Fiction Writing Degrees: Master's, Bachelor's & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a fiction writing bachelor's or master's degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a bachelor's and master's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Fiction Writing: Bachelor's and Master's Degrees at a Glance

If you enroll in a bachelor's or master's degree program in creative writing with a fiction concentration, you can learn how to write short stories, novels, children's books, and plays. You can study under faculty who have published their own writing, and you may have opportunities to publish your work in literary journals or write for student newspapers and magazines.

Bachelor's and master's programs in this field can prepare you for writing, editing and publishing careers. However, keep in mind that the job market for writers and editors is very competitive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals who are well-versed in online media and electronic publishing may find the best job prospects.

Who is this degree for? - Individuals interested in becoming writers or editors
- Students who want to pursue a master's degree
- Individuals who want to become writers or editors
- Aspiring community college teachers
Common Career Paths (with approximate average salary) - Writer ($68,000)*
- Editor ($60,000)*
- Same as the bachelor's degree, although more opportunities may be available to graduates of master's programs
- Junior college English language or literature teacher ($69,000)*
Time to Completion 4 years 2 years full-time or up to 3.5 years part-time
Common Graduation Requirements About 120 credit hours of coursework - Approximately 60 credit hours of coursework
- Thesis
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011).

Bachelor's Degree in Fiction Writing

In a bachelor's degree program in creative writing with a fiction emphasis, you study a variety of styles in fiction writing and receive constructive feedback to improve your writing. You can also learn how to read critically, revise a text, and get your work published. A bachelor's degree program prepares you for graduate work in fiction writing or for a career as a professional writer.

Pros and Cons


  • Writers earn good wages ($68,000 average salary as of May 2011)*
  • Program helps you develop effective written communication skills
  • Many different industries employ writers (public relations, broadcasting, periodical publishing)


  • Slower-than-average expected job growth (6% from 2010-2020)*
  • If you decide to become a freelance writer, you need to be able to work on multiple writing assignments at a time
  • Writers often work nights and weekends to meet deadlines

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

Courses and Requirements

Fiction writing bachelor's programs often combine lecture-style courses with writing workshops. A considerable amount of time is devoted to the basic elements of creative writing, as well as the revision process. Some programs also require students to contribute to literary magazines, complete internships and develop portfolios of their work. Topics may include:

  • Literary techniques
  • First novels
  • Short stories
  • Women writers

Online Course Info

Fully online bachelor's programs in creative writing or fiction are rare. However, some schools offer standalone fiction writing courses online. Similar to campus-based programs, you receive feedback on your work from peers and professors. These courses may be offered through a school's continuing education department.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Not all programs offer work opportunities, so consider pursuing an internship with a magazine, newspaper or other type of publication while you're in school. Learning about multimedia software programs, computerized page layouts and graphic design may also give you an edge on the competition, since many writing and editing jobs involve online or digital content.

Master's Degree in Fiction Writing

In a creative writing master's program with a fiction writing specialization, you work closely with faculty and students in small workshops to develop your writing skills, find your unique voice, and work on writing for publication. At some schools, you can gain work experience with college literary journals and attend writers-in-residence seminars. Many programs culminate in a thesis project; you may submit a novel or a collection of short stories.

Pros and Cons


  • You receive feedback on your work from accomplished writers
  • You may graduate with a publishable manuscript
  • Some programs allow you to gain teaching experience


  • The writing job market can be very competitive, and a master's degree does not guarantee employment
  • If you become a self-employed writer, you need to constantly look for new work
  • Freelance writers often have to find their own health insurance and pension plans

Courses and Requirements

In a master's program, you focus on reviewing and revising your work with the help of peers and faculty. You also write a thesis and may work on a college journal or teach undergraduate students. Some common courses in these programs include:

  • Advanced fiction writing
  • Novel writing
  • Playwriting
  • Screenwriting

Online Course Info

Online master's degree programs in fiction writing are available but may require in-person residencies. During these residencies, you participate in writing workshops and attend guest lectures by published authors. The curricula of online programs include many of the same topics as campus-based programs, and completion of a thesis project is often required.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If you're interested in teaching students at the junior-college level, look for programs that offer teaching assistantships. Familiarity with online publication and digital media is important, too, but isn't always a focal point of graduate programs. If possible, consider taking elective courses that cover digital publishing tools. In some cases, you can gain professional experience with these tools by working for school publications.

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