Best Creative Writing Programs 2021

| TBS Staff

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A creative writing program gives students expert guidance in sharpening their artistic talents.

Bachelor's programs teach the basics, while master of fine arts (MFA) and master of arts (MA) in creative writing programs train students advanced skills in story structure, research, and literary devices. This knowledge helps learners excel in writing-related positions.

Writers can work in any industry that relies on written communication. Graduates with creative writing degrees may work in roles like grant writer, author, journalist, scriptwriter, and public relations specialist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 61% of writers and authors are self-employed.

This guide ranks the best MFA in creative writing programs in the country. This page also covers important information for prospective students, such as common courses and potential careers and salaries for graduates.

Top 10 Online Creative Writing Programs 2021
#1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
#2 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
#3 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
#4 The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
#5 Brigham Young University – Provo Provo, UT
#6 University of Washington Seattle, WA
#7 Arizona State University – Tempe Tempe, AZ
#8 University of South Florida Tampa, FL
#9 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
#10 Florida International University Miami, FL

Featured Online Schools

The Best Creative Writing Programs

University of Florida true View School Profile $$ Gainesville, FL 88% 24% 50% University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

One of the nation's oldest creative writing programs, UF's master of fine arts in creative writing teaches students about literature and the writing craft. The full-time, international faculty includes novelists, poets, and translators.

The 54-credit, three-year program's requirements include four workshops, three seminars, and a thesis study. Courses focus on topics such as Analyzing Propaganda, Expository and Argumentative Writing, and Writing in the Health Professions.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit official undergraduate/graduate transcripts, references, and a writing sample.

University of Central Florida true View School Profile $$ Orlando, FL 73% 39% 57% University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

UCF's bachelor of arts in creative writing trains students to become expert communicators, instilling a deep appreciation of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction works. Program graduates qualify for careers in teaching, writing, publishing, or journalism.

Offered both on-campus and online, the program includes general education, cultural foundations, literature courses, and writing classes. Electives include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry writing workshops.

First-time high school graduates must submit official transcripts with a minimum 3.0 GPA and SAT and/or ACT scores. Transfer applicants must submit official transcripts with a 2.0 minimum GPA.

Florida State University true View School Profile $$ Tallahassee, FL 83% 38% 42% Florida State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

FSU's creative writing program trains students for academia and publishing careers. Award-winning faculty teach the program as part of FSU's bachelor of arts in English degree.

Studies include an advanced writing workshop (which provides training in article, fiction, poetry, and essay writing), pre-1900 British Literature, and literature electives. Students must also demonstrate foreign language proficiency and complete a minor or secondary major in another department.

High school graduates/first-year students may apply by submitting official transcripts and ACT/SAT scores. Essays and are highly recommended but not required. Transfer students must submit transcripts with a minimum 2.0 calculated GPA.

The University of Texas at Austin View School Profile $$ Austin, TX 83% 36% 24% The University of Texas is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

UT's master of fine arts in writing accepts only 12 students and offers full funding to every writer. Taught through the university's Michener Center for Writers, the three-year fellowship program includes workshops and courses, flexible electives, and a thesis in the student's primary field of concentration. Michener students focus on workshops in their primary writing fields, along with secondary studies and electives.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit transcripts, three recommendation letters, a purpose statement, and writing samples. Michener does not require GRE scores.

Brigham Young University – Provo View School Profile Provo, UT 86% 15% 20% Brigham Young University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

BYU's master of fine arts in creative writing prepares graduates for teaching and training. Taught by award-winning faculty, the two-year program includes a two-day writing retreat and travel funding to writers' conferences. Graduates qualify for publishing and presentation careers. The 32-credit degree requirements include writing workshops, literature seminars, an optional internship, and a thesis.

Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree in English (or equivalent), have studied an upper-level literary criticism course, and submit academic and creative writing samples, a statement of intent, and recommendation letters.

University of Washington View School Profile $ Seattle, WA 84% 26% 9% The University of Washington is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

UW's master of fine arts in creative writing offers emphases in poetry or prose. The program admits 10 to 12 students each year, allowing close associations to develop between peers and faculty. Funding includes a tuition waiver, health insurance, and monthly stipend.

In addition to workshops and critical theory courses, the 55-credit two-year program requires a creative manuscript and critical essay thesis and an oral presentation.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Submission requirements include college/university transcripts, a statement of purpose, critical and creative writing samples, and three recommendation letters.

Arizona State University – Tempe View School Profile $$ Tempe, AZ 69% 37% 47% Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

ASU's master of fine arts in creative writing emphasizes community outreach and one-on-one mentoring, allowing poets and fiction writers to collaborate with award-winning faculty. The school also offers access to professional and developmental opportunities in the publishing field.

The 48-credit program requirements include classes divided between writing and literature courses, a written exam, an applied project.

Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution, preferably with a concentration in English or creative writing (sometimes waived for writing excellence). Submission requirements include official transcripts (minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA), a purpose statement, resume, recommendation letters, and a creative manuscript.

University of South Florida View School Profile $$ Tampa, FL 73% 39% 54% University of South Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

USF's master of fine arts in creative writing offers small classes, dedicated faculty, and a supportive atmosphere. The program, one of only a few to offer creative writing pedagogy training, accepts approximately nine students annually. Students receive tuition waivers, teaching assistantships, and health insurance.

The 45-credit program consists of writing workshops, craft seminars, pedagogy classes, and literature courses, with a thesis requirement.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in English or a related field with a 3.2 minimum GPA. Submission requirements include recommendation letters (former English instructors preferred), a writing sample, and a personal statement.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign View School Profile $$$ Champaign, IL 84% 35% 35% University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

U of I's bachelor of arts in English with a creative writing major offers a flexible program that develops students' analytical, editorial, and creative skills. One of the oldest programs of its kind in the country, the degree prepares participants for various careers or graduate study paths.

The curriculum combines small writing workshops in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, with literature courses. Students also publish an annual journal of work alongside studies such as history and culture and Shakespeare.

First-year applicants must hold a high school diploma and submit transcripts and an essay. Transfer applicants must submit transcripts from previously attended colleges or universities (minimum 2.7 GPA). SAT and ACT scores are considered if submitted.

Florida International University View School Profile $ Miami, FL 58% 34% 65% Florida International University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Taught through FIU's College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, the master of fine arts in creative writing provides the practicing writer with skills to meet professional standards and expectations. The program offers small seminars, in-depth mentoring and an award-winning, dedicated faculty.

Courses include workshops, and poetry, writing, and literature classes. Requirements include completion of a publishable, book-length creative thesis.

Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution (3.0 minimum GPA), with nine semester hours of creative writing. Submission requirements include a transcript, letter of intent, writing sample, and recommendation letters.

University of Virginia View School Profile $$$ Charlottesville, VA 94% 26% 10% University of Virginia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

UVA's master of fine arts in creative writing provides students with a diverse and creative writing faculty. The two-year graduate program accepts 10 funded students a year. Many graduates land book contracts, while others qualify for literary jobs.

The 48-credit degree requirements includes a fine arts workshop, literature, and form and theory courses. Students must also complete and defend a thesis and take a one-hour oral exam.

Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Submission requirements consist of recommendation letters, writing samples, and a statement of purpose.

Truman State University View School Profile $$ Kirksville, MO 72% 39% 12% Truman State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Truman's bachelor of fine arts with a creative writing major prepares students through a rigorous program, training them to become skilled speakers, writers, and communicators.

The 120-credit undergraduate program divides curriculum between major requirements (including a capstone), writing workshops, literature and theory classes, and literary genre courses. The application requirement can consist of a career seminar, research project, or internship.

First-time students must submit high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores with preference given to those with 16 units in Truman-recommended subjects. Transfer students must submit official transcripts from previous colleges attended, and an admission essay.

University of Wisconsin – Madison View School Profile $$ Madison, WI 87% 32% 17% University of Wisconsin is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

UW's master of fine arts in creative writing program emphasizes fiction and poetry. The six students admitted each year receive funding, and the opportunity to study various writing genres. MFAs also interact with a vibrant writing community, including the school's Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellows.

The 42-credit program consists of writing workshops and pedagogy, elective courses, and a thesis requirement.

Fiction writers and poets are admitted in alternating years. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree and submit a transcript, three references, a resume, writing sample, and statement of intent.

Iowa State University View School Profile $$ Ames, IA 75% 49% 22% Iowa State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Iowa State's three-year master of fine arts in creative writing and environment encourages writers to hone their writing skills through creative writing workshops, literature coursework, and one-on-one work with a mentor.

The 54-credit program also includes interdisciplinary courses and field experience outside of the English department, allowing students to pursue fields relevant to writing projects. Students also complete a thesis.

Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree (3.0 minimum GPA). Submission requirements consist of recommendation letters, a CV or resume, statement of purpose and writing samples.

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor View School Profile $$$ Ann Arbor, MI 92% 30% 2% University of Michigan is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Students involved with U-M's bachelor of arts in English with a creative writing sub-concentration program learn from a faculty comprising award-winning novelists, short-story writers, and poets.

English majors must apply to the creative writing sub-concentration and fulfill Creative Writing and Introduction to Literary Studies prerequisites. Studies focus on American literature, poetry, and fiction, and a required senior creative writing tutorial.

High-school graduates and first-year students must submit school records, a teacher evaluation, and SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants must submit high school records, and official transcripts from post-secondary institutions; SAT or ACT scores may be required.

North Carolina State University at Raleigh View School Profile $$ Raleigh, NC 81% 41% 41% North Carolina State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

NC State's master of fine arts in creative writing allows students to work with award-winning poets and writers to help hone their craft. The two-year, fully funded program offers participants the opportunity to apprentice under master writers, leading them to become master writers themselves.

The 36-credit program features workshops, and interdisciplinary coursework in literature and advisor-approved free electives, with a final thesis required.

Applicants must submit transcripts from all institutions, recommendation letters, personal statements, three references, and creative and critical writing samples.

University of Arkansas View School Profile $$$ Fayetteville, AR 66% 37% 27% University of Arkansas is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Established in 1966, U of A's master of fine arts in creative writing degree offers a preeminent training ground for writers, with degree tracks in poetry, fiction, and literary translation. The school admits up to five students in each genre.

The 60-credit curriculum combines workshops and coursework in craft and literary studies, allowing students to develop their own voices while understanding great writers and their works.

Applicants must submit a genre-specific creative writing sample, a critical writing sample, statement of purpose, college transcripts, recommendation letters, GRE scores, and a teaching statement.

Georgia College & State University View School Profile $$$$ Milledgeville, GA 64% 44% 25% Georgia College and State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

The master of fine arts in creative writing at Georgia College provides a fully funded, three-year educational opportunity that focuses on thesis work in the final two years. The award-winning faculty works closely with students, both as teachers and professional mentors.

The 42-credit program offers fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry workshops, requiring students to take cross-genre workshops. Offering an annual Visiting Writers series, the degree also requires journal design and editing courses and a thesis.

Applicants must submit transcripts from previous institutions attended, three recommendation letters, genre writing samples, a statement of purpose, and a resume.

University of Notre Dame View School Profile Notre Dame, IN 97% 32% 2% University of Notre Dame is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

The ND master of fine arts in creative writing program combines a work focus with engaged pedagogy. The two-year degree emphasizes learning through community, craft, reflection, and teaching.

Requirements for the 36-credit degree consist of workshops, literature studies, a thesis (full-length manuscript), and at least one outside elective. Practicum classes include literary publishing and teaching creative writing.

Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Submission requirements consist of GRE test scores, a writing sample, statement of intent, recommendation letters, and transcripts.

University of Maryland – College Park View School Profile $$$ College Park, MD 86% 32% 12% University of Maryland is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

The fully funded, UMD master of fine arts in creative writing combines creative and scholarly work with undergraduate teaching and professional opportunities. The program develops and mentors the next generation of poets and fiction writers.

The core curriculum focuses on teaching writing and thesis completion, combined with literary, linguistic, and culture courses, one-on-one mentoring, and personal attention from an award-winning faculty.

Submission requirements consist of undergraduate and graduate transcripts, recommendation letters, a statement of goals, and a creative writing sample.

Best Online Programs

Online Creative Writing Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

What Is a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Degree?

The best MFA in creative writing programs often include specializations, such as nonfiction, television, or poetry, which allow students to tailor the degree to their interests and career goals. Nonfiction students, for instance, explore memoir and biography writing, while poetry degree-seekers learn about diction and meter.

Creative writing degrees often require students to complete writing projects and receive feedback from professors and peers. These critiques help candidates develop and improve their writing styles.

Choosing a Program

Prospective students should consider factors like cost, transfer policies, and on-campus requirements when researching the best MFA in creative writing programs. Below, we explore these considerations for prospective students.

What Else Can I Expect From a Creative Writing Program?

Creative writing curricula vary by program and often include specializations. Required classes can also vary by degree type, with MFA in creative writing programs focusing heavily on practical writing courses and MA programs focusing more on literature reviews and critiques. These degrees also lead to different careers; for example, an MA prepares students for teaching careers, while an MFA prepares students to work as authors.

The following sections outline common courses found in these programs and factors that can affect the length of a creative writing degree.

Online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Curriculum

Poetry

In this course, learners study poetic elements and tools, like rhyme, rhythm, and metaphor. Students learn how to analyze poems for meaning and complete original works that help them develop their writing styles. Students may also learn about the characteristics of different poetry types, such as sonnets and haikus.

Book Publishing

his course covers various aspects of the publishing industry, including traditional publishing and self-publishing. Students explore legal, technical, and economic publishing factors and learn to build marketing plans and edit book drafts. Students may also learn how to write query letters and book proposals for publishers.

Contemporary World Literature

Students in this class learn about literary movements in modern history, such as postmodernism and magic realism. They also analyze pieces for meaning while considering how factors like gender can impact interpretation. This course may also address how writing genres have developed over time.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Creative Writing Program?

Full-time students often complete MFA programs within two years, but many factors can alter the length of a degree. For example, some schools may offer courses in eight- or 10-week terms rather than traditional 16-week terms. This format often allows students to expedite graduation.

Additionally, creative writing degrees with more credit requirements typically take longer to complete. However, some programs permit students to take course loads that exceed full-time, which can expedite graduation times.

Fully online programs may use synchronous or asynchronous formats for coursework. Synchronous courses require students to log on at set meeting times, while asynchronous courses let students complete coursework at their convenience within set deadlines. Often, the flexibility of asynchronous programs allows students to graduate faster than they would in synchronous programs.

Creative Writing Careers

MFA programs prepare students to write and edit for various industries and media. For instance, graduates may report news as newspaper journalists or create stories as science fiction authors. They may also write press releases, speeches, or how-to manuals for careers in public relations, politics, or computer science. Any organization that uses written communication can benefit from hiring employees with creative writing degrees.

Professional options for graduates also go beyond writing careers. For instance, master's program graduates may work as higher education teachers. However, many schools require professors to hold a doctoral degree. MFA programs provide a solid foundation for doctoral programs.

Writers

Writers may write nonfiction or fiction pieces for different purposes and industries. For instance, they may write advertisements for companies, publish recipes on a blog, or write fictional stories for books and movies. Writers often need to conduct research for topic accuracy and must be able to shape written pieces to fit client needs. Professional writers may work for one company or they may freelance for several organizations. Ideal traits for writers include creativity and flexibility. Writers should also be detail-oriented and excel at time management.

Median Annual Salary

$63,200

Projected Growth Rate

0%

College Professors

College professors teach classes for postsecondary students. Their responsibilities include building syllabi, delivering lectures, and administering and grading coursework. Professors may also suggest textbooks or curriculum changes in their departments to increase program quality. Other responsibilities may include conducting and publishing research, helping students choose courses, and attending field conferences. They must excel in written and oral communication and be comfortable working with technology.

Median Annual Salary

$79,540

Projected Growth Rate

11%

Editors

Editors review documents to ensure factual accuracy, grammar, clarity, and structure. Editors may also make publication and layout choices for companies or offer authors brainstorming guidance. They may work full time in magazine, newspaper, book, or blog publishing or they may freelance with several companies. Typically, organizations require editors to hold a related degree for full-time employment. Editors need strong written communication, organizational, and time management skills.

Median Annual Salary

$61,370

Projected Growth Rate

-3%

Journalists

Journalists write news pieces for newspapers, blogs, and television reports. They often conduct their own research, interview witnesses or experts, brainstorm story ideas, and pitch stories to their managers for approval. Journalists often follow stories for weeks or months to provide updates, and they must ensure pieces adhere to their publisher's standards. They typically need a related degree, like creative writing or journalism, and strong research, writing, and editing skills.

Median Annual Salary

$43,490

Projected Growth Rate

-10%

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can You Do With a Master's in Creative Writing?

Graduates with a creative writing degree can pursue nonfiction and fiction writing careers in various industries. They can also teach writing concepts to higher education students or pursue careers in journalism or business.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's Degree in Creative Writing?

Program duration varies based on transfer policies, course structure, and credit requirements. In general, though, candidates can earn an MFA in creative writing with about two years of full-time study.

Is a Master's Degree in Creative Writing Worth It?

Many writing and editing careers only call for a bachelor's. However, a master's verifies advanced knowledge and skills and provides opportunities for networking, which can increase career opportunities. Additionally, college writing professors need at least a master's degree.

What's the Difference Between a Master of Fine Arts and Master of Arts?

An MFA focuses more on practical applications than an MA. Specifically, creative writing MFA programs include more writing-intensive courses, while MA programs focus more on literature reviews and assessments of other writers' work.

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