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Earning A Creative Writing Degree: All About A Bachelor’s In Creative Writing

Sheryl Grey

Updated: Aug 24, 2023, 11:05am

Earning A Creative Writing Degree: All About A Bachelor’s In Creative Writing

When thinking about creative writing, you may recall Emily Dickinson writing evocative poems, Nicholas Sparks penning love stories or Ernest Hemingway tapping away on an old typewriter. While these are all creative writers at work, not all professionals in the field are authors; there are other career options for you if you love writing and want to make it your career.

Though not always required, many writing jobs call for a bachelor’s degree. From writing novels to reporting news stories, a creative writing degree equips you with strong writing and communication skills to prepare you for a fulfilling, imaginative career.

This article discusses bachelor’s degrees in creative writing, admission requirements, common courses and job options. Read on to learn how a creative writing degree prepares you for a writing career.

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What Is a Creative Writing Degree?

A creative writing degree teaches you the techniques behind many writing projects, including fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, biographies and poems.

A bachelor’s degree in creative writing focuses on the principles of effective storytelling, writing for different genres and developing believable characters. You hone essential skills through giving and receiving feedback from peers and instructors, preparing you for many jobs requiring strong writing skills.

A bachelor’s degree in creative writing requires about 120 credits and takes four years of full-time study to complete. Accelerated programs may take less time.

Admission requirements for a bachelor’s in creative writing typically align with the university’s general admission requirements and include a completed application, transcripts from previous coursework and English proficiency. Because each school is different, these requirements may vary.

Specializations for Creative Writing Majors

Many creative writing programs offer areas of concentration, which allow you to focus your studies. Offerings vary by program, but below are a few typical specializations for students pursuing creative writing degrees.

This concentration covers all aspects of fiction writing, including character development, storytelling, plot development, narrative voice, various genres, publishing techniques and the mechanics of fiction writing. It prepares you to write engaging stories and bring them to life.

A nonfiction concentration allows you to explore many types of nonfiction writing, including autobiography, travel writing and magazine writing. It also touches on publishing technologies and teaches you how to use research and reflection to create stories that resonate with readers.

With a poetry concentration, you learn to tap into your imagination to write work that creates engaging imagery and inspires others. Coursework includes poetry writing workshops where you and other students share your work for feedback and support.


A screenwriting concentration prepares you to write for Hollywood productions, such as television shows, documentaries, short films and movies. With this concentration, you learn about story structure, character development and visual storytelling.

Common Courses in a Creative Writing Degree

Introduction to creative writing.

This course covers the essential mechanics of creative writing, such as point of view, setting, dialogue, imagery, scene development and characterization. As a student in this class, you can expect to read and critique your peers’ work and get feedback on your own.

Writing with Digital Media

Since digital media has become an essential medium for disseminating information, no creative writing program would be complete without a digital media course. This course covers writing and publishing across digital media formats and how to use audience, purpose and context in your writing.

Introduction to Screen and TV Writing

If you are interested in working as a screenwriter for films or television, this course helps get you started. It provides an overview of narrative screenwriting, the history and development of screenwriting, and storytelling principles used in writing for film and television.

Introduction to the Writing of Creative Nonfiction

Creative writing students need to know how to write both nonfiction and fiction. In this course, you learn the mechanics of writing original nonfiction while reading and studying contemporary nonfiction.

Fiction Writing Workshop

In this course, students explore writing different types of fiction pieces. They then share their work with each other and engage in discussion and group commentary.

Creative Writing Degree vs. English Degree: What’s the Difference?

While there are overlapping subjects in the English and creative writing disciplines, these degrees are a bit different.

An English bachelor’s degree focuses on both writing and literary studies. In this major, learners study various types of writing, such as creative, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, digital and professional writing. They also explore literature and build analytical, editorial and cultural literacy skills. It’s common for programs to offer English concentrations such as literature or creative writing.

A creative writing degree more narrowly hones students’ writing skills rather than focusing on literary subjects. This degree prepares learners for careers as screenwriters, novelists, journalists, poets and other writing professionals.

If you know you want to work in a creative writing career , a creative writing degree may be a good fit. If you prefer a broader degree that includes a more in-depth study of literature and literary theory in addition to writing, an English degree may be a better option.

What Can You Do With a Creative Writing Degree?

Below are a few popular jobs you can pursue with a creative writing degree. We sourced salary data for this section from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Payscale .

Writer or Author

Median Annual Salary: $73,150 Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree; high school diploma sometimes acceptable Job Overview: The roles of authors and writers vary depending on the type of writing they do. They may write content for various mediums, such as books, magazines, advertisements, blogs, films, television programs, biographies or speeches. Writers often work closely with editors, advertising agencies and other stakeholders to create pieces for print or digital publication. Some writers are freelancers who work with multiple clients.

Median Annual Salary: $73,080 Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree Job Overview: Editors review and revise written content to ensure clarity, concision and accuracy. They must have excellent grammar and proofreading skills. These professionals may also plan and develop story ideas and collaborate with writers to ensure high-quality final products. Editors often work for magazines, book publishers, advertising firms and television broadcasters.

Median Annual Salary: $55,960 Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism or a related field Job Overview: Journalists write stories about current events and newsworthy issues to inform the public. Successful journalists have strong interviewing and investigative skills. They may work for broadcast news organizations, newspapers, magazines, or other print or digital publications. Some journalists are freelancers who write for multiple publications, and some work as columnists, news anchors or news correspondents.

Average Annual Salary: Around $57,300 Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree; high school diploma sometimes acceptable Job Overview: Copywriters are persuasive marketing writers who craft copy that advertises or encourages readers to take a specific action, such as purchasing a product or signing up for a newsletter. These professionals often write advertisements, company slogans or taglines, website copy and marketing emails. Copywriters commonly work for advertising agencies or marketing departments; some are freelancers.


Average Annual Salary: Around $71,000 Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree; high school diploma sometimes acceptable Job Overview: Screenwriters , sometimes called script writers, write, revise and test scripts for television shows, commercials and films. These scripts may be original stories or stories based on books. Screenwriters need a firm grasp of dialogue and character development.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About a Creative Writing Degree

How many years does it take to get a creative writing degree.

A bachelor’s in creative writing typically requires 120 credits and takes four years to complete. Your degree may take longer if you study part time, and accelerated programs may allow you to complete your degree faster.

How much do creative writers make?

Salaries for creative writers vary drastically depending on their job title. For example, a best-selling author earns much more than a small-town newspaper journalist. According to the BLS, writers made a median annual salary of $73,150 as of May 2022.

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Sheryl Grey is a freelance writer who specializes in creating content related to education, aging and senior living, and real estate. She is also a copywriter who helps businesses grow through expert website copywriting, branding and content creation. Sheryl holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Indiana University South Bend, and she received her teacher certification training through Bethel University’s Transition to Teaching program.

is creative writing a bad major

Is a Creative Writing Degree Worth It? Let’s Get Into It.

is creative writing a bad major

In my day—by which I mean the early 2000s—a creative writing degree was considered one of the less practical academic pursuits, only a little more reasonable than a philosophy degree and a theatre arts degree (which, incidentally, is what I have).

These days, we have a bit more appreciation for what a person can do with some well-rounded creative writing skills. Such a person can write novels and poetry, sure, but they can also compose speeches for politicians, create written content to refresh a major corporation’s brand, and craft compelling ad copy.

There’s no question about it. Creative writing is a skill that earns , depending on how you use it.

But as is the case in a lot of modern industries, we’re starting to see that a degree doesn’t carry the weight it used to. And not having a degree isn’t always a barrier to entry.

So where does that leave aspiring writers? Should you bother to pursue a creative writing degree? If so, what should you be trying to get out of it?

We’re about to go over all the ins and outs of this educational path. We’ll talk about:

  • The advantages of pursuing a degree in creative writing
  • The different types of creative writing programs
  • How to choose the program that’s best for you
  • How creative writing is taught
  • The career opportunities that come with a creative writing degree

Let’s start by looking at the perks.

Benefits of Pursuing a Creative Writing Degree

A smiling graduate in a cap and gown holds out a rolled-up diploma.

I’m about to list the four biggest benefits of attending a creative writing program. But I want to be clear about something:

Every one of these perks is something you can also get without a degree in creative writing.

I don’t say that to discourage you from taking this path. This might still be the best next step for your career. See, the biggest difference between getting a formal education and DIY-ing one isn’t what you learn but how you learn it.

That’s why we’re not just looking at what these four benefits are but also how you achieve them in a creative writing program.

Develop Strong Writing Skills

This is the reason most creative writing students pursue a degree. A good program offers a range of courses to help you sharpen your skills, faculty members who have real-life experience with the publishing industry, and access to visiting writers who can offer additional inspiration and insight .

Most programs incorporate writing workshops where you and your fellow students share and give feedback on your work, all under the guidance of a professor. Many universities also put out literary journals, giving students the opportunity to participate in the publishing process .

And of course, enrolling in a creative writing program ensures that you’ll be constantly writing , which is the best way to sharpen your skills.

Explore Diverse Genres and Styles

A self-guided learner has full authority to choose which areas of writing and literature they’ll explore. This is mostly a good thing, but the benefit of pursuing a creative writing degree is that your professors will see to it that you get familiar with a range of formats, genres , and styles .

This is especially true in undergraduate creative writing programs. Expect to read and analyze a wide spectrum of literature, from ancient epic poems to modern mainstream novels.

Build Your Network

This is such a notable perk that many of my friends who went to graduate school for screenwriting highlight this as the number one benefit.

Of course, you can build a network of peers and mentors without shelling out a ton of money for a formal education. But in a creative writing program, you spend all your time with other writers. You read each other’s work, struggle through the same coursework, and connect on a personal level.

Plus, if you happen to go to a school with a robust alumni network, you might find it easier to connect with those in your industry who share your alma mater after you graduate.

Widen Career Options

There are plenty of writers who don’t have a degree in creative writing—or don’t have a degree at all —who are making a decent living off of their words.

Nevertheless, a formal education can offer a wider range of options. It will give you a better shot with employers who place high value on college degrees or want to know that you have specialized knowledge regarding a specific type of writing.

And if you think you might enjoy teaching creative writing, a degree is a must. 

Types of Creative Writing Degrees

A person works on a laptop at a table on the sidewalk outside of a café.

Intrigued? Then let’s explore your options more in depth.

There are several different types of creative writing degrees you can pursue, each with a slightly different focus and different opportunities once you leave school to practice your craft in the real world.

We’ll break this down one by one.

Undergraduate Degrees

College students sit in an auditorium.

It typically takes four years to complete an undergraduate creative writing program, though the timeline can be longer or shorter depending on your schedule and any credits you’ve already earned and transferred over.

We’re covering some general creative writing degrees available at the undergraduate level, but I highly recommend doing additional research. There are several more specific degrees that zero in on a particular aspect of writing, like a Bachelor of Arts in Communication or Journalism.

If you have a clear-cut vision for your writing career, start there and work backward to find the degree that makes sense for you. If you only know that you want to be writing one way or another, start by looking at these three options:

Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Creative Writing

When you pursue a Bachelor of Arts, you can expect to get a well-rounded education that includes writing instruction as well as a balanced emphasis on the sciences and humanities.

It’s a liberal arts degree, basically, and it’s the most common choice for students seeking a creative writing education. 

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Creative Writing

BFA programs are much rarer than BA programs, but it’s worth considering one if you want an education that puts a heavy emphasis on the “arts” part.

This type of program focuses less on sciences and humanities. It often includes hands-on writing workshops (more on those in a bit) and is favored by students who fully intend to become authors, playwrights, screenwriters, or poets.

Bachelor of Science (BS) in Writing

If you think you might enjoy applying your creative writing skills to something more scientific or analytical, a BS might be the best option for you.

This is a popular option for students who see themselves getting into technical writing, cultural studies, or communication.

Graduate Degrees

A group of smiling people sit around a table in a meeting room, surrounded by coffee cups and laptops.

Postgraduate education—or grad school, as the cool kids call it—comes after you’ve earned an undergraduate degree. The most common reasons to seek out a graduate degree in creative writing include:

  • You think you might like to teach creative writing at the college level one day
  • You earned an undergraduate degree in a different field and now you want to study writing
  • You just really want to go deep on this subject

Just as with undergrad degrees, there are highly specific grad programs you can explore. Or you can dive into one of these:

Master of Arts (MA) in Creative Writing

While an MA program doesn’t have the humanities and sciences components of a BA program, it still maintains a balance between participating in the arts and observing them. 

That is to say, you’ll do a ton of writing in this program, but you’ll also read and analyze a fair amount of literature.

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing

MFA programs tend to be super hands-on, with workshops in which students share and give feedback on each other’s writing. Over the course of the program, you’ll complete a book-length work like a novel or poetry collection.

You also might find that you need more credits to earn an MFA degree than an MA in creative writing. 

PhD in Creative Writing

Now you’re just stalling. Write your book already.

I’m kidding. A PhD is a perfectly reasonable option if you want to study literature and creative writing in great depth. Most students who take their writing education this far are also planning to build a career in academia in addition to being a published author.

PhD programs are extremely rigorous, can last four years, and conclude with a dissertation project.

Writing Workshops vs. Writing Courses

A professor stands at the front of an auditorium, lecturing creative writing students.

At this point, we should probably discuss the difference between writing courses and workshops in an academic setting. You’ll find both in many programs, but the balance between these two educational experiences will depend on which type of creative writing degree you pursue.

It will also influence your entire learning experience.

What Makes a Course a Course?

A creative writing course is exactly what you think of when you imagine any class in a formal education setting.

In a course, a professor lectures on specific topics, assigns projects, and grades students on their performance. There may be class discussions and even opportunities for students to share and engage with each others’ writing. But the overall structure of a course focuses on conveying information.

What Makes a Workshop a Workshop?

A creative writing workshop is more hands-on. While the professor will share insights and guide discussions, the primary purpose of a workshop is to help students refine their craft. They share their work and give each other feedback.

You see much more of this learning style in BFA and MFA programs, which put greater emphasis on honing creative skills. If you want your writing education to include analyzing literature or studying the business end of publishing, you’ll probably want to look into more course-heavy BA or MA programs.  

Renowned Creative Writing Programs

A person sitting at a computer smiles and gives a thumbs up.

This is usually when a person wants to know where they should go to get these degrees. What are the best creative writing programs out there?

Really, the best program is the one that fits you. Reputation is just one of many factors you should consider when you decide where to pursue a degree in creative writing. 

That said, it’s always a good move to know the respected institutions in your field. It helps you sound informed at cocktail parties. To that end, here are some of the most revered schools in the world of creative writing (in the U.S., anyway):

  • The Iowa Writers’ Workshop
  • Brown University
  • Columbia University
  • Duke University
  • Emory University
  • Mizzou (Journalism)
  • Northwestern University

Choosing the Right Creative Writing Program

A person stares at laptop, brow furrowed.

If prestige shouldn’t be a top consideration when deciding where to earn a degree in creative writing, what should you prioritize?

Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you research your options:

Career goals - Do you want a program that’s going to prepare you for a job in marketing that pays the bills while you write poetry on the side? Do you want to become a globe-trotting journalist or a high-earning technical writer?

Decide what will be the best degree for you, then zero in on the schools that excel in that area of study.

And don’t forget to consider genre! If you want to earn an MFA but are interested in commercial fiction writing, make sure you find a program that matches your goals. Literary fiction tends to get all the love in higher education.

Faculty - Research who you’ll be learning from. Do they seem like the right folks to guide you on your professional journey?

Curriculum - Learn everything you can about a school’s course options and creative writing majors before you commit. Will you be able to focus on the area of writing that matters most to you? Will the skills you learn help you do fun things in the real world like eat and pay rent?

Location - There are accredited creative writing programs that are entirely online. However, many of your best options will be in-person or low residency . Not only is the location relevant for practical reasons—you have to be able to get there—it can also influence how much you pay to go. 

If you attend a state school in your own state, for example, you can expect to pay less than the out-of-state students.

Results - Do a little digging to find out what graduates say about their experience in the program. What did they like about it? What didn’t they like? Would they say it was worth it? What are they doing with their creative writing degree now?

Cost - You’re probably way ahead of me here, but I’ll mention it, anyway. The less you pay for a degree in creative writing, the greater your return on investment will be. Look at tuition costs, possible scholarships, out-of-state versus in-state expenses, and the local cost of living.

Career Opportunities with a Creative Writing Degree

Two people shake hands over a desk after a job interview.

Maybe you decided long ago that you definitely want to go to college. Maybe for you, the question isn’t whether you want a degree at all but whether a degree in creative writing is a good use of your college fund.

In that case, we should talk career opportunities. What exactly can you do with a creative writing degree?

A lot, as it turns out. In fact, we have this ridiculously long list of jobs that require strong creative writing skills. You can follow the link to explore them in depth, but here’s a quick sample of what’s in there:

  • Proofreader
  • Content writer
  • Technical writer
  • Social media writer
  • Screenwriter
  • Speechwriter
  • Literary agent
  • Brand strategist
  • Corporate communications specialist

That’s really only scratching the surface, and it doesn’t even touch on the ways your writing skills might serve you in less creative professions. I know multiple lawyers with a creative writing degree they credit for making them significantly better at drafting legal arguments. (On the flip side, an alarming number of lawyers become screenwriters or novelists.)

The important thing is to consider different creative writing majors carefully. Between the different schools, degrees, and areas of concentration, you’ve got lots of options and plenty of opportunities to select the education path that leads to your ideal writing career.

Whatever You Do, Keep Learning

A screenshot of the Story Craft Café homepage with a post reading 'I beleaf in you."

Only you can decide if a creative writing degree is the right move for you. Whether you go for it or not, remember that continuous learning is the best thing you can do to ensure a successful and fulfilling writing career.

Keep reading work that inspires you. Build and nurture your writer network. Proactively seek out workshops, seminars, conferences , books, articles… anything you can get your hands on that will help you sharpen your skills.

And while I wouldn’t claim it’s a one-to-one replacement for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, remember that Dabble is always here for you with a shocking amount of free educational resources and a supportive community in the Story Craft Café .

Peruse the hundreds of articles, templates, and worksheets in DabbleU . Subscribe to our newsletter for weekly guidance delivered straight to your inbox. Download this free, 100-page ebook walking you through the entire novel-writing process.

Even if you need a little more time to decide if you want a degree in creative writing, you can start boosting your skills now.

So what are you waiting for?

Abi Wurdeman is the author of Cross-Section of a Human Heart: A Memoir of Early Adulthood, as well as the novella, Holiday Gifts for Insufferable People. She also writes for film and television with her brother and writing partner, Phil Wurdeman. On occasion, Abi pretends to be a poet. One of her poems is (legally) stamped into a sidewalk in Santa Clarita, California. When she’s not writing, Abi is most likely hiking, reading, or texting her mother pictures of her houseplants to ask why they look like that.


is creative writing a bad major


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Is A Creative Writing Degree Worth Your Time (And Money)?

  • by Hannah Collins
  • March 20, 2017

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I got my Creative Writing degree by accident. My college, in the UK, was unusual in requiring first-year students to pick an additional subject in their first year – partly to widen their interests, and partly as an escape route if their first choice wasn’t everything they hoped . My major was Fine Art, so naturally I scanned down the list of related arts subjects that A) I was vaguely competent in and B) didn’t clash with anything else on my timetable. Out of everything, Creative Writing seemed the best answer. I figured it would be fun distraction from the studio during the first year of my degree. Little was I to know that I’d be graduating with both subjects emblazoned on my degree certificate.

For most people, a Creative Writing degree isn’t something you sleepily sign up to like I did. Since you’re reading this article, you’re obviously thinking a lot harder about the pros and cons than I ever did. I can tell you straight off the bat that a degree is not an iron-clad guarantee of career success, or even enhancement, nor an automatic ticket to fame and fortune as a writer.

That’s not to say that a Creative Writing degree won’t help your career (especially if you’ll need to pitch for work, like a ghost or travel writer ), but it’s far from a sure thing. Really, the best question isn’t where a Creative Writing degree can take you next , but what it can do for your craft and method.

To help you with this all-important decision, I’ll take you through the pros and cons, as well as some alternative paths that may meet your needs just as well (if not better).

Pros of a Creative Writing degree

1. you’ll be part of a community of writers.

Half (or more) of the appeal of college is socialization. Even if you study part-time; seminars, lectures, group study and extracurricular activities will keep you busy both socially and intellectually. Being regularly entrenched in a fertile learning environment with so many other like-minded people can develop and grow your skills – both writerly and socially – exponentially. You’ll encounter different people with vastly different experiences, tastes, and writing styles to you, and you’ll find unexpected sources influencing and evolving your work.

You’ll also be networking almost constantly, and without the usual unpleasant effort of finding a suitable event. This may sound trivial, but you’ll be learning alongside the influential writers, editors, agents, and reviewers of the future – people who are only going to grow in influence as time wears on. While there’s no guarantee you’ll meet the next huge publisher, you may well form a relationship that will benefit you down the line. Even passing acquaintance makes you a more known quantity when someone is checking manuscripts or organizing a literary fair down the line. And all that’s before the opportunities you’ll have to write for college newspapers, literary collections, and reading events.

2. You’ll be given regular feedback on your work

Criticism can be double-edged sword, but we’ll just focus on the positive side, for now. Unless you already have a bank of reliable and relatively unbiased alpha and beta readers at your disposal, it’s likely that, beyond school teachers, you’ve been relying on family and friends for feedback. The problem with that is that, no matter how much they swear to be as honest as possible, they’re going to be far more inclined to pull their punches when your work really needs beating into shape.

Now, there will be some in your seminars or critique groups who may show you similar kindness, but there will certainly be others who won’t – for better or worse. The thin-skinned may find this a rough ride, but they’ll also find that it almost unavoidably toughens them up. As well as your peers, you’ll of course have the opportunity to pick the brain of your tutors and lecturers, who can sometimes offer counsel worth the steep price of admission by itself.

You’ll also be asked to critique and evaluate the work of others, which not only sharpens your own skills and powers of observation, but will help you define your personal brand .

3. You’ll read. A lot

Bookworms, rejoice! It goes without saying that the key to great writing is reading great writing. A Creative Writing degree will have you reading for study as well as just pleasure, and reading a lot of things you might not normally choose.

A less obvious benefit is that you’ll also read a lot of poor-quality and early work from other writers. Nothing will help you catch lazy decisions, easy clichés, and damaging writing devices quicker than looking out for them in the work of others. Plus, seeing someone else’s work go from first-draft mess to fourth-draft promise will reassure you that your own early efforts can be redeemed.

4. You’ll also write. A lot

It seems almost redundant to say this, but doing a Creative Writing degree will have you doing, well, a lot of creative writing. Probably a good 1000+ words per week. Yes, it can be draining , but writing, like any other skill, needs a lot of practice, and you’ll certainly get that.

5.  You’ll learn discipline

The rigorous structure of education – whether full or part-time – can be ideal for those of us who thrive within that kind of environment, and you might be surprised to find yourself in that category. Actively receiving feedback, week after week, incentivizes good writing behavior, and having others depend on you for the same will hone your study of, and appreciation for, the craft.

Cons of a Creative Writing degree

1.  college is expensive.

Let’s talk about the gauche subject of money, shall we? America has both the most sought-after and most expensive colleges in the world, ranging at the time of writing between about $11,000 and about $45,000, depending on the length of the course and whether you need bed and board while you study. For many of us who are less financially fortunate, this changes the question from, ‘Should I get a degree?’ to ‘Is it really worth me getting a degree?’

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, there’s no absolute guarantee that pouring your hard-earned savings into a costly course will yield tangible results, and if money is your biggest barrier, then you may want to consider the cheaper alternatives abroad (particularly Canada), or the other options I’ll be sharing soon.

2. Not all the feedback you receive will be useful or constructive

Remember that double-edged sword? Having your work regularly scrutinized can be hugely beneficial, but bear in mind that you’ll be getting a mixed bag each week. We creative people tend to also be a little precious with our work, so turning in something you’re proud of only to have it harshly savaged by your class in an unfriendly (possibly caffeine-deprived) attack can be hard to take, especially if your creative writing journey is in its infancy. The worst part is they might all be wrong, too, as sometimes the pressure of having to contribute something to the class can induce unnecessary opinions.

3. You might not be suited to college

We all learn differently and flourish in different environments. I started my Fine Art degree with a class of about 35—40. By graduation, that group had been whittled down to under 30. College isn’t for everyone, and I don’t mean that those people are in any way stupider or less motivated. The intensive, results-driven, traditional academic system doesn’t work for everyone.

4. The pressure to succeed could make or break you

This goes back to harsh critiquing and the college environment not being everyone’s cup of tea. The students that dropped out of my Fine Art course did so for many different reasons. Some felt they’d picked the wrong course, or even the wrong college. Some felt homesick. Others sadly crumbled under the pressure – which can feel substantial. A lot of that pressure comes from your tutors pushing you to succeed (sometimes to their definition of success), but a lot of it can come from yourself, which is far trickier to deal with.

5. Creative Writing may not be the best subject for your creative writing

Creative writing can be a beneficial degree for writers, but it’s often best as an accompaniment to another subject. It’s possible that the wider knowledge of a Literature degree, the expanded knowledge base of a History or Law degree, the non-fiction applications of a Journalism degree, or even the technical thinking of an Engineering degree will benefit your work more. Before settling on a Creative Writing degree as default, ask yourself what your writing (and your life) really needs.


There may have been a time when a college education was not only highly affordable, but reliably opened doors to well-paid and suitable jobs. Sadly, that’s just not the case anymore. Happily, there’s also more in the way of alternative (and cheaper) educational paths than ever before. To ensure you’re making a totally informed decision, it wouldn’t hurt to consider the other options available to you, such as:

  • Joining a creative writing group ,
  • Starting a creative writing group,
  • Enrolling in a community college course,
  • Getting a Writing Certificate ,
  • Taking an online class ,
  • Joining a low-residency creative writing program ,
  • Starting a blog or becoming a journalist (learn on your feet!)

To degree or not to degree

It can be just as hard to decide against pursuing a degree as it is to start one. If you feel that something is holding you back from reaching your full potential as a writer, there’s a lot to be said for, well, just being a writer. Read a lot of books. Start a blog. Go out and experience the world. Meet new people. And write – as much as possible. If you’re still feeling stuck in a rut, maybe a degree – or one of the alternatives – could help you.

Ultimately, you get out of a degree what you put into it. Do thorough research, visit as many campuses as you can, listen to what others have to say about certain courses and/or tutors, and – most importantly – figure out exactly what you want.

If you’re committed to improving as a writer, a Creative Writing degree is one of the best places to do so. If you’re not, all you’re really getting is a really expensive piece of paper. Of course, the best way to find out more is to ask those who know. If you have a Creative Writing degree, are currently studying for one, or just want to find out what they’re like, let me know in the comments.

For more advice on honing your writing as part of a group, check out Why Joining A Writing Group May Be The Best Thing You Do All Year , or for a choice of non-college classes, try 10 Online Creative Writing Courses For Every Kind Of Writer .

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is creative writing a bad major

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Hannah Collins

Hannah Collins

4 thoughts on “is a creative writing degree worth your time (and money)”.

is creative writing a bad major

As you said, a Creative Writing degree is no guarantee of success as a writer. But, here in the States, no degree is guarantee of anything, including employment in a degree field. I have friends with degrees that don’t come close to the jobs they have. With the exception of Law and Medicine, I don’t think there is a degree program (especially at what we call the undergrad level) that really prepares a student for a job in any particular area better than any other degree program. That is, Bachelor’s Degrees are all pretty much the same.

That said, I’m now in graduate school pursuing a Master’s Degree in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing/Fiction. It will allow me to teach, should I need or desire to go that route, or to write professionally (by virtue of the demands it makes on clarity and honing craft). Most of the writers I admire have Master’s degrees either in English or in Fine Arts/Creative Writing. Does that mean I’ll automatically make a spot beside them when I graduate? No. But, it just may be the deciding factor in whether or not I have the skill to do so. Are there successful writers with no college at all? Yes. Just as there are successful writers whose credentials read like alphabet soup. I think there is happy medium to be had and I think everybody needs to figure out where that is for themselves.

In the end, I think the decision of whether to attend grad school for a Creative Writing degree should depend almost entirely upon your skill level. If you’re satisfied taking a chance as you work through your learning curve, cool. If you want a bit more guidance in the most efficient way to do so, by all means enroll in a good writing program. At the very least, you’ll be employable by every company on the planet that fears putting their brand on poor grammar and lazy usage… which I’m still assuming is all of them.

My wife works for a company that demands a Master’s degree for their managers (they don’t specify a subject, which tells me that it isn’t really necessary, just a way to thin the herd of applicants). Increasingly, employers in the States are doing this. With this in mind, you may just as well get some real personal satisfaction out of your degree program. And what better way to do that than to spend all your time reading and writing?

is creative writing a bad major

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the comprehensive insight. That’s really interesting to hear in regards to Master’s requirements for recruitment. I wonder if that will sway opinion more in favour of getting a degree for those reading this.

You’re right – if you love doing something, doing it intensively and frequently while becoming more qualified in it sounds ideal. I certainly enjoyed it, but it was still quite draining at times. That being said, I was doing both a Fine Art AND Creative Writing course, so my creative juices were stretched to the limit!

I completely understand the challenges you faced! Congrats, by the way, for doing it! Too many people think of FA/CW degrees as easy. But I’ll match the work necessary to comprehend most philosophy with that of Quantum Physics, any day. It’s all the same process, just different signifiers. The result is, you’re really smart and the world, according to Cormac McCarthy, became personal to you. In the end, that’s the most compelling reason of all to pursue education.

is creative writing a bad major

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is creative writing a bad major

Do You Need a Creative Writing Degree to Succeed as a Writer?

by Melissa Donovan | Mar 7, 2023 | Creative Writing | 50 comments

creative writing degree

Do you need a creative writing degree?

Young and new writers often ask whether they need a creative writing degree in order to become an author or professional writer.

I’ve seen skilled and talented writers turn down opportunities or refuse to pursue their dreams because they feel their lack of a creative writing degree means they don’t have the credibility necessary to a career in writing.

Meanwhile, plenty of writers with no education, minimal writing skills, and scant experience in reading and writing are self-publishing, freelance writing, and offering copywriting services.

It’s an oft-asked question: Do you need a creative writing degree to succeed as a writer? Is it okay to write and publish a book if you don’t have a degree or if your degree is in something other than English or the language arts?

Before I go further, I should reveal that although I did earn a degree in creative writing, I don’t think a degree is necessary. But there is a caveat to my position on this issue: While I don’t think a degree is necessary, I certainly think it’s helpful. I also think that some writers will have a hard time succeeding without structured study and formal training whereas others are self-disciplined and motivated enough to educate themselves to the extent necessary to establish a successful writing career.

Five Things I Learned in Creative Writing Class

Do you need a creative writing degree.

First of all, a degree is not necessary to success in many fields, including writing. There are plenty of examples of individuals who became wildly successful and made meaningful contributions without any college degree whatsoever: Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, and Walt Disney, to name a few.

In the world of writing, the list of successful authors who did not obtain a degree (let alone a creative writing degree) is vast. Here is a small sampling: Louisa May Alcott, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, William Blake, Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, Beatrix Potter, and JD Salinger.

So you obviously do not need a creative writing degree in order to succeed. After all, some of the greatest writers in history didn’t have a degree. Why should you?

A Creative Writing Degree is Not a Bad Idea

On the other hand, the degree definitely won’t hurt your chances. In fact, it will improve your chances. And if you struggle with writing or self-discipline, then the process of earning a degree will be of great benefit to you.

A college education might indeed be necessary for a particular career, such as a career in law or medicine. In fields of study where a degree is not a requirement, it often prepares you for the work ahead by teaching you specific skills and techniques and by forcing you to become knowledgeable about your field.

However, there is an even greater value in the the process of earning a degree. You become knowledgeable and educated. You learn how to learn, how to work without close supervision, and you are exposed to the wisdom of your instructors as well as the enthusiasm and support of your peers. College is a great environment for development at any age or in any field.

Earning a degree is also a testament to your drive and ability to complete a goal without any kind of immediate reward or gratification. College is not easy. It’s far easier to get a full-time job and buy lots of cool stuff. It’s more fun to spend your nights and weekends hanging out with your friends than staying in and studying. A college degree is, in many ways, a symbol representing your capacity to set out and accomplish a long-term goal.

Know Yourself

If you possess strong writing skills and are somewhat of an autodidact (a person who is self-taught), then you may not need a degree in creative writing. For some such people, a degree is completely unnecessary. On the other hand, if your writing is weak or if you need guidance and would appreciate the help of instructors and peers, maybe you do need a creative writing degree.

If you’re planning on going to college simply because you want to earn a degree and you hope to be a writer someday, you might as well get your degree in creative writing since that’s what you’re passionate about. On the other hand, if you hope to write biographies of famous actors and directors and you already write well, you might be better off studying film (and possibly minoring in creative writing).

You may be the kind of person who needs the validation of a degree. Maybe you’re an excellent writer but you’d feel better putting your work out there if you could back it up (even in your own mind) with that piece of paper that says you have some expertise in this area. Or you might be the kind of person who is confident enough to plunge into the career of a writer without any such validation.

You might find that time and money are barriers to earning a degree. If you have responsibilities that require you to work full time and if you’re raising a family, obtaining a degree might not be in the cards, either in terms of time or money. You might be better off focusing what little free time you have on reading and writing. But there are other options if you’ve got your heart set on a creative writing degree: look for accredited online colleges, find schools that offer night and weekend classes, and open yourself to the idea that you can take ten years rather than four years to complete your higher education.

Finally, some people have a desire to get a degree but they feel they’re too old. I personally think that’s a bunch of hogwash. You’re never too old to learn or obtain any kind of education. When I was just out of high school, I attended a college with many students who were middle-aged and older. I had tremendous respect for them, and they brought a lot of wisdom to our classes, which balanced out the youthful inexperience of my other, much younger classmates. I don’t care if you’re eighteen, forty-two, or seventy, if you have a hankering to do something, go do it!

Making Tough Decisions

Ultimately, the decision rests with each of us. Do you need a creative writing degree? Only you can answer that question.

If you’re still not sure, then check with a local school (a community college is a good place to start) and make an appointment with an adviser in the English Department. If you’re in high school, get in touch with your school’s career counselor. Sometimes, these professionals can help you evaluate your own needs to determine which is the best course of action for you. But in the end, make sure whatever decision you make about your education is one that you’ve carefully weighed and are comfortable with.

And whether you earn a degree in creative writing or not, keep writing!

Most Successful People Who Never Went to College Famous Autodidacts

Ready Set Write a Guide to Creative Writing


Nicole Rushin

I think in some cases it can hinder or stifle creativity. I am actually glad I did not go to school for writing. When I hear the words creative and degree together they don’t mesh for me. You can go to school and learn about punctuation and grammar, but creativity comes from real life and growth and learning through experience. Just my opinion – but I only learned about poetry in climbing tree.

Melissa Donovan

Hi Nicole. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter, but since you didn’t go to school for writing, how can you know that creativity cannot come through academic means or through study? I strongly believe that a degree is unnecessary for success in writing, but I personally found that it sped up my development and did in fact stimulate my creativity. Specifically, I would say that being surrounded by creative people (other students, in particular) is excellent for promoting creative thinking. Also, writing is only one small piece of what a successful writer must do. In fact, I learned very little about punctuation and grammar during my time in the creative writing program and I learned a lot about my own creative process. Probably the biggest benefit for me, personally, was exposure to many wonderful authors and poets that I otherwise might not have discovered. While I don’t think college is necessary, I have to strongly disagree that it stifles creativity. But I do respect your opinion and perhaps you had some experience in school or observing other writers in which it did stifle creativity. I can only speak from my own experience, which was highly positive.


Hey all! I’m torn too: I went to art school for 4 years for a degree in painting. I learned a lot and am grateful, because art school added: ways to be cognizant of art, writing about my art and the work of others, and how to be a really great critic.

Only problem was, in a lot of ways, art school also beat down my self confidence and robbed me of some of my intrinsic motivation to make art. It became less spontaneous and more cerebral.

As of late, I’ve turned to creative writing for a creative outlet that has not been…well, I won’t say ruined, so I’ll go with, hasn’t been tampered with. And I find myself in a place where I can definitely improve (A LOT!), but I’m not sure if a formal degree will do it. I am playing with the idea of taking some informal workshops though…

Do you think school for the visual arts is at all comparable to school for creative writing? Maybe it doesn’t help that the folks in my year of art school had some pretty nasty and rude people when it came to critiques!!!

Ray, thanks for sharing your experience. I was hoping someone would offer a different perspective. I can understand how undergraduate work may seem to inhibit creativity and make the process more cerebral. This is where we get into an extremely hazy area of art and creativity. I believe that the spontaneous expressions come from our emotions and personal life experiences. They are strictly expressions. When we bring a cerebral quality to our work, we are usually looking to make a statement or observation. The former cannot be learned. It comes from the inside. The latter, however, is the result of critical thinking. I think it’s unfortunate that you did not find yourself in an educational setting that was positive and supportive. I am not sure how visual arts schools are similar or different from schools for creative writing. If you’re interested in pursuing creative writing, my suggestion would be to sign up for a class and try it out or request a meeting with someone in the creative writing department to get a sense of the program and the people in it.

One final note – it’s my personal opinion that people being rude or nasty during critiques is absolutely unacceptable. If there was an instructor present, I would say the responsibility falls to him or her. Their job is to moderate critique sessions and provide an environment conductive to positive development. I once signed up for a class, and within the first two weeks it was clear to me that the instructor did not have students’ best interests at heart. I dropped the class and the following semester, took the class with another teacher.


I can see where you’re coming from, but college is so very different from high school. The public secondary education focuses on “STEM” (science/math, basically) rather than STEAM (science/math and the arts — as in. a liberal education.) Most universities (public or private) encourage creative thought, even in degrees that are not considered ‘uselessly’ artistic by ignorant politicians. It depends on the university one attends (although I am transferring, the University of Oregon pushes for artistic and creative thought in all fields, and is not at all stifling) but, for the most part, a writing degree would not detach students from ‘real life’ experiences. Many students are living on their own and working full-time. Some are married and have a family and bills to pay, etc. Normally they would not have encouragement from highly knowledgeable faculty to pursue a craft that is not considered practical in the ‘real world.’


I agree with this. I started a masters in professional writing and took a class on nonfiction essays (creative essays) and I tell you what, I have NEVER produced so much writing, and so much good writing. In this class, we just BOUNCED off one another SO WELL. I left each class on fire with ideas and feedback. Best class I EVER took.

I have a BA in English and it’s helped me get paid to write. I freelance for companies, websites and magazines, and many of them love to see the degree. So, I stand out from the crowd a bit. It’s been helpful.

It’s amazing how being surrounded by other creative writers promotes our own creativity. I had the same experience when I was taking classes – I was constantly writing and coming up with ideas. I also feel that having a BA boosts my credibility as a self-employed writer. While I don’t think the BA is necessary, I also know some clients and employers consider it a requirement.

Marjorie McAtee

I have to agree with Allena. I have a BA in English and I think it really helps in the freelancing career. Many clients want to hire a professional qualified in English literature, journalism or another field related to writing.


I have pondered the idea of going back to uni and getting a degree in the Arts but I am not sure if it is entirely worth my time and money. I have, however, invested time in some short courses in writing, in order to learn about structure, pace and all those tools which you really need to understand to be able to write well.

There was also the added benefit of spending time with like-minded people who understood my passion and encouraged me to fulfill my potential. I may not have earned a piece of paper at the end of them but they were definitely worth my time.

It’s one of those decisions each person has to make for herself. I think it depends a lot on your personal goals, lifestyle, and available resources. I am a huge advocate for higher education. My general advice is always this: if you can go to school and want to, then do it. On the other hand, if you want to be a novelist and already have the skills and self-discipline, your time is probably better spent writing the novel.


I agree that a creative writing degree is not necessary but certainly very helpful. I believe getting proper education will always be good for anyone; whatever career you are in. As for me, I did not major in writing or in a course related to it because I was still undecided back then. I was passionate about writing but I just did not pursue it because I was afraid that I will not succeed as a writer.

Now, I really want to enroll myself in a writing course. While waiting for that opportunity, I try my best to self-educate through reading and learning from other writers.

I couldn’t agree more!

Michael K. Reynolds

A great topic for discussion! I have a Creative Writing degree but augmented it with writer’s conferences and online research. So much helpful information out there these days. I posted this on the Writing Platform Facebook page. Well done.

Writing is one of those crafts for which learning never ends. Thanks for sharing this post on Facebook. I appreciate it.


Hi, Melissa! I studied psychology for 4 years in university. I had to quit, so I didn’t get the degree, but studying there gave me lots of knowledge and I also met really awesome people – students and teachers, and I made great friends. You can’t have such things if you learn only by yourself at home. Meeting other writers while getting creative writing degree is probably one of most important reasons for doing it. Unless you don’t like humans at all 😀

Yes, and I would add that for many people, simply taking a few classes can make a world of difference. For example, one could take a creative writing class at a local community college. If a writer is working on their own and struggling with grammar, a single, basic course in English or writing may be just the solution. Taking a class here and there may or may not lead to pursuing a full degree, but it will definitely impart many benefits to any writer.


Great article! Very encouraging. Most of what I’ve read online has been much the opposite.

What would you say about majoring in an education degree not specific to English, while also pursuing a master’s in creative writing?…with the intent to eventually teach writing and social studies at a college level. I know that’s incredibly specific and probably abnormal, but I honesty do not want to major in English. I love literature and all forms of composition (even the dreaded academic essay) but my true interest lies in the intricacy of the human psyche and how the past has shaped our contemporary world..

Katie, it doesn’t really matter what I think because the choice you make will shape your life, not mine. Having said that, I think you’ve got a good, solid plan. Also, I think social studies and creative writing go together quite nicely.


I am in India. I just passed 10th grade. The thing is i want to become a writer/novelist/author. 3 reasons-

1. Writing is my passion 2. I have started writing( 1st novel almost complete). 3. I love literature. I mean that’s the only thing that gets inside my brain and i always excel in English.

So my question are– 1. Do i need to take up arts/humanities? ( because i want an environment with political views and literature and wont only be writing novels and stuff, i would also like to write for magazines etc. Doing arts will help me write and improve whereas in non-med i have study science which i have started hating though its easy but because of this realization that my writings will take years to reach the people ) Is it really that important?

2. Is a college degree in creative writing required? Will it help me?

Tanvir, plenty of writers carve out a career for themselves without a college degree at all, so you can go forth and study whatever you want in school. Certainly, a degree in creative writing will do a lot to make you a better writer, but you can also accomplish that on your own through work and study. If you are absolutely positive that all you want to do is become a writer, then I say study creative writing. I earned a BA in creative writing and I wasn’t even sure that’s what I wanted to do with my life. What I learned in college has served me well. However, and I can’t emphasize this enough, it is by no means a prerequisite. Good luck to you.


Hi I am a young women who has always been told that being a writer is not a very good feild to work in because you must move to the city, it is hard to support a family on the income,and it is hard to get a book published, or maintain relationships, if you are successful. I have always wanted to be a writer and now i am considering college but the thing is that i am not sure if i should become a nurse or writer or both? or neither and just try my luck with writing with out an education in the feild since i feal as though i am good enough at creative thinking.

Why would a writer have to move to the city? Writing is one of the few jobs that you can do from just about anywhere, as long as you have a computer (journalism being the exception). I also don’t see why it would be hard to maintain relationships if you are a successful writer (at least not any more than with any other career). I’m not sure where you’re getting this advice, but I think it’s a little inaccurate. It’s true that most writers don’t make a living from their work at first, which means they need a day job. It is hard to get a book published through a traditional publishing house, but it’s also possible. Self-publishing is another option.

If you truly want to be a writer, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pursue it. Will you make it? That’s entirely up to you.

I also think studying nursing and writing sounds like a good idea. You can double major in both or you could minor in creative writing. That will give you a solid nursing career for your day job and you can write on the side.


Hey there Melissa,

I’m planning to do a course in Creative Writing, and I’ve been looking everywhere for the perfect one. Which university did you do your Masters at? Were you completely satisfied? Was it everything you were expecting? I was looking out for a one year Masters course, most are for two.

I didn’t do a Masters, I did a BA, so I’m afraid I can’t give you any advice on which ones are good.


I think if you check on Google you will find a few. Most are two years like you said but the one year programs are usually scholarships and are kinda jam-packed. check carefully and you’d find what suits you for sure.

Melissa, keep the flag flying.


Surely, it is important to define what you mean by ‘writing’. If you want to have any chance of breaking into published work, tthen I would say a writing degree is a prerequisite. If you are writing for a small group — or just for yourself — it doesn’t matter a hoot. Many of the examples you gave us aren’t really relevant as so few people in the past went to university to do anything at all.

I went to a school decided upon by a selective examination and we were told when we started that only about 2% of us should have any thoughts of going to university, and that techincal qualifivcations, such as National Certificates, were the best we could aspire to for the remaining 98%.

Essentially, the whole thing comes back to the old, and quite impossible to answer question of talent vs skill. If you have the talent, an arts degree will help; if you don’t, all you can expect to be is an amateur (and usually not very good) scribbler. The ability to write a grammatically correct sentence does not make you a story-teller — and it never will.

I have to respectfully disagree with you, opsimath. Most of the authors I know who are currently building successful careers did not go to college at all, and few of those who did attend university studied writing. You can (and many have) become expert writers and storytellers without learning how to do it in school. In fact, I would say that I learned very little about grammar and storytelling in college, and I was a creative writing major. Also, the very fact that historically, authors did not study the craft in formal settings is proof that formal study is not a necessity. History has produced hundreds of eloquent authors who managed to master the craft without formal schooling, and writing hasn’t changed so much that we’re living in times where a degree has become mandatory.

Having said that, we all have to put in the time and work in order to succeed. The point is that whatever you might learn in school, you can also learn outside of school if you know how to find the right mentors and resources. A degree gives anyone an advantage, but in the field of writing, it is not a prerequisite for success or expertise. And I say that as someone who is a firm advocate for higher education. Obviously, there are some exceptions; for example, you probably do need a journalism degree or a computer science degree if you want to be a journalist or technical writer, but for storytellers and other creative nonfiction writers, it is an option, not a requirement. There are other ways to acquire the skills and expertise you need to succeed as a storyteller.


A good idea, I think, would be to take a few courses at the local community college, or online if there isn’t a school nearby, to get an idea on how effective a class environment will be for you. I need a structured peer group to thrive at anything in life, yet my husband was miserable at a liberal arts college. I have to sign up for a class at the gym to lose weight – I can’t just get up in the morning to jog or do laps at the pool alone, even with a partner I’m not as motivated as when I’m in a group lead by an experienced mentor. The same goes for writing. I have to join writing groups to find inspiration to work on my novel, otherwise I don’t have enough self-discipline to finish it. Yeah, maybe that makes those of us like me kind of lame, but if we know how to fix it we can get motivated greatness (:

Also, look into financial aid, grants, and scholarships if it’s not something you can afford. You’d be surprised at what is available to those from all walks of life.

Excellent advice, Katie!

George McNeese

I graduated with a Creative Writing degree. In some ways, it’s been beneficial for the reasons you mentioned. I feel like I’ve earned the right to call myself a writer. But if you’re boy putting those skills into practice, then what was the point of slaving for four years? On the flip side, I feel like I really didn’t understand the skills and techniques of other writers. Part of it was due to a lack of reading other works. Some of it was I was busy comparing myself to others that I didn’t pay attention to nuances in their work.

Sometimes, I feel like I entered the wrong field because I haven’t done anything with my degree. I haven’t published anything, nor am I working on something grand like a novel. But then I remember why I pursued the major in the first place: I have a passion for writing. The validation is nice and I can claim the fact that I graduated from college. At the heart if it all is the passion to create stories. Recently, after some soul searching, I decided to take up the pen again. But because I’ve been out of practice for so long, I feel like I beef to go back to school and brush up on my craft. Maybe take an online course or two or get involved in a writing group.

Degree or not, I love writing, and my desire is to get better at what I love.

For me, the greatest benefit of going to college and earning a degree in creative writing was that it broadened my worldview, which has little to do with a career or even writing. I gained a better understanding of the world on various levels. Much of the knowledge I gained isn’t practical as far as making money, but I feel like it made me a better person.

I think we in the western world are programmed to think that any kind of learning must translate directly to dollars. This leads someone to ask a question like what’s the use of my degree if I’m not working in the field? . But I think it’s safe to say that most of us who attended college gained something intellectual or emotional that can’t be measured in financial earnings or career development.

It’s never too late to get back into writing! If you’re feeling called to it, I say go for it, and have fun! Good luck to you.


Really interesting to read this post as I started my degree in Creative Writing last year through the Open University. Whilst I’ve always had a writer’s soul, I’ve been away from writing for around a decade (having picked up a camera instead) and felt doing the degree would give me the jump start I needed to get back on the writing path. It’s already doing that and I’m keen to start working for myself in the next year or so, whilst also finishing off my degree.

I have had people say to me, “Why are you doing that, it’s a pointless degree!” But, when I suddenly decided late last year that I wanted to get myself a qualification so I could leave my long-term career as a Paramedic, once and for all, I knew I should only take on a subject that I had a passion for, otherwise what was the point?!

I’m looking forward to getting started with the second stage this coming October and I can’t wait to start writing for a living as well!

Over the years, I’ve heard from a lot of writers whose decision to study creative writing was challenged by the people in their lives. I think a lot people view college as nothing more than a path to some kind of guaranteed high-paying job, such as a position in business, law, the medical field, etc. A career in writing is probably more risky, but it’s just as valid as any other career. Anyway, congratulations on your return to writing. I also think it’s great that you’re a paramedic and have something to fall back on or rely on while you launch your writing career.

Prachi Gandhi

I graduated in BSc Nursing in India…I did it because it has good scope but failed to develop interest in the field…I always loved writing and want to pursue my career in writing…I am not sure if it requires a bachelor’s degree in arts or literature or creative writing ! Also i am thinking of moving to Canada for my postgraduation …And this is the time when i can change my field from nursing to writing and finally do what i like doing… my question is ….is it necessary to have a bachelors degree in creative writing for doing master’s in it ?

Hi Prachi. You would need to check the requirements for the Master’s program that you’re applying for.


Thank you for your perspective on the value of obtaining a degree in creative writing. I found your argument balanced and, on the whole I agree with your view, which is (as I understand it “horses for courses”, I.E. what suits one person (a creative writing degree) will not, necessarily suit another individual.

I agree with you that a degree demonstrates commitment (mine is in history and politics, plus a MA in political theory). I don’t feel the need to obtain a degree in creative writing (and I understand the concerns of those who fear that doing so may actually stifle their creativity). I do, however no of several writers (who’s work I enjoy) who do hold degrees in creative writing. However I have another friend who writes extremely well but does not hold a creative writing qualification of any description. So it is, in the final analysis “horses for courses”.

Best – Kevin

Everybody has different learning styles and curves and talents. Writing is one of those fields in which if you’re willing to put in the work, you can do fine.


This is an interesting post, Melissa. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 — Suzanne

Thanks, Suzanne.

Jemima Pett

You’ve hit the nail on the head when you cite the people who are great in their fields without a degree to prove it. The creative writing degree probably didn’t exist when they were in education. It didn’t when I was at college. One of the important things to do at college is something you like, that you will put the necessary effort in to show that you know how to learn, how to express yourself, and how to get by in life. But if you want to write successfully now, you owe it to your readers to learn about the business, learn how to be a good writer, and a better writer, and to value the continuous process of learning. That doesn’t necessarily mean a degree. And yes, it might well stifle your creativity before you can let it free again.

That’s true. For many of them, such a degree might not have been available. At some point, I believe “English” would have the relevant degree. My degree is technically an English degree “with a concentration in creative writing.” Semantics. I agree with you 100% about putting in the work to learn the craft!

debbie belair

Great Article, Academic writing is so different from creative writing, and that is so different from Copywriting. I am a self-taught copywriter. Most of my learning had to do with learning how to market. My creative writing diploma was a big plus.

Yes, every form of writing is different. Some skills are necessary to all forms, however.

Dave Snubb

Thank you very much for this reading. I think it was exactly what I needed right now. 😉

You’re welcome, Dave!

Darcy Schultz

Hi Melissa! My son is about to graduate high school and is not college bound, he has an extreme lack of interest in school. He is an extremely talented and creative writer and his passion is to have a career in writing. What would be your advice to a young writer, like him, who doesn’t know where to start or what his next steps should be to start working toward a career in creative writing? Have you had any experience with Masterclass courses? Any other workshops or clubs, etc that would be good for him to check out so he can meet with other like-minded individuals and network and find mentorship?

Hi Darcy! Well, the first thing I would say is that if college is an option, then studying creative writing in college is tremendously valuable. I realize your son isn’t interested in that path, but it would be my first suggestion. If a full college education is not an option (for whatever reason), then perhaps some courses in language arts, English, and creative writing. One can attend college (universities or local community colleges) and focus on certain classes rather than getting a degree, which requires a lot of general education. I don’t have experience with Masterclass yet, but I intend to take some of those courses. They look good to me.

Having said all that, there are other things that your son can do: read as much as possible, write every day, and study the craft — if not through courses then through credible books on the craft. Beyond that, each writer’s needs are very different, so I’m afraid I can’t be more specific. I wish you and your son much luck.

Abi George

Hi Melissa, my name is Abi I very much enjoy writing and I graduate from high school this May. I’ve looked in to multiple possible career choices and I’ve realized that most of what I want to do is telling stories and I’ve also realized that writing is how I express myself when words fail me, I write. I’ve written some stories some are very short, and some still need finished. I’m struggling because I don’t know what I want to do in college but I know I want to go. I’m thinking about taking a gap year and figure stuff out and possibly travel a small bit and since I’ll hopefully have a decent amount of time, work on writing as well as my stories, do you have any advice for me when it comes to writing?

Hi Abi. Thanks for commenting here about your interest in writing. It’s a good sign that you’re already thinking about your future and planning at such a young age. Your path is yours alone, and nobody can make the decision about taking a gap year or choosing a major except you (although your parents might have significant say in these matters). I can tell you this: I majored in creative writing in college and I have never once regretted it. My only suggestion would be that if you take that route, include some business and marketing courses, even if it means taking an extra semester to graduate. All authors need business and marketing skills–no exceptions, and this was the one thing that was not covered when I was in school. This stuff is not fun or creative, but it’s necessary, and it will free you to do the fun stuff.

I wish you the best of luck with your future. Keep writing!

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 12 best creative writing colleges and programs.

College Info


Finding a dedicated creative writing program at a school you're excited about can be a real challenge, and that's even before you start worrying about getting in. Nonetheless, there are some great options. In order to help you find the best school for you, this list rounds up some of the best colleges for creative writing in the United States .

The Best Creative Writing Programs: Ranking Criteria

You should never take college rankings as absolute truth —not even the very official-seeming US News ones. Instead, use these kinds of lists as a jumping-off place for your own exploration of colleges. Pay attention not just to what the rankings are but to how the rankings are determined.

To help with that, I'll explain how I came up with this highly unscientific list of great creative writing colleges. I started by narrowing my search down to schools that offered a specific creative writing major. (If you don't see a school you were expecting, it's likely because they only have a minor.)

In ranking the schools, I considered five major criteria:

  • #1: MFA Ranking —If a school has a great graduate creative writing program, it means you'll be taught by those same professors and the excellent graduate students they attract. Schools with strong MFA programs are also more likely to have solid alumni networks and internship opportunities. However, many schools with great undergrad programs do not offer MFAs, in which case I simply focused on the other four options.
  • #2: General School Reputation —The vast majority of your classes won't be in creative writing, so it's important that other parts of the school, especially the English department, are great as well.
  • #3: Extracurricular Opportunities —One of the key advantages of majoring in creative writing is that it can provide access to writing opportunities outside the classroom, so I took what kind of internship programs, author readings, and literary magazines the school offers into consideration.
  • #4: Diversity of Class Options —I gave extra points to schools with a variety of genre options and specific, interesting classes.
  • #5: Alumni/Prestige —This last criterion is a bit more subjective: is the school known for turning out good writers? Certainly it's less important than what kind of education you'll actually get, but having a brand-name degree (so to speak) can be helpful.

The Best Creative Writing Schools

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of schools! The exact numbering is always arguable, so look at it as a general trend from absolutely amazing to still super great, rather than fixating on why one school is ranked #3 and another is ranked #4.

#1: Northwestern University

Northwestern's undergrad creative writing program boasts acclaimed professors and an unparalleled track record of turning out successful writers (including Divergent author Veronica Roth and short-story writer Karen Russell).

Outside the classroom, you can work on the student-run literary journal, intern at a publication in nearby Chicago, or submit to the Department of English's yearly writing competition . The university is also home to a top journalism program , so if you want to try your hand at nonfiction as well, you'll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

#2: Columbia University

Like Northwestern, Columbia is home to both a world-class creative writing program and a top journalism school (plus one of the best English departments in the country), so you have a wide range of writing-related course options. Columbia also benefits from its location in New York City, which is bursting at the seams with publishing houses, literary journals, and talented authors.


#3: University of Iowa

The University of Iowa's big draw is the infrastructure of its graduate Writers' Workshop, which is often considered the best MFA program in the country.

As an English and Creative Writing major here, you'll take classes from great young writers and established professors alike, and get to choose from a wide range of topics. This major provides transferable skills important for a liberal arts major with a creative focus. You'll also have access to the university's impressive literary community, including frequent readings, writing prizes and scholarships, and the acclaimed literary journal The Iowa Review .

#4: Emory University

Emory is renowned for its dedicated undergrad creative writing program , which draws the very best visiting scholars and writers. Students here have the chance to attend intimate question-and-answer sessions with award-winning authors, study a range of genres, compete for writing awards and scholarships, and work closely with an adviser to complete an honors project.

#5: Oberlin College

A small liberal arts school in Ohio, Oberlin offers very different advantages than the schools above do. You'll have fewer opportunities to pursue writing in the surrounding city, but the quality of the teachers and the range of courses might make up for that. Moreover, it boasts just as impressive alumni, including actress and writer Lena Dunham.

#6: Hamilton College

Hamilton is another small college, located in upstate New York. It's known for giving students the freedom to pursue their interests and the support to help them explore topics in real depth, both inside and outside the classroom. Hamilton's creative writing program takes full advantage with small classes and lots of opportunities to intern and publish; it also has one of the best writing centers in the country.

#7: Brown University

Brown's Literary Arts program offers one of the top MFAs in the US as well as an undergraduate major . For the major, you must take four creative writing workshops and six reading-intensive courses, which span an array of departments and topics, from music and literature to Middle East studies and Egyptology.


#8: Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University has an excellent creative writing MFA program, lots of super specific class options, and a number of scholarships specifically earmarked for creative writing students. This school’s undergraduate English program also offers a concentration in creative writing that allows students to specialize in a specific genre: poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. If you’re interested in exploring your potential in a specific writing genre, Washington University could be a great pick for you.

#9: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT might not be a school you generally associate with writing, but it actually has an excellent program that offers courses in digital media and science writing, as well as creative writing, and provides plenty of guidance on how graduates can navigate the tricky job market.

Not to mention the school is located in Cambridge, a haven for book lovers and writers of all kinds. Though it probably isn’t a good fit for students who hate science, MIT is a great place for aspiring writers who want to build writing skills that are marketable in a wide range of industries.

#10: University of Michigan

University of Michigan is one of the best state universities in the country and has a top-notch MFA program. This school’s undergrad creative writing sub-concentration requires students to submit applications for admittance to advanced creative writing courses. These applications give students crucial practice in both building a writing portfolio and articulating their interest in creative writing to an audience who will evaluate their work. If you're looking to attend a big school with a great creative writing major, this is a fantastic choice.

#11: Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins is another school that's known more for engineering than it is for writing, but, like MIT, it has a dedicated writing program. As a major here, you must take not only courses in prose, poetry, and literature, but also classes on topics such as philosophy and history.

#12: Colorado College

Colorado College is a small liberal arts school known for its block plan , which allows students to focus on one class per three-and-a-half-week block. The creative writing track of the English major includes a sequence of four writing workshops and also requires students to attend every reading of the Visiting Writers Series.

Bonus School: New York University

I didn't include NYU in the main list because it doesn't have a dedicated creative writing major, but it's a great school for aspiring writers nonetheless, offering one of the most impressive creative writing faculties in the country and all the benefits of a Manhattan location.


How To Pick the Best Creative Writing School for You

Just because Northwestern is a great school for creative writing doesn't mean you should set your heart on going there. (The football fans are completely terrifying, for one thing.) So where should you go then?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when looking at creative writing programs to help you determine the best school for you:

Does It Have Courses You're Interested In?

Look at the course offerings and see whether they interest you. While you can't predict exactly what classes you'll love, you want to avoid a mismatch where what you want to study and what the program offers are completely different. For example, if you want to write sonnets but the school focuses more on teaching fiction, it probably won't be a great fit for you.

Also, don't forget to look at the English courses and creative writing workshops! In most programs, you'll be taking a lot of these, too.

What Opportunities Are There To Pursue Writing Outside of Class?

I touched on this idea in the criteria section, but it's important enough that I want to reiterate it here. Some of the best writing experience you can get is found outside the classroom, so see what kind of writing-related extracurriculars a school has before committing to it.

Great options include getting involved with the campus newspaper, working on the school's literary journal, or interning at the university press.

Who Will Be Teaching You?

Who are the professors? What kind of work have they published? Check teacher ratings on Rate My Professors (but make sure to read the actual reviews—and always take them with a grain of salt).

If you're looking at a big school, there's a good chance that a lot of your teachers will be graduate students. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: a lot of the best teachers I had in college were graduate students. Just take into consideration what kind of graduate program the school has. If there's a great creative writing MFA program, then the graduate students are likely to be better writers and more engaged teachers.

What Are the Alumni Doing Now?

If you have a sense of what you want to do after you graduate, see if any alumni of the program are pursuing that type of career. The stronger the alumni network is, the more connections you'll have when it comes time to get a job.

What About the Rest of the School?

Don't pick a school for which you like the creative writing program but dread everything else about it. Most of your time will be spent doing other things, whether hanging out in the dorms, exploring off campus, or fulfilling general education requirements.

Many schools require you to apply to the creative writing major, so make doubly sure you'll be happy with your choice even if you aren't accepted to the program.

What's Next?

Are you sure a creative writing major is the right fit for you? Read our post on the pros and cons of the major to help you decide what path to take in college.

For more general advice about choosing a college, check out our complete guide to finding the right school for you. Some major factors to consider include deciding whether you're interested in a small college or a big university , an in-state or out-of-state institution , and a public or private school .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

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is creative writing a bad major

Alot Education > Schools & Programs

Pros and Cons of Being a Writing Major

is creative writing a bad major

Being a writing major may include assignments involving writing fairy tales, but it definitely doesn’t mean our lives are one. There are pros and cons to every major, and even though we may not end up being the wealthiest individuals after graduation, we have the most fun in college because this is what we truly love to do.

You don’t have to study.

While your other friends have to cram for their biochemistry test all night and then gather the brainpower to take the test the next morning, once you finish writing something, you’re done! You don’t have to worry about being tested over your knowledge after a sleepless night. As soon as you finish writing that last word on the page (and editing, of course), you can be completely worry-free.

Finals week is never that bad.

Unless you’re a procrastinator. Then it can be worse. But if you keep up with all of your assignments throughout the semester, you’ll probably only have to compile and edit your writing at the end of the semester. You may have one or two short pieces to write during finals week, but never five massive comprehensive exams that are squashed into two consecutive, stress-filled days.

Classes are more relaxed.

Chances are your writing classes are pretty small, so that automatically gives you and your professor more freedom in terms of how the class is run. You can all sit in a circle together and have great discussions or you can even take the class outside and call it an “inspired writing day” in the great outdoors. It sure beats sitting in a lecture hall of 200 students trying to learn about macroeconomics, or whatever it is they do over there in the business building.

You probably have a high GPA without trying as hard.

As long as your papers are the required length, on-topic, and written decently, you’ll generally get an A. You don’t have to put in 110% effort to have good grades in these classes. Having these easier classes can balance out some other grades in general education courses where you may have decided to not try as hard. Because, who cares about Edmund Randolph’s speech about the Virginia Plan? Don’t worry if you don’t remember who that is. No one does.

Writing papers for other classes is a piece of cake.

You’re so used to writing your life away that you can write a 10-page research paper for World Literature in your sleep. While all of your other classmates are complaining and fretting about how they’re ever going to get this paper done, you have complete confidence that you can put it off until the night before and still produce a paper that’s better than anyone else’s.

No one understands why you picked this major.

“What’s your major?”

“(Creative/Technical) Writing”

“Oh, that’s interesting. What are you going to do with that?”

If you had a dime for every time you had this conversation with someone, you wouldn’t even have to worry about finding a job after college. You know you picked a major that you genuinely enjoy (unlike most people who pick one for the money), so all those neurosurgeons can be miserable in their mansions while you’re happy as a clam writing in a hammock in the backyard of your modest suburban house.

It can be more difficult to find a job (depending on your location).

This isn’t an issue if you live in a big city, but if you live in a more rural area, there probably isn’t an abundance of writing jobs for you to choose from, besides working for a local newspaper or magazine – unless you get super lucky and land a job writing articles like this one!

Your hand may fall off toward the end of the semester.

Five-page story for one class, 10-page reflective paper for another, a complete portfolio revision for yet another class…will it ever end?! Probably not. You chose to be a writing major, so welcome to the wonderful world of writing. At least after you graduate, you won’t have to worry about being graded on all of your work.

You have to share your work, even if it sucks.

You have to participate in at least a couple workshops per semester where your classmates can critique your work. If you don’t procrastinate and actually give yourself more than one night to come up with a coherent story, you’re probably ok, but going out for happy hour with your friends sounds so much better. So, you rely on your brain to have a stroke of genius and invent a brilliant story on the fly. We all know how that goes.

You probably need an advanced degree.

If you decide one day that you don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck in a tiny apartment any longer, you probably will need an advanced degree so you’ll have more employment opportunities. You’ve probably heard that graduate school is painful, and it is. Plus, it’s expensive. So in order to make more money, you’ll have to spend more money and probably be in debt for the rest of your life. But you know, congratulations on graduating and entering the real world!

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Major: Creative Writing

Which colleges offer a major in creative writing.

Creative Writing majors weave a rich tapestry of storytelling, exploring forms such as poetry, personal essays, memoirs, short stories, scriptwriting, novels, literary journalism, and even video games. It could be a favorite line in a movie, play, or book that lures an audience in and changes their world. 

Telling a story can shed light on societal issues that would otherwise receive little or no attention. By evoking emotion, the story and its characters captivate the reader. People become invested in the story, the impact of the problem on the characters’ lives, and the outcome. Creative writing humanizes experiences in a way that may foster compassion for others. A compelling creative writer draws readers in so that they become engaged in the story.

Your imagination, mindset, and self-expression will be challenged and sharpened as a creative writing major. You’ll explore multiple creative writing forms. Creative writing challenges you to dig deep and learn about yourself and others. 

What does a student majoring in Creative Writing study? 

To develop their skills, creative writing majors will take courses in historical and contemporary literature and participate in writing workshops. Such courses or workshops include, among others: 

  • American Literature
  • Introduction to Creative Writing
  • Reading and Writing Poetry
  • Playwriting
  • Screenwriting

What can I do with a Creative Writing degree?

You’ll develop a greater appreciation and understanding of various creative writing genres. Your research, writing, and creative thinking skills are desirable in  jobs such as the following:

  • Poets, Lyricists and Creative Writers
  • Advertising and Promotions Managers
  • Art Directors
  • Fundraisers
  • Producers and Directors

Specializations for a Creative Writing major are:

  • Film and Television Writing
  • Photojournalism
  • Creative Nonfiction

What are the requirements for a Creative Writing degree? 

The degree requirements at your college or university will consist of specific credits needed for major and elective courses in creative writing. You’ll participate in many writing workshops and apply the critiques of your work from peers and faculty to hone your creative writing skills.   

Explore Creative Writing Careers

Arts and humanities majors and degrees, related ap courses, find colleges with a creative writing major.


The Pros and Cons of Majoring In Lit and Writing

When it came time for me to transfer to a four-year university and pick a a major, everyone told me the same thing, “Don’t major in literature!” They all had different reasons for saying this to me, and while all of them were well-intentioned, I decided to major in Literature and minor in Creative Writing anyway because when I tried to think of something else I wanted to do more, I couldn’t think of a single thing. Literature and writing are really the only things I’ve ever had a passion for, and if I was going to spend all that money and all that time studying something, I wanted it to be literature. So, that’s what I did. But I’ll be honest, there are still some reasons why literature might not have been my best idea, and it’s important to consider those things before making a decision. So, let’s talk about some upsides and some downsides to being a Lit major

Studying literature in college isn’t like studying literature in high school. In high school, we’re all reading the same books and they’re usually the classics, and they might not be something that you find particularly interesting. The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein . There’s nothing wrong with these works, but not everyone wants to study them beyond that surface level. There are other important books in the world, people who are studying literature and creative writing in college might want to focus more on something they want to teach or something they want to write. College courses are much more specialized in this area. At the school I attended, we were given the option to take courses that looked at Sci-Fi and Fantasy works, some that focused specifically on American authors, and even some that focused only on children’s books. The option to branch out in college is really there and can open up your mind to things you didn’t know existed.

Writing Courses.

Whether you’re majoring in creative writing or literature or both, you’ll probably want to take some writing classes. Writing classes are important to being a literature major, just like literature classes are important to being a writing major. These are two things that feed off of each other. Chances are good that you won’t be able to do one without the other if you really want to understand your field of study. And while some high schools might have offered writing classes, mine only offered one: Creative Writing. That was it. One general course with a very open curriculum. But in college, the writing classes are more specific to its writers and therefore more fun. The college I went to offered poetry classes, short story classes, screenwriting classes, etc. Sure, it’s easy to take writing classes somewhere else, maybe even online, but not the way you can take them on a college campus with other writers who are right in your same boat.

Finding communities of writers in the digital age isn’t always a struggle. With websites like Wattpad and, you can join critique groups and find people all over the world that are writing in the same genres as you and connect with them. But having a writing group right in front of you, in person, is a little different. When you’re meeting with a writing group (or a class, which is basically just a large critique group), you’re getting a chance to get feedback in real time and have discussions with the people around you. You have the opportunity to have conversation. Plus, you have people who don’t write what you do, and that can be as valuable as having a group that does. College writing courses have writers and readers of all calibers, and it can often be invaluable to have the perspective of someone completely outside of your field.

This one can be kind of tough. Mentors are not hard to come by in the writing community, but when you take writing courses on a college campus, they often come with a built-in mentor who can share their knowledge with you. However, writer beware that your built-in mentor isn’t always what you’re looking for. Just like anywhere in life, you’ll connect with some professors and not others. Some will be excited about helping you and some will feel like you owe them something for their help. Make sure that you’re looking for the right people and listening to the right mentor. My time in college led to excellent teachings by some incredible professors who later became friends, but there were also those just looking for a paycheck.

A good reason that not a lot of people who might really want to major in literature or writing choose not to is because it really limits what you can do with your degree. That’s not to say there aren’t really great options for people who have literature or writing degrees, but compared to those who might get degrees in business or the sciences, there might not be quite so many options. But if you’re interested in trying to make writing a career or even something like teaching or editing, literature and writing programs are a great option. There are ways that a writing and literature degree can be versatile, especially since many non-specialized jobs are just looking for a degree of any sort without needing it to be any kind of degree in particular, but there are definitely other degrees that have more versatility. So, I suppose, all of that was to say, it depends on what your overall plan for your career is as to whether or not a degree in the arts is a good idea.

Writing Career.

This might seem the same as the “jobs” issue, but it’s actually not. You can have a pretty clear focus: being a writer. Being an author has been my main focus for as long as I can remember. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do, but as you probably guessed, unless you’re an extremely well-established NYT Bestselling author (Stephen King, JK Rowling, James Patterson) there isn’t much money in the writing game. Publishing is a very hard game to break into but even harder to succeed at. Not to be the Debbie Downer. I definitely am not here to ever discourage people from being writers. But it’s hard. Very very hard. So while this is actually a con for being a writer, it’s also a con for choosing a writing degree.

I once had a friend who told me that she chose not to going into literature and writing in college because she knew that if it was something she had to do for school and not something she was doing just because she loved it, that she would eventually start to hate it. Now, this hasn’t been the case for me, but I’ve known a plethora of writers who have been given the chance to write as a career but had a hard time because once it became a job , they found that they lost their passion for it. This is the kind of thing that’s just going to be different person-to-person. Not everyone will have an experience like that, but a lot of people do, so it’s something to beware. When I transferred to a four-year university, I was taking writing classes and literature classes and not only did I not have much time for personal writing, but I was also putting all of my creativity into stories and poetry for my writing classes and there wasn’t much left for my own work.

Focused Classes.

This one can sort of be a pro or a con, depending on what your purpose for choosing writing courses is. There aren’t too many schools who have excellent writing programs in the United States (if that’s where you are). We writers are a bit of a dying breed. At the school I went to, the writing program was small enough that the classes were limited. These classes were excellent, most of them taught by incredible teachers, but there wasn’t an option for what I was doing, which was writing novels, and I knew there were other students from the writing department that wanted to focus on novels, too, but because there wasn’t a professor who wanted to teach that, there was no option for it. I’m sure this was true for other types of writers in the department who might have wanted to focus on other things, too. But for someone who isn’t sure what they want to write, this might be an opportunity to discover that. See? Even our pros and cons have pros and cons.  

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2024 Best Creative Writing Schools

Choosing a great creative writing school, creative writing rankings by degree level.

Read more about College Factual's methodology .

Best Schools for Creative Writing in the United States

25 top schools in creative writing.

There were roughly 80 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Johns Hopkins in the most recent data year.

There were roughly 119 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Pitt in the most recent year we have data available.

There were approximately 12 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Carnegie Mellon in the most recent data year.

There were about 37 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at UChicago in the most recent data year.

There were approximately 174 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Columbia in the most recent data year.

There were about 11 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Northwestern in the most recent year we have data available.

There were about 48 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Brown in the most recent year we have data available.

There were approximately 37 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at USC in the most recent data year.

There were roughly 53 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Iowa in the most recent year we have data available.

There were approximately 10 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at UMN Twin Cities in the most recent data year.

There were approximately 46 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Miami University - Oxford in the most recent year we have data available.

There were roughly 40 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Harvard in the most recent year we have data available.

There were roughly 51 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Emory in the most recent year we have data available.

There were about 30 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Purdue in the most recent data year.

There were approximately 50 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at UW Seattle in the most recent data year.

There were about 28 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at WUSTL in the most recent year we have data available.

There were roughly 4 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Notre Dame in the most recent data year.

There were approximately 6 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Vanderbilt in the most recent data year.

There were roughly 19 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Wellesley in the most recent year we have data available.

There were approximately 100 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at UT Austin in the most recent data year.

There were approximately 8 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Iowa State in the most recent year we have data available.

There were about 17 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at Boston U in the most recent data year.

There were approximately 53 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at UC in the most recent data year.

There were roughly 73 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at University of Arizona in the most recent year we have data available.

There were about 26 creative writing students who graduated with this degree at BGSU in the most recent year we have data available.

Rest of the Top Best Creative Writing Schools

Honorable mentions.

33 Providence, RI
34 Ann Arbor, MI
35 Saint Charles, MO
36 Washington, DC
37 Houston, TX
38 Philadelphia, PA
39 Tempe, AZ
40 Flagstaff, AZ
41 Champaign, IL
42 San Marcos, TX
43 Charlottesville, VA

Creative Writing by Region


Other Rankings

Associate degrees in creative writing, master's degrees in creative writing, bachelor's degrees in creative writing, doctor's degrees in creative writing, rankings in majors related to creative writing, majors similar to creative writing.

Related MajorAnnual Graduates

Notes and References

Popular reports, compare your school options.

Is English a Hard Major? Debunking the Myths

David Krug

Writen by: CollegeRanker Team

Reviewed by: David Krug , Editor-in-Chief

Updated on: March 13, 2024

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In this article, we will be covering…

Deciding on a college major can be a daunting task, especially when considering the complexities and nuances of various fields of study. Many students ponder whether English is a hard major, often weighing their passion for literature and writing against the rumored challenges it presents. It’s essential to understand that “hard” is subjective and what one person finds difficult another might sail through with ease.

The rigor of an English major can’t be downplayed; it requires intensive reading, critical thinking, and advanced writing skills. I’ve found that while some students thrive in analyzing metaphors in Shakespearean plays or crafting compelling arguments in essays, others may struggle with the abstract thinking or the volume of reading required. One thing’s for sure: an English major demands dedication and a love for language.

Moreover, an English degree isn’t just about studying classic literature—it also encompasses modern works, cultural studies, film analysis, and sometimes even digital media. This diversity means there’s something for everyone but also that you’ll need to be adaptable and willing to step outside your comfort zone. Success as an English major hinges on your ability to interpret texts critically and communicate your ideas clearly both on paper and verbally—skills that are highly valued in many career paths after graduation.

What is English?

English is a West Germanic language first spoken in early medieval England. It’s the third most common native language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. With its origins dating back to the 5th century AD, it has evolved significantly over time through various historical periods. The language has its roots in Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers and was later influenced by Norse and Norman French.

The reach of English today is vast. It serves as an official language in 67 countries and 27 non-sovereign entities such as Puerto Rico or Hong Kong. That’s not even counting places where it holds a status of primary or secondary lingua franca for business, science, technology, aviation, entertainment, diplomacy, and tourism.

Here are some key points about the ubiquity of English:

  • Global influence : English is often called a “world language” or “lingua franca” due to its widespread use.
  • Variations : There are numerous dialects and variations of English around the globe including American, British, Australian, Canadian, Indian English among others.
  • Learning : According to Ethnologue data from 2021:
Level of Proficiency Number of Learners
First Language approx. 379 million
Second Language approx. 743 million
Foreign Language over 1 billion

This data reflects just how many people globally are engaging with this language at various levels.

Studying English goes beyond mastering grammar rules or expanding vocabulary. It involves understanding context-specific nuances that shape meaning—like idiomatic expressions which can be quite puzzling for non-native speakers but enrich communication immensely for those who grasp them.

Literature plays a pivotal role in any English major program. From Shakespearean tragedies to contemporary novels dealing with modern societal issues—the breadth and depth offered through literature studies provide insights into different cultures and human psychology while honing critical thinking skills.

Finally yet importantly for anyone considering an English major should recognize that it’s more than just reading books or writing essays; it encompasses analyzing complex texts critically creating persuasive arguments engaging with diverse mediums like film poetry drama understanding linguistic structures—and potentially contributing original research within these fields!

Understanding the Scope of English Majors

When we dive into the realm of English majors, it’s crucial to recognize that this field is far more expansive than just reading and analyzing classic literature. An English major encompasses various aspects of language, including critical thinking, writing, communication skills, and an understanding of cultural contexts. Here are some key areas that illustrate the breadth of an English major:

  • Literary Analysis : This involves studying texts from different periods and genres to understand themes, character development, and stylistic devices.
  • Creative Writing : Many programs offer tracks in fiction, poetry, or nonfiction where students can hone their craft.
  • Technical Writing : There’s a growing demand for clear communicators in industries like technology and science who can explain complex ideas to a general audience.
  • Cultural Studies : Courses often explore how literature reflects and shapes societal values.

Students may find themselves dissecting the social implications within Shakespearean works one day while crafting a persuasive essay on contemporary environmental issues the next. The versatility in coursework prepares graduates for a wide array of career paths.

It’s also important to note that English is not just about solitary reading. Collaborative discussions play a vital role in university seminars where diverse interpretations fuel lively debates. These interactions sharpen public speaking skills which are invaluable across numerous professions.

Moreover, internships or practical experiences often form part of an English program. They provide real-world application for theoretical knowledge gained through classes. For instance:

  • A student might intern at a publishing house
  • Another could assist in teaching undergraduate courses
  • Others might contribute articles to college magazines or blogs

The statistics shed light on post-collegiate success rates too. According to data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), humanities majors like those focused on English have seen steady increases in employment rates post-graduation.

Year Employment Rate (%)
2016 54
2017 55
2018 57

These figures suggest that despite popular belief, an English degree can lead to successful career outcomes.

In essence, embarking on an English major journey means developing a skill set that transcends traditional boundaries—equipping individuals with analytical prowess and eloquent expression beneficial in virtually any industry they choose to step into after graduation.

Core Subjects in the English Curriculum

Diving into an English major, you’ll find a rich tapestry of subjects that lay the foundation for a deep understanding of literature, language, and writing. At the heart of this curriculum are courses focused on literary analysis where students learn to dissect and interpret texts from various historical periods and genres. It’s not just about reading novels; there’s poetry, drama, and even film to consider as well.

Alongside literary studies, composition classes are fundamental. Here I’ve learned how to craft compelling arguments and convey ideas clearly in written form. These courses often range from creative writing workshops where raw imagination is shaped into narratives or poems to advanced research seminars that hone my ability to conduct scholarly inquiry.

Critical theory is another cornerstone subject within an English degree program. This area challenges me to examine literature through different lenses like feminism, Marxism, post-colonialism, and more. Engaging with these perspectives not only broadens my analytical skills but also enhances my cultural literacy.

Language itself—its history, structure, and evolution—is explored thoroughly in linguistics courses. Having taken several of these classes myself, I can attest they’re eye-opening. They’ve given me valuable insight into how language functions both as a system of communication and as a reflection of society.

Lastly, many programs include electives tailored towards specialized interests such as digital humanities or environmental literature. These options allow students like me to delve deeper into specific topics that pique our curiosity or align with career goals we may have in mind.

Analyzing the Difficulty Level of English Courses

Delving into the complexity of English courses, I’ve noticed a range of challenges that students often encounter. The breadth of material covered can be vast, including literature from various periods, critical theory, and creative writing. Each facet demands not only a deep understanding but also an ability to analyze and interpret texts at a nuanced level.

For instance, when studying Shakespearean plays, it’s not just about reading the words on the page; it’s about grasping Elizabethan language nuances and cultural context to truly understand the text’s implications. Similarly, modern literary criticism courses require students to familiarize themselves with different schools of thought and apply these theoretical frameworks to various texts.

The workload in English majors is also significant. Students are expected to read extensively and produce several written assignments ranging from reflective essays to research papers. This means managing time effectively becomes crucial for success in this field.

Here are some common components found in English courses that contribute to their difficulty:

  • Intensive Reading : Expect multiple novels, plays, poems, and critical essays per semester.
  • Analytical Writing : Regular submission of essays that demand clear arguments supported by textual evidence.
  • Research Projects : Often culminating in lengthy papers or presentations involving primary and secondary sources.
  • Participation : Active discussion in seminars where you’ll need to articulate your interpretations confidently.

It’s worth noting that grading can be highly subjective in English programs since interpretation plays such a key role. What one professor may consider an insightful analysis could be seen as surface-level by another. This subjectivity means that feedback varies greatly which can impact how challenging a course feels.

Ultimately though, what makes an English major difficult for one student might make it thrilling for another. The joy comes from dissecting complex ideas and engaging deeply with texts—a process that is intellectually demanding yet incredibly rewarding for those with a passion for literature and language arts.

Challenges Faced by English Students

Studying English at the college level isn’t a walk in the park. Many people assume it’s all about reading novels and whipping up essays. But there’s way more to it, and students often encounter several challenges along the way.

One major hurdle is the sheer volume of reading required. An English major will have to digest a multitude of books, poems, and scholarly articles. It’s not just about enjoying literature; you need to analyze texts critically and connect them with historical contexts, theoretical frameworks, and even contemporary issues.

Then there’s the writing component. Crafting thesis-driven essays that are both coherent and insightful takes a lot of practice—and patience! You’re expected to develop a unique voice while adhering to strict academic standards. And let’s not forget the numerous drafts you’ll revise after painstaking feedback from peers and professors.

Literary theory can be another tough nut to crack for many English majors. Terms like “deconstruction,” “postmodernism,” or “feminist critique” can feel overwhelming when you first encounter them. Understanding these concepts is crucial since they form the backbone of many discussions and papers within an English program.

Moreover, navigating subjective grading systems presents its own set of challenges. Unlike math or science where answers are often black-and-white, English assignments are subjectively graded based on argument quality, evidence support, writing style, among other criteria—which can sometimes feel like shooting in the dark if you don’t have clear guidance.

Lastly but importantly is securing job prospects post-graduation—many students worry about this throughout their studies. While an English degree equips one with critical thinking skills and effective communication abilities which are highly valued across various fields, carving out a clear career path can seem daunting without proper mentorship or resources.

Support Systems for English Majors

Navigating the complexities of an English major can be daunting at times. Fortunately, there’s a robust support system in place for students pursuing this path. Universities typically offer writing centers where one-on-one tutoring sessions help improve writing skills and offer guidance on papers and projects. These centers are staffed by experienced tutors, many of whom are fellow students excelling in their courses.

Peer support plays a crucial role too. Study groups and English clubs provide spaces where majors can discuss literature, share ideas, and seek feedback from classmates who understand the unique challenges of the discipline. Engaging with peers often leads to deeper comprehension and appreciation of course material while building a supportive community.

Mentorship from faculty is another key element available to English majors. Professors with years of experience in research, publishing, and literary analysis serve as invaluable resources for career advice or further academic pursuits. Their office hours are golden opportunities for personalized advice that can shape your academic journey.

Internships facilitated through the university help bridge the gap between academic study and real-world experience. Many English departments have established connections with local publishers, newspapers, magazines, or other related businesses offering intern positions that allow students to apply their skills practically.

Online forums and social media groups also provide platforms for networking and support among English majors across various institutions. Here you’ll find discussions on everything from thesis statements to career paths post-graduation.

  • Writing Centers : Offer tutoring sessions
  • Study Groups & Clubs : Encourage peer-to-peer learning
  • Faculty Mentorship : Professors provide guidance
  • Internships : Connect classroom knowledge with practical application
  • Online Communities : Forums for broader networking opportunities

By tapping into these resources, English majors can alleviate some of the stress associated with their studies while enhancing both their educational experiences and future opportunities.

Career Opportunities After an English Degree

Diving into the professional world with an English degree opens a plethora of career pathways. You’re not just limited to being the next great novelist or poet, though that’s certainly on the table. The skills you hone while dissecting metaphors and analyzing narrative structures are highly sought after in various industries.

  • Education : Naturally, teaching is a common route. Whether it’s inspiring high school students or lecturing at the university level, your mastery of language can shape future generations.
  • Writing and Editing : This field is vast, including roles like copywriter, editor, content strategist, technical writer, and ghostwriter. Companies from startups to Fortune 500s need sharp writers to convey their messages.
  • Publishing : If you love books but writing them isn’t your calling, consider careers in publishing such as literary agent or acquisitions editor.

Marketing also offers exciting opportunities for English majors who can apply their storytelling abilities to brand messaging. SEO specialist positions are growing rapidly as businesses seek professionals who understand how to rank high on search engines.

For those with a knack for research and facts-checking, journalism might be the perfect fit. Meanwhile, public relations roles allow English grads to craft compelling narratives around individuals or companies.

In terms of numbers:

Industry Estimated Growth % (2021-2031)
Technical Writing 6%
Public Relations 11%
Market Research 22%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

While some believe that an English degree may not be as directly vocational as other disciplines think again! Graduates are well-equipped for law school given their strong analytical reading and precise writing skills.

Exploring unconventional paths can also be rewarding; perhaps working in digital humanities or becoming involved in library sciences where archiving and curating information are key tasks.

Remember networking plays a crucial role no matter which path you choose so engage with alumni keep up with professional groups on social media and attend industry events whenever possible.

To sum it up there’s no one-size-fits-all career for someone with an English degree but rather a landscape rich with opportunity ready to be navigated by those equipped with critical thinking communication expertise and a passion for language.

Comparing English to Other Majors

Choosing a major is about finding the right fit for your interests and career goals. When it comes to comparing an English major with other fields of study, it’s essential to consider the skills you’ll develop, the curriculum’s flexibility, and post-graduate opportunities.

Let’s look at how an English major stacks up against some common alternatives:

  • STEM Fields : Often perceived as more ‘practical’, STEM majors—Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics—focus on quantitative skills and typically lead to well-defined career paths. However, they may offer less room for creative expression or exploration of diverse perspectives.

In contrast to these fields:

  • English majors refine their analytical thinking through literature analysis and improve their communication skills by writing extensively. These soft skills are highly transferable and valued across numerous industries.

To give you an idea of this diversity in coursework here’s a glimpse at potential classes:

  • Introduction to Literary Studies
  • Creative Writing Workshops
  • Rhetoric and Composition
  • Cultural Media Studies

The job market tells its own tale:

Major Unemployment Rate Median Income
English 4.8% $52k
Biology 4.7% $57k
Business Administration 4.2% $65k

Remember that while unemployment rates fluctuate and median incomes vary widely based on geography and experience level.

Finally let’s talk networking opportunities: An advantage that business or tech-related events have is their industry-specific focus which facilitates direct connections with future employers; however literary events book fairs or academic conferences all provide valuable networking opportunities within broader cultural intellectual circles.

As we’ve seen each major has its strengths depending on what you’re looking for in your university education and beyond!

Conclusion: Is English the Right Choice for You?

Deciding on a major is a significant step in your academic journey and it’s vital to weigh all the factors before making a choice. If you’re considering an English major, here’s what you need to contemplate.

Firstly, think about your passion for reading and writing. An English degree demands a substantial amount of both, so it’s crucial that you enjoy these activities. Analyzing texts, crafting essays, and engaging with various literary works will be at the core of your studies.

Secondly, assess your career goals. Do you aspire to work in education, publishing, or communications? An English major can open doors to these fields and more. However, if you’re unsure about career paths post-graduation, research potential job opportunities with an English degree to see if they align with your interests.

Here are some skills typically developed by English majors:

  • Critical thinking
  • Strong communication
  • Analytical reasoning
  • Cultural awareness

These skills are transferable across numerous industries which enhances their value.

Finally consider how well-rounded this major can make you as a candidate in the job market. Employers often seek individuals who can analyze information critically and communicate effectively—hallmarks of an English education.

I’ve seen many students thrive as English majors while others pivot towards different fields where they find their calling. It ultimately boils down to personal preference and professional aspirations.

So ask yourself: Does studying literature excite me? Am I prepared for the intensive coursework? Will this major help me achieve my long-term objectives?

If you answered yes to these questions then an English major might just be the right path for you! Remember that college is also about exploration; don’t hesitate to explore courses outside your chosen field that might expand your horizons further.

Choosing a major isn’t easy but taking time now to ponder over what excites and motivates you will pay off in making an informed decision that propels you towards future success.

Want to continue learning?

Expand your understanding with our hand-picked selection of insightful articles, each closely related to the topic you’ve just explored.

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The English Major: Creative Writing Option

Many pink blossomed cherry trees in bloom and many students.

Note!  The requirements below took effect in Summer 2022 .  If you declared your major before then, please see the old requirements .  If you have questions about which version of the major applies to you, please contact HAS .

The Creative Writing Concentration prepares students not only to be more effective communicators and artists, but also creative problem solvers and more nuanced critical thinkers. By situating small, student-oriented writing workshops alongside literary models, Creative Writing classes enhance the broader study of literature and critical theory, helping students gain a greater understanding of the social and cultural forces informing their work. A student completing the program is more able to situate themselves in a larger aesthetic and social context and make more meaningful, informed decisions about their own artistic practice. In addition, through the intense practice of creative writing, students are able to see the world more clearly, in a more nuanced and meaningful manner, and apply these skills to a wide variety of work and life situations.

This page describes the English Major Concentration in Creative Writing. For the major's other option, see English Language, Literature, and Culture ,.

Students enrolled in the Creative Writing Concentration will complete a major consisting of 65 ENGL credits, at least 30 of which must be completed in residence at the University of Washington. A maximum of 20 credits in 200-level courses may count toward the English major, and may be used to fulfill the distribution requirements.

Creative writing students’ coursework is distributed as follows:

  • ENGL 202: Introduction to English Language and Literature
  • A sequence of creative writing workshops: ENGL 283: Beginning Verse Writing, ENGL 284: Beginning Short Story Writing, ENGL 383: The Craft of Verse, and ENGL 384: The Craft of Prose
  • 15 credits in Historical Depth
  • 15 credits in Power and Difference
  • Two 400-level Creative Writing seminars ( Please see the  400-level Creative Writing workshop registration instruction page  for instructions on registering for these courses)

Please note: Creative writing students do *not* need to complete either ENGL 302 (satisfied by 383 & 384) or the senior capstone (satisfied by two 400-level CW classes), required for the major in Language, Literature, and Culture. All creative writing courses satisfy the Genre, Method, and Language distribution area, so Creative Writing students do not need to complete this area separately.

Applying to Creative Writing:

Applicants to the Creative Writing option must have already declared, or be eligible to declare, the English: Language and Literature major .

Applications for the Creative Writing option are accepted in autumn, winter, and spring quarters only, and should be submitted through this online application form   by the third Friday of the quarter at 4:00pm . Applications to creative writing are not accepted in summer quarter.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to apply for the Creative Writing option, you must

  • have already declared, or be ready to declare, the English major program ;
  • have completed ENGL 202, 283 (beginning verse writing) and ENGL 284 (beginning short story writing) or transfer equivalents.

Application Procedure:

Please submit online ONE complete attachment that includes the items below, by 4:00pm on the third Friday of autumn, winter, or spring quarter (no applications accepted in summer):

1. Undergraduate Creative Writing Option Application (PDF)

RIGHT-click the above link and save it as a PDF to your computer. Fill out the form using Acrobat Reader. Save your changes. Then combine it with the following materials:

Transcripts for all college work completed, both at the UW and elsewhere (these are additional sets of transcripts, separate from the transcripts you will have supplied as part of your application for the major):

  • Unofficial UW Transcript : Even if this is your first quarter after transferring to the UW, you should submit an unofficial UW transcript, available through the MyUW system ;
  • Complete set of Unofficial transcripts from all schools from which you have transfer credit : We need the information contained in the complete transcript from each transfer school; the transfer summary on a UW unofficial transcript is not sufficient. Photocopies of transcripts are acceptable.

2. A Writing Sample of 3-5 poems and 5-10 pages of fiction (preferably a complete story). Fiction should be double-spaced, with 12pt font (Times New Roman) and 1" margins:

  • Review writing sample guidelines and be sure to submit literary fiction and poetry
  • Be sure to proofread carefully.

Admission decisions are based primarily on the potential a student exhibits in his or her writing sample - grades and GPAs are usually not at issue. Admission decisions are sent to applicants by e-mail, normally within two weeks of the application deadline.

Completion of the requirements above does not guarantee admission.

Students who are denied admission to the Creative Writing option will continue to be English majors, and may complete the requirements for the literature BA in English. They may apply for the Creative Writing option one additional time, but if they are denied admission then, they must complete the literature major or elect another major in another department.

Distribution Areas:

The majority of English courses are distributed among three overlapping areas: Historical Depth, Power & Difference, and Genre, Method, and Language. Creative Writing students are required to complete 15 credits in two of these areas, Historical Depth and Power & Difference, with the remainder of their coursework focusing on Creative Writing workshops. 

Some courses can count towards both "Historical Depth" or "Power & Difference"; however, each course can ultimately only be used to fulfill one requirement. For example, ENGL 351 is listed under both “Historical Depth” and “Power and Difference" but it will only count in one of those categories in a student's degree progress. The student may choose (and can change their mind, shuffling courses as long as they are enrolled).  Students noticing issues with how these classes are applying to the distribution areas in their degree audit can contact an advisor at   Humanities Academic Services Center  (HAS), A-2-B Padelford Hall  for support. 

Descriptions of each area, along with the courses fulfilling it, are available below. 

Historical Depth:

People have been speaking, reading, and writing in English for more than a thousand years, producing literature that is at once timeless and deeply informed by the time in which it was written. Cultural artifacts from the English-speaking world have shaped, and been shaped by, social movements and historical conditions around the globe, as has the language itself. With this in mind, English majors are required to take 15 credits focused on materials produced before 1945, with at least 5 of those credits focused on materials produced before 1700. Distributing coursework in this way helps students to understand the depth, richness, and variability of English literature, language, and culture across time, and dramatizes how the ways we organize history affect the stories we tell about it. These courses open up past worlds that are in some ways totally alien and in others very similar to our own, revealing that what seems real and true to us can radically alter over time. Entering into these past realities offers a new perspective on the present and develops our capacity to imagine alternative futures.

Historical Depth Courses:

  • ENGL 210 Medieval and Early Modern Literature, 400 to 1600
  • ENGL 211 Literature, 1500-1800
  • ENGL 225 Shakespeare
  • ENGL 310 The Bible as Literature
  • ENGL 320 English Literature: The Middle Ages
  • ENGL 321 Chaucer
  • ENGL 322 Medieval & Early Modern Literatures of Encounter (P&D)
  • ENGL 323 Shakespeare to 1603
  • ENGL 324 Shakespeare after 1603
  • ENGL 325 Early Modern English Literature
  • ENGL 326 Milton (GML)
  • ENGL 351: Writing in the Contact Zone: North America 1492 - 1800 (P&D)
  • ENGL 376: Introduction to Middle English Language (HD)
  • ENGL 422 Arthurian Legends (GML)
  • ENGL 212 Literature, 1700-1900
  • ENGL 300: Reading Major Texts (can also count as pre-1700 depending on texts)
  • ENGL 303 History of Literary Criticism and Theory I (GML)
  • ENGL 312 Jewish Literature: Biblical to Modern (P&D)
  • ENGL 314: Transatlantic Literature and Culture (P&D)
  • ENGL 315: Literary Modernism (GML)
  • ENGL 327 Narratives of Bondage & Freedom (P&D)
  • ENGL 328 Eighteenth Century Literature & Culture
  • ENGL 329 Rise of the English Novel (GML)
  • ENGL 330 English Literature: The Romantic Age
  • ENGL 331 Globalization & Nationalism in the Age of Empire (P&D)
  • ENGL 332 Nineteenth Century Poetry (GML)
  • ENGL 333 Nineteenth Century Novel (GML)
  • ENGL 335 English Literature: The Victorian Age
  • ENGL 336 English Literature: Early Twentieth Century
  • ENGL 337 The Modern Novel (GML)
  • ENGL 338 Modern Poetry (GML)
  • ENGL 352 Literatures of the United States to 1865 (P&D)
  • ENGL 353 American Literature: Later Nineteenth Century
  • ENGL 354 American Literature: Early Twentieth Century
  • ENGL 373: History of the English Language (GML)
  • ENGL 380: Special Topics in History
  • ENGL 385: Global Modernism (P&D)

Power and Difference:

Literature, language, and culture have been shaped by and in turn shape systems of power. Such systems include capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, and hierarchies of race, status, caste, sex, gender, and sexuality. Over time, systems of power elevate some voices and stories and marginalize and silence others. English majors are required to take at least 15 credits focused on how systems of power operate in and through literature, language, and culture. These courses explore the evolving relationship of literature, language, and culture to structures of violence and dispossession and center critical perspectives that have been marginalized or silenced. They embrace alternative ways of learning about the past and present, and the impress of the former on the latter. They highlight the complex, sometimes contradictory ways in which literature and culture mediate systems of power. In so doing, Power and Difference courses foster our imagination of more just and equitable futures.

Power and Difference Courses:

  • ENGL 207: Introduction to Cultural Studies (GML)
  • ENGL 208: Data and Narrative (GML)
  • ENGL 256: Introduction to Queer Cultural Studies (DIV) (GML)
  • ENGL 257: Introduction to Asian American Literature (DIV)
  • ENGL 258: Introduction to African American Literature (DIV)
  • ENGL 259: Literature and Social Difference (DIV)
  • ENGL 265: Introduction to Environmental Humanities (DIV, GML)
  • ENGL 307: Cultural Studies
  • ENGL 308: Marxism and Literary Theory
  • ENGL 311: Modern Jewish Literature in Translation
  • ENGL 312: Jewish Literature: Biblical to Modern (HD)
  • ENGL 314: Transatlantic Literature and Culture (HD)
  • ENGL 316: Postcolonial Literature and Culture (DIV)
  • ENGL 317: Literature of the Americas (DIV)
  • ENGL 318: Black Literary Genres (DIV, GML)
  • ENGL 319: African Literatures (DIV)
  • ENGL 322 Medieval & Early Modern Literatures of Encounter (HD)
  • ENGL 327 Narratives of Bondage & Freedom (HD)
  • ENGL 331 Globalization & Nationalism in the Age of Empire (HD)
  • ENGL 339: Globalization & Contemporary World Literature (GML)
  • ENGL 340: Irish Literature (P&D)
  • ENGL 349: Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • ENGL 351: Writing in the Contact Zone: North America 1492 - 1800 (HD)
  • ENGL 352: American Literatures to 1865 (HD)
  • ENGL 355: Contemporary American Literature
  • ENGL 357: Jewish American Literature and Culture (DIV)
  • ENGL 358: African American Literature (DIV)
  • ENGL 359: Contemporary American Indian Literature (DIV)
  • ENGL 361: American Political Culture After 1865 (DIV)
  • ENGL 362: Latino Literary Genres (DIV, GML)
  • ENGL 364: Literature & Medicine
  • ENGL 365: Literature & Environment (GML, DIV)
  • ENGL 366: Literature & Law
  • ENGL 367: Gender Studies in Literature (DIV)
  • ENGL 368: Women Writers (DIV)
  • ENGL 372: World Englishes (DIV) (GML)
  • ENGL 379: Special Topics in Power & Difference
  • ENGL 385: Global Modernism (HD)
  • ENGL 386: Asian American Literature (DIV)
  • ENGL 466: Queer and LGBT Literature (DIV)
  • ENGL 478: Language and Social Policy (DIV) (GML)
  • ENGL 479: Language Variation and Language Policy in North America (DIV, GML)
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for more information.

are required. 5 workshops, 4 seminars, and 3 related courses.

15 points within the division in the following courses. One workshop must be in a genre other than the primary focus. For instance, a fiction writer might take four fiction workshops and one poetry workshop:

This course is open to non-majors, and will have sections in fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. Beginning workshops are designed for students who have little or no previous experience writing literary texts in a particular genre. Students are introduced to a range of technical and imaginative concerns through exercises and discussions, and eventually produce their own writing for the critical analysis of the class.

Permission required. Admission by writing sample. Enrollment limited to 15 students. This course can be repeated in fulfillment of the major.

Intermediate workshops are for students with some experience with creative writing, and whose prior work merits admission to the class (as judged by the professor). With sections in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, the intermediate workshops present a higher creative standard than beginning workshops, and increased expectations to produce finished work. By the end of the semester, each student will have produced at least seventy pages of original fiction or non-fiction, or twenty original poems.

Prerequisite: Intermediate Workshop. Permission required. Admission by writing sample. Enrollment limited to 15 students. This course can be repeated in fulfillment of the major.

Building on the work of the Intermediate Workshop, Advanced workshops are reserved for the most gifted creative writing students. A significant body of writing must be produced and revised. Students in the advanced workshops will have taken several courses in the major already (workshops and seminars), and they bring their additional literary experience and knowledge to the classroom, which at once raises the level of discourse and potential for achievement.

This course is restricted to seniors who are majors in creative writing. Enrollment is limited, and is by permission of the professor. The senior workshop offers students the opportunity to work exclusively with classmates who are at the same high level of accomplishment in the major. Students in the senior workshops will produce and revise a new and substantial body of work.

12 points within the division. Two of the seminars must be from “Craft and Practice”, and two must be from “History and Context”:

“Craft and Practice” seminars offer close examination of literary techniques such as plot, point of view, tone, suspense, and narrative voice. Extensive readings are required, along with creative exercises.

“History and Context” seminars offer a broad view of literary history as it relates to the concerns of a writer. These seminars cover specific genres or periods of time, and seek to inform students about the kinds of approaches that are possible in their chosen genre. Extensive readings are required, along with short critical papers or creative exercises.

Based on graduate courses such as R6307, R6303, R6301

Master Classes put students in contact with distinguished teachers for concentrated tutorials on a variety of literary topics, all of which relate to the creative pursuits of a writer. The Master Classes are offered, usually, by visiting faculty of the highest level, and are restricted to students in the major.

9 points in the following courses:

Related courses should provide concentrated intellectual and creative stimulation for the student writer, exposure to a body of ideas that will enrich the student’s artistic instincts. These courses will necessarily be different for each student writer, but they might be drawn from departments such as English, Comp. Lit, Philosophy, History, and Anthropology (among others). Students will determine, in consultation with their faculty advisors, the related courses that will best inform their creative work.

Some examples:

PHIL V2003x Introduction To the Philosophy of Art 3 pts
PHIL V3801 Aesthetics and Ethics 3 pts
PHIL G4481x Philosophy of Language 3 pts

ANTH V1009x Language and Culture 3 pts
ANTH V3925 American Narrative Culture: Captivity & Release 4 pts.
ANTH V3947 Text, Magic, Performance 4 pts

AHIS W3650y Twentieth-Century Art 3 pts
AHIS BC3968x Art Criticism 4 pts

CLLT V3132x Classical Myth 3 pts
CLLT V3135 The Ancient Novel 3 pts

CLEN W3208x Twentieth-Century Comparative Fiction 3 pts
ENGL W4593y Theory and History of the American Novel, 1789 To 1860 3 pts

CLEN W3390x Studies In Narrative: Strange Fiction (Seminar) 4 pts
ENGL W3283x Post-1945 American Literature 3 pts
ENGL W3711y The Big Ambitious Novel In Contemporary America (Seminar) 4 pts

ENGL W3409x Form In Poetry (Seminar) 4 pts
ENGL W3630x American Poetry: the American Long Poem (Seminar) 4 pts
ENGL W3967x Twentieth-Century British and American Poetry (Seminar) 4 pts

CLEN W4560y Backgrounds To Contemporary Theory 3 pts
FREN W3676y Structuralism - Post-Structuralism 3 pts
SOCI G4030y Sociology of Language 3 pts

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Spartan Alert

Pride and poetry, according to emilia phillips.

Posted on June 25, 2024

Person stands at a podium with a mic in a bookstore and addresses a seated crowd.

On a dreary Thursday night in February, a group gathered at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro for a reading of a new collection of poetry by Emilia Phillips . Phillips had just released their fifth collection of poetry, entitled “Nonbinary Bird of Paradise,” but this was no typical book reading.  

Phillips gathered UNCG students and alumni to read original works and selected text that inspired their latest poems. All in attendance raved about how the reading was a celebration of voices and art and the flow of inspiration. For Phillips, all of this is intertwined.  

An Artist Spreads Their Wings  

A UNCG professor since 2017, Phillips is an associate professor of creative writing where they teach poetry workshops and serve as core poetry faculty for the Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing . Phillips also has cross-appointments in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and English departments teaching the Queer Poetry and Poetics class and the Women’s Health and Bodies class to undergraduates.  

Being a poet, a teacher, and a voice for the LGBTQIA+ community is all part of the creative process for Phillips. “I can’t teach poetry unless I’m writing it and vice versa,” she says. “My constant dialogue with students informs my work.”  

Book cover for Nonbinary Bird of Paradise with an illustration of birds nesting with flowers and a snake striking from inside the nest.

“Nonbinary Bird of Paradise” is a prime example of Phillips’ exploratory style of poetry, but this latest collection focuses on gender and the ways cultural, religious and mythological narratives support heterosexuality as “the norm”. 

In “Nonbinary Bird of Paradise,” Phillips’ challenge of compulsory heterosexuality cuts right to the chase. The first section includes twelve poems in the voice of Eve from the Bible. It imagines if Eve wasn’t born straight and was never desiring of Adam but had no other choices of partners. 

“My writing is definitely informed by my own worldview, experience, gender journey and sexuality,” says Phillips, who was raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “I couldn’t have written the Eve sequence without getting to a certain point of my own reflections and self-work, but I was nervous when the book came out because it does deal so explicitly with sex and gender and sexuality.”  

The poem that inspired the book’s title is also extremely personal. “It’s a love poem for my partner,” Phillips explains. “I imagined if I was a bird of paradise, how would I woo my partner without the fancy plumage.”  

Phillips admits that most of their poetry is part autobiographical and part creative, but its fiction label opens doors for creative freedom, a principle they encourage in the classroom as well.   

Birds of a Feather Writing Together  

Phillips’ classes provide a safe space for building art and students appreciate the sense of community they find at UNCG’s English department. 

“Emilia prioritizes community not only in the classroom but outside of it too,” second-year MFA student Liz Bruce explains. “We are constantly sharing resources and opportunities and celebrating each other.” 

Student stands at a podium and reads for a group at a book store.

Recent MFA graduate Kay Zeiss is a private practice therapist working with adults who have experienced trauma. They are particularly dialed into using writing to process trauma. Self-identifying as genderqueer and nonbinary, Zeiss was particularly interested in working under Phillips’ mentorship and thrived in the department. 

“My goal isn’t to become this famous writer,” Zeiss confesses. “I just hope my writing can be of service to someone. Folks are really interested in being able to articulate their experience and find language for something that they didn’t have before. There’s a community and compassion there that I want to help facilitate.” 

Attracting creative minds like this to UNCG is exactly what Phillips had in mind when they joined the English department in 2017. Establishing a close-knit community within a larger campus community, which serves minorities and has historically been a safe place for LGBTQIA+ youth, provided the perfect environment for Phillips’ poetry to take root. 

“Having representation in the classroom and also having representation in my work out in the world is very important to me,” Phillips says. 

Artistic Reflections   

This high regard for representation and community made it natural for Phillips to invite students to share inspirational text at their book reading. “My students are among the most important people in my life,” they said. “Including them made it really festive.”  

“I’ve been to multiple readings at Scuppernong and this one was definitely different in that there was a huge crowd of people there to celebrate,” said Bruce, who read “[Poem about Naomi; unsent]” by Rachel Mennies at Phillips’ book reading. 

Zeiss read an original poem publicly for the first time at Phillips’ reading. “Hymnal to Transqueer Futures” reflects on grief following the death of Nex Benedict and ponders hope for the future of nonbinary and transqueer children. Zeiss dedicated it to Maddie Poole, another writer in attendance.  “I was so honored to be a part of this group,” they said. “It was very tender and sweet to have other people in the MFA program that I care about in this line-up of incredible poets. Reading my poem felt like an offering to the community.”  

Student stands at a poem and reads to a group at Scuppernong Books.

Bruce, and others who participated in the event, felt similarly grateful to be a part of Phillips’ unveiling of “Nonbinary Bird of Paradise.” 

“Because of Emilia’s decision to platform multiple voices and multiple authors, they recognize that writing isn’t created in a vacuum,” Bruce says. “It was a celebration of the community as much as the book, because the community influenced the making of the book in so many ways.” 

UNCG has nothing but pride for communities like Emilia Phillips’ that bring art into the world to spur curiosity and impart understanding. We celebrate this during Pride month, as we do throughout the year. 

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.   Photography courtesy of Felipe Troncoso  

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