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Should You Really Be A Creative Writing Major?

So you’re thinking about majoring in creative writing! Completing an undergraduate creative writing program can be a great way to explore your love of fiction or poetry and hone your craft.

As edifying as a creative writing major can be, it may not be what you expect. Dedicated creative writing majors are also quite uncommon, so if you’re committed to getting your degree in that subject, you’ll have a narrower pool of possible colleges. This post will help you decide whether a creative writing major is right for you.

Many Great Schools (with Awesome Writing Classes) Don’t Have a Creative Writing Major

As I mentioned above, creative writing is a relatively rare major, so if you’re solely focused on schools with a dedicated creative writing degree, you might miss out on schools that could be a great fit for you.

Keep in mind that a lot of school that don’t offer specific majors still have great opportunities to pursue creative writing, whether by completing a minor, contributing to the campus literary journal, or simply taking classes.

Even if you know you want to study creative writing, try researching the opportunities available at different schools with an open mind. You might be surprised by what you find!

You’re Going to Have to Read — A Lot

I once had a friend who loved writing but hated reading—especially if he had to analyze the text. If you tend to agree with him, and would rather be submerged in a vat of ants than write a paper about Virginia Woolf’s use of symbolism to comment on World War I in The Waves, this course of study isn’t right for you. Most creative writing majors are run by the English department, and, in fact, many are special tracks within the English major. As such, they involve a lot of reading of all kinds, including fiction, plays, poetry, and literary theory.

I was an English major in undergrad, and we were expected to read a roughly book a week in each class. Some were long (I had one professor assign the longest single volume novel in the English language) and some were short, but it added up to a lot of books! You’ll also have to write critical essays analyzing these works of literature—if you really only want to write your own fiction or poetry, consider majoring in something else and taking creative writing classes as electives.

You Don’t Need a Specific Major to Be a Writer

Writing isn’t like engineering: you don’t need a specific degree to pursue it professionally. The only thing that you need to do to be a writer is to write.

Most writing jobs, whether in publishing, journalism or teaching, don’t require or even expect you to have majored in creative writing. For the few positions that do require a writing degree, which are almost exclusively in academia, you’ll actually need a graduate degree (generally an MFA).

Studying writing in school is a great way to motivate you to work on your writing and to get constructive feedback (more on this below), but it’s not the only way. A lot of great writers studied something totally unrelated to writing or didn’t go to college at all.

You Can Learn A Lot From Really Focusing on Writing

So far I’ve focused mostly on reasons you might not want or need to major in creative writing, but there’s one very good reason to do so: you’ll spend a lot of time writing, talking about writing, and reading your peers’ writing.

One of the key features of any creative writing major is the workshop—a small class where students closely read and dissect each other’s work. Workshops can be very productive, since they offer the opportunity for lots of revision and rewriting. However, they also involve a lot of criticism and can be challenging for very sensitive people. Consider how you’ll react to someone not liking your writing or suggesting ways to improve it.

Many creative writing majors also require a capstone project or creative BA thesis, which requires you to complete a substantive piece of work that’s at or near publication ready. For students who are genuinely committed to publishing their writing, this project is an invaluable stepping stone.

Some Schools Have Special Opportunities for Creative Writing Majors

At schools with particularly strong writing programs, majors may have the opportunity to attend special readings or meetings with authors that aren’t open to non-majors. They may also have priority for activities like working at the literary journal or university press.

These kinds of perks are completely dependent on the school, however, so make sure to research the specific programs that you’re interested in.

Bestselling author Emma Donoghue reads from her novel “Room” (London Public Library/Flickr)

Final Thoughts

Creative writing majors offer a unique opportunity to focus on the craft of writing, but they aren’t right for everyone. If the following statements apply to you, a creative writing major could be a great fit:

  • You love to read and write.
  • You take criticism well and don’t mind other people reading your work.
  • You want to pursue writing outside of the classroom as well as in it.

More Recommended Reading

Convinced you want to be a creative writing major? Check out our list of the best undergrad writing programs.

Creative writing majors go on to a wide range of jobs. If you’re exploring different career ideas, check out our guides on how to become a lawyer and how to become a teacher.

If you’re looking at colleges, also check out our guide on how to pick the best school for you and our list of the best college search websites.

For those of you interested in particularly selective schools, we have a guide to getting into Ivy League schools written by a Harvard grad.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We’ve written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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What I Wish I Knew as a Creative Writing Major

I thought I’d make a career out of writing. That’s what I went to college for. I majored in English: Creative Writing because I loved it. I enjoyed sitting in the classroom, talking to my peers about short stories and poetry… until my senior year rolled around.

What was after college? What was I going to do with this degree that I so loved pursuing? Could I really make a career out of writing?

I worked a slew of odd jobs and writing internships before I landed at Pearson as a Registrar Support Specialist, something I never imagined I’d be doing. Now that I’m 30 and working a job I enjoy, I look back on my college career wishing I had known a few things before graduating. Things like what jobs I could get with this degree and what skills should I be learning to better prepare me for life after college—because it turns out, life after college wasn’t anything like I’d imagined.

If you’re considering majoring in Creative Writing, here are a few things to keep in mind:

A Degree Doesn’t Always Mean A Job

The first question for any English major is “what do you hope to do with an English degree?” It’s a legitimate question and sometimes a hard one. What can one do with an English degree other than teach? Is a creative writing degree even marketable?

As a whole, the purpose of getting a college degree is not primarily about getting a job. The purpose of going to college is to educate yourself, grow as a person, and gain experience and knowledge that will last you a lifetime.

I don’t think I’d be writing this post or any of my past blog posts if I hadn’t pursued writing in college and worked as a writing intern for a couple years. However, I don’t think I would have ended up in my current position as a registrar support specialist—the job that actually pays my bills—if I hadn’t gotten 8+ years of administrative experience and a couple years of management experience alongside my degree.

Just because you’re getting a Creative Writing degree doesn’t mean you’ll end up as a best-selling author or poet. If you want to make yourself marketable for a wide array of jobs, consider gaining specialized experience alongside your writing education.

So, what are some creative job ideas for creative writing majors? Here are just a few ideas:

Marketing communications or copywriting

Web content writer or blogger

Social media specialist

Are you looking to get a college degree? Accelerated Pathways offers custom degree plans that allow students to achieve their degree and save money. Reach out to our student counselors to get more specialized degree guidance and information about our programs.

A note on freelancing

Thanks to the internet, the demand for freelance writers has grown. Some companies seek help for projects that require excellent writing and communication skills but don’t feel the need to hire someone full-time, so they turn to agencies and job boards that can get the word out. This is a great opportunity for the entrepreneurial-minded writer.

A few such agencies are The Creative Group, Creative Circle, and 24 Seven. You simply give them your resume and portfolio, indicate what kind of work you’re looking for, and they dish out your resume to jobs that may be a good fit. You can also browse job opportunities on their websites on your own and send your resume.

Check job boards like Indeed or LinkedIn. You can often find someone looking for a writer, editor, or expert communicator for various reasons. Just make sure you do a bit of research into the job and/or the company so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Learn Non-Writing Skills

I love writing short stories and poems. Some of my best college memories are writing stories for my peers to review or talking to my writing professor about how to be a better writer over burgers. The skills I learned by taking writing courses are skills that I cherish even years after graduation.

However, looking back, I wish I had learned more skills than just creative writing. There’s more to jobs and careers than just simply writing. A lot of other skills and knowledge are necessary as well.

For example, I wish I had learned more about marketing and branding. This may have opened up opportunities for me in marketing and communications. For instance, when I interned for a branding agency, I had no idea what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was or what the difference was between user experience and user interface. Were these pertinent to my role there? Not really, but my co-workers talked about them a lot, and I often felt lost.

Writing is great but learn other things too.

Don’t take odd jobs for granted either. Before I landed my job at Pearson, I worked as a front desk agent at a hotel, as a receiving assistant manager in a grocery store, and had a temporary job for a standardized testing service. While none of these by any means are dream jobs, I learned valuable skills in customer service, administration, management, and communication.

These odd jobs can be good ways to learn other skills that can give you a leg up in the race for employment, and while learning new skills or improving them, these various jobs can also help give you a boost in creativity based on your everyday interactions or duties.

Use Your Minor to Specialize

Minors are another great way to get some perspective in other fields.

On average, a minor takes up approximately 15-18 credits and usually helps fill up elective space in your degree. Don’t fill yours with writing classes. Some minors I would recommend to someone majoring in creative writing are education, business (specifically marketing, if available), journalism, and communications. All of these fields require creative writing in some way, and they are fields you’re most likely to pursue after college.

But ultimately, minor in anything you’re interested in. This will help you learn more, and give you more to write about! Besides, following your interests is a great way to land a job you love.

Pursue Internships

You’ll hear a lot of negative things about internships, like how they don’t pay well (or at all) or don’t teach you enough. To be honest, these things are true. But don’t be so quick to throw out the opportunity.

There are many well-meaning companies offering college students the opportunity to learn practical, on-the-job skills, and sometimes an internship can be a stepping stone to something better.

Making the decision to pursue an internship can be tough, and it comes with risks. You may not make any money, you might be new to the field, and you seriously have no idea what you’re doing. So, here are things you can do when pursuing an internship:

Make a budget. Can you afford to do something for free with the hope of something better in the future? After all, you do need to eat and to pay for the gas to get to your internship.

Make a list of local companies that may offer internships in your desired field. This may include companies that require you to commute, which will affect the aforementioned budget.

Contact your advisor and/or professors. They may have some very helpful information and connections. Depending on your school, degree, or major, you may even be required to complete an internship for graduation.

Treat it just like searching for any other job. You’ll be competing with hundreds—maybe thousands—of other eager students like yourself. You can’t win them all, but you should be persistent, professional, and confident.

When you interview for an internship, listen and ask good questions. Make sure you understand what the interviewer is asking of you, and if you don’t know something, ask because you’re there to learn.

Pursue What You Value

When deciding on a major, a minor, side jobs, or any of the myriad of decisions you’ll make in college, it’s important to know what you want to do in the future and set goals. These goals will help orient you and make the decision-making process a lot easier.

But even more important than setting goals is defining your values. The things you value are the motivators for reaching your goals. These values answer the question of “why?” Why do you want to achieve this or that goal? Why is this goal important to you?

For example, as a writer, I want to get a short story published, a common goal that many writers share. The value (or the motivator to reach this goal) is that I want to tell people about the things I care about, struggle with, and think about, to share my story and my perspective. That value is true even as I write this blog post. If and when I achieve this goal, I will make a new goal, but my values will remain more or less consistent for months and years to come, possibly for the rest of my life.

It’s your values that will carry you through all of the writing, job searching, skill acquiring, and interning you can muster, not your goals. So, what do you value? How do those values motivate you to reach your goals or your dream job as it were?

As long as you consistently pursue what you value, no matter what other choices you make about your major, you’re guaranteed to walk toward a meaningful future career.

Learn more about how Accelerated Pathways can help you get an affordable English degree that also gives you the flexibility you need to build other important career skills at the same time.

Levi is a Registrar Support Specialist here at Pearson by day, short-story author by night. When he’s not working (or writing), you can find him playing board games with friends, playing guitar, watching tv with his wife, or eating a delicious home-cooked meal.

Major in Creative Writing

Students who graduate with the Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing will be skilled writers in a major literary genre and have a theoretically informed understanding of the aesthetic, historical, social, and political context of a range of contemporary writing. Students in the major will focus their studies on a primary genre: fiction, poetry, or nonfiction.

The organization of the major incorporates the writing workshop model into a broader education that furthers students’ knowledge of historical and contemporary literary practice, sharpens their critical attention, and fosters their creative enthusiasm.

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Summary of Major Requirements

  • 1 Fundamentals in Creative Writing Seminar
  • 2 Technical Seminars (in primary genre)
  • 3 Advanced Workshops (at least 2 in primary genre)
  • 4 literature courses
    • 1 literary genre course (in primary genre)
    • 1 literary theory course
    • 1 pre-20th-century literature course
    • 1 general literature course

    = 13 Courses and a Thesis

    Courses in the Major

    Creative Writing courses give priority to students who have declared the major with Edgar Garcia, the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). In instances where a class has many more applications than it has spots, priority is determined first by degree program and then by class year.

    Fundamentals in Creative Writing Seminar

    The Fundamentals in Creative Writing course is an introductory cross-genre seminar to be taken by all students in the major. Every section of the course focuses on a current debate relevant to all forms of literary practice and will introduce students to core texts from each major literary genre.

    Technical Seminars (in Poetry, Fiction, or Nonfiction)

    These courses are designed to give students a solid grounding in core technical elements of their primary genre. Coursework may involve creative exercises, but papers will focus on analysis of assigned readings.

    Advanced Workshops

    Critique is the core value and activity of the workshop environment. Students in Advanced Workshops will practice critique under the guidance of the workshop instructor. Advanced Workshops typically focus on original student work.

    Literary Genre Courses

    This requirement can be met by a cross-listed English course or an eligible literature course offered by another department. For a list of eligible courses, please visit this page.

    Literature Courses

    A substantial proportion of one of these courses must involve the study of literature written before the twentieth century, and one must fulfill a theory requirement. For a list of eligible courses, please visit this page.

    Research Background Electives

    Students take two courses outside the Creative Writing program, selected in consultation with the DUS, to support the student’s individual interests and thesis project.

    BA Thesis & Workshop

    Students work on their BA project over four quarters. In Winter Quarter of their fourth year, students will enroll in one of the Thesis/Major Projects Workshops in their genre.