Best Online MFA in Creative Writing Degrees

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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.

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Top 10 Best Online MFA in Creative Writing Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Lindenwood University Saint Charles, MO
2 Fairfield University Fairfield, CT
3 Northwestern University Evanston, IL
4 Wilkes University Wilkes-Barre, PA
5 National University La Jolla, CA
6 Emerson College Boston, MA
7 Bennington College Bennington, VT
8 Queens University of Charlotte Charlotte, NC
9 University of Nebraska Omaha Omaha, NE
10 University of Arkansas at Monticello Monticello, AR

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!

If you’re not set on an MFA, check out College Choice’s list of the Best Online Colleges and Universities regardless of major.

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.

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.

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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.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Lindenwood University
    Location

    Saint Charles, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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
    • Women Poets
    • Longform Narrative Journalism
    • Memoir Chapter Workshop

    Notables

    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.

  2. Fairfield University
    Location

    Fairfield, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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
    • Spiritual Writing

    Notables

    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.

  3. Northwestern University
    Location

    Evanston, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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.

  4. Wilkes University
    Location

    Wilkes-Barre, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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:

    • Fiction
    • Poetry
    • Playwriting
    • Publishing

    Notables

    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!

  5. National University
    Location

    La Jolla, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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
    • Multicultural Literature
    • History of Rhetoric
    • Film History: The Silents

    Notables

    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.

  6. Emerson College
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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:

    • Fantasy
    • Science Fiction
    • Horror/Mystery
    • Young Adult

    Notables

    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.

  7. Bennington College
    Location

    Bennington, VT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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
    • Reading responses
    • 10-page critical essay

    Notables

    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.

  8. Queens University of Charlotte
    Location

    Charlotte, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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:

    • Fiction
    • Creative Nonfiction
    • Poetry
    • Writing for Stage and Screen

    Notables

    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.

  9. University of Nebraska Omaha
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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:

    • Poetry
    • Creative Nonfiction
    • Stage & Screen
    • Fiction

    Notables

    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.

  10. University of Arkansas at Monticello
    Location

    Monticello, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    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.

    Program Features

    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

    Notables

    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!

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