perform specific tasks for larger organizations, such as drafting press releases and overseeing media campaigns, or carry out diverse roles in smaller organizations. According to BLS data, 13% of these professionals work in educational services, 13% work in advertising, and 10% work for the government.

Marketing Manager

Marketing managers oversee an organization's communications and advertising. They review market conditions and consumer wants and needs, handle budgets and resource allocation, and develop marketing campaigns that address consumer and organizational desires. According to the BLS, 11% of these managers are self-employed, 10% work in information, and 4% work in wholesale trade.

Public Relations Manager

Public relations managers oversee larger public image campaigns for organizations. They often manage teams of public relations specialists, work closely with other departments, and handle direct communications between the public and management. According to BLS data, 21% of these managers work in educational services, 21% work for religious organizations, and 15% work in professional services.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Creative Writing Programs

Is a master's in creative writing worth it?

A master's in creative writing can provide students with the skills and techniques needed to create various literary works. Graduates may apply their communication skills to other fields as well, including business and management. These programs can be challenging, but graduates often leave with a strong portfolio and a diverse skill set for the workforce.

What can I do with a master's in creative writing?

With a master's in creative writing, graduates can pursue careers in many fields. They may try becoming an author, journalist, or public relations specialist. They may also apply their skills to an adjacent profession like technical writing or copywriting.

Is creative writing a good career?

Creative writing can be a very good career, offering strong salary and growth potential. According to BLS data, writers earn a median annual salary of $63,200, more than $23,000 higher than the national median annual salary. The top 10% of professionals earn over $122,450 per year.

How much money can I make with a master's in creative writing?

According to the BLS, media and communications professionals earn a median annual salary of $59,230. Salaries for writers and editors can vary widely based on their experience, their publications, and their form of employment.

What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in creative writing?

According to the BLS occupational data, marketing managers make a median annual salary of $135,900. The top 10% in the field make more than $208,000 per year.

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