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Top 20 Cheap Online Master's in English and Creative Writing Degree Programs

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By BVS Staff
April 2018

There is a unique advantage to pursuing an accredited online master's in English degree program. Unlike some other subjects, which require a lot of hands-on interaction and practical work - such as in labs - English and creative writing degrees are much easier to earn at a distance.

Particularly when it comes to online MFAs in Creative Writing, many schools cut the reins loose on students who have the ability to produce creative content in isolation. Note that such programs often fall under the category of "low residency." That means that students work entirely independently to complete required assignments, simply checking in with mentors as they meet milestones. However, these residency programs nearly always require students to travel to campus a few times a year for intensive, collaborative writing workshops. As such, these programs are not ideal for students who have absolutely no ability to travel.

The 20 Best Online English Master's Programs Ranking Methodology

Selection Criteria

For this ranking, we looked for public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer master's degrees in English and creative writing online. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $20,000/year or less.

*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.

Ranking Factors

After compiling a list of all the colleges that offer Master's in English and/or Master's in Creative Writing degrees online and meet the above criteria, we then collected data in four categories:

  • Program Popularity: Out of all master's degree students at the school, how many study English or creative writing? That is, how successful is the school at attracting students to those programs over other areas of study? To find out, we considered both the number of students who earned their master's degree in English or creative writing in the 2015-16 school year as well as the percentage of all master's program graduates that that number represents.
  • Concentrations: What sort of academic variety and customization opportunities does the program provide? This is an important consideration in English and creative writing degrees, as the field comprises several specific subdisciplines (i.e., poetry, nonfiction, technical writing, English education) and most students will only want to specialize in one area. To test this metric, we looked at how many total concentrations each program offers if any.
  • Overall Online Humanities Strength: How many online master's degree programs do the school offer - not just in English or creative writing, but in related fields like communications and language arts? Having multiple online programs available in these subjects indicates that the school is dedicated to providing accessible education in the humanities. It also ensures that students in these fields will have plenty of relevant online electives from which to choose.
  • Affordability: What is the average annual cost of attendance?

After collecting and sorting all the information, we ranked the candidates according to their performance in each area. Finally, we summed up the results and gave each school a final score using a curve so that the top-scoring program earned an even 100 points.

Read more about the best cheap online English master's programs below!

Cheap Online English and Creative Writing Master's Programs Ranked

20. University of Nebraska-Kearney

Online Master of Arts in English

The University of Nebraska at Kearney offers an MA in English that helps students develop their professional writing skills. It is ideal for teachers as well as authors, playwrights, and other occupations that incorporate creative writing. If you enroll in this affordable master's degree in English online, you'll take classes in several specific genres, from poetry to drama to creative nonfiction. In addition, you'll take a writing tutorial and brush up on your knowledge of literature and literary criticism. To provide some flexibility, the program also includes a "Directed Readings" course in which you conduct independent research under the guidance of a faculty member.
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,927/yr
Score: 50

19. University of Texas at Tyler

Online Master of Arts in English

If you are thinking about becoming a college professor, the University of Texas at Tyler's MA program could be perfect for you. The school's cheap online Master's in English emphasizes research, textual interpretation, and composition, making it an ideal stepping stone on the way to a Ph.D. program. In fact, the curriculum even incorporates a "Milestone in College English Studies." The six courses in this sequence (all of which count toward the MA requirements) have been carefully selected to provide the skills and knowledge you'll need to teach college-level English. Plus, an optional "Thesis Track" will give you a chance to hone your independent research and analytical writing skills.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,075/yr
Score: 51

18. Tarleton State University

Online MA in English

At Tarleton State University, you can acquire a broad-spectrum English degree that will prepare you to teach at either the secondary or post-secondary level. Regardless of your specific goals, you'll appreciate the curriculum's wide coverage of topics, which range from "Psycholinguistics" to "Digital Humanities." Beyond the core requirements, students who plan on teaching high school can modify their program by choosing the Non-Thesis track. In doing so, you'll have a chance to take additional electives in areas like technical communication and rhetoric. Alternatively, aspiring professors can go for the online Master's in English: Thesis track as a way to prepare themselves for Ph.D.-level research.
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,781/yr
Score: 52

17. East Carolina University

Online Master of Arts in English

For students interested in technical writing or global literature, East Carolina University offers an ideal match. While the school's 33-credit MA program comes with eight concentrations, only two of these are available online. The first is Multicultural and Transnational Literatures, which is best suited to applicants who eventually want to earn a Ph.D. or work in a profession related to international service. Your other option is to earn a master's degree in English online with a focus in Technical and Professional Communication. This track offers classes in proposal, scientific, historical, and public interest writing, as well as an optional internship credit.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,734/yr
Score: 54

16. Northern Arizona University

Online Master of Arts in English

One of the primary benefits of attending Northern Arizona University is that you can pick from targeted concentrations that mirror your academic and professional goals. If you opt for the accredited online Master's in English with a concentration in Literature, for example, you'll get to select from a list of classes that includes everything from "Chaucer" and "Shakespeare" to "Women Writers and Feminist Theory." Alternatively, the Professional Writing track will give you a skills-based education in topics like technical editing, proposal writing, and digital audiences. Or if neither of those interest you, check out the Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies track. Here, you'll find a more general curriculum for people who work in education, digital communication, or community development.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,851/yr
Score: 57

15. Ohio Dominican University

Online Master of Arts in English

Ohio Dominican University's MA in English is a great choice for current and aspiring teachers. Whether you're looking to expand your career options (i.e., to the college level) or get back in touch with your writing roots, ODU will help you get there. Indeed, the program's curriculum is surprisingly flexible. While pursuing your accredited master's degree in English online, you'll only take one required course in "Graduate Writing & Research." The rest is up to you: simply pick eight to nine English classes at the 500 level, then round off your degree with either a capstone project or thesis.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,070/yr
Score: 60

14. Antioch University-Los Angeles

Online MFA in Creative Writing

Without a doubt, Antioch University has one of the most unique programs on this Master's in English and Master's in Creative Writing degrees online ranking. First off, Antioch uses a "low-residency" format, in which each semester consists of an intensive, 10-day on-campus residency followed by five months of online projects. During the online periods, there are no individual courses. Rather, students work one-on-one with faculty mentors to complete assignments in one of four areas of interest (such as Poetry or Writing for Young People). The program also puts a unique focus on "community engagement and the pursuit of social justice." These values pop up regularly in the residencies, which include plenty of guest lectures and special discussion sessions.
Average Tuition & Fees: $16,716/yr
Score: 61

13. Heritage University

Online Master of Arts in English

Heritage University offers a particularly versatile graduate program for students who are interested in teaching. In addition to a traditional MA degree, the university also supports an MEd in Organizational Leadership with a specialization in English Language and Literature. This option provides a creative way for aspiring teachers to combine courses in both education and English. Of course, those who choose the affordable online Master's in English program can still specialize their curriculum. Popular concentrations include Multicultural Literature, Applied Linguistics, and Writing, but you can also opt for a "generalist" plan that allows you to mix and match courses in various subjects.
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,305/yr
Score: 62

12. University of Texas at El Paso

Online MFA in Creative Writing

If you'd rather write literature than read it, consider attending the University of Texas-El Paso's affordable online MFA in Creative Writing program. The degree has no residency requirement, meaning you can complete all coursework 100% online. But that doesn't mean earning your diploma will be easy. In fact, this 48-credit curriculum is among the heftiest on this ranking. To graduate, you'll need to take 14 courses in four categories: Form and Theory, Workshop, Literature, and Electives. In addition, all participants must complete a six-credit thesis, during which they'll produce a "book-length manuscript of original fiction or poetry."
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,538/yr
Score: 64

11. Gardner-Webb University

Online Master of Arts in English

At Gardner-Webb, carefully designed tracks help prepare you for distinctly different careers. The MA in English Education, for example, is perfect for applicants who wish to teach at the secondary or postsecondary level. Alternatively, a concentration in Writing Studies will introduce you to a range of different styles and applications. This eclectic approach ensures that you'll be ready for whatever comes next, whether it's a job in digital communications or authoring a novel. Aside from these choices, GWU also offers a top online Master's in English with a focus in Literature Studies. A flexible track with classes in everything from "British Literature" to "Mythology," this option is especially useful for students who want a career in publishing.
Average Tuition & Fees: $7,772/yr
Score: 65

10. Morehead State University

Online Master of Arts in English

For a balanced program that combines thought-provoking literary study with practical training in linguistics and technical writing, check out Morehead State. Earning your online Master's in English from MSU also affords a unique opportunity to write your own curriculum. Of the 33 credits required to graduate, more than half take the form of electives (although half of those must come from the English Department). As for required courses, you'll enjoy a general survey of British and American literature, writing, and linguistics. You also have to take one class on a major author, but you can pick from a list of literary giants that includes Milton, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and more.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,422/yr
Score: 66

9. University of Texas of the Permian Basin

Online Master of Arts in English

What does it take to be the highest rated of three University of Texas schools on this online English master's programs ranking? Well, UTPB's cheap tuition certainly helps. But this degree also stands out for the simultaneous depth and breadth of its curriculum. On the one hand, the program includes a "breadth requirement" that mandates all students complete nine credits each in British and American literature, as well as a class in rhetoric and composition. You'll then focus more deeply on a single topic when it comes time for your capstone. Depending on your goals, you can opt to take this dive by writing a thesis or scholarly article, preparing a research report, or passing a written exam.
Average Tuition & Fees: $6,366/yr
Score: 67

8. Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Online Master of Arts in English

If you'd prefer a concentrated curriculum over general education, Northwestern State University of Louisiana could be a good fit. That's because the school offers an MA in English with five different focus areas. And unlike some other programs, each of NSU's English tracks are largely distinct from the others. Only one class ("Bibliography and Literary Research") is required for every concentration. After that, you'll be free to tailor this top online Master's in English program to your academic interests. More specifically, you can choose to concentrate in Writing and Linguistics, Folklife/Southern Culture, Literature, or TESOL. A fifth "Generalist" option lets you take classes in all four of the other categories.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,974/yr
Score: 71

7. University of Arkansas at Monticello

Online MFA Creative Writing Program

The University of Arkansas at Monticello offers a highly focused yet self-driven MFA program for serious professional writers. This flexible, cheap online MFA in Creative Writing requires zero on-campus residencies, lets students take anywhere from three to 12 credits per term, and costs less than $9k per year on average. As if that weren't enough, the program also hires online students as teaching assistants for web-based classes, providing a unique way to gain experience and hone your editing skills. The curriculum also supports three areas of specialization: poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction. And while you'll need to apply directly to one of these tracks, UAM also encourages "genre-jumping" once you're enrolled.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,505/yr
Score: 75

6. University of New Orleans

Online Master of Arts in English/Fine Arts in Creative Writing

The only problem you're likely to have at the University of New Orleans is deciding which degree to earn! That's because UNO supports online graduate programs in both English and creative writing. More precisely, its accredited online MFA in Creative Writing is a "low-residency" program that pairs online classes with occasional in-person workshops. But instead of traveling to campus, you'll spend a month each summer interacting with your classmates and faculty mentor in Europe (recent destinations include Italy, Scotland, and Ireland). But if you can't make these trips, you'll be happy to hear that UNO's standard MA in English is available entirely online.
Average Tuition & Fees: $15,018/yr
Score: 78

5. Texas Tech University

Online MA in English

If there's one feature that helps Texas Tech stand out on this list of top online English master's programs, it's the sheer number of concentrations it offers. Standard areas of emphasis include Early or Later British Literature; American Literature; Creative Writing; Linguistics; and Comparative Literature, Globalization, and Translation. But that's not all. Recently, the program has added additional emphases in Nineteenth-Century Studies; Book History; Film and Media Studies; and Literature, Social Justice, and Environment. With this sort of flexibility, the opportunities you'll have to customize the program to your professional interests are practically endless!
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,197/yr
Score: 83

4. University of Nebraska-Omaha

Online Master of Fine Arts in Writing

Like most top online MFA in Creative Writing programs, the University of Nebraska at Omaha utilizes a low-residency format. Here, you'll alternate online semesters (16 weeks each) with on-campus, conference-style residencies (10 days each). In all, you'll visit campus five times before graduating. Although this might seem like a lot of travel, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Not only will you spend these residencies interacting with your classmates, but you'll also attend workshops and lectures, give readings of your work, and catch up with your faculty mentor. By contrast, the online portion of your studies are completely flexible, giving you all the time you need to read, write, and hone your craft.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,259/yr
Score: 85

3. Southern New Hampshire University

Online MA/MFA in English and Creative Writing

Southern New Hampshire University is another school that's likely to make you suffer from choice paralysis. You can earn an MFA in Creative Writing, an MA in English, or an MA in English and Creative Writing. The latter of these options represents a blend of the first two; you'll study literature and specific authors as well as specific writing techniques. Plus, the degree comes with specializations that you usually only find in online MFA in Creative Writing programs. These options include Poetry, Non-Fiction, and Fiction, as well as a particularly unique concentration in Screenwriting.
Average Tuition & Fees: $18,810/yr
Score: 93

2. Minnesota State University-Mankato

Online MA: Literature & English Studies

Minnesota State University at Mankato stands out on this ranking with a program that (as the name suggests) puts a relatively strong emphasis on literature. It starts out with a core sequence that requires all degree candidates to take classes in British, American, and world literature. There's also a mandatory "Bibliography and Research" course. After checking these off your list, you'll complete the remainder of the 34-credit curriculum by selecting from a list of varied seminar courses. Options span from "Film Theory and Criticism" to "Gender in Literature" and "Multicultural American Literature." In other words, MSU Mankato has one of the top master's degrees in English online for bibliophiles who love reading and discussing books above all else.
Average Tuition & Fees: $7,563/yr
Score: 96

1. National University

Online Master of Arts in English/Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

If variety is your priority, then head straight to National University. This school offers both a cheap MA in English and a cheap Master's in Creative Writing degree online. (As a side note, National also offers related graduate programs in film studies and strategic communications). Just as important, both degrees come with specialization options. English students can concentrate in Gothic Studies or Rhetoric, while creative writing majors must pick a track in either Fiction, Literary Nonfiction, Screenwriting, or Poetry. On top of these specialized areas, both curricula also offer plenty of electives in an even broader range of topics, from film theory to multicultural literature.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,232/yr
Score: 100

Thanks for reading our ranking of the 20 top cheap online Master's in English and Master's in Creative Writing programs!

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