As any writer will know, the craft of the scribe is one that requires a lifetime of honing skills and directing efforts at self-improvement. Few writers in the history of our species were granted such raw talent as to require no tutelage or training. So statistically speaking, chances are that you or I will need to work at the craft to become a top tier writer.
Thankfully in 2021 there are more options than ever before to hone the writer’s craft–no matter the level of your skill. Online writer’s bootcamps, fully digital undergraduate, graduate, and even doctorate programs empower writers from all walks of life to pick up the pen professionally. But even as an indulgence of hobby or passion, the quality and variety of creative writing programs available is sure to meet the needs of your desires.
Particularly for writers interested in graduate-level education, a staggering number of the country’s best programs have moved program offerings online. Whether in response to the unique demands and challenges of the world pandemic, or as a demonstrative embrace of the digital age, more top-tier creative writing programs have online options than ever before.
Thankfully, our researchers provide the assist when it comes to sorting through all your available options–they have done the legwork and compiled 20 of the most promising options available. The below programs all offer fully-online graduate creative writing degrees that have been ranked according to metrics we believe will be most meaningful to prospective students–that is, overall prestige of the institution, graduating rate, tuition cost, specialization options, as well as aggregate scores from parallel education rankings.
1 Harvard University
Harvard University is one of those schools whose name carries the weight of tremendous achievement just by the merit of having earned a degree there. Harvard University is one of the most formidable entities in higher education in the world–it’s faculty and students represent the best of the best, and are often positioned at the forefront of their fields, conducting paradigm shifting research and establishing benchmarks for the rest of the higher education industry.
Harvard University’s Extension Program offers a number of creative writing programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. And surprisingly, the cost of Harvard’s online programs are extremely reasonable after factoring in financial aid, which makes this the premier option on this ranking–given the prestige and professional clout conferred by a degree from Harvard.
Any student holding a four year bachelor’s degree is welcome to apply. It should be noted that the curriculum does avoid–to some extent–discussions surrounding poetry and any thesis work concerning it, as it is not a primary focus of the program.
Net Price: $16,000
2 National University
National University was founded on the idea of providing career-centric programs to students interested in quality, efficient, affordable professional advancement amidst full-time employment. As such, National University has become a leader in online education, whose specialty is servicing adult and distance learners who wish to progress through top notch degree programs without sacrificing a healthy work-life balance.
National University’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing can be completed entirely online, and at a pace that best accommodates the busy lives of individual students. Moreover, National University was the first program of its kind in the nation–so students can enjoy the confidence that National University is a successful innovator in this area.
Students of the program will learn from published authors and acclaimed authors who have demonstrated continued professional success. Instructors look to pass on their skills and knowledge to help aspiring writers actualize their goals and professional aspirations–whatever they might be.
Net Price: $18,319
3 University of Houston – Victoria
The University of Houston at Victoria is a well-respected branch of the University of Houston system. UH Victoria specializes in offering students a selection of degree programs designed to offer both flexibility and affordability. The University’s earned accolades demonstrates the success of this chosen specialization.
UH Victoria offers a fully online Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing, which is designed around a student-centric ideal. Students of the program will note that the program’s systems have been designed with convenience in mind–so that students can complete the program without the burden of unwanted stress.
Students of the program will be able to progress through coursework on a schedule that best matches individual circumstances and goals, which is probably ideal for creatives who are notoriously poor micromanagers of schedules and time.
Net Price: $10,000
4 University of Denver
The University of Denver is a prime example of a school that has devoted its resources to meeting the diverse array of needs of students in vastly different life-circumstances. On the one hand, the University of Denver displays the large network and resources of a state institution, but on the other hand it demonstrates the level of personalized care and attention you might expect from a small liberal arts college.
This is particularly true for the University of Denver’s professional creative writing program. Students can choose from a variety of program format options in order to choose the one that best matches their intent and goals. For example, students can choose from any of three following program paths:
- 4 course certificate that can be completed in as little as 6 months ($11,680 before aid)
- 6 course certificate that can be completed in as little as 12 months ($17,520 before aid)
- Master’s degree track that can be completed in as little as 18 months
Net Price: $10,319
5 Bay Path University
Bay Path University is an upcoming independent, not-for-profit university that is a formidable member of the feminist community, and is an active member in the Women’s College Coalition. The University prides itself on being able to provide women with the necessary skill set needed to succeed in a challenging world.
This is particularly true for the Master of Fine Arts in Nonfiction Creative Writing that can be completed entirely online. The program’s focus on nonfiction writing allows instructors to narrow their focus to only the most meaningful information, as the nonfiction and fiction industries play by totally different rules.
To this end, the program’s instructors are all at the top of their game as memoirists, food and travel writers, journalists, editors, and publishers with years of real world experience. Graduates of the program will be armed with a repertoire of skills and tools to succeed in bringing their written work to the masses.
Net Price: $20,000
6 Mount Saint Mary’s University
Mount Saint Mary’s University has been offering graduate degrees since the 1930’s and have carried forth the rich history into meaningful modern policies and practices. MSMU’s degree programs are designed to propel men and women into the next phase of their careers and goals. As such, programs are designed to cultivate a sense of leadership and service to society in students.
MSMU offers a fully online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing that is designed to support writers with a variety of interests and professional aspirations. A distinguishing component of this program is that it supports study in a variety of genres and writing-formats under the belief that writers can succeed in multiple genres–something on which not all MFA creative writing programs will agree.
Students will progress through the program’s following coursework in order:
- Writing for Screen and Television
- Creative Nonfiction Writing
- Advanced Screenwriting
- Playwriting I
- Fiction Writing II
- Poetry Writing II
- Screenwriting II
- Creative Nonfiction Writing II
- Publishing Seminar
- Thesis Continuation
Net Price: $28,000
7 Oregon State University Cascades
Oregon State University Cascades is a school that invests in each of its students by fostering the unique strengths of the individual while teaching students how to compensate for weaknesses. This is particularly valuable for aspiring writers whose entire craft is based off of cultivating the unique strengths that make up their writing talent.
Oregon State University Cascades offers a fully online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. A distinguishing element of this program is commitment of program faculty to cultivating the unique development of each student. In the program description, it states that students will be developed professionals across all the complex vectors that make up an individual–including the social, aesthetic, spiritual, physical, and political.
Students will be asked to commit to a genre, but will be free to study cross-genre and to engage a cross-genre thesis. Coursework and thesis options can be organized in the following categories:
- Creative Nonfiction
Net Price: $20,000
8 University of Texas El Paso
The University of Texas El Paso offers a robust catalogue of online degree programs that are designed with convenience and flexibility in mind. Even graduate programs can be completed online from anywhere in the world. The University of Texas El Paso designs its graduate programs to reflect market needs, so that graduates of these programs can capitalize on the needs of the job market.
The University of Texas El Paso offers a fully online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. The degree’s program format can be broken up into the following components:
- 48 hours of coursework
- 42 hours of workshops
- 14 hours of literature classes
- 6 hours of thesis
Students progress through coursework in a variety of topics that is meant to adequately represent the depth and complexity of literature and its vast array of subjects. As such, coursework covers radically different topics from “Form of the Short Story” to topics in “Asian American Poetry.”
Net Price: $9,000
9 Bennington College
Bennington College is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian college that is fully accredited by the appropriate governing bodies, specifically the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Bennington distinguishes itself through a demonstrable commitment to building a strong understanding of theory combined with practical skills and execution.
Bennington College is a prestigious school known specifically for producing skilled and successful professional writers and novelists, and offers a fully online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in a rigorous two-year exploration of the writing craft. Students can direct their studies in fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, and may work in a dual-genre as well.
It should be noted that this program does have low-residential requirements, so some campus visits will be required to maximize the value of the program.
Net Price: $29,000
10 Fairfield University
When evaluating potential degree programs, prospective students often look to recent graduates to demonstrate what the program has to offer. In the case of Fairfield University, alumni go to demonstrate a high level of professional success, particularly in the writing industry. In the past three years alone, graduates of Fairfield’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing have published over 80 books–not to mention hundreds of articles, stories, poems, and essays.
Fairfield University’s low-residential Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative program offers a number of degree paths that will cater to a variety of unique career aspirations. The program’s studies can be organized into the following areas: fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and screenwriting.
Within these genres, students can further fine tune specialization by pursuing one of the following concentration tracks–some of which are not found in many, if any, other programs:
- Spiritual Writing
- Literary Health
Net Price: $40,000
11 Emerson College
Emerson College offers hospitable degree programs for students at every level of skill and professionality with many of its online graduate programs forgoing GRE requirements. Among these is a Master of Fine Arts in Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing. The program is ideal for aspiring novelists who want an education that informs a strong understanding of publishing dynamics.
One of the biggest roadblocks for new writers is bringing their work to the masses. Self-publishing was a boon in many ways but it has also led to a highly congested market, meaning traditional publishing can be superior in many situations. This program is designed specifically to help students understand how to take advantage of the current market’s environment to maximize one’s chances for success.
This is one of the few programs that builds in publishing to the program itself. If students are working on a piece of work, they will be paired with an advisor who will assist in lining up a publishing process. In this case, the high tuition could pay for itself if students have a promising piece of work to build off of.
Net Price: $44,000
12 University of Nebraska at Omaha
University of Nebraska at Omaha combines a number of flexible degree programs to accommodate students from different backgrounds and circumstances. As such programs are delivered in residential, online, and low-residential formats. Low-residential means that programs are completed online for the most part, but will require some on-campus components.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha offers a Master of Fine Arts in Writing with low-residential requirements. The majority of courses are completed through 4 semesters of 16 weeks that are completed online at-home, combined with 5 ten-day conference-style residencies.
Students of the program will be able to build speciality in poetry, playwriting, screenwriting, fiction, creative nonfiction, or young adult genres.
Net Price: $14,000
13 Lindenwood University
Lindenwood University has earned many accolades over the years, most notably grouped into recognition of its affordability and flexibility. Programs can be completed online, on-campus, or through a combination of formats designed to offer the most flexibility for students who might be working full-time or have equally demanding commitments.
Lindenwood University offers a Master of Fine Arts in Writing program that can be completed entirely online, on-campus, or in a hybrid format. Classes are led by instructors who are published authors, journalists, and editors with demonstrable real-world success.
Countless ranking institutions have recognized this program as one of the best of its kind. And given its reasonable tuition costs, this program is an ideal consideration for any aspiring writer looking for graduate education.
Net Price: $18,000
14 Queens College of Charlotte
The Queens College of Charlotte College of Arts and Sciences offers top-tier programs helmed by award-winning faculty who have demonstrated success in the real world, and bring their unique experiences to the classroom for the benefit of students. The College’s curriculums are designed to offer research opportunities, innovative coursework, and mentorship.
The Queens College of Charlotte College of Arts and Sciences offers an online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program that has some low-residency requirements. The program offers an amazing selling point of a 4:1 student:faculty ratio, so that students can receive the level of attention and care befitting a true mentorship program.
This level of care is exceedingly rare in higher education unfortunately, so this factor alone makes it a tremendous option for aspiring writers who want a little more investment on the part of program faculty and instructors.
Net Price: $21,000
15 Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University offers a unique approach to tutelage of aspiring writers. Beyond a host of traditional writing degree programs, the University hosts a graduate level program through the Bluegrass Writers Studio™ that seeks to develop innovative solutions to historical shortcomings of similar programs.
Students pursuing a program through the studio will participate in a variety of group web-classroom discussions, community engagement projects, residency workshops, and even international cultural experiences. Faculty at the studio take an active role in facilitating the success of students, and will help aspiring writers make the necessary connections to actualize their dreams and professional desires.
Net Price: $14,000
16 Drexel University
Drexel University is a premier player in the online education space, and was among the first universities to build a university entirely based on the distance education model. As such, Drexel has one of the most robust catalogues of online degree offerings at every level–associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees. Among these are several english and writing degree programs to consider.
Specifically, Drexel offers a fully online Master’s of Creative Writing that is completed through four 10-week quarters per year, which means students take more courses in a shorter time period than similar programs. Students work closely with peers and faculty, many of whom are esteemed authors, established film industry screenwriters, and successful writers.
Net Price: $34,000
17 Lesley University
Lesley University brandishes a unique commitment to developing the humanitarian component in students. The University’s programs are most notably located at the intersection of education, counseling, and the visual arts–with particular attention allocated to those in the fine arts, particularly those in english and creative writing.
Lesley University offers a mostly online Master of Fine Arts with some low-residential requirements in the form of on-campus workshops and conference-style residencies. Students of the program will learn from top-tier instructors who are award-winning writers themselves.
Students at the program will work closely with highly invested faculty, who will function as mentors in the cultivation of students.
Net Price: $32,000
18 Fairleigh Dickinson University
Fairleigh Dickinson University has demonstrated continued success in producing top-tier writers who go on to achieve the goals that many of us dream of. Despite the relatively small size of the program and resulting alumni groups, over the past five years alone graduates have produced 28 book-lengths of award-winning fiction. Graduates of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s have landed the following awards and accolades for their works:
- New York Times Bestseller
- African American Book Prize
- Colorado Book Prize for Biography
Fairleigh Dickinson University offers a low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing which can be completed mostly online. Students will want to evaluate the residential components because they do have some unique values.
The close proximity of the school to New York City which is the publishing heart of the world means that students will be plugged into the ideal environment for professional networking.
Net Price: $22,000
19 Savannah College of Art and Design
SCAD is a school that is a well-known and respected name in any field relating to arts and design, as chances are there is an influential SCAD graduate in that field. This is likely due to the fact that SCAD has chosen its niche and speciality, and continually invests in delivering the best education programs in this capacity. SCAD is an ideal candidate for consideration for aspiring writers who want a career-centric program with industry-awareness outside the bounds of traditional writing programs.
SCAD offers an online Master of Fine Arts in Writing that covers an array of subject matter in the arts. This unique approach is positioned in such a way so that students learn to view writing as an artform, and as such will delve into topics surrounding the history and nuance surrounding all the various elements of a career as a professional artist.
For example, students will delve into coursework organized into the following curriculum:
- Contemporary Art
- Art Criticism
- Writing for Digital Communication
- Nonfiction I: Analysis of Creative Nonfiction
- Nonfiction II: Mastery of Style, Voice, and Subject
- Persuasive Writing
- History of Rhetoric
- Professional Writing for Business Applications
- Freelance Writing for Publication
- The Publishing Process
- Public/Media Relations Writing and Strategy
- Graduate Internship
- Graduate Internship
- Writing M.F.A. Thesis
Net Price: $42,000
20 Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University is a premier institution in the online education space, and brandishes one of the largest online student bodies in the world. SNHU is a private, non-profit university that holds more than 130,000 online students currently. As such, SNHU was named one of the most innovative universities in the country in 2020.
Among its other degree program offerings in english and writing are a fully online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. No application fees or GRE scores are required for admission. The program is 100% online without any residential requirements and is completed through a total 48 course credits.
Throughout the program students will learn how to excel in the following areas of professional writing:
- Business and technical aspects of professional writing
- Navigation of the publishing ecosystem
- Brand development
- Marketing work to decision makers
- Book promotion
- Identify agents, editors or other industry professionals for publishing
- Teaching writing
Net Price: $40,000