The Best Online Master’s in Creative Writing

The Best Online Master’s in Creative Writing

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Master's in creative writing programs are ideal for students who love writing and aspire to make a living through the craft.

Creative writers build worlds, develop stories, and create characters that engage and entertain readers. Writers often choose genres and stories that relate to their own interests. For instance, a traveler may write creative nonfiction pieces about tourist locations, and writers who are interested in the American West often write western novels.

Creative writing graduates can also pursue careers in other fields. For example, they may write marketing advertisements, political speeches, or technical pieces for instructional manuals. Over half of writers and authors are self-employed.

These careers require editing, writing, and research skills. Editors must also have an understanding of genre fundamentals. To gain the necessary knowledge, students can earn a master's in creative writing online.

The following guide provides information about the top online writing programs in the country and what you can do with a creative writing degree after graduation.

Top 10 Online Master's in Creative Writing Programs 2020

#1 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
#2 Emerson College Boston, MA
#3 Wilkes University Wilkes-Barre, PA
#4 The University of Texas at El Paso El Paso, TX
#5 Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles, CA
#6 Lesley University Cambridge, MA
#7 Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Campus Madison, NJ
#8 Lindenwood University Saint Charles, MO
#9 Bay Path University Longmeadow, MA
#10 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE

The Best Online Master’s in Creative Writing Programs

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The University of Texas at El Paso 

El Paso, TX Apply Now

About this school

The second-oldest institution within the University of Texas system, UTEP enrolls over 25,000 students each year through more than 150 undergraduate and graduate programs. The 48-credit, online master of fine arts in creative writing is the only online MFA creative writing program with a bilingual option.

This online creative writing degree includes courses on fiction techniques, narrative theory and poetics, and techniques of poetry. Learners also take 15 credits of workshop courses, exploring fiction, playwriting, screenwriting, and creative nonfiction.

An additional 12 credits of literature classes allow students to study novel writing, children's literature, and the politics of narration. Students culminate the degree with a thesis, which is a book-length manuscript of fiction or poetry, guided by a two-member supervising committee.

Most students complete UTEP's creative writing master's degree in three years. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and provide a writing sample, transcripts, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation.

School Type
Public Non Profit
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Mount Saint Mary's University 

Los Angeles, CA Apply Now

About this school

Founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Calondelet in 1925, MSMU is the only women's university in Los Angeles. As a Catholic institution, MSMU fosters educational excellence and a spirit of service through diverse on-campus and online programs.

MSMU's master's in creative writing online program integrates online coursework with optional weekend residencies. Learners can attend as many as six residencies each semester, but they can also complete the program fully online.

The interdisciplinary curriculum includes 15 credits of creative writing workshops. Students explore fiction, poetry, playwriting, and creative nonfiction before completing a critical essay and original creative writing manuscript in one of the genres.

Three credits of literary theory or poetics courses accompany nine credits of humanities and film studies electives. Learners culminate the degree with a 120-page manuscript or 50 pages of poetry.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a formal essay, a writing sample, a resume, and two letters of recommendation. All candidates participate in an admission interview as well.

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Private Non Profit
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Lesley University 

Cambridge, MA Apply Now

About this school

Established in 1909, Lesley offers undergraduate and graduate programs to its nearly 7,000 enrollees each year. Lesley's master of fine arts in creative writing uses a low-residency format: Students attend two nine-day, on-campus residencies during each year of the two-year program. They also attend an exit residency at the end of the program.

This 49-credit program features interdisciplinary studies coursework that allows students to explore the relationships between artistic genres, using them as models for inspiration and career preparation. Learners can concentrate their studies on a particular medium, such as fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

Regardless of the type of writing they focus on, all students learn how to express themselves with subtlety and complexity in preparation for their creative writing theses.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit two letters of recommendation, transcripts, a writing sample, and a personal statement.

School Type
Private Non Profit
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Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Campus 

Madison, NJ Apply Now

About this school

FDU offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degrees to more than 11,500 students annually. The school's low-residency, 60-credit master of fine arts in creative writing program combines online coursework with on-campus residencies, which take place three times each year in Wroxton, England, and Madison, New Jersey.

Students pursue one of five concentrations: poetry, fiction, young adult and children's literature, creative nonfiction, or literary translation. Within each specialization, five modules accompany residency requirements and one-on-one mentor meetings. Students culminate the degree with a thesis, building upon creative work produced throughout the program.

FDU also offers an 88-credit dual MFA, which includes an additional residency. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university and submit transcripts, a personal statement, and a writing sample. Individuals may optionally supplement their applications with letters of recommendation.

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Private Non Profit
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Lindenwood University 

Saint Charles, MO Apply Now

About this school

Founded in 1827, Lindenwood offers more than 130 undergraduate and graduate programs, all of which are steeped in Judeo-Christian values. Students at Lindenwood can earn a master's in writing online that comprises 48 credits and takes 18 months to complete.

The program integrates writing fundamentals classes with genre courses and workshops in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and scriptwriting. Learners can use 27 credits to focus on a written medium of their choice. Degree-seekers who focus on fiction explore subsets of the genre, such as magical realism, monster fiction, short-story writing, and the architecture of the novel, while poetry learners study geographies of poetry, sentence-level editing, and prose poetry.

All students culminate the degree with a thesis project that coincides with their chosen field. During the thesis, students produce a 50-page original work.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit writing samples, a statement of purpose, a resume, and undergraduate transcripts for consideration.

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Private Non Profit
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Bay Path University 

Longmeadow, MA Apply Now

About this school

Established in 1897, Bay Path offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, including many online options. The school's online master of fine arts in creative nonfiction writing accommodates writers at all stages of their careers. The 39-credit program offers concentrations in publishing creative nonfiction, narrative medicine, and teaching.

Degree-seekers participate in three mentorship labs, working closely with a mentor as they hone their writing skills. The publishing creative nonfiction specialization introduces students to the structure of the publishing industry from the perspectives of writers, editors, publicists, and comparable figures. Learners participate in a publishing immersion, gaining firsthand experience in the publishing field.

Bay Path's narrative medicine concentration explores medical and trauma narratives, race and culture, and illness and recovery, while the teaching track trains students in health and wellness writing, generational history writing, and writing as a tool for both teaching and learning.

The program offers three start dates per year. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit a writing sample, a personal essay, and two recommendations for consideration. They must also complete an interview.

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Private Non Profit
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Percent Receiving Loans

University of Nebraska at Omaha 

Omaha, NE Apply Now

About this school

Founded in 1908. UNO hosts around 15,000 students annually through diverse undergraduate and graduate programs. The school's low-residency master of fine arts in writing offers personalized mentorships, immersive residencies, and six specialization options.

Students can specialize in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, screenwriting, or writing for young adults. During the first and second semester, students explore creative writing, revisions, and responses. The third semester emphasizes writing critical essays in anticipation of the thesis manuscript requirement during the fourth semester.

Applicants must hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree and submit a statement of purpose, writing samples, and two recommendations. Students can transfer up to 18 graduate credits toward the degree.

School Type
Public Non Profit
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University of North Alabama 

Florence, AL Apply Now

About this school

Founded in 1830, UNA offers more than 140 academic programs to over 8,000 students annually. The school's 36-credit, online master of arts in writing offers three concentrations: technical writing, rhetoric and composition, and creative writing.

Students pursuing the technical writing track take courses in language and gender, document design, and multimodal writing. The rhetoric and composition track explores topics like argument and style, the history of the English language, and literacy and culture. Creative writing students build skills in fiction and drama, creative nonfiction and poetry, and literary editing and publishing. All degree-seekers complete a directed final project or a thesis under the guidance of a faculty member.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.75 GPA. They must also submit GRE or MAT scores, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample. Individuals with a GPA below 2.75 may receive conditional admission.

School Type
Public Non Profit
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University of Arkansas at Monticello 

Monticello, AR Apply Now

About this school

Established in 1909, UAM hosts students on its three campuses and online, providing comprehensive vocational, technical, and liberal arts programs to more than 3,000 learners each year. The 48-credit, online master of fine arts in creative writing offers three concentrations: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

During writing workshops, learners participate in intensive study and practice the craft of their chosen specialties. Fiction writing learners study topics like depictions of murder in fiction and literature for adolescents, while poetry learners explore modern poetry, rhetoric, and the Bible as literature. Creative nonfiction degree-seekers focus on personal prose and literary criticism.

Students pursuing the online creative writing master's degree have access to a writing center, library publications, and information about scholarly activities in the region. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit a personal essay, a work of critical analysis, three letters of recommendation, and transcripts.

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Public Non Profit
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National University 

La Jolla, CA Apply Now

About this school

Founded in 1971, NU enrolls more than 17,000 students annually through its diverse undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, including several online options. NU's online master of fine arts in creative writing offers concentrations in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and screenwriting.

The 59-credit program includes required courses in textual strategies, pedagogy of creative writing, and creative writing fundamentals. Students can customize the degree through electives on rhetoric, film theory, and multicultural literature. Learners culminate the degree with a thesis. The thesis must be an original work accompanied by an aesthetic statement reflecting upon the author's experience and evolution as a writer.

NU's online writing program prepares students to thrive as professional writers and teach writing at the postsecondary level. Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA and submit a writing sample.

School Type
Private Non Profit
Graduation Rate
Percent Receiving Loans

University of Houston-Victoria 

Victoria, TX Apply Now

About this school

Initially an extension of the University of Houston, UHV transitioned to an independent degree-granting institution in 1983. UHV offers over 70 undergraduate and graduate programs to over 4,500 enrollees annually.

UHV's master of fine arts in creative writing offers online and low-residency options. Students focus on the creation, revision, publication, and critique of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry.

The program offers two concentrations: creative writing and applied literary translation. Both tracks share many requirements, integrating 12 credits of creative writing workshops with form and poetics classes and thesis requirements. The creative writing concentration emphasizes literary theory, style and editing, publication design, and the business of books, while the applied literary translation specialization covers world literature, grant writing, and applied translation.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit a letter of admission, two recommendations, GRE scores, and a creative writing sample for consideration.

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Public Non Profit
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End of list, bravo!

Ranking Methodology
Best Online Programs

Online Master's in Creative Writing Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

What Is an Online Master's in Creative Writing Degree?

A master's in writing develops research, writing, and editing skills and explores story elements in different genres. For example, poetry learners study rhyme and meter, while children's writers explore child psychology and common writing techniques. Required courses often cover character development, setting research, and publishing.

Creative writing programs often include literature courses in which learners analyze famous works for writing insights. Students also create new pieces and critique classmates' work in writing workshops. These workshops hone writing, editing, and proofreading skills and increase students' professional networks. Additional requirements may include a thesis, portfolio, or internship.

Admission requirements often include writing samples and personal statements. Ideal applicants have previous writing experience.

Choosing an Online Program

Prospective students should consider program quality and flexibility when choosing a master's in writing. Learners may prefer departments with published authors as faculty, or they may prefer a program that offers the flexibility of asynchronous courses. They should also consider concentration options, completion times, and tuition costs.

The following guide provides more tips on finding the right program.

How To Choose Your Major

What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Creative Writing Program?

Online MFA in creative writing programs usually offer concentrations in poetry, fiction writing, and creative nonfiction. Most programs include workshops and lectures on writing concepts like character building and plot development. These programs also introduce learners to different genres and often require a thesis.

Below are three common courses in online writing programs.

Master's in Creative Writing Curriculum

Literary Genres for Writers

This course covers fiction and related subgenres, such as fantasy, romance, and historical fiction. Students explore the structures and general expectations of these genres. The course may also focus on a single type of writing, such as poetry, memoir, or nonfiction.

Character Development

This course trains students to create effective, believable characters. Coursework may prioritize character realism, consistency, and psychology within the story's context. Students examine the necessary traits of major and minor characters and build a portfolio of several character outlines.

Writing a Short Story

Learners in this course study short stories and analyze elements of writing styles. Additional topics may include syntax and short story structures. Students create a short story and undergo peer review to receive feedback. Programs may offer similar classes focused on other forms of writing, like nonfiction, poetry, or television writing.

Creative Writing Professional Organizations

Creative writing organizations typically host conferences and meetings where members learn new concepts and connect with other professionals. These associations often provide workshops to help writers polish their skills, learn about publication opportunities, and brainstorm story ideas.

Professional organizations may also offer funding opportunities and help members find jobs and internships.

Association of Writers and Writing Programs

AWP provides an online tool that allows users to search for writing programs by location, genre, and degree. The association connects website visitors with writing contests, funding, job opportunities, and avenues to publication. Professionals can also attend the annual AWP book fair and conference or browse the online database to find other meetings.

The Authors Guild

The Authors Guild supports writers by offering panels, book launches, and book expos. Website visitors can browse contests in fiction, poetry, and translations, or they can seek out fellowships and workshops. Members receive legal assistance for book contracts, access to writing resources, and insurance against copyright disputes.

The Writer's Center

The Writer's Center offers writing workshops for specific age groups, including adults, teenagers, and children. Members can also attend book launches and an annual poetry reading. This organization offers editing and project advising and maintains a blog that covers industry topics like publication practices, genre word counts, beta readers, and author experiences.

Careers in Creative Writing

Earning a master's in creative writing online prepares students to craft creative messages for books, articles, advertisements, speeches, scripts, and social media posts. Graduates can pursue any field that involves message creation and delivery.

The best candidates for writing careers are creative and have a strong grasp on writing structure and effective communication. Creative writers should also understand research methods, work well within deadlines, and be able to accept constructive criticism from editors. Below are a few creative writing jobs that graduates can pursue.

Writers and Authors

Writers and Authorsresearch and write pieces for magazines, websites, publishing houses, and blogs, and may also create scripts for television, movies, or plays. They may write books for traditional or self-publishing in genres like fantasy, romance, mystery, and nonfiction.

Authors often polish their works based on editor critiques and may need to market their work as well. Companies usually expect writers to have a college degree and writing experience.

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make publication decisions for companies and help writers develop stories into polished products. These professionals may review small writing issues, like spelling and grammar, or larger issues, like structure, factual accuracy, continuity, and clarity.

Specific job titles include copy editor, publication assistant, and executive editor. Editors often work at newspaper and book publishing companies, or they work freelance.

Earning a master's in creative writing online gives prospective editors an advantage when competing for jobs.

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Public Relations Specialists

help organizations create and uphold a positive image for the public, affecting their relationship with customers and investors. These professionals create press releases, write speeches, and research consumer preferences through social media. Public relations specialists may also review advertisements and communicate with media outlets about publicity opportunities.

These professionals can find work at advertising, educational, business, and government organizations. They need a bachelor's in a field like English, journalism, or communication. Employers may also require a portfolio and field experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master's in Creative Writing Program?

Most students can earn a master's in writing in around two years.

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

This degree prepares students for careers as authors, editors, reporters, and public relations specialists. Graduates can also teach creative writing at colleges.

Is a Master's in Creative Writing Worth It?

Many writing careers do not require a master's degree. However, online writing programs help students polish writing skills, which can improve their salary and career prospects.

Can I Teach English With a Creative Writing Degree?

Earning a master's in writing online qualifies graduates to teach English courses at many colleges, as an MFA is often the minimum qualification for these roles. However, some schools require a doctorate for teaching positions.

What Is a Master's in Creative Writing?

Online MFA in creative writing programs explore brainstorming, writing, and editing practices for different genres. These programs often culminate in a thesis or portfolio.