Creative Writer Salary and Career Facts

Find out about jobs you could pursue as a creative writer. Learn about education requirements, salary potential and job outlook to determine if this is the right career path for you. Schools offering Creative Writing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Creative Writer?

Creative writing is a broad field that encompasses many different career paths. Creative writers may contribute articles to magazines or anthologies, work as authors or teach creative writing, to name a few career avenues. The skills required to make a living writing can be obtained through a graduate or undergraduate degree in creative writing, English literature, or other similar programs. In addition to possessing a strong grasp on grammar and a wide vocabulary, creative writers need to be imaginative, capable of original thought, and adaptable to different writing projects. Creative writers with freelance positions should also be proficient time-managers, as making deadlines is an important aspect of their jobs.

The chart below illustrates the education requirements, earning potential and job outlook for some of the most common.

Writers/Authors Postsecondary English Instructors
Degree Required Bachelor's Master of Fine Arts
Education Field of Study Creative writing Creative writing, literature
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% 10%
Median Salary (2015)* $60,250 $61,990

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Who Employs Creative Writers?

Creative writers can make a living a number of ways, such as freelance writing, ghostwriting or earning money from book royalties. As a creative writer, you may also work as a copywriter for public relations or advertising firms. Another option is to write for blogs or other online mediums. You could also be eligible for journalism positions.

Poets, playwrights, novelists, essayists and travel writers can also earn a living by teaching writing at colleges and universities. However, The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) stated in 2015 that the job market for postsecondary writing instructors is very competitive (www.awpwriter.org).

How Can I Prepare for This Career?

While being a good writer is important, you must also have the persistence to submit your writing for publication. High schools and postsecondary institutions often have literary magazines and newspapers that may publish your work. You can then include your published work in a portfolio.

What Degree Do I Need?

Some employers put more emphasis on the quality of your work than they do on your educational credentials, so a specific degree may not be required to work as a contracted or salaried writer as long as you can write well. However, bachelor's degrees in creative writing or English with a concentration in creative writing can help you hone your writing skills and work with established authors. Additionally, some schools offer bachelor's degrees in specific genres, such as fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. Some creative writing bachelor's degrees are offered online.

A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is the terminal degree in creative writing and prepares you to teach at colleges and universities. MFA programs typically last 2-3 years and feature heavy writing components in addition to focused literary components. These programs usually incorporate teaching requirements, allowing you to gain experience by teaching beginning writing classes. Some MFA programs are offered online, but you may have some brief on-campus requirements.

What Is the Job Market and Salary Like?

Employment for salaried writers and authors is expected to grow two percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). However, this number accounts for all types of writers and authors. The employment rate for postsecondary English language and literature instructors is expected to rise 13% during the same time.

As of May 2015, the median annual wage for salaried writers and authors was $60,250. The top ten percent earned more than $114,530, while the bottom ten percent earned less than $29,230. The median annual salary for postsecondary instructors in English was $61,990 in 2015. The highest-paid English instructors earned upwards of $121,860, while the lowest-paid earned less than $34,180.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The skills learned during a degree program in creative writing or English literature are highly transferable, giving students a wide range of options for their future careers. If you are interested in working managing magazines and online blogs, consider becoming an editor. Editors are in charge of curating, correcting and publishing the work of others. Those with a familiarity with technical terminology can undergo training to become a legal or medical copywriter or proofreader. These positions often offer a higher salary than lower-level copywriting jobs. Another option that might suit those with a creative writing background is a career working in a publishing house. Publishers read and edit material before books go to print.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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