Degree Programs and Free College Courses for Writers

 As we head into our New Years’ Resolution Season, some of us may be thinking about going back to school. Brian Jenkins shares his research on the best programs and classes for writers:

Writing degree programs present great opportunities for writers. In addition to honing their writing skills, students have the opportunity to network and get feedback on their writing from instructors and other students. Many colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in writing. Here’s a list of writing programs available at traditional campuses and online:

  • Associate of Arts in Creative Writing
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing
  • Bachelor of Arts in English Literature/Creative Writing Concentration
  • Bachelor of Arts in English/Creative Writing Concentration
  • Master in Fine Arts  in Professional Writing
  • Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing


The Database of American MFA Programs in Creative Writing provides essential information about full- and low-residency creative writing programs in the United States (as well as in other English speaking countries).

Many students are interested in attending schools that provide “superstar writers,” however the Atlantic stated in 2007 that well-known writers typically teach as little as one course every year and a half and are typically on staff for their notoriety and not for their teaching. Check to see just how much time these top writers spend teaching classes and mentoring at the schools you’re considering.

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing: Students in these programs read authors of classic literature and often integrate these styles into their own writing. Students write extensively and instructors and other students provide feedback. The programs include courses in craft and technique and offer workshops.

MFA Popular Fiction Programs: There are at least a few low-residency creative writing graduate programs that specialize in popular fiction. Students typically write and attempt to sell thrillers, horror, mysteries, science fiction, historical fiction and fantasy.

Online Writing Programs: There are plenty of online writing programs to choose from, and many allow students to complete writing and reading assignments at their convenience. They communicate with instructors through email, telephone, and in chat rooms. However, online programs rarely give students the feeling of being part of a writing community.

Full-Residency MFA Programs: Students spend two to three years at school taking creative writing classes before completing a thesis. In full-residency programs students get immediate feedback from instructors and fellow students in workshop-style courses. Students also feel like they are part of a writing community and have the opportunity to discuss writing topics with each other.

Low-Residency MFA Programs: These programs typically consist of four semesters of coursework. Students usually spend 7 to 14 days on campus at the beginning of each semester to participate in workshops. They correspond with faculty members online. Some programs also provide students the opportunity to communicate online with each other. Low-residency programs are popular with working adults who have busy schedules.


The University of Iowa in Iowa City:  In 2010 the school’s MFA program was ranked as the best in the United States for poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by Poets & Writers magazine. The University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop has trained some of the country’s poet laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners. Students can also receive a Bachelor of English Literature with a concentration in creative writing.

University of Virginia in Charlottesville: This school provides a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. English majors also have the option to focus on poetry. In 2010 the university was ranked #3 overall for creative writing MFA programs and ranked #2 for poetry by Poets and Writers .

MIT: Offers many past courses for free online via OpenCourseWare. The Creative Spark was provided by Professor Karen Boiko in 2004. MIT offers other courses for free in fiction and non-fiction writing.

Other schools that offer free writing courses are Utah State University, Open University, Western Governors University, the University of Utah, and Purdue University.

Clearly, there are many options when considering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in writing. Be sure to keep this information in mind when deciding which program is best for you.

Brian Jenkins writes about career and school information for writers, among other topics, for BrainTrack.


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Filed under Advice, Education

7 responses to “Degree Programs and Free College Courses for Writers

  1. Great info, especially MIT’s free courses. Thanks!

  2. You’re welcome! Hope this info will benefit your writing.


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