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PhD in Creative Writing: Online and Campus-Based Programs

You aren't likely to find a creative writing Ph.D. program online, though campus-based programs are available. Learn about the purpose of this program, common courses, application requirements and career opportunities once you graduate.

What is the Purpose of a Ph.D. in Creative Writing?

The ultimate goal of the Ph.D. program is to master the craft of writing in a chosen genre, demonstrated through the completion of a dissertation. Unlike a dissertation in an English literature Ph.D. program (which is often a research project that takes 2-3 years), your creative writing thesis is a collection of creative work. This may be a novel, a collection of essays or a collection of poetry.

Program GoalProduce a novel, collection of poetry or essay collection
Common CoursesWriting workshops, literary criticism, literary theory
Application Materials and PrerequisitesWriting sample or portfolio; bachelor's or master's degree in English or a related field
Career OptionsEnglish or creative writing professor, fiction writer, poet, grant writer, reporter
Median Salary (2018)$62,170* (for writers and authors)
Job Outlook (2016-26)8% growth* (for all writers and authors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Coursework Does a Ph.D. in Creative Writing Entail?

Coursework varies by program, but you can expect to participate in a series of writing workshops in which your peers will evaluate your work. Because of the emphasis on peer workshops (and, in some cases, student teaching), Ph.D. programs in creative writing are rarely offered online. In addition to workshops, your coursework may also include the study of literary criticism and literary theory.

What Do I Need to Apply?

You must submit a writing sample as a key component of your application. For many creative writing Ph.D. programs, your portfolio is the largest factor determining whether or not you are admitted. This sample is typically a collection of your work in the creative writing genre you're interested in studying, such as poetry or fiction. In most cases, you are required to possess a master's degree in English, creative writing or a related field. Some schools may allow you to apply with only a bachelor's degree.

What Can I Do With This Degree?

A creative writing Ph.D. prepares you for several interconnected fields. Graduates often pursue teaching positions in English or creative writing departments at the undergraduate level. To secure a teaching position, however, you are usually expected to have a record of published work; therefore, you may pursue a career as a professional writer in order to create a substantial body of work.

While you do not need formal education to become a professional writer, you may want to enroll in a Ph.D. program for the purpose of refining your craft. In addition, pursuing a Ph.D. degree allows you to develop connections within the publishing industry, which can improve your chances of having your work published. You may pursue a writing career in fiction, poetry or non-fiction. Other professional writing careers include news reporting, professional grant writing and Internet-based research writing.