MFA Programs in Creative Writing

When researching degree programs that allow you to get a master's in creative writing, you will run into two different types of master's degree programs to choose from. The first is a Master of Arts (MA), and the second is a Master of Fine Arts (MFA). Traditionally, English MAs have concentrated wholly on classic literature, but recently MAs in English with a concentration in Creative Writing have been popping up. Now that you have two kinds of degrees to choose from, let's look at the pros and cons of each type creative writing master's degree.

Completing an MA in Creative Writing

If you decide to get an MA in creative writing, you can look forward to a more diverse education. The focus of your program will be mixed: part literature and part creative writing. Usually, there will be literature classes on how to dissect and interpret a piece of writing from a literature standpoint. You will also probably study both classic literature and contemporary books and stories. You will also benefit from a couple of workshops that will cultivate your writing skills.

Professionally, getting an MA in creative writing is great if you want to begin teaching. Usually, MA programs offer teaching assistantships (where you can learn hands-on how to instruct a class) and teaching classes. With this degree, you are eligible to teach both literature and creative writing classes. Since your expertise is broader, you will have an easier time finding a job.

Description of a Creative Writing MFA Program

Creative writing MFA programs, on the other hand, concentrate much more on your actual writing. The majority of your time will be spent workshopping material. The faculty you work with will usually be more serious about creative writing and will likely make better writing mentors. There are some literature classes in an MFA program, but those are concentrated on contemporary work. They are used as a way to show you where the field is headed. When you dissect a work in one of these classes, you look at it like a writer instead of an academic scholar. Instead of "interpreting" a text, you look at the devices the author used to make that story work. You break it apart like a machine and you steal the tools that you like. Also, most literature classes in an MFA program will incorporate some kind of creative writing component.

Professionally, creative writing MFA programs have some advantages and some disadvantages. Most programs will offer teaching assistantships and "how to teach creative writing" courses. However, you won't have a heavy literature background and so will likely not qualify to teach literature. So, your job hunt will be more limited. On the other hand, an MFA is considered a terminal degree, whereas a MA is not. That means you can probably qualify for tenure. Lastly, creative writing MFA programs offer you the opportunity to network with some major published writers who can give you tips not only in writing, but also how to get your stuff out into the world.

So, in order to decide if an MA in creative writing or a creative writing MFA program is for you, you have to first ask yourself, what it is that you want out of it. If you wish to study and have a professional degree that incorporates both literature and creative writing than an MA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing is the program for you. If, instead, you would like to concentrate solely on your own creative writing work than a creative writing MFA program is the way to go. Either way, you should receive a rich education when you complete your master's in creative writing.