Calling all poets and wordsmiths! Write your way towards the degree of your dreams with the best online MFA in creative writing.
Writing is in a world of its own. What other profession whisks you away to faraway lands, traverses undiscovered planets, or takes you back in time? In what other career can you plumb the depths of your emotions or perfectly capture a moment? An online MFA in creative writing gives you the skills to hone your craft and create your own world through words.
What can you do with an online MFA in creative writing?
Many people pursue an MFA in creative writing to get one step closer to their dream of becoming a published author. If this is your goal, you’re on the right track! An MFA program gets you smack dab in the middle of the writing world. You’ll interact with famous authors (some might even be faculty members in your program), you’ll attend writers’ conferences, and most importantly, you’ll write!
Another career choice that many people choose (some even simultaneously to publishing their own work) is teaching. An MFA technically gives you the credentials to work as an adjunct professor or visiting professor at a college or university.
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What kind of online MFA in creative writing should you get?
Writing is a highly individualized profession. It’s just you, and the blank page in front of you. It just makes sense, then, that it would be possible to earn this degree online.
Most of these programs operate either 100 percent online, or through what is called a “low-residency” program. This means you’ll conduct most of your coursework online but also meet up with your cohort 2-4 times throughout the degree for intensive residencies.
One perk of choosing an online or low residency program rather than a “traditional” MFA program is that it is typically more affordable. You also won’t have the responsibility of fulfilling a teaching fellowship. Overall, you can look forward to a flexible program that offers the same quality!
How much can you make with an online MFA in creative writing?
Writers somehow get pinned with being “struggling artists” when, in fact, that’s usually not the case! Writing is all about the hustle. You have to put yourself – and your writing – out into the world. According to Payscale.com, the average annual income for an author or writer is around $51k. Not bad, right? This figure, of course, has the potential to increase dramatically if you write the next best seller. Just keep in mind . . . J.K. Rowling has a net worth of $1 billion.
If you choose to take your career in the direction of teaching, your annual salary increases, as does your overall job stability. Most assistant professors in the United States make around $65k per year.
What are the requirements for an online MFA in creative writing?
If you’re serious about becoming a writer, earning an MFA is the perfect next step. But the admissions process for an MFA in creative writing is no small task. You’ll have to show to the admissions board that you’re already a serious writer.
Most admissions requirements include a 10-20 page writing sample in your specific genre. Put your best work forward! This could be fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or screenwriting. Make sure you know the list of genres at the school of your choice.
Once you are accepted to a program, most curricula involve 36-70 credit hours total. This will include craft workshops, literature classes, genre seminars, and more. Some schools also require 7- to 10-day residencies on-campus.
What are the best online MFA in creative writing degrees?
Are you ready to write?Here at College Choice, we’ve narrowed down the best online MFA in creative writing degrees. We took a number of steps to find our list. First, we gathered the academic quality of each online program. Then we looked at affordability and the return on investment – a big factor in how you decide on a school. Last but not least, we factored in student happiness using retention rates and graduation rates of each program.
Our methodology draws from our data team at College Choice, the quality resources at U.S. News & World Report, and the number smarts at Payscale.com.
Lindenwood University, located in Saint Charles, Mo, comes out on top for its MFA in Writing. The school is known for its strong liberal arts program. This degree is offered in numerous ways: fully online, fully on-campus, or a hybrid program.
Students have the option to declare an emphasis in Fiction, Poetry, or Creative Nonfiction, or they may take coursework in multiple genres. All in all, you’ll complete 48 credit hours of coursework through the online MFA curriculum. Your coursework will center around workshop classes, literature classes, and craft classes. Here’s a sneak peek at a few of them:
Breaking the Fourth Wall
Longform Narrative Journalism
Memoir Chapter Workshop
MFA students at Lindenwood have a huge chance to supplement their coursework with extracurriculars within the department. For example, students can work as editorial assistants for Lindenwood Review, the school’s literary journal. This is a great way to add some editorial experience onto your resume.
A private research university in Connecticut, Fairfield University holds close ties with the Jesuit Catholic tradition. Out of its total student body of around 5,200, close to 1,000 of them are postgraduate students. It ranks as one of the top Northern Regional Universities in the US.
At Fairfield University, you’ll engage in a low residency MFA in Creative Writing program. You’ll have the option to concentrate your studies in one genre: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or screenwriting. While most of the degree is self-guided, you’ll meet for semiannual residencies in Mystic, Conn. You can take your genre concentration a step further with a sub-focus in:
Editing & Publishing
Health & Healing
Typically students complete this MFA program in four semesters. However, with the Prior Learning Assessment option, you’ll have the chance to finish the degree in three semesters. This option allows you to receive a full semester of credit for work that you have already written or published.
Located just outside of the “Windy City,” Northwestern University is a touchstone of higher education in the Midwest. This private research university is the proud home of numerous Nobel Prize laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Genius Fellows, and more. It hosts around 12,800 graduate students annually.
Northwestern University offers a part-timre MA/MFA in Creative Writing program that combines traditional on-campus learning with online courses. The MFA is an 18-course curriculum that splits the requirements into seven workshops, six electives and two thesis projects. You also have the chance to take a seminar in teaching creative writing. Here’s a look at a few courses:
20th Century Experimental Fiction
Poetry for Prose Writers
The Publishing Industry
This MFA program makes sure to incorporate the vibrant Chicago literary arts scene that is just outside the classroom. Students engage with faculty members as well as other writers in the Chicago area. They also have the chance to contribute or work for Northwestern’s literary journal, TriQuarterly.
Based in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Wilkes University is a private institution that was founded in 1933. It hosts a number of online graduate programs, including teacher education, nursing, and bioengineering. Close to 2,300 graduate students attend Wilkes University – either on-campus or online – each year.
You’ll have the option between two formats for your MFA in Creative Writing at Wilkes: low-residency or weekender. Both are primarily delivered online. However, the low-residency students meet in week-long residencies and the weekenders are on-campus four weekends per semester. Wilkes offers concentration areas in the following:
This program was established in 2006. Since then, graduates have produced their work at prolific rates. Writing students have published over 400 novels, poems, and short stories. The screenwriting and playwriting graduates have produced over 60 films and 90 plays. This is the mark of a good education!
National University was founded in 1971 as a way to educate working adults and veterans. The school maintains 28 different campuses, as well as numerous online options. A leader in veteran services, National University features many military tuition discounts.
In total, you’ll complete around 59 credit hours for the MFA in Creative Writing requirements. You’re expected to complete at least two advanced workshops in the genre of your choice: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or screenwriting. Other coursework includes literature prerequisites and electives. A few highlight electives include:
Writing for Young Adults
History of Rhetoric
Film History: The Silents
Because National University is a 100 percent online program, students will save money by not traveling to multiple residencies. Even more, the thesis requirement at the end of this degree has turned into a publication for over a quarter of past graduates.
Located in the heart of Boston, Mass., Emerson College is a private institution that is known for its elite academics. It excels especially in the field of publishing and writing. Emerson College features 27 undergraduate programs and 12 graduate programs for its student body of around 4,200.
Emerson College offers an online MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing. This program does not require a residency at any point. Rather, students will attend workshops online, participate in class discussions, and network with other published authors from the comfort of their home. Specialty genre concentrations include:
This degree incorporates 36 total credit hours. Students will take 16 credits of writing workshops, 8 credits of literature courses, 8 credits of publishing courses, and a 4-credit master’s thesis. The thesis will consist of a minimum of 100 pages of polished long-form narrative.
Founded originally as a women’s institution, Bennington College opened its doors to both men and women in the late 1960s. The school has always held a legacy of self-directed learning and avoids traditional majors for its undergraduate students. The same flexibility and autonomy is extended to its graduate programs.
Consistently named one of the leading low-residency programs in the nation, Bennington College offers a MFA in Writing. Students take two years to complete the degree. The curriculum incorporates a speciality track in fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. The final requirements culminate in a thesis and lecture. A typical term will include the following:
Five packet exchanges with faculty
20-30 books read
10-page critical essay
Bennington offers the best of both worlds: flexibility and support. This program incorporates two 10-day residencies on the Vermont campus each year (resulting in five residencies in total). You will live, eat, and write together during these residencies. Many students cite these gatherings as the highlight of the program.
A private institution in North Carolina, Queens University of Charlotte stands out for its commitment to experiential learning. The intimate student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1 makes academic mentorship meaningful and possible. It’s no surprise, then, why 98 percent of students find work immediately after graduating from Queens University of Charlotte.
Students at Queens University of Charlotte will jump into the hybrid MFA in Creative Writing. Most of the time, you’ll interact with students and professors online. However, your four semesters will also include four residencies at the beginning of each term. Students have the choice of specializing in one of four genres:
Writing for Stage and Screen
Queens University of Charlotte features a Book Development Program that helps writers find a spot for their first work. Once you have a draft of a manuscript, you’ll be paired with an editor of a major publishing house. This is an amazing opportunity to get your work published.
The University of Nebraska Omaha was founded at the beginning of the 20th century. This public research university is Christian-based in its mission, but free from a denominational oversight. It has been praised by U.S. News & World Report for “Military Friendliness,” among other things.
Through a total of 60 credit hours, students will complete a blended MFA in Writing program. The degree is composed of four 16-week online classes, as well as five 10-day residencies. Each student is paired with a faculty mentor who specializes in the genre of their choice. Genres include:
Stage & Screen
The University of Nebraska gives you the best of both worlds. After working hard through your online courses, your residencies will be held at Nebraska City’s Lied Lodge. This location includes leafy trails, a sauna, swimming pool, and an overall tranquil environment for engaged writing.
The University of Arkansas at Monticello maintains three different campuses throughout the state: Monticello, McGehee, and Crossett. Nearly 4,000 students attend – both at the undergraduate and graduate level. Out of the six graduate degree programs offered, five of them are fully online.
The University of Arkansas at Monticello features a non-residency MFA program in Creative Writing. This program incorporates 48 credit hours in one of three areas: fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. Students move at their own pace through the coursework. Here’s a peek at a few electives you might take:
Simple Art of Murder
First Books of Poetry
Memoirs of the Mind
Magazine Edit and Design
One huge perk of this program is the chance to do a Graduate Assistantship to offset tuition costs. Selected students are able to teach online sections of first-year writing courses via Blackboard. This means you can not only attend classes online, but also teach online!
Based in Spartanburg, S.C., Converse College operates as a women’s undergraduate college and a co-educational graduate school. Converse College features five fully online graduate programs, as well as the hybrid MFA program. In total, around 1,500 students attend annually.
At Converse College, you’ll jump into a two-year low-residency MFA in Creative Writing. This degree covers 48 credit hours, including five 9-day residencies on-campus. The structure of this program turns around your genre of choice. In the past, students have selected areas such as:
Young Adult Fiction
Although you will have plenty of structure through your online coursework, the residency experiences at Converse College are crucial to your success. The low student-to-faculty ratio of 3:1 makes the classroom seem more like a conversation. You’ll engage in craft lectures, workshops, and one-on-one consultations with faculty.
Founded in 1897, Bay Path University is primarily a women’s institution. Beyond the undergraduate programs, however, Bay Path also offers over 25 unique graduate programs that are open to both men and women. It is a member of the Women’s College Coalition.
Unique to Bay Path University, this MFA program is specifically devoted to Creative Nonfiction Writing. This is a no-residency, 100 percent online degree that spans three semesters. Students can pursue a Publishing Track or a Teaching Track alongside their writing courses. A few stand-out classes include:
Generational Histories: Writing about Family
Women’s Spiritual Writing Through the Ages
Travel and Food Writing for Publication
Getting Inside Lives
While this program is designed to be fully online, students still have an option to pair writing with travel. Through the Seminar in Ireland, you’ll experience first-hand the sights, smells, and sounds of a new country. The seminar includes craft workshops, as well as plenty of time to explore and write.
Mississippi University for Women shouldn’t be mistaken for a female-only institution. While it was founded as such, the university became co-educational in 1982. The school offers over 50 undergraduate degrees and 10 graduate programs. A number of the graduate degrees and certificates are offered online.
Designed as a low-residency MFA in Creative Writing, students at Mississippi University for Women complete nearly all of their coursework online. This 48-credit-hour program takes two to three years to complete. A handful of short residencies will be woven into your coursework. Here’s a peek at some classes:
Writing for New Media
The first residency, named the Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium, gives MFA students an orientation to the program. The following residencies are one-week classes that are held either on-campus or at an off-campus location. Students will do intensive studies on publishing, pedagogy, and performance.
The University of New Orleans is one of the premier institutions of higher learning in its historical Southern city. Offering both affordability and quality academic results, this school is a top contender. Over 77 percent of students at the University of New Orleans receive some form of financial assistance.
This MFA in Creative Writing is a fully online, non-resident graduate program. MFA students at the University of New Orleans work side-by-side with distinguished faculty authors. Instead of siloing students to one genre, they are encouraged to experiment with numerous styles throughout the 45 credit-hour program. Highlight classes include:
Drama as a Genre
The Short Story as a Genre
The Novel of Sensibility & the Gothic
A huge standout for University of New Orleans is the affordability of this program. Online MFA students pay the in-state tuition, and are not held to the non-resident fees. Another huge opportunity at the University of New Orleans is the optional summer residency programs abroad, which takes students to Ireland and Italy.
Linked to the larger University of Houston system, the University of Houston-Victoria is a state institution that enrolls around 4,300 students each year. The school awards over $34 million in financial aid annually, and is one of the top three most affordable programs on this list.
At the University of Houston-Victoria, you’ll have the choice to complete your MFA in Creative Writing either as low-residency program or entirely online. Even more, you can decide between the Writing track or the Applied Literary Translation track. While the core classes are shared, each track contains unique electives such as:
British Literary History
Beyond the specialty tracks, students will work through 36 credit hours of core classes. This includes creative writing workshops in the genre of their choice; a seminal class in Form and Poetics; and a final MFA thesis project. This final project is a polished manuscript in your genre.
Based in leafy Glenside, Pa., Arcadia University is a private institution that hosts around 4,000 students each year. It is known as one of the best universities in the nation for its study abroad program. The student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1 keeps the student body intimate and connected.
Arcadia University presents a unique dual-degree through its hybrid Creative Writing MFA / English MA program. Students can finish both degrees in just three years. The MFA is worth 36 credits and the MA requires 33 credits. The curriculum consists of the following elements:
4 Craft Workshops
One huge perk to this program is the chance to experience international travel. In the summer of your second year, you’ll spend a week in Edinburgh, Scotland. You’ll conduct a residency among the beautiful Scottish bluffs and get a chance to explore the area between writing seminars.
The largest university in the state, Oregon State University is based in Corvallis. It holds land-grant, sea-grant, space-grant, and sun-grant designations, making it one of only three in the nation to hold all four honors. Oregon State University maintains campuses in Corvallis, Bend, and online.
Oregon State University takes a markedly ecological approach to its low-residency MFA in Creative Writing. The program pays special attention to the geography of each writer and how it affects their texts. Throughout the two-year program, you’ll take engaging classes such as:
About the Body: Narrative Foundations
Poetry for Prose Writers
Bringing out the Dead
The teacher-to-student ratio in this program is 1:4, which gives students a unique chance to receive professional mentoring in a meaningful way. Your program will incorporate four residencies, but otherwise be a self-directed and online study. At the end of the two years, you will have produced either a 70-page prose thesis or a 48-page poetry thesis.
Based in Richmond, Eastern Kentucky University is a strong institution of higher learning in the region, especially when it comes to online learning. It hosts over 40 online undergraduate and graduate programs. Around 16,800 students attend Eastern Kentucky University at one of its four branches.
The MFA program at Eastern Kentucky University, called Bluegrass Writers Studio, is a low-residency degree that combines online workshops with intensive residencies. The program features a number of scholarships and grants to help offset tuition costs. Your 48-credit-hour curriculum will be divided into the following:
4 Reading in Contemporary Literature Classes
4 Writing Workshops
This program operates two types of residencies – one at home and one abroad. Students must complete 12 credits in residencies, but they may choose to attend at either location. A winter residency is held in Lexington, Ky. and a summer residency is held in Lisbon, Portugal.
A for-profit institution, Full Sail University was founded with the vision of creating a career school devoted to audio, design, and computer animation. Nearly all of the undergraduate and graduate degrees are granted online through a learning management system. Close to 9,000 students attend Full Sail University.
Full Sail University is the only school on our list that offers a 12-month online MFA in Creative Writing. It also is unique in incorporating visual elements into the curriculum to create a multimedia degree. No residency is required. Here’s a peek into a few of the classes:
The Art of Visual Storytelling
Script Analysis and Criticism
Character Creation and Development
Episodic and Serial Writing
Since this degree is fully offered online, Full Sail University makes sure that students are completely equipped for success. Incoming MFA students receive an Apple MacBook Pro, Adobe Creative Cloud, and an entire fleet of accessories and applications to facilitate effective online learning.
Antioch University—Los Angeles was founded in 1972 as a learning institution that approached education from a classics perspective. The average age of students at the school is 39. The Bridge Program is a one-of-a-kind opportunity that offers one year of education to low-income students for free.
Antioch University—Los Angeles features a low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program. The degree emphasizes both the craft of writing, but also the larger themes of social justice and equity that come from the literary arts. The curriculum alternates between 5-month online projects and 10-day residencies. Genre specialties include:
Writing for Young People
This program has a set structure for each online project period and residency. During the residency, students attend a writing workshop and fulfill six additional learning elements. During the online learning periods, students work on field studies, online conferences, and term papers.
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