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Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Online MFA in creative writing programs help writers prepare for professional roles. This advanced degree focuses on the craft of writing. Students become skilled readers, writers, and thinkers. MFA programs often include writing workshops, craft courses, and literature courses.

All MFA programs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. However, most programs accept students with any undergraduate major. Many MFA applicants hold a degree in English or creative writing. However, MFA programs typically prioritize the quality of the applicant's writing.

This guide to online MFA in creative writing programs provides information on tuition rates, common courses, and popular career paths for MFA graduates.

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Questions About Creative Writing

What is an MFA in creative writing?

An MFA in creative writing is a graduate degree. Learners build advanced skills in writing and reading. MFA-seekers create original writing, such as fiction or poetry.

What jobs can I get with an MFA in creative writing?

MFA graduates can pursue careers in industries such as publishing, education, and advertising. Many MFA-holders work as writers and authors.

Do creative writers make good money?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), writers and authors earn a median annual salary of $67,120. Ths salary exceeds the median for all occupations.

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Why Get a Degree in Creative Writing?

Online MFA in creative writing programs train students to conduct close readings and improve their creative practice. MFA programs also help learners connect with other talented writers and build professional connections. Graduates often pursue careers as writers and authors.

Earning an MFA in creative writing online lets students pursue their passion without sacrificing their current career. Many online programs use a low-residency model. Learners in these programs complete coursework primarily online. They also attend on-campus residency sessions a few times per year.

How Much Does a Creative Writing Degree Cost?

Tuition rates vary widely among online MFA programs in creative writing. Some programs offer funding through scholarships and teaching assistantships. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of tuition and fees for graduate programs was $19,792 for the 2019-20 academic year.

Most MFA programs take 2-3 years to complete. Students may earn their MFA in creative writing online to maintain employment while studying. In addition, many schools offer online bachelor's degrees in creative writing.

Degree-seekers often save money by pursuing online creative writing programs. Many distance programs feature lower tuition rates than on-campus options.

Additional Online Student Fees

Online learners can save on transportation and relocation expenses. However, they may still need to pay fees for campus services. Many schools also charge online students a technology fee, which often covers tech support and virtual learning resources.

Many online MFA in creative writing programs use a hybrid model, which includes some on-campus sessions. Online learners usually pay for travel and lodging expenses to attend residency sessions. Some programs host optional residencies in foreign countries, which can add to these expenses.

How Much Do Creative Writing Graduates Make?

Creative writing graduates can pursue careers in industries such as media, publishing, and academia. The BLS reports that writers and authors who work for the performing arts or spectator sports earn a median salary of $82,350 per year. Media and communication professionals make a median salary of $61,310 annually. Technical writers earn a median annual salary of $74,650.

MFA graduates with a strong publication history can pursue careers as postsecondary teachers. These professionals teach writing and literature courses at colleges and universities. College professors earn a median salary of $80,560 per year. Careers in academia are very competitive, and many institutions prefer candidates who hold a doctorate.

Courses in Creative Writing

Students earning an online MFA in creative writing develop advanced writing and literary analysis skills. Learners often specialize in fiction or poetry. Some programs offer more specializations, such as screenwriting, creative nonfiction, and travel writing.

Some MFA programs feature traditional literature courses. Other programs use a studio model and focus on the study of literary craft. Students typically complete writing and literature electives.

MFA in creative writing programs commonly include the following courses. Course titles and content vary by program.

  • Writing Workshop

    Most MFA programs feature courses with a workshop model, in which students share their work for critique. Degree-seekers receive feedback on their writing. They also build critical skills by critiquing other students' work. In most MFA programs, learners complete a workshop course almost every semester.
  • Forms of Fiction

    This course introduces a craft-specific approach to literary writing. Fiction writers explore topics such as narrative structure, pacing, and plot. Students may also take specialized courses that focus on particular literary topics or forms, such as dialogue or the novella.
  • American Literature After 1945

    Many MFA curricula include traditional literature classes. Participants gain specialized knowledge in certain areas or periods of literary study. Students develop critical perspectives. Learners examine major developments in American literature after World War II, such as postmodernism and multiculturalism.

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How to Become a Creative Writer

While many writing jobs do not have specific education requirements, professional writers often hold at least a bachelor's degree. MFA programs help learners gain experience and connections that can lead to career opportunities. Many writers gain experience by completing internships.

Writers often work as freelancers. However, some pursue full-time positions. Writers can work on magazines, newspapers, and websites. They may also pursue careers in publishing and advertising. Typical job duties include researching topics, pitching ideas to editors, and drafting and editing written pieces.

Best Online MFA in Creative Writing

#20 WEST VIRGINIA WESLEYAN COLLEGE

BUCKHANNON, WV

MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

Ranked No. 58 on the list of Best Regional Universities of the South, according to U.S. News & World Report, West Virginia Wesleyan College is a church-affiliated school that allows students the opportunity to learn in a small school and small city environment. The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a low-residency program that strives to make graduates proficient in their writing craft and technique so they can publish works and entertain audiences. The 49-credit curriculum offers concentrations in Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction and requires a creative thesis, a comprehensive annotated bibliography, a critical essay, and the completion of five-residency courses. As part of the application requirements, applicants must submit a writing sample, a 750-1,000 word statement of purpose, official transcripts, professional resume, and two letters of recommendation. 

Net Price: N/A

#19 WILKES UNIVERSITY

WILKES-BARRE, PA

CREATIVE WRITING MA/MFA

Website

Wilkes University stands out among most other colleges by having a 97% job acceptance rate. Its small class size, averaging 23 students per class, make it easier for teachers to connect with students and give them feedback on work. By taking a Master of Arts/Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, students have the opportunity to follow their passion and work on mastering their writing in poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, publishing, documentary film writing, fiction, and creative non-fiction. Students can use their voice and express themselves in a way that professionals in most fields can’t. Students will first work towards an MA, which is 30-credit hours, and can finish the MFA with an additional 18-credit hours. As part of the MFA requirements, students complete in-depth analysis in combination with a semester-long internship in arts education or publishing. Applicants are required to submit alongside their application and official transcripts a creative writing sample, a five-to-ten page essay, and a resume that details work and accomplishments. WU ranks No. 68 on the list of Best Regional Universities of the North, according to U.S. News & World Report. 

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#18 FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY

WINTER PARK, FL

CREATIVE WRITING MFA

Website

With over 110 studios and labs on campus, Creative Writing students at Full Sail University have plenty of areas in which to do what they love to do most on a computer: WRITE. FSU’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is an online course that teaches students how to incorporate visual elements in their story writing and how to effectively connect with an audience. The program can be taken in 12 months and focuses primarily on visual storytelling, character creation and development, and multimedia adaption. Before taking courses online with your computer, be sure to check out FSU’s website for technology requirements needed for classes. The 12-course, 47-semester hour program includes putting together two master portfolios and writing a film and animation. Students who apply with a GPA over 2.0 must provide official transcripts alongside the application. The Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges awarded FSU with the College of the Year honor in 2008, 2011, and 2014.

Net Price: $12,600

#17 ANTIOCH UNIVERSITY OF LOS ANGELES

LOS ANGELES, CA

MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

With an average class size of eight students, graduates at Antioch University of Los Angeles get more one-on-one mentoring from some of the nation’s best Creative Writing professors. AULA’s MFA in Creative Writing focuses on giving students the skills to be a successful and professional literary artist. The focus on craft, revision, and critical-thinking skills, along with ethical responsibilities and the business side of writing and publishing will prepare graduates for the world of writing when they leave school. Students can focus on a concentration in either Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, or Writing for Young People in their coursework. As part of the program, students must complete the Project Period Core Requirements, which include a critical paper, critical manuscript, monthly packet of creative work and book annotations, The Art of Translation and Adaptation Online Conference, a field study, and a culminating annotated bibliography. Applicants must submit alongside the application a professional resume, an essay, and official transcripts.

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#16 EMERSON COLLEGE

BOSTON, MA

MFA IN POPULAR FICTION WRITING

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Many may think Emerson College is named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, but it is actually named instead after Charles Wesley Emerson, who is considered the founding father of the school and a prominent teacher and orator there. The Master of Fine Arts Degree in Fiction Writing is taught by award-winning faculty members who focus on helping students find their voice in writing. Genres that are concentrated on include fantasy, science-fiction, horror, mystery, thrillers, and young adult writing. The 36-credit hour curriculum includes 16-credits of writing workshops that students must enroll in, eight credits of literature courses, eight credits of publishing courses, and a four-credit master’s thesis. For more information on admissions requirements, you can contact the university on its website. EC ranks No. 6 on the list of Best Universities North, according to U.S. News & World Report.

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#15 MISSISSIPPI UNIVERSITY FOR WOMEN

Columbus, MS

MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

Don’t be fooled by the name. The Mississippi University does admit men, doing so since 1982. A school population of 3,000, MUFW offers writers the opportunity to study a low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. The 48-hour curriculum teaches students to use more imagination in their writing and create stories that target different audiences in different genres. The online program includes courses in poetry, drama, early women writers, southern fiction, playwriting, news media, and literary magazine production. Students are also required to take workshops and complete an internship during their studies. Applicants are required to submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a professional resume. 

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#14 UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS AT MONTICELLO

MONTICELLO, AR

MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

The University of Arkansas at Monticello has six graduate programs, five of which are completely online. One of those is the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing that is a non-residency program aimed at improving students’ critical thinking, creative writing, and literary analysis skills. Students will enroll in one of three genres as part of their 48-hour curriculum: poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. Students can jump into different genres, which is encouraged by the faculty. By moving at their pace, the program can be completed within a year. As part of the admissions requirements, applicants must submit to the university all official transcripts, a personal essay, a critical analysis essay, a manuscript, three letters of recommendation, and a professional resume. 

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#13 WESTERN CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY

DANBURY, CT

MFA IN CREATIVE & PROFESSIONAL WRITING

Website

Western Connecticut State University’s mission is to foster student’s growth as individuals and professionals and to train them to become leaders in the community. The MFA in Creative and Professional Writing allows students to grow as individuals, find their inner passion, and enhance their critical-thinking skills and creativity. The curriculum includes online workshops and the study and practice of writing different genres throughout the program. Students will also be assigned a faculty mentor who will help them develop a portfolio and will guide them through designing an individualized syllabus, reading list, and writing workload. Applicants to the program must submit a writing sample, an application essay, and additional forms that include transcripts from their undergraduate studies.

Net Price: $21,252

#12 UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON-VICTORIA

VICTORIA, TX

MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

The University of Houston-Victoria is perfect for students who wish to study in a more peaceful environment and take courses online. The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a low residency program that focuses on a variety of writing skills, such as critique, creation, revision, and poetics, in the genres of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. Students must complete 12 core semester hours, 15 elective semester hours, and an MFA Master’s Thesis where a graduate must compose a book of literary merit. Applicants are required to submit two letters of recommendation, a two-page letter explaining why they want to join the program, a 20-30-page creative writing sample, official GRE data, and official transcripts. UHV ranks No. 96 on the list of Best Regional Universities of the West, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Net Price: $9,900

#11 ARCADIA UNIVERSITY

GLENSIDE, PA

CREATIVE WRITING MFA/ENGLISH

Website

According to its website, Arcadia University ranks among the best in the nation when it comes to its faculty and innovation, best universities in the Northeast, and best college dormitories. It makes learning easier with those kinds of credentials, especially for writers. The Master of Arts and Fine Arts Dual Degree in Creative Writing and English prepares students for a career in teaching creative writing, literature, and college composition. Courses are offered both on-campus and online, and the two programs can be taken concurrently. As part of the creative writing curriculum, students will expand their horizons, taking part in workshops, studying abroad, working on manuscripts and publishing, and working one-on-one with a faculty mentor who can elevate their writing to levels of higher degrees. Both degrees offer courses that are low residency. Applicants must provide the university with two letters of recommendation, a 15-20-page creative writing sample, a personal statement, and official transcripts. Applicants are also required to set up an interview with a board member before a decision can be made on the application.

Net Price: N/A

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#10 BAY PATH UNIVERSITY

LONGMEADOW, MA

MFA IN CREATIVE NONFICTION WRITING

Website

Bay Path University was recently named among the Fastest Growing Colleges in Master’s Institutions by the Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac. The fully-online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction Writing is a no-residency program that strives to develop good and aspiring writers into great writers. The 39-credit curriculum allows students to work at their own pace and includes three-semester seminars with award-winning faculty mentors who can give detailed feedback to assist students in perfecting their work and getting it published. There is also the option of studying abroad and taking a summer seminar in Ireland. Applicants can only apply if they have a 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate studies and are required to submit to admissions a 250-word essay, two letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a ten-page writing sample, which can be one or two works. 

Net Price: $2,496

#9 NATIONAL UNIVERSITY

SAN DIEGO, CA

ONLINE MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

National University is part of the technology revolution, offering a host of online degrees that are interactive and include the latest state-of-the-art advancements to make learning more educational and hands-on for students. The Online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree is a no-residency program that gives students extensive practice in writing poetry, essays, fictional works, and other types of writing weekly. Students will take online seminars and workshops and complete a practicum thesis and revision thesis. Among the electives to choose from are courses and seminars in film, directing, literature, poetry, and literary studies. For application requirements, contact the university on its website and be sure to have completed the list of prerequisite courses listed. 

Net Price: $27,520

#8 EAST STROUDSBURG UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

STROUDSBURG, PA

MA IN PROFESSIONAL AND DIGITAL MEDIA WRITING

Website

While the Master of Arts in Professional and Digital Media Writing is a no-residency program, if you do decide to live near the campus, you are within driving distance of Scranton, PA, Philadelphia, and New York City. The MA program gives students a virtual experience online in which they can interact with their professors live and receive constant feedback on writing they do. Creative writing, journalistic writing, and writing for corporate communications are all part of the coursework that students can partake in through the 30-credit curriculum. The coursework includes a final capstone writing project that students must complete in order to earn a degree. Applicants are required to submit to the office of admissions official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a professional goals statement, and a professional resume as part of the documentation. ESUP ranks No. 142 on the list of Best Universities North, according to U.S. News & World Report. 

Net Price: $14,680

#7 UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS

NEW ORLEANS, LA

CREATIVE WRITING ONLINE MFA

Website

The University of New Orleans was the school of choice for entertainers Ellen Degeneres, John Laroquette, and Billy Slaughter. Since their graduations, the school has expanded into a more online school, and students who study a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing can take advantage of earning a degree from home. The program concentrates on writing in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and gives students the chance to study abroad in Ireland and Italy. The 45-credit curriculum pairs each graduate with a faculty member who will help mentor and provide feedback for all writing the student does, helping guide him or her towards his or her degree. All students must maintain at least a ‘B’ to remain in the program. The office of admissions requires applicants to submit GRE test results, official transcripts, and other documentation. 

Net Price: $16,610

#6 LINDENWOOD UNIVERSITY

SAINT CHARLES, MO

MFA IN WRITING

Website

Aspiring writers trying to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Writing get the chance to learn from professors who have experience working as authors, journalists, and editors. The 48-credit curriculum can be taken completely online with no-residency required and allows students to enroll in craft classes, literature classes, and writing workshops as part of the coursework. Students can serve as editorial assistants during their studies for the Lindenwood Review’s literary journal. LU ranked No. 2 on the list of Best Online Master’s in Creative Writing Programs, according to TheBestSchools.org and BestColleges.com. Applicants are required to submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a creative writing sample as part of the documentation required by admissions.

Net Price: $24,960

#5 QUEENS UNIVERSITY OF CHARLOTTE

CHARLOTTE, NC

CREATIVE WRITING MFA

Website

The Queens University of Charlotte provides students with innovative education and encourages its writers to “Write To Be Read.” The Creative Writing Master of Fine Arts degree is a low-residency program that has no more than a 4:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Courses of study include fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and writing for stage and screen. Students have the opportunity to write for the Qu, the school’s literary journal. Students can also enroll in the Book Development Program and take on an internship where they work to get their writing published. Applicants are required to submit a 25-page portfolio with writing samples, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and official transcripts. QUC ranks No. 18 in Regional Universities South, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Net Price: $9,204

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#4 OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

BEND, OR

MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

With 50 states and 80 different countries represented, Oregon State University has the highest cumulative GPA of any school in the state of Oregon. The Cascades campus offers students a chance to study online the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, a low-residency program that focuses on aesthetic, political, social, spiritual, and physical geographies in its writing. OSU ranks No. 17 on the list of Best Online Master’s in Creative Writing, according to Best College Reviews. As part of the two-year program, students will write in three different genres: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. The studies are self-directed and self-paced, and the curriculum includes Narrative Theory, Writing for the Unknown, Nontraditional Poetry, Writing the Sticky Stuff, Publishing, Turning Empathy Into Action, and Using Oral Histories. Applicants are required to submit to the university official transcripts, writing samples, a statement of objectives, and a resume that highlights awards and accomplishments. 

Net Price: $7,043

#3 EASTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY

RICHMOND, KY

MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

Home of The Colonels, Eastern Kentucky University ranks No. 11 on the list among Fastest Online College Programs, according to CollegePlan.com. The MFA in Creative Writing focuses on Literary Fiction, Popular/Genre fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Poetry. With the degree, graduates will be able to teach courses at college-level related to English, Creative Writing, and Composition, or they can apply for other writing jobs where they can publish material. Students are required to complete 12 residency courses, while the rest of the coursework can be taken online. Applicants need to compile a portfolio of work and writing and submit it to the office of admission along with their application, undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores, resume, and letters of recommendation. Only applicants with a 3.0 GPA or higher are eligible for enrollment into the program.

Net Price: $36,454

#2 UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA AT OMAHA

OMAHA, NE

MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

The University of Nebraska is the home of Warren Buffet and the birthplace of Kool-Aid. Among its four campuses throughout the Midwest is the Omaha campus that gives writers the opportunity to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Students who take on the program are required to take four, 16-week distance writing seminars and five, ten-day residency workshop sessions. The 60-credit curriculum is comprised of writing in the genres of poetry, playwriting, creative nonfiction, young adult, fiction, and screenwriting. Applicants are required to submit two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, official transcripts, a resume, and a writing sample. The writing sample must include 15-40 pages of work on the genre the student is applying for. 

Net Price: $7,630

#1 THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT EL PASO

EL PASO, TX

ONLINE MFA IN CREATIVE WRITING

Website

A school that started with 27 miners just over 100 years ago, The University of Texas at El Paso has been growing ever since and has expanded to 23,000 students and over 100 graduate and post-graduate degrees offered. The Online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing requires no-residency and can be completed from anywhere in the world. The 48-semester hour curriculum includes 42-hours of workshops and literature courses followed by a six-hour thesis where students complete and publish a manuscript in poetry or fiction. Students will have interactions with professors through online courses and receive steady feedback and guided direction. With the degree, graduates can teach at the college level in writing or work in fields where they can publish different works. As part of the application requirements, interested students are required to submit eight-to-ten pages of poetry or 20 pages of fiction writing. Applicants are also required to submit three letters of recommendation, official undergraduate transcripts, and a statement of purpose. Past students who have graduated in the program have won nationally recognized literary awards, including the highly prestigious Premio Tusquets de la Novela. 

Net Price: $8,965

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