What kinds of jobs can creative writing majors get once they graduate?


Lisa Hiton, poet, filmmaker, professor, writer

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It's a complex answer. These days, people tend to think that an MFA in Creative Writing leads to being a writer and/or professor. Higher Ed, however has few openings that fit the bill. I think many people with a creative writing degree go into teaching in some way shape or form--high school English teachers, composition and lit professors, writing instructors, etc. Many creative writing students end up doing a great deal of freelance work as well, whether it's in journalism or more creative/essayistic outlets. Creative writing also lends itself well to advertising, publishing, magazine, film, and television. I think upon finishing the degree, the writer has to stumble through a number of odd-jobs to figure out how much they themselves need stability versus flexibility (in order to be able to write--either for work or for their own projects). I also think that the genre of the degree tends to lead down different paths, too. I hope this is a useful, broad start to thinking about the amazing opportunities a creative writing life can offer, if a bit rough around the edges, at least at the start!

Brian Thomas, Pissed Graduate

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As someone who's almost been out of college for nearly a year with an MFA, i would like to say it's been almost entirely meaningless. There are no jobs available of any sort of description that would even be a wisp of what i was "educated" to do. Not to mention the snail paced process of waiting to be rejected in terms of being published.

The writing jobs that i've seen posted are only for writing computer software, html coding, website coding, and technical writing for which you'll need a BA, BS, or an MBA/ computer science degree to even get an interview for.

I've so far worked as a cashier for a grocery store and am a part time clerical proofreader now (in an office for a publishing company which will never promote me unless another employee dies or retires).

Yup, glad i wasted 6 years of my life for this.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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With more and more content needed to fuel the machine of the Internet, freelance writing is in high demand. A creative writer will have the ability to write for different audiences and in different genres, an asset in the freelance world. Finding full time writing work can be a challenge, but those jobs do exist. If you are talking about an MFA, remember that degree is considered a terminal degree, meaning you have achieved the highest degree in your field. That being said, with a glut of PhDs on the market clamoring for work, MFA's have a harder time finding full time teaching jobs--to echo what was said above. A creative writing major will also be able to think creatively, so making the case for why you are a good fit for a job "outside the box" of your major is also a skill you will have. Here are some links to help you see what others are doing with the degree.

"Top Jobs for Creative Writing Majors"

"Is a Creative Writing Degree Worth the Money?" Spoiler: they answer yes!

"20 Creative Writing Careers"

And remember, the world needs writers!

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Both Lisa and Joelle mention a variety of industries that have entry-level positions for BFA and MFA degrees: private school teaching, publishing, film and TV, and, as Joelle mentions, the growing need in advertising and marketing for social media writers! The professional networking site LinkedIn.com constantly recommends social media positions to writers, as top companies want people who can use a variety of words concisely.

I really like Lisa’s point on the writer’s need to consider how much s/he needs “stability versus flexibility.” A degree should show a level of content mastery, but it takes trial and error for an artist to find out how s/he wants that “mastery” to translates into a paycheck. I have an MFA friend who finished our program and got the professor job of his dreams only to realize that its demands consumed all of his creative energy. In my experience, some of the more disciplined and productive writers are those whose steady work ends with their “shift,” allowing them a modicum of free time to explore their creativity.

Lisa Hiton, poet, filmmaker, professor, writer

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I will also add to the conversation, in general, that the premise and promise of education isn't always or necessarily vocational. When students ask me if they should pursue an MFA or not, I ask them to think about if they want to give power and time to writing. The MFA is time and privilege to experience a writer's life. That in itself is the gift of the degree. I also know plenty of people who simply pursue the degree for this kind of isolated time and go to (or go back to) their normal jobs, lives, and families afterwards. Many people do it simultaneously these days, as well, by doing a low-residency program. The advantage of the arts and humanities is that the rigor in your education can allow you to be a great thinker and empathizer in any environment, really.

Joelle Renstrom, MFA graduate, writer, and professor

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I agree wholeheartedly with what Lisa wrote above. First off, kudos to you for asking this question--it's a really important one. When I decided to get my creative writing MFA, I didn't think much about jobs. All I knew is that I wanted to write, and I figured the rest would sort itself out. It hasn't been quite that simple. For a long time I took a bunch of random jobs--waitress/bartender, researcher, paralegal--but after a couple years, I started figuring out how to use my writing skills for work. While an MFA might not be the most impressive degree on a resume, the ability to write well is a huge asset anywhere, and is something you want to play up as much as possible. I was able to use my writing ability (which you should mention and demonstrate in any/every cover letter you write) to help me land jobs in editing, marketing, and consulting. I wrote and edited copy for a physicist's website, wrote professional CVs for architects and engineers, wrote text for greeting cards, and wrote text that accompanied museum exhibits. There are freelance opportunities like this out there--Craig's List and other writing-related job sites are particularly helpful with this--you just have to be creative in terms of knowing where to look, self-assured in terms of promoting yourself, and willing to take on assignments that you hadn't expected. This helps a writer build a portfolio that s/he can use to get more writing jobs down the line. If you're good with social media, that's a huge plus--many companies look for social media experts and managers to help oversee accounts, and this is one of those paths compatible with an MFA.

While it's very tough to get a full-time teaching job at a college or university with just an MFA, it is possible to adjunct, which sometimes leads to better opportunities in the future (it did with me). I've taught at 7 colleges and 1 high school since receiving my MFA (you can teach at private and charter schools without a teaching certificate), and while it was a bit hectic, I gained valuable experience in these different environments that helped me secure more stable teaching positions down the road.

I too think the stability vs. flexibility issue is at the heart of this question, but in my experience, flexibility leads stability, so I don't think it's always either/or. Thick skin and determination will certainly help, too!

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