What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Creative Writing Program?

An online master’s degree in creative writing allows students to pursue their dreams while maintaining obligations at home or work. Online degree programs can be very flexible, making them a great choice for adult learners with an existing career. Creative writing degrees can open doors for changing careers or advancing your position in journalism, editorial, marketing and advertising, film making or novel writing. Each online master’s degree in creative writing is slightly unique, though, so it’s important to consider all your options to find a program that works with your schedule, goals and other personal needs.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Creative Writing

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Screenwriting Students learn to write specifically for the screen, whether that’s fictional movies or documentaries. Coursework includes critical analysis of existing films, script-writing fundamentals and writing for various genres. Playwright, screenwriter, director, producer
Nonfiction Coursework prepares individuals to write for nonfiction markets, including biographies and how-tos. Classes may concentrate on various nonfiction formats, including magazine articles, full-length books and essays. Essayist, nonfiction author, researcher, corporate writer, journalist, writing instructor
Fiction Students learn to create fictional characters and worlds and tell stories that are engaging and well-structured. Coursework also includes reading both classics and current best sellers and applying critical analysis to learn how to improve upon personal pieces. Fiction author/novelist, creative writing instructor, playwright
Genre Some programs allow a very specific concentration in genre, though this is rare. Students may be able to concentrate specifically in writing science fiction and fantasy, for example. Fiction author/novelist, creative writing instructor, playwright

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Creative Writing

A master’s degree in creative writing requires you to take a certain number of credit hours, choosing from a selection of core curriculum and concentration and elective classes. Most classes involve writing, studying writing or learning about the fundamentals for writing in a specific sector. Potential courses may include:

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Fundamentals of Fiction or Nonfiction Covers common tools used in either of these types of writing.
Story Structure Dissects what plot is made of and how plot, characters, scenes, themes and other parts of a story combine to create works of fiction.
Literary Theory or Analysis Involves examining the works of other authors and developing critical analysis that helps students understand how the work was created and why the author chose various components.
Workshop or Critique Students write their own material and critique it as a group.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Creative Writing?

Creative writing master’s degrees are typically considered to be a subset of English graduate degrees, which take on average two years for full-time students to complete. However, secondary factors can decrease or increase the time it takes for you to finish a program. If you can transfer credits into the program, you may reduce the number of classes required. Accelerated master’s programs can take as little as 15 months to complete. You can also choose a self-paced program over a cohort program if you want to work at a faster pace or opt for part-time status if you’re balancing an online degree program with an existing career or family obligations.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Creative Writing Degrees

While students entering into online master’s in creative writing programs may not be unduly concerned with what an eventual employer might think of their degree, accreditation is still important. Yes, accreditation puts value on the degree in the eyes of future employers, but it helps you know you’re applying to a program that delivers a complete education.

Creative writing programs aren’t typically accredited by a specific niche organization. Instead, they are either regionally or nationally accredited, usually depending on whether the school is public or private. Public nonprofit schools typically seek regional accreditation from organizations such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. To understand whether a degree program is accredited, you can check the databases of the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Creative Writing Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Creative writing is a unique niche because not all positions have employer gatekeepers who may require certain levels of education. In some cases, an author’s career is what he or she makes of it. That being said, there are numerous positions, such as teaching writing at a college or university, that do require a master’s degree. Writers with extended education and practice may also find that they are better able to gain employment (or succeed) as an author in an industry the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is growing by 8 percent.

Expected Salary

How much you earn after getting a creative writing degree varies widely and depends on factors that include the type of job you take, where you work, whether you’re self-employed and even luck.

You can see from the numbers below that the type of writing you do impacts your earnings potential. Writers who specialize in a niche that is in demand can often boost their annual pay.

Industry Specific Annual Mean Wages for Writers and Authors

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Writers as a whole make an average of $61,820 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s slighting over the total average annual pay for all media workers and close to $25,000 more than the total average wage for all occupations in the United States.

Those with a master’s degree in creative writing also have a unique opportunity to make their own way in the growing self-publishing industry. Authors who self-publish books on platforms like Amazon can make a decent annual income, especially if they are strong in their niche and know how to market their books. As of 2016, self-published or indie books had more of the Amazon ebook market share than any other type of publisher. Check out the growth of indie books in just two years to understand the earnings potential for fiction and nonfiction writers.

Ebook Market Share for Self-Published Authors

Source: AuthorEarnings.com

Career Opportunities

Individuals with a master’s in creative writing can enter into a variety of fields and can combine their unique backgrounds with the new skill set to climb career ladders in advertising, marketing and even corporate America. But some of the most popular jobs sought after obtaining a creative writing grad degree online are in entertainment, journalism and fiction writing.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Writers and Authors Writers and authors work with publishers to develop content for readers. A large number are self-employed, though they may also work full-time for marketing organizations, magazines and websites. $61,820 per year 8%
Postsecondary Teachers Creative writing teachers at the college and university level with a master’s degree typically teach undergraduate comp and rhetoric, creative writing, literature or other related classes. $76,000 per year 15%
Reporters and Journalists Reporters and journalists work for newspapers, magazines, television stations and websites to deliver news, opinions and stories of interest to readers and viewers. $40,910 per year 9%
Producers and Directors Producers and directors work to develop films for cinema, television or internet environment or run shows for the stage. $71,620 per year 12%

Professional Organizations

Writers and authors can join a number of professional organizations to network and collaborate with others, find out about work opportunities and access benefits such as discounts or insurance.

Writers Guild of America West: Members of the WGAW can access important benefits, including health insurance and a credit union. They also have access to special events and education and assistance with contracts and enforcement. Membership requires completing units of work in television or other applicable writing.

National Writers Union: Membership benefits include access to discounts on health insurance, advocacy and help with contracts and other legal matters. A variety of writers can join, including novelists, copywriters, journalists and playwrights.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Creative Writing

Online master’s degree programs have another benefit for those interested in a creative writing degree: They are typically more affordable than similar options on campus. Plus, since you don’t have to drive to classes or arrange for parking, you can save even more. That being said, many students still do require assistance in covering the total cost of a graduate education in creative writing. If you’re interested in financial aid for college, you should begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application lets you see what federal grants, loans and other financial aid options you might qualify for through the federal government. Then, you can consider other grants and scholarships that may be available through private or local agencies. Some resources have been provided below to get you started.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Robert J. and Evelyn L. Conley Award

Award: $2,000

Deadline: February 3

Eligibility: Full-time students enrolled in creative writing or English degree programs who are citizens of the tribe of Cherokee Nation, have a 3.0 or higher GPA and meet other requirements.

Taliesin Nexus MFA Scholarship

Award: $4,000

Deadline: May 31

Eligibility: Pursuit of a Master’s of Fine Arts with a concentration in literary arts, including creative writing. Must have a background in writing with completed pieces, be 21 or older and be admitted to an accredited grad school.