How to Earn an Online Degree Writing What You Love

Creative writing is one of those fields of study that allows you to turn talent and passion into a career — and maybe even a book.

A master of fine arts (MFA) is a popular graduate degree among writers looking to further their education, complete a literary project, or embark on a career in academia. In this post, you’ll learn how you can earn an online writing degree while writing what you love.

Set Your Goal for Your Creative Writing Degree

Many people choose to embark on an MFA journey because they’re interested in a career in teaching at the college level. However, many people also pursue writing degrees for personal enrichment and fulfillment. Others like the idea of having a deadline and the sense of accountability that being part of a program gives them. Or, maybe for you, it is a combination of those reasons.

Once you determine what you’d like out of your creative writing degree, you can begin to explore programs more closely. Think about what is important to you, and then create a checklist of characteristics and options. Some things you might consider include:

  • Who teaches the writing courses?
  • What have faculty members published?
  • What successes have program alumni had?
  • Are there hands-on learning opportunities, such as a campus literary magazine?
  • What is the level of interaction between classmates and with faculty?
  • How long does it take to earn an online writing degree?

Choose a Program: Online Writing Degree vs. On-campus Writing Degree

Today, MFA in creative writing programs come in a variety of delivery formats including on-campus, low-residency, and online. Low-residency programs offer the convenience of working on your own, mixed with on-campus visits once or twice per year. For many online writing degree students, though, even traveling a few weeks out of the year is either cost-prohibitive or not possible due to work and family obligations.

Writing, by nature, is an independent activity. Still, the sense of community you can build, even in an online degree program, is something many MFA students appreciate. San Diego-based National University was one of the first in the nation to offer a 100% online MFA program. Since its founding, more than 1,000 writers have earned their graduate degrees from National’s program.

If online sounds like a direction you’d like to go, you might also want to read our blog post, “The ‘Write’ Tips: How to Succeed in an Online MFA Program.” It’s filled with information about how to make the most of your time in an online writing degree program.

Choose a Genre: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, or Screenwriting

If you’re already exploring online writing degree programs, chances are you probably have a literary genre or even project idea in mind. However, if you aren’t sure what you’d like to focus on yet, you can use some of the time in your program to explore genres and run ideas by your faculty mentors. For example, National’s program allows for multiple electives, including courses dedicated to teaching writing. As you’re introduced to authors and works of literature, you’ll discover more about yourself as a writer.

Online writing degree programs typically offer a variety of genres, and choices vary from school to school. For example, National University offers specializations in:

  • Poetry.
  • Fiction.
  • Literary nonfiction.
  • Screenwriting.

Within those core areas, though, is a breadth of opportunity. Poetry comes in many forms, as does creative nonfiction. One of the pride points of National’s online MFA is that we’re open to genre fiction. Many traditional creative writing programs tend to focus on literary fiction, but here, students can choose to write science fiction, romance, thriller, and other subgenres.

The end result of most creative writing programs is a book-length manuscript or another ready-to-publish project — usually called a thesis. For example, students might produce a:

  • Short story collection.
  • Poetry chapbook.
  • Essay collection.
  • Novella.
  • Novel.
  • Memoir.
  • Graphic novel.
  • Graphic memoir.
  • Feature-length film.
  • Short film.
  • Biography.

It can be exciting to bring your characters or ideas to life. And, if creative nonfiction is your genre of choice, maybe that character is YOU.

Whether you have a story you’ve been wanting to tell for a long time or you’re interested in a graduate degree to advance your career or pivot to a new one, an MFA offers flexibility and creative freedom. You have a lot to think about if you’re looking to earn an online writing degree, including available genres, length of program, type of classes, faculty accomplishments, and thesis project requirements.

To learn more about the online MFA program at National University, visit our program page.