Today, creative writers have opportunities to write for various platforms. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the median salary for a writer in 2016 was $61,240. A degree in creative writing prepares students for work as fiction writers, script writers, content writers, and academics. Below, we've ranked the best online master's degree in English and creative writing programs, highlighting creative writing programs that are attractive academically and financially.
Best Online MFA in Creative Writing Programs:
- Harvard University - Cambridge, MA
- Lindenwood University - Saint Charles, MO
- Wilkes University - Wilkes-Barre, PA
- The University of Texas at El Paso - El Paso, TX
- National University - La Jolla, CA
The Best Online Master's in Communication Programs of 2019
|Cambridge, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 96%||
Harvard University degrees have high academic prestige. Earning a master's in creative writing online from the university's extension school requires in-depth study of the liberal arts, literature, and writing. Harvard ascribes to the belief that current academic ability is the best predictor of future success in the program. Thus, prospective students must register for and complete two graduate-level courses before submitting a formal application. If accepted, students then complete the degree's 10 remaining courses.
Harvard's online creative writing master's degree allows for customization according to each student's goals. In addition to core requirements like advanced fiction writing and development of a book-length thesis, students choose from a variety of literature and writing courses. Popular creative writing course options including writing the middle grade and young adult novel, writing crime fiction, and writing suspense fiction. Literature options include American crime fiction, science fiction, post-apocalyptic novels, and author- and era-focused courses.
Nearly all course components offer 100% online completion. To enhance the overall program experience; however, all students must come to campus for a one-week writer's residency and master class taught by a notable instructor. Students may remain on campus for an optional, additional two weeks to participate in an agents-and-editors weekend, two guest lectures, and a wrap-up session. Harvard allows students to take up to five years to complete all degree requirements. Graduates earn a master of liberal arts in extension studies: creative writing and literature, and can choose to participate in the Harvard Commencement ceremony held annually in May.
|Saint Charles, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Earning an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University requires the completion of 48 credits in writing craft courses, literature courses, and writing workshops. This truly flexible degree allows students to choose the delivery option that best fits their schedule and preferences: fully online, fully on-campus, or a combination of both. With no residency period required, online students never need to come to campus to complete their degree, but they can gain valuable real-world experience by serving as editorial assistants for the Lindenwood Review literary journal.
Lindenwood MFA students learn from a faculty composed of professional authors, journalists, and editors. Craft and literature courses offer a variety of genres and study focuses, including scriptwriting, longform narrative journalism, magical realism, LGBTQ+ fiction, flash fiction, and author-focused studies. If desired, students can choose an emphasis in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. Choosing an emphasis requires students to take 27 credits of emphasis-related courses and to complete their thesis in their chosen area. Students who elect not to take an emphasis can choose class and thesis genres freely.
An asynchronous delivery format allows students to complete course assignments throughout the week on their own schedule, without set login times. Lindenwood accepts MFA applications on a rolling basis. The selective admission process relies primarily on the merit of a 7-10 page creative writing sample and 1-2 page statement of purpose. Applicants must also supply transcripts and a resume for university admission. GRE scores and letters of recommendation are not required.
|Wilkes-Barre, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
Wilkes University offers two creative writing master's programs online: a master of arts and a master of fine arts. Since the writing program's founding in 2006, graduates and faculty have published more than 400 novels, articles, and short stories; produced more than 60 films and 90 plays; and established four new publishing companies and journals. These low-residency programs allow for online completion of most course components. Students meet on campus for an eight-day residency every six months, in June and January.
The MA program requires the completion of 30 credits, while the MFA program requires 48 credits. The 18 additional credits required for the MFA include the revision or reinvention of the MA capstone, one additional on-campus residency, and a semester-long, online or local internship in publishing or arts education. Each student explores the craft and literature of multiple genres through a set of core creative writing courses, but both MA's require a final project or thesis that adheres to a chosen emphasis area. Specialization options include creative nonfiction, fiction, playwriting, poetry, screenwriting, publishing, and making documentary films.
Students progress through the program in cohorts, allowing for close collaboration with peers as well as faculty and mentor writers. Wilkes accepts applications to the writing program on a rolling basis leading up to each January and June start date. Prospective students must submit a current resume, essay, official transcripts, and 15-25 page creative writing sample. Students interested in a graduate assistantship must submit an additional application and two letters of recommendation.
The University of Texas at El Paso
|El Paso, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 41%||
Home to one of the best online creative writing master's programs in the U.S., the University of Texas at El Paso also stands out as the only university in the world to offer a bilingual online MFA in creative writing. A department of award-winning, bilingual faculty provides students with the opportunity to complete the program by writing entirely in English, in Spanish, or a mix of each. Students can complete UTEP courses fully online, with an optional, low-residency excursion to popular European destinations like London, Paris, or Madrid available each summer.
The 48-credit curriculum includes 42 credits of literature courses, writing workshops, and electives, as well as six credits for thesis preparation. Students can expect to study both fiction and poetry in depth, with plenty of room to customize the degree plan according to specific writing interests. Workshop courses provide the option to examine popular writing styles including screenwriting, playwriting, and creative nonfiction. Literature courses represent multiple genres as well, including the study of children's literature, comics, short story form, literary translation, and writing about popular music. For the thesis requirement, all students produce a book-length manuscript of original fiction or poetry.
Prospective UTEP students must hold either a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited institution and submit a graduate application and official transcripts. This extremely competitive program also requires applicants to supply a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and a professional writing sample composed of 8-10 poems or 20 pages of fiction.
|La Jolla, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 42%||
Since its founding in 1971, National University has worked to provide accessible higher education opportunities to adult learners, both online and at more than 20 campuses in California and Nevada. Today, NU's online writing master's degree boasts more than 1,000 alumni. Thanks to military-friendly tuition discounts and scholarships, servicemembers and their dependents make up approximately 15% of the program's student population.
NU's master of fine arts in creative writing offers four areas of specialization and welcomes writers of genre fiction and young adult literature. The 58.5 quarter-credit curriculum builds student understanding of professional writing processes, principles of craft and composition, literary critique, and practical and theoretical models used for teaching and learning writing. All students participate in intensive eight-week workshops with peers and instructors. At the program's culmination, students work one-on-one with a faculty mentor to produce a publishable thesis in a specialization area: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or screenwriting.
All NU writing courses adhere to an asynchronous format, and students never need to come to campus to fulfill a residency requirement. Prospective students must meet university graduate admission guidelines, including a cumulative 2.5 GPA in undergraduate work. The writing program requires all applicants to provide a portfolio of either 20-30 pages of fiction or literary nonfiction, 10-20 pages of poetry, one act of a screenplay, or a collection of work in multiple formats. NU offers rolling admissions throughout the year and allows new students to start at the beginning of any given month.
Choosing a Program
WILL THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Creative writing programs strengthen students' writing skills using proven techniques. Many programs offer concentrations in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or screenwriting. Beyond basic writing skills, creative writing programs teach students about character development, plot structure, and the craft of editing. Students also learn about the writing industry and how to pursue careers as writers. Graduates have careers as authors, historians, screenwriters, journalists, and more.
DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, preferable in English or creative writing. However, work experience is not necessary. The best online master's degree in creative writing and English programs list prerequisites on their websites. Experience in the field is helpful, but students can apply immediately after obtaining their undergraduate degree.
HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT ONLINE PROGRAM FOR ME?
Research and preparation are key to finding the right online creative writing program. Applicants should thoroughly research institutions before applying to an English master's degree online program. On the department's website, students can find an overview of the program, including the curriculum, learning outcomes, tuition, and fees. Meet with an admissions counsellor for in-depth information and to ensure you meet the program's prerequisite requirements.
CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE MASTER'S IN ENGLISH AND CREATIVE WRITING?
Online master's in English programs are designed to be flexible and accessible for working students. Most programs allow students to complete coursework anywhere and anytime, as long as they have internet access, which is extremely beneficial for learners with personal and professional commitments. Most online degree programs require 15 to 20 hours of work per week, which is less time than in-person programs require.
What else can I expect from an online Master's in English and Creative Writing program?
An online master's in English and creative writing will include syllabi, assignments, projects, and discussions. Many online programs use discussion boards to help students interact, and students can speak to instructors through email, chat, or phone. Below, we outline common features of online English and creative writing programs.
CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN ENGLISH AND CREATIVE WRITING
|Concentration||Description||Careers this concentration prepares for|
|Nonfiction||Students learn to craft stories based on real-life people and events. They explore autobiographies, personal essays, and magazine writing. Learners also develop journalism skills, which prepare them to work for newspapers, magazines, and broadcast news.||Journalist, essayist|
|Fiction||Fiction writers create characters and stories influenced by their imaginations. The fiction concentration centers on the anatomy of storytelling. Students read fiction works by famed authors and create their own pieces.||Novelist, playwright|
|Screenwriting||Courses in this concentration are centered around film and video. Students dissect movies, documentaries, and television shows to learn the method behind screenwriting. Students also learn about scriptwriting for plays and web series and tackle genres such as comedy, romance, and science fiction.||Screenwriter, playwright|
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN ENGLISH AND CREATIVE WRITING
All master's degree in creative writing online programs require a certain number of credit hours. Required and optional courses vary by program, but below is a sample curriculum.
- Story and concept: This course delves into story development. Students create detailed outlines, plot arcs, and character sketches. Students also study fiction works from past and present and develop techniques to strengthen their literary effectiveness.
- Fiction fundamentals: Students learn how to effectively use imagery, symbolism, and tone. Students examine the key differences between fiction writing and other forms of creative writing, such as nonfiction, screenwriting and poetry.
- Graduate studies in literary theory: This course covers literary theory as it pertains to the human experience. Students explore ideologies that have shaped the world and how they have affected modern writing and critics interpretations of literary works.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN ENGLISH AND CREATIVE WRITING?
The length of an online master's degree in English and creative writing is determined by the credit hour requirements. Typically, an English master's degree online program takes two years to complete. Transfer credits and student pace can affect completion time.
Students in self-paced programs work asynchronously, completing assignments at their own pace. They may speak to the instructor if they have questions, but self-paced students complete the majority of the work by themselves. Online students often interact with instructors and peers through email and discussion forums. Many online programs use the cohort format, in which groups of students work together to complete assignments.
Accreditation for online master's in English and Creative Writing degrees
The primary difference between regional and national accreditation is the type of schools these agencies work with. National accreditation is reserved for vocational or trade schools, while regional accreditation is for public and private postsecondary institutions. Credits from regionally accredited institutions are transferable, and degrees from these schools are held in high esteem. However, regionally accredited schools can be costly. Six U.S. agencies oversee regional accreditation.
Agencies that monitor nationally accredited schools focus on programs and standards that prepare students for the workforce. Nationally accredited schools tend to be inexpensive, but they may not be widely recognized. These programs are reviewed every three to five years to monitor academic standards.
The U.S. Department of Education manages government funds given to public and private institutions throughout the country and oversees adherence to federal laws and regulations. The Department of Education works closely with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which handles accreditation policy and procedures. The CHEA has thousands of members from the postsecondary education community, who attend annual conferences and recommend accreditation policies. For a list of accredited institutions, visit the CHEA website.
Employment Outlook for Master's in English and Creative Writing Graduates
A bachelor's degree in English or creative writing is ideal for aspiring writers and authors. The best online master's in English and creative writing programs help students develop the skillset of an experienced writer, as they gain experience through projects and internships. The employment rate for graduates of English master's degree online programs is growing; graduates pursue careers in the communications, journalism, and writing industries.
|Specialty||Unemployment Rate for Experienced College Graduates (%)||Unemployment Rate for Graduate Degree Holders (%)|
|Advertising and Public Relations||6.1%||—|
|English Language and Literature||6.2%||3.9%|
|Composition and Speech||4.7%||—|
There are many writing disciplines, and creative writing graduates have a wealth of career options within the writing industry. The chart below details salary trends for copywriters, English teachers, journalists, and content managers.
|Job Title||Overall Median Salary||Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)||Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
|Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor||$45,945||$41,270||$46,262||$48,651|
MASTER'S IN ENGLISH AND CREATIVE WRITING CAREERS
Graduates of online master's degree in English and creative writing programs work in industries such as entertainment, media, and publishing. In entertainment, graduates can join a team of writers to create scripted series, movies, and commercials. Copywriters work as marketing and advertising executives. Graduates may also become full-time novelists or English teachers.
Authors create written works, such as essays, short stories, and graphic novels. Their work is published and can be found in bookstores and libraries.
Median Annual Salary $61,240
Projected Growth Rate 2%
- English Teacher (Postsecondary)
English teachers help students improve their reading, writing, and comprehension skills through the study of classic and modern literary works.
Median Annual Salary $45,867
Projected Growth Rate 1.6%
Screenwriters create scripts for web and television series. Their characters and plots are viewed by wide audiences.
Median Annual Salary $61,240
Projected Growth Rate 2%
Journalists create nonfiction articles for publications such as magazines and newspapers. They conduct interviews and research story developments.
Median Annual Salary $37,920
Projected Growth Rate 2%
Copywriters create engaging content for print and digital mediums. They work within the marketing department to promote a brand's products or initiatives.
Median Annual Salary $48,323
Projected Growth Rate 2%
Networking is vital in the writing industry. Writers can join professional organizations while they are in college or any time after graduation. Membership provides access to networking events, conferences, job boards, and job counseling. Professional organizations help writers negotiate fair wages and seek legal counsel during disputes. Below are a few well-known organizations.
Financing Your Online Master's in English and Creative Writing Program
The Department of Education provides loans, grants, and scholarships to help students finance graduate education. Students will need to complete the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to ensure they qualify for government funding. Special payment assistance programs are available for government workers and military personnel.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.