Is an English Creative Writing Degree Right for You?

An online bachelor’s degree in English creative writing is a good fit for people who enjoy literature and want to learn what it takes to be an effective writer like the writers they admire. While this major teaches students how to write engaging fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, students also learn skills in professional writing that can be applied to almost any industry, including business, health care, or nonprofits. The ideal student for a creative writing bachelors online already has a knack for writing and wants to not only draw inspiration from studying the works of the most influential authors out there, but also wants to sharpen their craft under the instruction of professors who can provide constructive feedback.

Advice for Earning Your English Creative Writing Degree Online

Many students make the mistake of thinking online creative writing degrees must be easier than a degree offered at a traditional campus, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, especially when it comes to writing-intensive degrees like creative writing. Students must build time into their schedule to read and digest long passages of literature and will be assigned lengthy essays, research papers, and literature analyses. Beyond this, students must contribute on a regular basis to online discussion board conversations led by their instructors, which also takes a significant amount of time.

A good rule of thumb is to devote two to three hours of studying for every one hour you spend “in class,” which for the online student means the time you spend watching your professor’s lecture online and reviewing slides or other course materials. Finally, look for online programs that will give you the opportunity to publish your work, as this will make your resume more attractive after graduation.

Required Courses

Course work in an undergraduate English creative writing degree program is designed to expose students to various styles of writing and literature while giving them plenty of practice developing their own stories. Students take courses in British and American literature, world literature, and courses examining the work of significant authors, like Shakespeare or Hemingway. They also take a variety of writing workshops that hone specific writing skills. Courses you may take include:

  • Introduction to Creative Writing
  • Literary Theory
  • Fiction Writing
  • Poetry Writing
  • Nonfiction Writing

Common Career Paths

While becoming an author or novelist is the end goal of many students pursuing creative writing programs, numerous other writing careers are also possible. You can use the skills and knowledge you acquired in your classes to write screenplays or movie scripts; edit copy for newspapers and magazines; or work as a reporter for a print publication. Salaries for such positions vary greatly depending on the size and type of your employer, your roles and responsibilities, and the region of the country you live in. Common careers include:

Journalist

  • Expected Growth: -6%
  • Average Annual Salary: $43,640

Journalists write news stories to inform the public of what’s going on in current events, including criminal activity, government activity, entertainment or sporting events, business news, and more. Creative writing comes into play in a journalist’s ability to write compelling feature stories, or human interest stories that profile unique people in a community, shine a light on an organization that is making a difference, or tell a story about how a handful of families are impacted by a current issue or event, such as lack of adequate health care coverage or a natural disaster.

While bachelor’s degrees in journalism and communication are more common in the profession, English majors also have an inroad into journalism, provided they have relevant work experience, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above job outlook and salary average were drawn from the BLS.

Writer or Author

  • Expected Growth: 6%
  • Average Annual Salary: $68,420

Authors write books of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, and more, and may work through traditional publishers to get their work on the market, or find success in self-publishing. Writers encompass everything from bloggers, online content writers, and freelance writers to songwriters, playwrights, and screenwriters. A bachelor’s degree in a relevant area like English, communications, or journalism is typically required for salaried writing jobs, the BLS explained. The salary and job growth statistics were drawn from the BLS.

Editor

  • Expected Growth: 1%
  • Average Annual Salary: $62,440

Editors are responsible for planning out content for a print or online publication, assigning that content to a team of writers or freelancers, and reviewing and revising written content that is submitted to them for errors. They may also direct writers on how to make written content more engaging or encourage them to explore a new and different angle on a piece they are working on.

Bachelor’s degrees in English, communications, or journalism are preferred for editing positions, the BLS explained. The above employment growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Technical Writer

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $67,910

Technical writers write about complex topics in a way that layperson can understand. While they are best known for writing instruction manuals and operating instructions, they also help communicate technical information among groups of scientists, engineers, and software developers to make sure that people who are all working on different parts of a large project understand how their work plays in to everyone else’s role.

A bachelor’s degree in an area like English, communications, or journalism is typically required to get a technical writing job, and you may also need to have experience in certain technical fields, like computer science or engineering, the BLS explained. The job growth projection and salary figure provided above are available through the BLS.

Speech Writer

  • Expected Growth: N/A
  • Average Annual Salary: $64,340

Speech writers prepare speeches for people in the corporate, political, or government spheres who address crowds on a regular basis. They sit down with the person who needs a speech written to determine what the main message is that needs to be presented, conduct research on the finer points of the speech, and write to help the speech giver engage their audience and clearly communicate important information.

While speech writers come from a variety of educational backgrounds, a bachelor’s in creative writing can help you learn how to organize your thoughts in a coherent way and hook in a listener through compelling words. Since the BLS does not specifically track average salaries for speech writers, the above median salary is based on limited information provided to online compensation site PayScale.com.

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