A Master of Fine Arts degree or MFA in Creative Writing is the perfect degree for experienced writers who want to study a specific field or stay in academia. Considered a terminal degree, it is the highest degree of its kind. Students will practice writing prose while gaining more insight on the history and culture of writing.
The great thing about this degree is the opportunity to engage in one-on-one and group learning with professors and peers. Some students may even get the chance to travel abroad. In addition, as many people will choose to go in to education following this degree, schools generally offer graduate assistantships to help lower the cost of the program. Keep reading to learn more about this degree and how it can help you achieve your future goals!
What kind of MFA in Creative Writing degree should you get?
MFA programs in Creative Writing are either offered on-campus, online, or a hybrid program. An online program may be preferable for those who are already working and may not have enough time to commute to campus daily. Online degrees are completed using interactive lectures individual projects. Although an online degree will require a good computer, distance learning programs are generally affordable.
Before deciding which program is best, students should look carefully to see if the degree requires a residency or not. Most online programs that do require one are low-residency, meaning students will need to come to campus or a remote location a couple of times per year for an extended time. The residencies consist of intensive workshops with faculty to develop one’s writing skills.
Check out our list of the Best Online MFAs in Creative Writing.
How much do online MFA in Creative Writing degrees make?
It is important to understand that those who graduate from an online program will have the same salary potential as someone who did it on-campus. Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay of authors and writers as of 2017 is $61,820. Writers who are just starting out will earn significantly less, with the lowest 10 percent only making $28,610 or less. However, the highest 10 percent make $109,440 on average.
Pay for a writer will depend on your field and work situation. For example, someone who freelances may earn less than someone who signs a contract with a publishing company, but several other factors can determine pay. Another option is for people to become college professors, who can earn anywhere from $30,720 to $130,510 depending on the school, if the position is tenured or not, and if graduates have a PhD or not.
What can you do with an online MFA in Creative Writing?
Graduates will be prepared to work in a variety of fields such as magazine, film, television, publishing, or advertising. Many people also choose to go into teaching either at the secondary or college level. Other people may start out as freelance writers and eventually do other types of writing. However, it is important to know that not everyone must be a writer upon graduation of this degree.
While some people choose this degree to level up in their career, others do it for personal fulfillment. An MFA in Creative Writing is also a good opportunity for people to improve in their writing skill, as virtually any job requires some degree of writing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, writer and author positions are expected to increase 8 percent from 2016 to 2026. However, the definition of a writer has expanded more to someone who just publishes books, but also to those who may write online.
What are the requirements for an online MFA in Creative Writing?
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and a strong GPA. They will also need to submit letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a writing sample. The writing sample must be a substantial length and showcase the student’s writing from within the past few years. Some programs may require a portfolio of several works.
During the program students will take classes in a variety of genres. Some programs may even allow students to specialize in a genre or field. Some common specializations include poetry, nonfiction, or publishing. In addition to completing on-campus residencies (if applicable), there will most likely be a culminating project or thesis before graduation.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Average Net Price: $10,503
Northwestern State University of Louisiana is located in the town of Natchitoches, a place that has kept its historic charm since the school’s founding over 130 years ago. NSULA is student-oriented campus that focuses on teaching, research, and service. If offers degrees across its six campuses as well as online. eNSU, its distance learning platform, is the state’s first and largest online school. Its graduate online programs have been ranked among the most affordable in the nation.
Offered through the eNSU Global Campus, the MA in English degree with a concentration in Writing and Linguistics prepares students to publish works professionally.
- Option to write a thesis or two papers + an additional elective course
- Graduate assistantships available
- Ability to join several related student organizations
Students can take an internship for credit. This experience will not only be valuable for a future career, but can also assist in writing a thesis.
Louisiana Tech University
Average Net Price: $10,683
Become part of the family that uses technology to solve everyday problems at Louisiana Tech University. With career-focused programs and partnerships with local businesses, students at LA Tech will get the skills they need for the future. Through online learning courses, graduate students can continue their busy lives while getting their degree from virtually anywhere. With interactive content and an engaging media platform, students can feel at ease that they are getting the same quality education.
LA Tech’s online MA in English degree is designed for students with advanced knowledge of British and American literature and writing.
- Thesis and non-thesis track
- Technical Writing and Communication graduate certificate available
- Prepares for doctorate-level programs
In lieu of GRE test scores, applicants must submit a writing sample of at least 15 pages.
Mississippi University for Women
Average Net Price: $10,783
Mississippi University for Women is the first state-supported college for women in the country. The school was founded during a time where women’s voices were not heard. Today it is a progressive supporter of women’s intellectual growth and leadership. Throughout the years it has been recognized numerous times by the U.S. New & World Report and the Washington Monthly as a top public university in the south and as a top master’s university.
MUW’s online MFA in Creative Writing degree is a residency program that can be taken either full or part-time.
- Completion Time: 2-3 years
- Two 2-hour and two 4-hour residencies
- One-on-one mentorship
Residencies consist of different level workshops on campus. These workshops will allow students to practice their professional writing skills alone and in a group.
University of New Orleans
Average Net Price: $10,858
As a nationally ranked research institution with quality teaching, the University of New Orleans is a wonderful campus to continue one’s education. Opening in 1958, UNO has continuously been a major impact on the city, generating an economic impact of over $470 from 2014-2015. UNO is also among the world’s top 1,000 universities and top 200 within the nation. This is thanks to its excellent faculty, financial aid assistance, and career-readiness programs.
UNO’s online MFA in Creative Writing program gives students that chance to further their writing skills through workshops and opportunities to travel.
- Summer residency program in specified European destinations
- Completion Time: five semesters full-time
- No specific out-of-state tuition
UNO has partnerships with the University College Cork in Ireland and the Ezra Pound Center for Literature in Italy.
University of Arkansas at Monticello
Average Net Price: $11,260
The University of Arkansas at Monticello is one of three campuses spread out across more than 1,600 acres. Out of the six graduate degrees offered, five of them are fully online. UAM’s online programs not only fit within a busy professional’s schedule, but give students the chance to interact with several different professors. The MFA in Creative Writing degree is offered through the School of Arts & Humanities, which also houses the university’s Center for Writing and Communication.
UAM’s program is a highly flexible MFA in Creative Writing program that allows you to take as many credits as you want.
- 48 credit-hours
- Ability to take anywhere from 3 to 12 credit hours at a time
- Three Genres: Fiction, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction
Interested students can apply for graduate assistantships to teach freshman-level writing courses online.
University of Houston-Victoria
Average Net Price: $11,305
An affordable tuition rate, personalized mentorship, and excellence in teaching are some of the few characteristics that make the University of Houston – Victoria stand out. Founded in the small city of Victoria in 1973, the university today has over 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees. Graduate students at UHV can expect small class sizes and several opportunities to pursue hands-on research. Online learning is easy here with its simple program where students can talk with peers and professors.
Within the MFA in Creative Writing degree offered online at UHV, students can either take courses completely online or partake in the low-residency track.
- Tracks: Creative Writing or Applied Literary Translation
- Sample Courses: Publication Design, Genre Studies, The Business of Books
The School of Arts & Sciences, which offers this degree, was ranked #9 in the nation due to its low tuition.
University of Nebraska Omaha
Average Net Price: $11,727
The University of Nebraska, with its main campus located in Omaha, strives to be the best public university within the nation. In order to achieve this goal, UNO works to make its education affordable, spur economic growth, and engage in meaningful community initiatives. In fact, UNO’s tuition rate is 25 percent lower than the state average. All of UNO’s online programs are affordable and designed to fit within the busy adult schedule.
UNO’s MFA in Writing degree is a hybrid program with in-person residency and online courses.
- 60 credit-hours
- Sample Specializations: Young Adult, Playwriting, Fiction
- Four 16-week only seminars and five 10-day conferences
Those who have already completed relevant graduate coursework may be able to use those credits toward this degree.
Eastern Kentucky University
Average Net Price: $12,659
Dedicated to providing accessible education to the state’s population, Eastern Kentucky University offers programs throughout its various regional campuses. Non-traditional or busy students should consider what EKU’s online programs have to offer. At EKU, online students are billed a flat tuition rate whether or not they live in-state. Furthermore, active military students or veterans are given special support.
Those who wish to increase their writing abilities in a variety of genres should consider EKU’s online MFA in Creative Writing degree.
- Emphases: Literary Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Popular/Genre Fiction, Poetry
- 12 credit-hours of residencies
- May be used as a terminal degree to be promoted in English-related secondary education positions
The residency program occurs twice a year in January and in June/July.
Northern Arizona University
Average Net Price: $14,901
Known as the “lumberjacks,” Northern Arizona University has a history of offering top-tier programs, innovative research, and serving the neighboring community. NAU is located in Flagstaff, Arizona, which was ranked the #3 best college town in the nation in 2017. Its online programs have been ranked among the best for its quality in teaching and return on investment. For over 30 years, NAU has offered fully-accredited online degrees where students can continue to pursue their passion in a flexible manner.
NAU’s online MA in English degree with an emphasis in Professional Writing is perfect for aspiring writers who wish to work in business, government, or documentation.
- 36 credit-hours
- No GRE scores required in application
- Capstone project
Some common positions upon graduation include editor, policy writer, or reporter.
Old Dominion University
Average Net Price: $15,213
Why get an online degree at Old Dominion University? An ODU distance learning degree allows students to live stream courses and/or complete coursework on their own time. Despite being online, students still have access to internships and practicums. In total, ODU has an enrollment of over 24,000 students. Its main campus is located in Norfolk, Virginia. It is estimated that ODU contributes economically to the state about $2.6 billion annually.
The MA in English degree online at ODU provides a Professional Writing concentration for adults to hone in on their skills.
- Prepares students for doctoral program
- 97 percent online student satisfaction rate
- Sample Topics: Rhetoric, Document Design, Textual Analysis
In 2018, this program was ranked the #6 best online school for English degrees.
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
Average Net Price: $15,402
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania is a public university located in the northern part of the state. When it opened in 1893, only 320 students were enrolled. Currently, over 5,000 undergraduate and 700 graduate students are enrolled. ESU’s beautiful campus has 65 buildings, two of which include its library and computing and communication services. Online students have access to all of these facilities.
By enrolling in this innovative online degree, students will increase their writing potential through various mediums in ESU’s MA in Professional and Digital Media Writing program.
- Research and writing-focused
- Completion Time: four semesters if taken full-time
- Discussion-based courses
Because of the proximity of this program to New York, there are several networking and career opportunities available upon graduation.
Texas Tech University
Average Net Price: $15,820
Ranked in world’s top 3 percent of universities, Texas Tech University is a public research university that is pushing boundaries. TTU was founded in 1923 and is one of the largest universities within the state. Programs offered here range from technical studies to liberal arts and everything in between. In 2018, College Factual had ranked TTU for being among the best college for the money, whether it be in return on investment or average student indebtedness.
TTU’s online MA in English degree offers the same quality education as any other on-campus program.
- 36 credit-hours
- No out-of-state tuition
- Same enrollment period and schedule as on-campus classes
The SR Education Group has ranked this program the #1 Best Online College for Value of its kind in 2019.
Western Connecticut State University
Average Net Price: $16,972
At Western Connecticut State University, students come first. All programs combine liberal arts and professional learning to prepare the adult learner for success. There are two campuses at Western: Danbury and Midtown. Online students will be able to complete coursework entirely from their home, and are only required to commute to campus for residency. Western’s online MFA degree is offered through the Macricostas School of Arts & Sciences.
The online MFA in Creative & Professional Writing degree is a low residency program where students will have a mix of online courses as well as face-to-face ones.
- Two-, three-, and four-year completion schedules
- Residencies twice per year
- Sample Courses: Writing in the Primary Genre, The Individual and Aesthetic Process, Reading for Writers
Residencies consist of weeklong intensive workshops, lectures, and personal meetings. The program is located in Danbury on the Westside Campus.
Average Net Price: $17,305
Lindenwood University is a four-year independent school that is located in St. Charles, Missouri. Although its practices are based on Judeo-Christian values, all people of various faith backgrounds are welcome. Lindenwood’s online MFA degree in Creative Writing is a nationally-recognized program. In 2019, the SR Education Group ranked it among the most affordable of its kind in the country.
Graduates of Lindenwood’s online MFA in Writing degree will have improved analytical and writing skills.
- 48 credit-hours
- No residency required
- Can enroll in as few as one class per quarter
Students can declare an emphasis in either Fiction, Poetry, or Creative Nonfiction. At least 27 credit-hours must be completed in that genre.
Bay Path University
Average Net Price: $18,257
Bay Path University was founded in 1897 and is located in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Its name comes from a footpath that Native Americans used in order to travel between the settlements. With only a little over 3,000 students, Bay Path offers a small school feeling. Even online students get to work with professors intimately in order to create a degree plan that works for them.
Whether you have a lot of experience in writing or not, Bay Path’s online MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing will help you exceed in your writing career.
- No residency
- Faculty are award-winning authors
- January, May, and August start dates
With no residency required, students can take this degree either full or part time. There are also tracks for those who wish to teach or pursue publishing.
West Virginia Wesleyan College
Average Net Price: $18,362
West Virginia Wesleyan College is a private liberal arts school that was founded by the United Methodist church in 1890. As an institute of higher education, WVWC’s goal is not to just develop the student intellectually, but also spiritually and ethically. Although the school’s foundation is deeply rooted in the Christian faith, students of all backgrounds are welcome. WVWC’s online program utilizes the Blackboard system. Online students have full access to the college’s library resources and academic centers.
WVWC’s online MFA in Creative Writing degree is a rigorous program for aspiring writers.
- Five residencies required
- Secondary Genre concentration available
- Two-year graduate assistantships available
Every other year, this program offers a residency in Ireland. Students can experience the local culture while deepening their literary and writing skills.
Oregon State University
Average Net Price: $19,205
Oregon State University is among the top 1 percent of universities around the world. Within its
150-year long history, OSU has transformed its campus to become a renowned research
institution. It is estimated that OSU receives about $441 million worth of external research
funding. The online MFA in Creative Writing degree is offered through the Cascades campus.
OSU – Cascades is a relatively new campus that just opened in the fall of 2016.
The online MFA in Creative Writing program offers a low-residency curriculum that develops the writer holistically.
- Completion Time: two years
- Genres: Fiction, Poetry, Creative Non-Fiction
- Four residency and four mentorship quarters
There are three types of internships graduate students can undertake: teaching, professional writing, or editorial.
Average Net Price: $19,245
Converse College was founded in 1890, and is named after Mr. Dexter Edgar Converse, a pioneer who wanted to create a college especially for women. Since its inception, the college has had several notable alumni and continuously prepares students “to see clearly, decide wisely and act justly.” In 2013, Converse announced a 43 percent reduction in tuition, promoting transparency in college tuition policies. Students enrolled in the online MFA in Creative Writing degree can complete the program without worrying about massive debt.
Looking to develop your career as an independent writer? Converse’s online MFA degree in Creative Writing program is a good place to start.
- Nine-day residencies
- 48 credit hours
- Opportunities to meet successful, well-known writers
This program was mentioned in Publishers Weekly’s “MFA Programs to Watch,” article due to its history of successful graduate writers.
Average Net Price: $23,232
National University is the city of San Diego’s largest private university. It was established in 1971 by former U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. David Chigos, with the goal of providing accessible education. Thus, all programs are affordable with several online options to choose from. There are also scholarship opportunities and extra support for active or former military service members. According to Money, National University is ranked among the nation’s best colleges.
Graduates of National’s online MFA in Creative Writing degree will be prepared for a career in publishing, filmmaking, or writing.
- Four-week classes
- Year-round enrollment
- Tuition discount to servicemembers
This program does not require in-person residencies and can be completed entirely online.
Queens University of Charlotte
Average Net Price: $24,512
Queens University of Charlotte is a private masters-level university. As a small campus, Queens emphasizes a close-knit community where students have direct access to faculty. Located in Charlotte, there are several opportunities to network with businesses and the local community. Here, students and staff follow the motto, “Not to be served, but to serve.” All academic programs at Queens follow the liberal arts tradition and have an international component to it to bring a sense of cultural awareness.
Connect with other passionate writers through the online MFA in Creative Writing hybrid degree.
- Low-residency program on-campus and internationally
- Opportunity to teach a seminar to peer students
- Ability to be a staff member for the school’s literary journal
There is a Book Development Program for those who have a book-length manuscript. These students will get paired with an editor from a publishing house.
Full Sail University
Average Net Price: $25,254
Full Sail University programs focus on media arts, technology, and the entertainment industry. Both online and on-campus students will receive hands-on experiences that will make them prepared for the career they choose. What began as an audio recording workshop in 1979 has become a full-fledged university with many successful alumni. With over 93 programs and 110 studios and labs, students are able to fully dive into the creative community that Full Sail has to offer.
Enrolled students of Full Sail’s online MFA Creative Writing degree will learn about character development and incorporate visual elements in their writing.
- Completion Time: 12 months
- Use of Project LaunchBox, a Macbook program for students
- Online scholarships available
Students who wish to participate in the Macbook program can get the computer along with certain programs and a three-year warranty.
Average Net Price: $26,099
With over 21,000 students enrolled, Northwestern University is a major school located in the greater Chicago area. Northwestern’s three campuses and online program are dedicated to solid research and excellence in teaching. The online MFA in Creative Writing degree is offered through the School of Professional Studies. According to the U.S. News & World Report, Northwestern is the #10 top university within the nation.
Northwestern’s online MA in Writing degree is a part-time program that prepares students for the fields of writing, editing, and publishing.
- Specializations: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Popular Fiction, Dual-Genre, Publishing and Professional Development
- Hybrid format option
- Opportunity to attend artistic and writing events in Chicago
All of the program’s specializations consist of publishing industry-related standards as well as interesting electives.
Average Net Price: $26,312
Wilkes University began as a junior college within the community of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
It is a private university sprawled over 35-acres of land. Its graduate programs are offered in
two 15-week semesters both online and on-campus. Wilkes’ programs are highly career-
centered, with its graduates having a 97 percent job placement rate. The Washington Monthly
has ranked Wilkes among the best in the nation for its contribution to the public and its value.
Earn your MA or MFA degree in Creative Writing online at Wilkes University. Develop writing skills and understand the business of the industry.
- Sample Area Concentrations: Screenwriting, Playwriting, Publishing
- Two Tracks: Low-residency or Weekender
- Successful alumni publishing rate
The low-residency program consists of two eight-day residencies and online courses, while the weekender program is four weekend sessions per semester.
New England College
Average Net Price: $27,465
Located in New Hampshire, New England College is a private institution that is only 15 minutes
form the state’s capital. All of its programs, both online and on-campus, follow a liberal arts
tradition. There are currently about 900 students enrolled throughout its online programs. Not
only have both its undergraduate and graduate online programs been nationally recognized, NEC has also been on the President’s community service honor roll.
NEC’s online MA in Professional Writing program is an accelerated degree that uses a creative
approach to develop the next generation of writers.
- Completion Time: 12 months
- Resume required for application
- Sample Courses: Business and Technical Communications, Editing and Publishing, The New Media
The U.S. News & World Report included NEC among the Best Online Graduate Business Programs ranking.
Average Net Price: $27,567
Learning at Arcadia University goes beyond the classroom. Students are encouraged to get a global perspective through active and engaging lectures, study abroad opportunities, and research. Arcadia is a small liberal arts school located in Pennsylvania, but also offers 10 centers around the world plus online degrees. The Princeton Review and the U.S. News & World Report have ranked Arcadia among the top schools in the Northeast.
Arcadia’s online MFA and MA in Creative Writing and English degree is a dual degree for future teachers.
- Completion Time: three years
- First-year summer residency
- Yearly graduate assistantships available
Throughout the course of three years, students will take a total of 69 credit hours and earn two master’s degrees.
Mount St Mary's University
Average Net Price: $28,681
Students at Mount St. Mary’s University are truly unstoppable. MSMU is a women’s college that was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. It is not only a school noted for the bang for its buck and excellent teaching, but also for its community service. Every year, MSMU students are engaged in projects that give back to other women and girls within the state. The U.S. News & World Report ranks MSMU among the top regional universities in the West in 2018.
MSMU’s online MFA in Creative Writing degree is a project-based program where graduates will be eligible to teach at the college level.
- 36 credit hours
- Multicultural content
- Ability to study abroad in Cartagena in the summer
Before graduating, students will write an essay as well as a creative manuscript in whatever genre they wish.
Average Net Price: $32,667
Bennington College, located in the state of Vermont, embodies what a liberal arts school should be. Since its founding in the 1920s, the art and culture has defined the school. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Bennington had a large group of ambitious writers who wanted to thrive in literature. Today, students can add on to this legacy by enrolling in the online MFA in Writing degree.Several scholarships and fellowships are available to support passionate students.
Become an experienced writer through one of the top programs of its kind at Bennington’s
online MFA in Writing degree.
- Completion Time: two years
- One-on-one guidance
- 10-day residency sessions twice a year
During the residencies, students will be housed in single occupancy rooms and have full access to resources such as the computer lab, fitness/recreation, and mailroom.
Average Net Price: $37,799
Fairfield University is a private institution following the Jesuit, Catholic tradition. The university offers a well-rounded, liberal arts education. The city of Fairfield is a beautiful college town where students can feel safe, but also experience freedoms on their own. Downtown is home to several great restaurants, museums, and other fun activities. In 2019, Fairfield is the #1 college in the Northern region according to the U.S. News & World Report.
Join Fairfield’s impressive alumni by enrolling in their online MFA in Creative Writing degree.
- Concentrations: Publishing/Editing, Spiritual Writing, Literary Health and Healing
- Residency on Enders Island in Connecticut
- Qualified writers can receive up to one semester of credit for previously written works
The most promising writer each residency will win a $5,000 fellowship.
Antioch University—Los Angeles
Average Net Price: $39,062
Discover what it means to be an informed writer by enrolling in Antioch University, located in the busy city of Los Angeles. The university was first founded in 1852 in the state of Ohio. Over time, different campuses throughout the country opened up, all with the goal of creating socially active and aware students. Online courses are convenient and affordable, with several options for financial aid and scholarships.
Antioch’s online MFA in Creative Writing degree not only enhances students’ skills, but also engages with social justice issues.
- Personal mentoring
- 10-day on-campus residency
- Admission into genre of choice: Fiction, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, Young Adult
The program comprises of a 10-day residency following a five-month online project. Throughout the semester, faculty will supervise the writing projects.
Average Net Price: $42,070
Emerson College operates three campuses across the nation, with its main one located in the heart of Boston. Its programs are primarily dedicated to the arts. Although the arts are known as a very hands-on field, even online students receive plenty of opportunities to take what they’ve learned and apply them. Students enrolled in the online Master’s in Creative Writing degree can engage with the literary circle of Boston and work with local publishers.
Get the chance to take specialized writing workshops based on your genre of choice through Emerson’s online MFA in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing degree.
- One of the only Master’s in publishing in the country
- Rolling admission
- Personal mentorship during thesis development
Emerson has a successful publishing record among alumni.