Complete Guide to Online Creative Writing Degrees
Online creative writing degrees prepare graduates for careers as authors, teachers, marketers, grant writers, and other communications professionals. Degrees are available at the bachelor's, master’s, and certificate levels and online classes cover topics like editing, script writing, storytelling, and poetry. A master's degree is suggested for those wishing to pursue a career as a college professor, or those wishing to get the more in-depth feedback offered by a thesis advisor. For most careers related to creative writing, a bachelor's degree is the most common education requirement.
Students should only consider online programs from accredited institutions. Also, students pursuing a master’s in fine arts (MFA) program should look for recognition by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), which looks for a low student-to-faculty ratio, strong advising, and accomplished faculty, among other characteristics. Read More
Comprehensive List of Schools for an Online Creative Writing Degree (23)
Overview of Available Online Creative Writing Degree Types
Online creative writing degrees are available at the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels, with most traditional writing careers requiring a bachelor’s degree. Online coursework will equip graduates with critical skills to analyze, interpret, and create written work. A master’s is primarily beneficial for individuals who wish to teach the craft to others at the collegiate level, or desire to further their craft under the intentional direction of trained advisors. For most creative writing careers, building a strong portfolio of writing samples is more important than completing internships or any specialized training.
An online bachelor’s in creative writing requires completion of general education classes in addition to preferred topics of study, which should enhance the student’s ability to analyze and diversify his or her writing. Though there are not many colleges that offer creative writing degrees, many offer a concentration of creative writing to give you the expertise and breadth to be an effective writer in a multimedia culture with practical skills alongside creativity. Topics of study will include scriptwriting, editing, journalism, screenwriting, and poetry. Standard admissions require a 2.5 GPA or higher, SAT or ACT scores, and a personal essay. Traditionally, the programs offer six terms throughout the year, and entail 120 credit hours.
The most common type of online master’s degree is the Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing. An online MFA program offers workshops, provides more in-depth feedback than bachelor’s programs, and exposes students to a myriad of other writing styles. It also often prepares graduates to teach the craft to others at the collegiate level. The preferred method of learning for this program is “low-residency”, meaning that the majority of the work is completed online, but once or twice a year students convene for a week to attend live intensive seminars. Many programs take two to three years to complete, require 36 to 70 credit hours, and call for a completed creative writing thesis upon graduation. Traditionally, the programs offer concentrations in poetry and fiction, with select programs now offering coursework in media related fields. For admission, students need to hold a bachelor’s in any area of study—though a degree in a communications or writing related field is favorable—have a 2.0 to 3.0 minimum GPA, and obtain a satisfactory GRE score. Many individuals that hold this online degree go into publishing, communications, copywriting, teaching, and authoring.
Online creative writing certificates take approximately one year and are usually used to enhance another degree or for career advancement in a field that requires writing like marketing, non-profit fundraising, or content management. Creative writing certificates are available at the undergraduate or graduate level, and those at the graduate level can sometimes be applied to master’s degrees. Online classes include editing, storytelling, and writing for different media. Most programs require a high school diploma and writing samples, and often published work is not required.
Accreditation is a valuable way for students, future employers, and governing entities to know that quality education is being provided. Online programs need to be accredited in order for students to qualify for federal funding such as grants and loans, and graduating from an accredited program is often required to sit for state licensure exams. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is the supreme accreditation board for this country. It is a non-governmental, private organization committed to quality assurance and rigorous standards, and students should check with the Department of Education’s website in order to ensure the school they are considering is accredited.
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) is a governing body that evaluates MFA programs to ensure a high level of education and contribution to the written word. The AWP postulates that a valuable writing program offer extensive literary study, strong thesis advisors, accomplished faculty, and a small student-to-teacher ratio, which is something students should consider when evaluating an online MFA program.
An online degree in creative writing can provide a breadth of career opportunities, from editing to marketing communications to grant writing. Depending on career goals and experience, areas of focus can vary greatly within the capacity of creative writing.
Companies often hire individuals based on their “soft skills,” which include critical thinking, situation analysis, communication skills, and their ability to communicate effectively across a multitude of media interfaces. An online bachelor’s degree in creative writing can prepare you for a career path in editing and copywriting, advertising, public relations, and publishing, for example.
A master’s program will prepare graduates to teach at a collegiate level, or further critical skills in authorship, which can be essential to getting work published.
As creative writing is a field that encapsulates a broad scope, there will be a variety of online courses offered in a program. Listed below are some common online classes:
- Forms and Techniques of Fiction: This class gives students the tools to analyze and imitate important pieces of fiction in order to gain a historical understanding of the creative process.
- Advanced Poetry Writing: This online course delves into framework and finding your poetic voice through identifying expressive resources and elements.
- Storytelling in Film and Literature: Students will explore narrative techniques and how they transpose to film, examine the role of the reader and the structure of the meaning, and investigate political, social, and aesthetic issues within the narrative.
- Scriptwriting: This online class studies the process and elements of film scriptwriting, including character building, three-act structure, plot points, and formatting.
- Fiction Workshop: This allows students to share their work with peers and receive feedback. It also explores the complexities of fiction writing, from developing characters and plots, to setting a foundation while remaining concise.
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing: Students explore the rules of sci-fi and fantasy writing and the tools embedded in these genres. They will utilize poetic language, horror, and alternate realities to create short stories based on prompts.
- Assoication of Writers & Writing Programs: AWP Hallmarks of a Successful MFA Program in Creative Writing. Accessed February 21, 2015. https://www.awpwriter.org/guide/directors_handbook_hallmarks_of_a_successful_mfa_program_in_creative_writing
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.chea.org/public_info/index.asp
- Cowley College: Creative Writing. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.cowley.edu/departments/humanities/creativewriting.html
- Full Sail University: Creative Writing for Entertainment. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.fullsail.edu/degrees/campus/creative-writing-bachelors
- Lancaster University: PhD in Creative Writing. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/english-and-creative-writing/postgraduate/creative-writing/phd-in-creative-writing/
- Lindenwood University: Course Descriptions. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.lindenwood.edu/acceleratedDegreePrograms/writing/courseDescriptions.html
- Poets & Writers: MFA Programs. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.pw.org/content/mfa_programs
- Regent University: Admission Expectations. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.regent.edu/acad/undergrad/admissions/expectations.cfm
- San Jose State University: Post-Master’s Certificate in Library and Information Science. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://ischool.sjsu.edu/sites/default/files/content_pdf/sjsu_ischool_postmasterscert_brochure.pdf
- Southern New Hampshire University: Master the Art of Captivating Storytelling with an Online Creative Writing Degree. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/ba-in-creative-writing-and-english
- University College: Creative Writing (Master's). Accessed February 21, 2015. http://universitycollege.du.edu/mals/degree/masters/creative-writing-online/degreeid/429#overview
- University of Illinois. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.online.uillinois.edu/catalog/ProgramDetail.asp?ProgramID=571
- University of South Carolina: Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Library and Information Science. Accessed February 21, 2015. https://www.sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/cic/study/advanced_graduate_study/library_information_science_certificate.php
- Wayne State University: Graduate Bulletin 2014-2016. Accessed February 21, 2015. http://www.bulletins.wayne.edu/gbk-output/index.html