Many people have a talent for writing, but not everyone can become a successful writer or author. In many cases, this is because even strong writers don’t have the necessary skills and knowledge for creative writing. This is exactly where an MFA in creative writing program comes in handy.
Read on for the best MFA programs in creative writing currently available in the USA, both on-campus and online.
Best MFA in Creative Writing Programs
Johns Hopkins University, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences
Master of Fine Arts in Fiction/ Poetry
Johns Hopkins is a world-renowned private research university located in Baltimore, Maryland. The university’s Master of Fine Arts in Fiction/Poetry is one of the best MFA creative writing programs around, allowing students study and practice the art of writing fiction or poetry at the highest level. It also gives you the opportunity to learn with a faculty that is nationally and internationally renowned.
- Duration: 2 years
- Financial aid: Full tuition, teaching fellowship (for all students set at $33,000/year)
- Acceptance rate: 11.1%
- Location: Baltimore, Maryland
- Founded: 1876
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Helen Zell Writers’ Program
Master of Fine Arts
The University of Michigan is a public research university and the oldest in the state. Its Master of Fine Arts program is one of the top creative writing MFA programs in the country and exposes students to various approaches in the craft of writing. With options to specialize in either poetry or fiction, students study under award-winning poets and writers.
- Duration: 2 years
- No. of hours: 36
- Financial aid: Full funding
- Acceptance rate: 26.1%
- Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Founded: 1817
University of Texas at Austin, New Writers Project
Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
The University of Texas at Austin is a well-known public research university that has around 50,000 students at the graduate and undergraduate levels. It offers one of the best MFA programs for creative writing around today and aims to enhance and develop its students’ artistic and intellectual abilities.
- Duration: 3 years
- Financial aid: Full funding
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Location: Austin, Texas
- Founded: 1883
University of Nebraska, Kearney
Master of Arts
The University of Nebraska offers programs in a wide range of majors and strives to provide quality education at an affordable cost, including this online MA program in English. The program offers a choice between four areas of focus, including Creative Writing which provides students with experiential learning in poetry or prose.
- Credit hours: 36
- Tuition: $315 per credit hour
- Financial aid: Grants, Work-study, Student loans, Scholarships, Parent loans
- Acceptance rate: 88%
- Location: Online
- Founded: 1905
Bay Path University
MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing
Bay Path University is a private university with various programs at undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate levels, including women-only undergraduate programs. This program in creative non-fiction writing is one of the first fully online programs in the nation which helps students develop in-depth creative writing knowledge in a range of literary genres.
- Duration: 2 years
- Credits: 39
- Tuition: $775 per credit
- Financial aid: Federal Stafford loan, Student loans
- Acceptance rate: 78%
- Location: Online
- Founded: 1897
What Can Creative Writers Do After Graduation?
As a creative writer with an MFA, you’ll have a variety of career options where your ability to write creative pieces will be highly valued. Below are a few of the common jobs a creative writing graduate can do, with the average annual salary for each.
A creative director leads a team of creative writers, designers, or artists in various fields, such as media, advertising, or entertainment.
An editor helps correct writing errors and improve the style and flow in media, broadcasting, films, advertising, marketing, and entertainment.
An academic librarian is responsible for managing educational information resources in an academic environment such as a university.
Copywriters typically work to present an idea to a particular audience and capture their attention using as few words as possible.
A writer usually provides written content for businesses in the form of articles, marketing content, blogs, or product descriptions, or they may write fiction or non-fiction books.
Other roles available for creative writers include web content manager ($59,754), public relations officer ($55,877), social media manager ($52,856), and journalist ($41,863).
What You Need to Get into a Master’s in Creative Writing Program
Besides the application form and fee, most MFA in creative writing programs have the following requirements:
Make sure your resume includes all relevant information to showcase your interests, skills, and talent in writing.
Selection committees for MFA programs in creative writing look for applicants who are serious about writing and so typically ask for a 10-20 page writing sample. The best sample will show your talent in your preferred area of writing, such as fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.
You’ll need to show transcripts of your undergraduate studies.
Statement of purpose
A statement of purpose is usually one to two pages and should show your passion for writing as well as your potential to succeed in the program.
Most programs want to see letters of recommendation from academic or professional contacts who know you well.
Some universities may also have some additional requirements, so it’s best to check with the specific program.
Related reading: How to Ask a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation for Grad School
Pros and Cons of MFA in Creative Writing
Like anything, studying an MFA in Creative Writing and pursuing a related career can have its benefits as well as drawbacks.
- It’ll motivate you to write
Many people are truly talented, but find it hard to sit down and write. However, an MFA will give you the motivation you need as you will have to keep writing to meet your deadlines.
Writing can be a solitary pursuit and it can be hard to connect with others who are passionate about writing. An MFA program will instantly provide you with a community of like-minded people.
An MFA is one of the options that help you find a teaching job at the university level. Unlike some majors that require a PhD to enter academia, an MFA is often all you need to teach at a post-secondary level.
- Not the most marketable job skills
Although an MFA in Creative Writing will give you a number of skills that are useful in the job market, these are not as marketable as some other forms of writing. For example, copywriting arguably has a wider range of job prospects.
- It could limit your creativity
There is a risk that your writing could become too technical or formulaic as a result of the theories you learn during your MFA. It’s important to know the theory, but you don’t want to let it limit your creativity.
Alternatives to Creative Writing Majors
Not everyone who completes an MFA in creative writing goes on to work as a writer – instead, they use the writing skills and the knowledge gained in the master’s program to pursue other career paths. Many work as teachers, editors, librarians, journalists, or copywriters.
Similarly, there are alternative majors that can set you on the path to a career in the field of creative writing. Such alternatives include an MA in English, literature, humanities, media studies, and library sciences.
Related Reading: Master’s in Fine Arts: The Ultimate Guide
MFA in Creative Writing FAQs
What can I do with an MFA in creative writing?
You will have a wide range of career options as an MFA graduate. You could teach creative writing at a secondary or tertiary level, or you could pursue a career in advertising, publishing, media, or the entertainment industry. You can also become an author by publishing fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.
Are MFA creative writing programs worth it?
Having an MFA opens doors to a range of well-paid careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the median annual salary for writers and authors is a decent $67,120. Therefore, studying in an MFA program is an excellent option if you are skilled in writing and want to make a living from your writing.
How do I choose an MFA in creative writing?
It’s important to consider whether an on-campus or online MFA program is best for you, depending on your lifestyle and commitments. Another key consideration is faculty – many universities have renowned authors on their teaching staff who will give you the highest levels of training in creative writing. You should also consider your preferred focus area, whether it is fiction, poetry, or nonfiction.
What are MFA writing programs?
An MFA in writing or creative writing is an advanced program that teaches you the art and practice of writing with creativity. During the program, you will hone your writing skills and equip yourself to publish your own work or pursue a career in media, teaching, or advertising.
Can you teach with an MFA?
Yes — teaching is one of the many career options you’ll have with an MFA on your resume. An MFA in creative writing can qualify you to be a teacher in creative writing, in schools or the higher education sector.
Is it really hard to get admission to MFA creative writing programs?
MFA creative writing programs are relatively competitive, and not all applicants get into every program. However, if you are talented and truly ambitious to become a professional, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to get into an MFA. Having said that, the most prestigious universities with the best creative writing master’s programs will accept only a small percentage of the applicants, so it’s important to prepare well.
An MFA in creative writing program will hone your talents and develop the skills you need to become a successful writer. The best MFA programs in creative writing will give you in-depth knowledge of the field as well as help you to develop practical skills in fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.
The acceptance rate for the best MFA writing programs is pretty low and competition is tough. Therefore, it’s important to understand the requirements well and prepare thoroughly – check out our guide to applying to grad school to help you put together your strongest possible application.
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.