Updated on Tuesday 5 March 2013
A big choice facing all postsecondary students is whether to go into graduate studies after gaining a bachelor's degree. This dilemma is especially present in the field of creative writing, in which the proper timing of education versus breaking into the industry is a subject of much debate. Let's look at the options for a master's degree in creative writing and how valuable they are.
One major life choice for undergraduate international students wrapping up their degrees is whether to pursue graduate studies. Planning ahead for this life decision is particularly vital to international students given all the hoops they must jump through be able to work or study in the U.S. While for many careers a graduate education is simply required, a master's degree in creative writing is less of a guaranteed prerequisite to a fruitful writing career. This article will look at that issue as well as break down what a graduate program in creative writing is like.
An ongoing debate in the arts, and more specifically creative writing, is the necessity of graduate education in the first place. While most parties agree that training at least to the undergraduate level is desirable to hone writing skills and develop creativity in the protected environment of college classes, many people believe that after this step the next move should be to focus on starting one's career. After all, a writer can just sit down and write; the advanced training that professionals like doctors or lawyers need isn't completely necessary to function as a writer.
So what does a master's degree in creative writing offer international students, then? Well, the most obvious advantage is a new area of study for recent converts to creative writing. Studied psychology for undergrad and then decided you'd rather be the next Neil Simon? Find a graduate program in creative writing and kick off your education in earnest. For newly aspiring creative writers, graduate work in creative writing is more necessary the further your undergraduate studies were away from the field.
For those who did study creative writing or something related during their undergraduate years, the decision is less black and white. In the end, make the decision based off your own feelings — if the graduate work you're doing is significantly different from your undergraduate work, or if you really just want more time to cultivate your creativity in a school setting, a master's degree in creative writing can be a good choice.
A graduate program in creative writing will almost always result in a Master of Fine Arts; the real difference is in what exactly is studied. There are plenty of straightforward Creative Writing master's programs out there that cover all of creative writing. But there are also master's programs that focus on more specific writing niches (feminist writing, specific genres, etc.) or the crossover between disciplines (creative writing and African-American studies, for example). If you know you're interested in such a specialty, a master's degree in creative writing is a good way to pursue it.
One advantage of a graduate program in creative writing is that, unlike undergraduate education with its many general requirements, the program's focus will be related to creative writing. This doesn't mean you'll be writing exclusively — a good dose of literature classwork is typical just as it is in undergraduate creative writing — but it does mean that all your effort goes toward your chosen goal of creative writing.
The format of classes is also different, with a focus on the more intimate, workshop-style classes that spring up in the later years of an undergraduate creative writing major. It is assumed that graduate students either know or can quickly learn on their own the basics of writing and genre, so lecture hall classes on these topics are very rare in graduate creative writing programs.
A graduate program in creative writing won't be the right choice for everybody, but it does represent some advantages for certain writers. It's worth considering once you finish up your undergraduate education here in the U.S.