Is a Writing Degree Right for You?

Many English departments offer on-campus and online writing bachelors degree programs. A writing degree will cover all elements of writing, from grammar and sentence structure to message and tone. Students may concentrate in creative areas of writing or they may specialize in the more technical aspects of writing, like academic publication or technology instruction. Job prospects for writers will grow by 6% from 2010 to 2020, slower than the rate for most occupations, so this field will be competitive. Students looking to pursue a bachelor’s degree in writing should be prepared to write on a daily basis, apply critique from both classmates and professors, and hone different types of writing styles. A writing degree can be applicable to a huge variety of industries. Flexibility and a diverse portfolio are beneficial, and many writing programs look to provide students with the ability to write in multiple fields.

Advice for Earning Your Writing Degree Online

The first thing to look for is appropriate accreditation. Select a bachelor’s program from a college or university that is on this list of institutions recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Students should look for online writing degree programs that will allow them to explore their interests while preparing them for real-world careers. Students who wish to go into technical writing should opt for a program that specializes in this area, possibly with supplemental courses in the math and science departments. Those who wish to hone their writing skills for creative or journalistic purposes should seek out programs with emphases in those areas.

There will be some differences between pursing a writing degree online, as opposed to taking courses at a traditional campus. The main difference is the fact that students typically must self-pace their coursework, because there are no set class times. This means that students must be extremely disciplined in keeping up with their courses, or they could risk falling behind. Students will submit written work to their professors and classmates regularly. This will take place online, and critique will take place via email, chat, or discussion board.

Required Courses

Coursework will vary depending on specializations. Most everyone will take some form of literature, English, and philosophy to fulfill core requirements. These core courses are meant to establish a foundation in the history of the written word and an understanding of the craft of writing. Students in creative/fiction programs may take classes such as contemporary publishing, advanced creative writing, literary theory, and Shakespeare. Students on professional writing tracks may take courses like business writing, technical writing, legal writing, editing and copywriting, and proposal writing. Specialized courses will go beyond writing fundamentals and provide students with real-world skills.

Common Career Paths

The employment options for those with an online writing degree are wide-ranging. There is no one way to become a writer, regardless of specialty. This leaves those with writing degrees a great degree of flexibility in the types of jobs they pursue and provides the freedom to work in a variety of fields. Examples include:

  • Editor

    An editor oversees the publication of written content. This could be anything from a magazine or a best-selling novel to a website or a technical manual. An editor is in charge of the end product and works to make sure that content is accurate, stylistically on point, and published on time.

    Professional editing experience will be required, but employers may also accept candidates with higher degrees or otherwise exceptional backgrounds. Starting out as a copywriter or junior editor is a good way to work up to an editor position. According to the BLS, the average salary for editors in the U.S. is $60,490, and the states employing the most editors are New York, California, Texas, Illinois, and Ohio.

  • Author

    While authors may be the first types of professionals associated with writing degrees, they are some of the only major writing professionals who may never require a degree at all. This doesn’t stop a writing degree from leading to work as an author, however, especially because a writing degree program hones narrative skills and provides time to experiment. Budding authors typically hold regular jobs and write in their free time until they can support themselves as full-time writers. There is never a guarantee of becoming a published author, but success can put your name down in history with the greats.

    According the BLS, writers and authors in the U.S. make an average annual salary of $68,060. This is as of May 2011 and will vary widely depending on the type of writing and level of position held. States with the most writers and authors include District of Columbia, New York, Vermont, Minnesota and Virginia.

  • Technical Writer

    Technical writers work in professional environments and craft content for technical documents. Things like user manuals, design specifications, online help information, and business to business reports fall under the purview of a technical writer. Technical writers do not need specific degrees, but they need significant experience in the areas they are writing about, such as science, technology, health, or business.

    According to the BLS, the mean annual salary for technical writers in the U.S. was $67,280 as of May 2011. The top 90% of all technical writers made a little over $102,000 a year and the bottom 10% made over $37,000. The highest concentrations of technical writing jobs are in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Colorado.

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