Is a Master’s in Creative Writing a Useful Degree?

Ask five different people if a master’s degree in creative writing is worth the time and effort spent in getting one, and you will get five different answers. That may be because people disagree about what makes a successful writer and about whether writing can actually be taught. J.K. Rowling has no formal creative writing training, but her books consistently top the best-seller lists. The value of a creative writing program also depends upon why someone earned the degree.

Writing Can be Taught

Education will not confer talent upon a writer, but it teaches a writer how to use his talent. There is an accepted writing form, and it can be learned. Periods follow sentences, semi-colons punctuate independent clauses and adjectives modify nouns. Aside from that, skill in using the right words can help writers craft powerful sentences that influence their readers.

Writing Skills Are Transferrable

That doesn’t mean you can take the courses and transfer the knowledge to your friend who stayed home watching soap operas while you studied. It means you can use your writing skills in other professions. You can become a better marketing specialist or a more proficient CEO. One staple of all writing degree programs, the workshop, teaches students to listen, to accept criticism and to learn from it. Crafting sentences using the right words and eliminating fluff can help writers manipulate people’s opinions. If that sounds distasteful, a better word might be influence, which is exactly what a sales manager must do.

The Program has Perks

One writer said, “Publishing success may only come to a minority of creative writing graduates, but the most-noted writers do often come from…writing programs.” If your goal is to become a published writer, even of non-fiction, creative writing degree programs can help you convey your message in a manner that is neither dry nor cumbersome. Students make contacts in the programs that are valuable tools in acquiring an agent or accessing an editor. The courses teach students to edit, which is a skill that comes hard to word-crafters who fall in love with their own work. Students also discount waiting for their muses and learn to write every day. That is another way to say they learn time management and work ethic.

There Are Nay-Sayers.

Some people feel that creative writing degree programs are a waste of time. Writing, they believe, is better learned by writing and by ravenous reading. They say what sets good writers apart is their passion, and that can’t be learned. Still, passion is important for painters as well, but few question the relevance of a degree in visual arts.

How a Creative Writing Degree Pays Off

Your degree can help you land a position as an editor, a publisher or even teaching writing at a university. With a double major, you can combine creative writing and marketing. You could leverage your creative writing degree along with a degree in environmental studies to become a contributing editor for a magazine such as National Geographic. You might become a media writer, create content for websites, or even write screenplays. Although the job category “writer” is nebulous, the BLS lists an average salary for a writer with a bachelor’s degree as $60,250. Depending upon whether you write books or write copy, your earnings could be higher or lower than that figure. The salary for someone with a graduate degree is only slightly higher. Your master’s degree may not get you bigger royalties for the book you wrote, but it may get you a managerial position on a editorial staff.

The biggest value in the degree program may be that aspect of transferrable skills. It could also lie in the personal satisfaction of honing your skills as a professional writer. Whether a master’s degree in a creative writing program is worth the time and money spent acquiring it depends upon where you want to go with your degree.

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