In a world powered by film, television and text, writers are more important than ever. Between an entertainment industry thirsty for new content, a bevy of corporations stressing over the wording of their advertisements, and the nigh-infinite frontier of articles, blogs, memes, wikis and indie media that is the internet, graduates with excellent writing skills can make themselves indispensable to employers across industries. While there is some truth to the notion that some individuals are born writers, there are technical aspects of the field that can be learned or refined through hard work and careful study. What better way to guide that study and prepare for your creatively verbose future than with an accredited writing program?
Best Online Colleges for Writing in 2018
We compiled our list of the five best online colleges for writing by using data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). A wide range of data points were weighed in our study by way of our unique methodology, including in-state tuition costs and number of online programs, in order to establish which online schools would be best for the nontraditional student looking to major in creative writing. For more details on our methodology for this list, see the bottom of this page.
Central Washington University
Full Sail University
Southern New Hampshire University
Writing Degree Overview
Writing is a diverse field, allowing journalists, authors, screen writers, biographers and others to make their mark in the world in a creative way. An online education for writing can help students to develop essential skills to the field and to learn about creativity, the technical aspects of writing, ways to market written work and even different forms of communication.
Online Writing Courses
Degree programs focused on writing are available in many different forms from the undergraduate to graduate level. Below are details on some of the courses that students may take while attending online colleges for writing.
- In an online certificate program, students may learn about writing habits, ways to look for writing work and the writer's market. Classes are specifically geared toward writing. At some colleges, students may be able to specialize in a writing genre, such as literary fiction, genre fiction or nonfiction.
- An online diploma may take up to a year or more to complete. Students could study short fiction, children's writing, poetry and more. In some cases, credits in an online diploma program may be transferable to an associate degree.
- Online associate degrees often give students the opportunity to write and polish their work, study different genres and to constructively critique their own work and the work of others. Typically, students are required to take several general education classes.
- In online bachelor's degree programs in writing, students may learn basic and advanced creative writing skills. They may share their writing with one another and study particularly prolific or impactful writers, such as Shakespeare. Specializations may be available in areas like fiction, nonfiction, poetry and screenwriting, but general education classes are part of a program, too.
- At the master's degree level, students may be able to complete a master's of arts (MA) or master's of fine arts (MFA) degree. Programs take a wide range of approaches to help students expand their knowledge across many different mediums, including print, online and social media. Document design, research and analysis also may be part of a master's program.
- Doctoral degrees in writing usually are granted in the form of a PhD. Discourse, rhetoric, technology and textual studies can be part of a program, and research opportunities are common. A dissertation or on-campus visits may be required of doctoral candidates, even in an online program; check the requirements for your particular school so you can be informed before you enroll in the program.
Career-Related Skills to Develop
Online colleges for writing may enable students to develop skills essential to earning or improving a career in the field. As students complete a writing program, focusing on the following skills could be advantageous.
- Creativity: All writers need to be able to identify and create their own characters and story lines, whether they are compiling a feature story, that next novel or even a factual text. The ability to carry readers along and not lose interest is essential to good writing.
- Adaptability: Writers should be comfortable with using content management systems to track the stories or individual pieces of content that they are working on. They also may need to be able to switch up story lines and plots or the direction of daily assignments at the desire of a client or editor.
- Perseverance: There may be no skill more important to writing than the ability to persevere and finish a writing task. Meeting deadlines and page length expectations may be a regular, sometimes challenging, part of the job. Writers also must learn how to maintain forward momentum even when they have hit that dreaded writer's block.
- Communication: Although the process of writing is often a solitary endeavor, more than one person can be involved, especially in areas such as screenwriting or video game writing, where multiple authors may be working on the same script. Even in projects that do not involve coauthors, a writer will likely work in concert with editors, copy editors, clients and/or managers. Knowing how to communicate ideas and expectations up front, as well as how to convey progress and changing goals throughout the process, can be valuable to ensuring that projects are finished as expected by all important parties.
Writing Career Outlook
Writing is the dream job for many, but it can be your real-life career if you put in the work to learn the career and distinguish yourself in the field. There are multiple areas a prospective writer can focus on; here are some of the most prominent.
Individuals with a talent for understanding and simplifying complex technical information often pursue technical writer careers, where their work can help millions of people understand and utilize products that improve their quality of life. Generally, in order to land a job, prospective technical writers must complete a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism or English. In some cases, employers require workers to earn a degree in a technical field, such as computer science or engineering.
On a daily basis, a technical writer is responsible for pulling together all the different facets of a product's design and boiling them down to a clean, elegant description. A technical writer must regularly communicate with the product's designers to understand how it functions; help organize the layout of publications; write and revise content about the product; and draw sketches to explain how a product is assembled.
Although people in writing and author careers all create content, the type of work they do can be as diverse as the words in the English language. Generally, however, all writers and authors choose and research topics; write drafts of material and do revisions as needed; and work closely with editors.
There are many professional avenues that writers may take. If they're interested in fiction, they may work as screenwriters, novelists or playwrights, constructing grandiose epics, tales of human struggle, or entertaining pick-me-ups. Those who are interested in nonfiction may work as bloggers, copywriters, biographers or journalists, recording salt of the earth memoirs, the truth behind national and global issues, or their own personal thoughts and feelings.
Behind every great novel, there was a great editor who was responsible for crossing out all the errant commas and bridging all the unforeseen plot holes. These professionals are responsible for transforming text to increase readability, fact checking information in articles, making decisions about what should and shouldn't be published and helping writers develop their ideas into full-fledged works.
Editing careers involve the planning, editing and coordination of written materials for publication. In order to do their job, editors need strong leadership, writing and speaking skills. They must also be able to manage their time and work under pressure to meet regular deadlines, as well as manage the writers in their care to do the same.
Editors may be required to have a bachelor's degree in journalism, English or communication. In addition, professional writing experience may be expected. People interested in this field can work as copy, assistant, managing or executive editors.
To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject online
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2015-16
Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on five criteria:
- In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2015-16 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/