Best Creative Writing Programs

TBS Staff Writers
Updated September 21, 2023
Creative Writing Degree Overview — Creative writing degrees teach students advanced skills in story structure, research, and literary devices. This knowledge helps

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Best Creative Writing Programs in the World

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.

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The Best Creative Writing Programs

University of Florida
LocationGainesville, FL

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
LocationOrlando, FL

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
LocationTallahassee, FL

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
LocationAustin, TX

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
LocationProvo, UT

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
LocationSeattle, WA

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
LocationTempe, AZ

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
LocationTampa, FL

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
LocationChampaign, IL

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
LocationMiami, FL

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.

Best Online Programs

Creative Writing


The Best Schools

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.

  • Program Cost: Students should make sure school costs, like tuition and fees, fit into their budgets. Choosing a program that’s within your budget can lead to fewer student loans and a more comfortable learning experience. Typically, in-state students at public schools pay the lowest tuition rates, though some schools offer in-state tuition for all online students regardless of residency.
  • Transfer Policies: Degree-seekers with related experience should consider MFA programs that accept transfer credits. Schools may offer transfer credits for prior coursework or professional experience, which can reduce the length and cost of a degree.
  • School Size and Type: A school’s size and type affects the learning experience. For instance, small schools typically offer more personalized attention from faculty but fewer program options than larger schools.
  • Program Length: The length of a program varies with credit requirements, enrollment status, and learning format. Students should choose a program with a timeline that’s aligned with their needs and goals.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Some online programs have on-campus requirements, like orientations or seminars, or even whole classes. Students should ensure they can meet all on-campus requirements before committing to a program.
  • Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: MFA in creative writing programs often have thesis, work, or capstone requirements that need significant time investments. Prospective learners should choose a program with requirements that align with their goals and interests.

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


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.

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.