Poetry Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a bachelor's or master's degree in poetry? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and poetry degree programs.
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Studying Poetry: Degrees at a Glance

The love of the written word has an allure that could compel you to pursue a poetry degree. For individuals seeking careers as poets, a degree related to poetry can help them refine their writing skills and develop strong portfolios. However, few career paths require a degree in creative writing or poetry, and even establishing a career as a poet doesn't guarantee that you'll earn a living wage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26% of writers wrote on a part-time basis in 2010.

If you plan to become a writer, keep in mind that the BLS predicts only six percent job growth in this occupation from 2010-2020, which is considered slower than average when compared with other occupations. A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing can open up opportunities to teach at the postsecondary level, but there is a high level of competition for full-time, tenure track positions. Nevertheless, a degree in writing can open doors to a number of career paths.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this Degree for? Individuals seeking to enhance their poetic writing abilities Writers who plan to teach at the postsecondary level or wish to further refine their writing techniques
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Poet (unavailable)
- Writer or author ($56,000 - writers generally have to establish a track record to write for prestigious publications)*
- Editor ($52,000 - experience as a writer is usually required)*
- High school English teacher ($54,000 - based on salary for secondary teachers across all fields)*
- Lyricist (unavailable)
Postsecondary English language and literature teacher ($61,0000 - previous teaching experience or a professional track record is often required)*
Time to completion Four years full-time 1-2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Writing courses
- Literature courses
- General studies requirements
- Internship or seminar
- Writing workshops
- Literature courses
- Writing seminar
- Master's thesis
Prerequisites - High school diploma or its equivalent
- Creative writing sample
- Bachelor's degree
- Creative writing sample
- Resume
- Personal statement
- Recommendation letters
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bachelor's Degree in Creative Writing

Poetry degrees are typically offered through a school's English or creative writing department. These programs often award a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing or a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Some schools may allow you to select an emphasis in poetry; others could offer a combination of poetry and fiction courses. In addition to writing courses, you'll take a number of courses in literature. These degrees can prepare you for a career in writing or teaching at the high school level, but they won't prepare you to teach at the college level.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ability to meet and network with others who share the same passion and career goals
  • Opportunity to hone and fine-tune your writing skills
  • Exposure to literary works with which you may be unfamiliar

Cons

  • Undergraduate creative writing programs are often more general in scope than graduate-level creative writing programs
  • You could compete for the same jobs as talented high school graduates or MFA degree holders
  • If you plan to pursue a career outside of being a poet, there are many other degree programs that could provide better preparation

Courses and Requirements

A bachelor's degree in creative writing typically offers courses in creative writing and literature. You'll generally take courses in which your writing is read and critiqued by fellow students and your professor, as well as courses covering literature from various regions and time periods. Some poetry-related courses you might take include:

  • Writing short poems
  • Poetic forms
  • Poetic genres
  • Advanced poetry writing
  • Publishing
  • Poetry in twentieth-century America

In addition to required elective major courses, you'll also have to fill your school's general studies requirements. Some schools also require that you complete a seminar or internship.

Online Course Info

Accredited online Bachelor of Arts degrees in creative writing are available. These programs allow you to take poetry and English literature courses. They generally offer the same types of courses as their traditional, on-campus counterparts with the convenience of taking courses around your schedule. However, the communal nature of creative writing degree programs could make an online degree program a less attractive choice, because you lose the opportunity for face-to-face networking and miss out on on-campus poetry readings.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Attending on-campus poetry readings gives you the opportunity to listen to other writers' work, which can provide inspiration for your own pieces. Additionally, you may have the opportunity to network with professional writers and receive tips about the writing world and publishing industry.

By publishing your work in school literary journals or writing for the school newspaper, you can begin to develop a professional writing portfolio. Additionally, working as part of the editorial staff for a school literary magazine can give you insight into the publishing process. You can also consider submitting work to poetry magazines and journals, focusing on those publications that cater to new writers.

Degree Alternatives

If you want to work in a more established field, like advertising, marketing or journalism, you may receive greater benefits from enrolling in degree programs specifically tailored to those career paths. For instance, an aspiring marketing specialist could complete a business degree with a marketing emphasis, while a potential journalist could pursue a degree in journalism. While these programs can impart writing techniques, they often couple writing courses with other types of classes that offer skill sets and knowledge that could help individuals succeed in other career paths.

Master's Degree in Creative Writing

Similar to bachelor's degrees, master's degrees in poetry are generally offered as a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing with a poetry emphasis. Unlike most programs at the undergraduate level, master's degree programs often give you the option to focus solely on poetry writing and literature. Additionally, professional writers who have publishing track records generally teach master's degree courses. Completing an MFA program can open up the doors to teaching opportunities at universities and colleges, but it doesn't guarantee that you'll have a career as a poet or professional writer.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Opens up teaching opportunities at the college level
  • Provides the opportunity to hone your writing skills to a professional level
  • Opportunity to learn from working professional writers

Cons

  • The career paths you could pursue with a master's degree in creative writing are largely the same as the careers you could pursue with a bachelor's degree
  • A graduate degree in creative writing doesn't guarantee you'll have a career as a poet
  • You may compete for the same jobs as bachelor's degree holders, or even skilled high school graduates

Courses and Requirements

MFA programs tend to focus on writing workshops and literary seminars. You'll have the opportunity to critique fellow students' work, as well as to receive critiques of your own pieces. Additionally, you'll take seminar courses in which you'll read advanced literature from a variety of eras and locations. Some of the courses you might take include:

  • Poetic craft
  • Poetry translation
  • Poetry writing workshop
  • Poetic manuscripts
  • Voice in poetry
  • Poetry in modern America

You'll also be required to complete a master's thesis, which could be a book-length manuscript of creative writing pieces.

Online Course Info

Both Master of Fine Arts and Master of Arts degree programs in creative writing are available online and in a blended format. Similar to on-campus programs, online degree options typically require 1-2 years of full-time study and offer a mixture of workshops, classes and readings. Although these programs can prepare you for a career as a writer or teacher, they have some of the same limitations as online bachelor's degree programs. You won't have the ability to live in a campus community with other writers, and you'll likely miss many opportunities to network with students and faculty members.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

You should also take advantage of networking and mentoring opportunities. Schools often host events, such as readings or guest lectures, for MFA students. These events provide networking opportunities with fellow writing students and guest lecturers often offer valuable insights. Additionally, professors will have office hours, during which you can visit them and ask for additional feedback on your work as well as publishing tips.

Establishing a track record in the publishing world can increase your chances of having a writing career upon graduation. Since writing is a craft, the amount of time you devote to your writing will likely determine the quality of your pieces. Spending as much time as possible honing your skills can give you an advantage over other, less ambitious writing students.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

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      • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
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    2. Johns Hopkins University

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      • Master of Arts in Science Writing
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      • MEd - Reading Education
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    4. Purdue University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Communication
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Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Science Writing
  • Master of Arts in Communication

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Northcentral University

  • MEd - Reading Education

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Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication

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