Bachelor’s in Writing Program Guide
Whether driven by the desire for a creative, technical, or business career, prospective college students interested in pursuing a bachelor's in writing have several majors to choose from according to their goals. Popular undergraduate writing degrees include:
BA in English, creative writing concentration
BA in English, technical/professional writing concentration
BS in technical communication
BS in professional writing
Each four-year program offers a slightly different curriculum, but all writing students can expect to study the craft in depth, hone practical skills, and enhance critical thinking abilities. Keep reading this guide to learn more about writing career options and degree-specific details.
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Related Programs That Might Interest You
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What You Can Do With a Bachelor's in Writing
Writing degrees provide an extremely versatile, interdisciplinary education. While graduates are certainly well-equipped to pursue creative endeavors and other traditional writing careers, professional opportunities also extend into other fields. Explore a few of your career options below.
Technical writers work on projects like manuals, textbooks, how-to guides, and academic journal articles and conduct research on their projects to ensure accuracy. They may also edit articles, checking for grammar, syntax, and diction that aligns with a specific project's style.
Median Annual Salary: $71,850*
Writers and Authors
This profession accounts for a writers working in all kinds of capacities, including fiction, nonfiction, travel, and freelance writers. Freelance writers often work from home, creating content for websites, blogs, and corporations on their own schedule.
Median Annual Salary: $62,170*
Public Relations Specialists
Working directly with public figures or corporations ensures a positive relationship between these figures and the public. Public relations specialists use their communication skills to craft press releases, speak with the media, and create content about the figures they represent.
Median Annual Salary: $60,000*
High School Teachers
High school teachers work with students in upper grade levels 9–12. Those with creative writing degrees primarily teach subjects like English, language arts, reading, and composition.
Median Annual Salary: $60,320*
Court reporters possess strong writing and listening skills, as they keep detailed records and reports of trials, depositions, and hearings. This career requires some specialized training, available in on-campus and online programs. These professionals may also transcribe captions for TV programs and news stations.
Median Annual Salary: $57,150*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
To explore even more professional options you can pursue after earning a writing degree, head over to our career guide for writing majors.
What to Expect From a Writing Program
The best online bachelor's degrees in writing include English programs, technical programs, and communications programs. Each one focuses on developing students' writing skills with particular goals in mind: entertainment, audience engagement, information, etc. The section below displays examples of course and concentration options available within a typical writing program.
Courses in a Bachelor's in Writing Program
The sample curriculum below constitutes just a few examples of the courses you might take while earning your bachelor's degree in writing. Actual courses and requirements may differ depending on the school you choose.
Most undergraduates in any major encounter a composition course during their studies, often required during the freshman year. This course provides foundational skills in essay writing, rhetoric, and textual analysis.
A course in fiction writing examines the elements of successful fiction and offers the opportunity for students to then apply these learned skills to craft works of original fiction. Many fiction writing courses include peer workshops that allow students to receive feedback on their work prior to revision.
A poetry class might simply include study of the craft of poetry, or may also include writing original poetry based on skills learned from studying the work of famous poets. Students may also workshop original work, practice different poetic forms, and craft a final portfolio of original poetry.
Many writing majors explore literature from around the world as part of their degree, including at least one course in American literature. This course may look specifically at literature from certain time periods in American history, or act as a broader survey course.
A course in technical writing covers the elements of writing and editing technical publications, including how-to manuals, informational guides, textbooks, and professional journals. This course often emphasizes skills in grammar and copy editing, as editing is a key duty for technical writers.
Interview With Heather E. Schwartz
Heather E. Schwartz
Heather E. Schwartz is an independent book producer, marketing consultant, and author based in upstate New York. Her authoring credits include branded titles for Disney, Sesame Street, Time for Kids, and the Smithsonian. She has also worked on projects for the Arthritis Foundation; Bridal Guide, Discovery Girls, and National Geographic Kids magazines; and NASA. She graduated from SUNY Potsdam in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in writing.
Why did you choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in writing? Did this field always interest you?
I was always interested in writing and wanted to be a professional writer. I didn't really know what kind of job opportunities I'd find, but I knew I wanted to write.
What would you say are some of the most crucial skills you gained in your bachelor's program?
We did a lot of writing, of course, so that was good practice, and we learned about different kinds of writing: essays, marketing and public relations, journalism, fiction, etc. We also critiqued each other's work, which was some practice in editing.
What was the job search like after you earned your degree? Did you feel prepared to make the transition from school to the workplace?
During my senior year, I did an internship at a daily newspaper in my college town. That really helped with the transition because, in a sense, I was already in the workforce. It was still a winding road, however. I knew that, ultimately, I didn't want to work at a newspaper, so after graduation I didn't pursue a job in that field.
After about a year of temp jobs, I went back to the same newspaper where I did my internship and worked full time for a year. It was a fantastic experience and I was so glad I did it, even though I still didn't want to work in newspapers. I learned so much about how to be a professional writer by working there.
Out of your various types of writing experience (newspapers, magazines, and children's books), which do you prefer, and why?
It's hard to pick just one! Newspapers taught me a lot about working to deadline, interviewing sources, editing, and more. I loved the fast pace of each day. I got a solid foundation of experience there and was lucky enough to have an editor who was a real mentor to me.
I enjoyed magazines mainly because, at one particular national magazine, I loved the team of editors I worked with and I loved the variety in my job. I wrote, but also edited and produced pages, which meant planning content and coordinating photo shoots.
I built on my experiences at newspapers and magazines to get freelance work writing children's books for educational publishers. It's fun because I always wanted to write for children, and the topics are really interesting. I work on assignment, so it's a great way to have some stability as a freelancer.
How has your experience as a writer informed your experience in book producing?
Throughout my career, I've always assessed the market, pitched ideas, created artwork, collaborated with artists, and worked with publishers and editors to develop successful projects. I enjoy every aspect of creating books and decided to move into book producing because I realized, at this point, I'm already doing it!
What are some changes you'd like to see in the typical curriculum for a bachelor's program in writing?
I can't say I'm completely familiar with the curriculum currently being offered. However, I do remember that one of my favorite courses was in public relations. It was taught by the person who handled public relations for the college, and it felt very applicable to the real world. We wrote press releases and scripts for promotional videos and worked on other assignments that taught me about writing in the real world.
What advice would you give to students considering earning a bachelor's in writing?
It's a great degree to pursue if you love writing! Naturally, it's very valuable if you want to write professionally, even if you don't know exactly what you want to do. It can prepare you for work in newspapers, marketing, public relations, publishing, and other writing-related fields, and it's also useful to have strong writing skills for work in other fields, too.
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How to Choose a Bachelor's in Writing Program
Choosing a college program is a highly personal decision based on your own unique goals, needs, and preferences. That said, every prospective writing student can benefit from considering the five factors listed below.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, bachelor's degrees in writing come in many forms. Though an English degree, featuring courses in literature, critical theory, and fiction writing, might be ideal for the aspiring novelist, it might not serve the needs of someone hoping to work in technical communication. Look for programs with learning outcomes that reflect your goals.
Faculty Experience and Qualifications
A great teacher can turn a course into a valuable experience that stays with you long after graduation. Locate the department faculty webpage of each school on your list to examine faculty qualifications. In a writing program, you want to learn from teachers with terminal degrees and published works.
Look over the major core requirements of each prospective program to see what types of writing courses are available. Do they allow for workshop opportunities with peers? Are assignments smaller, exercise-based work or longer-form pieces? Think about what you want out of your writing classes and seek out a corresponding degree plan.
Another important factor to consider when choosing a college program is deciding whether or not you'd like to gain some professional experience during school. Undergraduate writing programs rarely require internships to graduate, but they may be available as an elective option for students interested in the opportunity.
Schools gain accreditation by voluntarily submitting to third-party evaluation of their budgets, curriculum, faculty qualifications, student services, and other operational factors. Accreditation acts as a quality guarantee and helps ensures the transferability of your undergraduate credits. Learn more from the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Bachelor's in Writing Program Admissions
In the sections below, we take a look at several common prerequisites for undergraduate writing programs and discuss a typical application process and timeline. Note that specific admission requirements may vary depending on the school or program you pursue.
High School Coursework: Colleges expect freshman applicants to submit a high school transcript showing proof of graduation and successful completion of core classes. The typical credits required for college admission include four years of English, three years of math, and 2-3 years of foreign language, science, and social studies/history.
Minimum GPA: Most colleges require incoming freshman to possess a 3.0 minimum high school GPA. During evaluation, colleges may disregard your overall GPA and focus on your grades in core classes. Oftentimes, your performance in math or English predicts potential for success in college coursework better than your performance in electives or sports.
Writing Skills: Prospective college students interested in a writing degree should already possess high-level competencies in grammar and composition. This prerequisite might not appear as an explicit requirement on an admissions page, but you should anticipate close evaluation of your personal essay and any other written material supplied in your application.
How to Apply
Most colleges require incoming freshman to provide either ACT or SAT test scores with their application. Some colleges have a specific preference for one test over another. Others leave the choice up to the applicant. See the "Timeline" section below for more information about test taking.
All colleges require applicants to provide official transcripts detailing prior education. Your high school transcript shows proof of graduation, what courses you completed, and the grades you achieved. If you took any dual-credit college courses while in high school, make sure you provide an official college transcript, too.
Letters of Recommendation
Not every college requires freshman applicants to supply letters of recommendation, but some do. Typically written by teachers, administrators, mentors, or other (nonrelated) authority figures, these letters vouch for your skills, abilities, and likelihood to succeed in your chosen school or program. A great letter of recommendation can help set you apart from your peers.
The college application process is an exciting and stressful time. Use the following guidelines to help prepare accordingly.
If you plan to begin college the semester after you graduate from high school, your application timeline should start early. Schedule your first attempt at the ACT and/or SAT in your junior year. This allows you enough time to retake the exams once, twice, or even three times if you receive unsatisfactory results.
Once you decide which colleges you want to apply to, make careful note of each application deadline. These dates may vary from school to school. Submit your application as early as possible to avoid the pressure of a last-minute scramble and to allow time for processing errors, lost mail, or other delays. If your prospective institution requests letters of recommendation, reach out with requests well in advance of the application deadline. Give your recommenders at least a month's notice.
Resources for Bachelor's in Writing Students
Association of Writers and Writing Programs
Since its founding in 1967, nonprofit AWP has worked to serve writers, teachers, students, and readers by fostering literary achievement and promoting writing as an essential part of education. AWP represents more than 50,000 writers and 500 collegiate creative writing programs. Individual members receive multiple benefits, including access to an exclusive job board.
Purdue University Online Writing Lab
The OWL at Purdue University is a free online resource used by students and writers around the world. College students commonly make use of the OWL's comprehensive guides on research and citation. Topics covered include conducting research, citing sources, and writing in a variety of styles: APA, MLA, Chicago, IEEE, AMA, and ASA.
A number of colleges and universities publish annual or quarterly literary magazines featuring work from students and established writers. Northwestern University's magazine, TriQuarterly, stands out for its free, open-access online presence. Undergraduate writing students can browse TriQuarterly issues for entertainment, inspiration, and study of the craft.
Poets & Writers
Best known for its bimonthly magazine publication, P&W is the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. dedicated to serving creative writers. On the P&W website, college students can read select articles from the current magazine issue, browse a database of writing contests, and explore comprehensive publishing guides.
WritersDigest.com is a one-stop online resource for writers who are serious about their craft. Writing prompts and articles provide a rich source of inspiration and information ideal for creative writing students. Site visitors can also browse contest opportunities, enroll in online workshops, and connect with others in the Writer's Digest forum.
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