Best Online Creative Writing Degree Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 11/1/2021
Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Average Tuition: $27,302
Alumni Salary: $31,600

An online creative writing degree can help you gain the skills and resources you need to become a professional writer, from publishing works of fiction to applying your talents in the business world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for writers and authors is $67,120, while technical writers earn $74,650. Explore our list of schools offering online degrees in creative writing with the best overall return on investment to help you find a program that fits your needs.

Below our rankings list, continue reading for more information about bachelor’s programs in creative writing — from common courses to potential career pathways — including a pros and cons list about whether the degree is worth it in the long run.

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Online Bachelor's in Creative Writing with the Highest Return on Investment

2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's Degrees in Creative Writing Badge

Below are the top online bachelor's degrees in creative writing ranked by their return on investment (ROI). We calculated ROI by subtracting student debt from students’ expected earnings in the decade following graduation. We found that the cheapest degree isn’t always the best investment over time.

Based on our methodology, Texas Tech University provides the best 10-year ROI at $327,600 even though their annual tuition is much higher than other options. In other words, it may be the best long-term bet for students. Comparatively, Southern New Hampshire University Online offers the lowest annual tuition and a 10-year ROI of $279,900. So, if the initial price point is most important to you, this school may be the best option for an online creative writing degree.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 Texas Tech University $20,550 $34,420 $21,500 $327,600
# 2 #2 University of Colorado Denver $13,668 $33,459 $24,821 $313,500
# 3 #3 Southern New Hampshire University Online $9,600 $29,902 $22,458 $279,900
# 4 #4 Central Washington University $22,218 $24,267 $20,832 $223,900
# 5 #5 Full Sail University $15,990 $22,329 $37,000 $183,800

Best Bachelor's Degrees in Creative Writing Rankings Details

#1

Texas Tech University

Lubbock (TX)
  • 10-Year ROI: $327,600
  • Median Salary: $34,420
  • Annual Tuition: $20,550
  • Median Debt: $21,500

The Bachelor of Arts in English online program at Texas Tech University (TTU) offers a concentration in creative writing. The program welcomes new college students as well as transfer students, who can transfer up to nine advanced level courses into the program to help them earn the 120 credits required to graduate. During the course of study students will hone their writing skills... while gaining a greater understanding for literature and media.

Students use Blackboard to interact with their peers, review the course syllabus, and turn in assignments. The school's scholarship portal provides an application for multiple scholarships, including some for transfer students and some specifically for online students. While Texas residents receive lower in-state tuition, online students are currently offered tuition at the same in-state rate regardless of their location.

Students can apply through ApplyTexas or through CommonApp. Texas Tech offers special support to military veterans looking to transition to the student life, and has been designated a Purple Heart University for its support of military students. Online tutoring, as well as online library resources and technical support, is available to all students.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 61%
Acceptance Rate: 69%
Financial Aid Recipients: 78%
Average SAT Scores: 1070 - 1260
Accreditation: SACS COC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,931

#2

University of Colorado Denver

Denver (CO)
  • 10-Year ROI: $313,500
  • Median Salary: $33,459
  • Annual Tuition: $13,668
  • Median Debt: $24,821

The Bachelor of Arts in English Writing, Rhetoric, and Technology at the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) is a fully online program. Courses can be completed full-time or part-time, with 120 credits needed to graduate. Full-time students can expect to complete the program in about four years. The program covers a breadth of writing concentrations meant to give students... a generalized foundation to pursue a variety of career paths, including professional writing, digital publication, creative writing, and academic writing.

Canvas is the tool students use to complete assignments and interact with classmates. Once accepted to CU Denver, students can apply for scholarships through an internal portal. Colorado residents qualify for lower tuition rates, and out-of-state students completing their degree online qualify for a lower tuition rate than the typical out-of-state tuition. CU Denver online students can take advantage of online and on-campus resources at all University of Colorado schools.

Applications can be submitted through the school's online form and applications for fall semesters are typically due late spring. CU Online Navigators are always available to help online students with everything from admissions to financial aid.

Cost per Credit: $456
School Type: Non-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 52%
Acceptance Rate: 65%
Financial Aid Recipients: 82%
Average SAT Scores: 1000 - 1220
Accreditation: HLC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,046

#3

Southern New Hampshire University Online

Manchester (NH)
  • 10-Year ROI: $279,900
  • Median Salary: $29,902
  • Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • Median Debt: $22,458

Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) online Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing offers four concentrations: fiction writing, nonfiction writing, poetry, and screenwriting. The Bachelor of Arts in General Studies program also offers a concentration in creative writing. Each program requires 120 total credits, with 90 possible transfer credits. Creative writing students take... 24 credits in the major core and nine electives, including courses in literary theory, the English language, and publishing. General studies enrollees take 12 required credits in the creative writing concentration and 63 elective credits. These programs take four years for full-time students to complete, but they can attend part-time if they prefer.

SNHU uses a proprietary online platform for all virtual classes, which have weekly assignments that students can complete asynchronously throughout the week. Students participate in workshops where they present their own writing samples and critique their peers' work. Online tuition rates have not increased since 2012, and SNHU provides a range of scholarship and grant opportunities. Active-duty military personnel qualify for discounted tuition rates.

Rolling admission deadlines mean students can apply any time and start quickly after being accepted. Applications must be completed on the school's application page. SNHU online students can access a writing center, tutoring services, career center, wellness resources, electronic bookstore, and technical support.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 44%
Acceptance Rate: 78%
Financial Aid Recipients: 77%
Accreditation: NECHE
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 86,849

#4

Central Washington University

Ellensburg (WA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $223,900
  • Median Salary: $24,267
  • Annual Tuition: $22,218
  • Median Debt: $20,832

The Bachelor's in English: Professional and Creative Writing program at Central Washington University (CWU) requires 74 credits and provides students with a background in literature studies as well as editing, publishing, and various forms of writing. Writing courses include creative areas such as screenwriting, creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction, in addition to business,... technical, and scientific writing. This program is designed as a completion program for students who have already taken some classes, and it takes two years of full-time study to complete.

Students use Canvas to submit assignments and take exams. Out-of-state students enrolled in an online degree program pay the same tuition prices as in-state students. CWU offers over 320 scholarships students can apply for through CWU’s Scholarship Central.

Applications are completed online on the school's application page. Online students can access a program advisor to assist with questions about applying or about academic requirements. CMU also has a Career Services department that offers virtual workshops and events in addition to one-on-one career advising services.

School Type: Non-Profit
Graduation Rate: 57%
Acceptance Rate: 86%
Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
Average SAT Scores: 950 - 1170
Accreditation: NWCCU
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,745

#5

Full Sail University

Winter Park (FL)
  • 10-Year ROI: $183,800
  • Median Salary: $22,329
  • Annual Tuition: $15,990
  • Median Debt: $37,000

Full Sail University offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program that teaches students how to tell compelling stories across different media. The program takes 29 months to complete, with students taking one course per month. All courses are completed in a set order, allowing students to start any time and take the classes in the most logical order. Because courses... are accelerated, students should plan to spend a substantial amount of time on each course, but they'll complete the degree quicker than they would complete a traditional program.

Upon entry to the program, students receive a Project LaunchBox™, which includes a laptop computer with all of the software they'll need during their studies. This can lead to substantial savings compared to other programs. Full Sail has its own learning platform designed to provide students with the most hands-on experience possible. Full Sail offers a number of scholarships for online students and has admissions staff dedicated to helping military students.

Courses begin monthly, so students can apply at any time and start as soon as they're accepted. Applications are completed on the school's website. Online students can access all resources available to on-campus students, including career advisors, digital library access, and dedicated technical support.

Cost per Credit: $533
School Type: For-Profit
Credits Required: 120
Graduation Rate: 43%
Financial Aid Recipients: 81%
Accreditation: ACCSC
Undergrad Online Enrollment: 14,908

Online Creative Writing Degree Overview & Career Information

Online creative writing degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels. Students interested in writing careers may pursue an online degree in creative writing to hone their craft through virtual lectures, readings, and collaborative writing workshops. While an English degree may require more intensive literature study, creative writing coursework aims to equip graduates with the critical skills to analyze, interpret, and create content in a multimedia culture.

An online bachelor’s degree in creative writing requires approximately 120 credit hours, including general education classes and a university’s core requirements. Professional writers of various genres often lead workshops, where students review each other's work and provide feedback. To diversify students’ writing, a writing program’s curriculum may be somewhat broad — including classes in scriptwriting, editing, journalism, screenwriting, and poetry. While working toward this degree, students may build a robust portfolio of their creative work by practically applying their skills.

Creative writing coursework aims to equip graduates with the critical skills to analyze, interpret, and create content in a multimedia culture.

Standard admission requirements for students entering a bachelor's program in creative writing include the following:

  • A minimum 2.5 GPA (or an additional review process may be required)
  • High school transcripts, SAT, or ACT scores (may be waived for transfer students)
  • A personal essay or statement of intent
  • Many schools charge a nonrefundable application fee of approximately $50

Accreditation for Online Creative Writing Degrees

National or regional authorities — such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation — evaluate whether a school meets the federal standard of a quality education in a process called accreditation. This quality assurance process proves that a school has an adequate amount of faculty, resources, and other facilities to conduct academic programs. Use the Department of Education’s search tool to verify a school's accreditation status before enrolling.

There are many reasons why verifying a school’s accreditation status is vital. For example, accreditation provides evidence for students, employers, and governing entities that academic standards are being met. Furthermore, in-person and online students must attend accredited schools to qualify for federal financial aid, such as grants and loans. This stamp of approval also makes transferring credits between schools possible. If students hope to pursue online MFAs or other master's writing degree programs and don't want to lose the credits they've already earned through a bachelor's program, their online school should be accredited like those in our rankings list above.


Common Online Courses for Creative Writing Students

A creative writing degree covers many specialties under the umbrella of liberal arts, so a variety of courses are often offered. The coursework helps students develop soft skills, which include critical thinking, situation analysis, and the ability to communicate across various media interfaces. Overall, a concentration in creative writing prepares students for careers producing fiction, non-fiction, and creative non-fiction. Programs may also offer internships that allow students to earn additional credits and gain practical experience.

Below is a diverse sampling of electives offered across the programs in our rankings list above.

  • Advanced Poetry Writing: This online course delves into poetic form and technique, such as voice development, and what makes a poem engaging. The faculty guides students to explore their emotional truth, which is at the heart of writing poetry.
  • Fiction Workshop: Students share their work with peers and receive feedback through collaborative workshop sessions. The coursework allows students to explore the complexities of fiction writing, from developing characters and plots to maintaining concise prose throughout.
  • Forms and Techniques of Fiction: In this class, students learn how to analyze and imitate principal works of fiction in order to gain a historical understanding of the creative process.
  • Playwriting: Students study the process and elements of playwriting, including character, plot, and conflict development. Students will become familiar with thinking and writing engaging dialogue, film scriptwriting, character building, three-act structures, plot points, and formatting techniques.
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing: Prospective fiction writers discover the rules and tools associated with writing sci-fi and fantasy. Based on prompts provided by the faculty, students develop their poetic language by writing short stories that evoke a sense of horror and convey alternate realities.
  • Storytelling in Film and Literature: Overall, this course encourages students to explore narrative techniques and how they transpose to film. Students also investigate political, social, and aesthetic issues in narratives.

Careers with a Creative Writing Degree

An online degree in creative writing can prepare students for a breadth of professional writing opportunities, from scientific to speech writing. Areas of focus can vary significantly within creative writing careers, depending on an individual’s career goals and experience. For example, an online bachelor’s degree in creative writing can prepare students for career paths in new media editing and copywriting, advertising, public relations, and publishing.

Some writers want more flexibility and may choose to be self-employed. Freelance writers sell their stories to media outlets or contract with organizations to write through various mediums, such as web content. Freelancers usually charge by the word but may also charge hourly or by the piece. On average, freelance writers earn an hourly wage of $23.56, according to Indeed.

Below are some other popular career paths for those with an online creative writing bachelor's degree.

  • Editors review content for grammatical and spelling errors, rewrite text to improve comprehension, evaluate writer submissions, and work closely with writers to develop their content.
    • Median annual salary: $63,400
    • Job outlook: 5% (slower than average)
  • Journalists research stories and ideas, conduct interviews, and write articles for publication in a variety of media outlets. They analyze and convey information in a way that’s easy for a general audience to understand.
    • Median annual salary: $49,300
    • Job outlook: 6% (fast as average)
  • Public relations specialists write press releases and speeches to help business leaders communicate effectively. In general, they help build and maintain an organization's public
    • Median annual salary: $62,810
    • Job outlook: 11% (faster than average)
  • Technical writers, such as medical and scientific writers, develop user-friendly product descriptions, instructions, and other forms of content across various media platforms. While certification is often not mandatory, it can be attractive to potential employers.
    • Median annual salary: $74,650
    • Job outlook: 12% (faster than average)

Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing may decide to continue their education by pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing, such as an online master's degree. Advanced education prepares students to teach at the collegiate level or gain highly sophisticated writing skills, which can be essential when trying to get published. A doctoral degree may also be required in some cases, such as being an editor of long-standing journals.

Associations for Creative Writing Students

Several well-known writers' associations provide professional development and networking opportunities. These associations support writers by providing communities for them to connect, share best practices, develop skills, and search for employment. A wide range of associations exist for various genres of literature, such as the Academy of American Poets, Mystery Writers of America, and Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Below are several prominent writing associations in the U.S.:

Authors' Guild (AG)

One of the country's oldest writers' associations, the AG supports working writers of all genres by providing a community for them that promotes networking. The AG not only provides a sense of belonging for writers but also advocates for their rights by ensuring that they are paid, treated well, and protected — especially their freedom of speech.

Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)

The AWP provides support, advocacy, and resources for a community of nearly 50,000 writers. According to its mission, AWP “amplifies the voices of writers and the academic programs and organizations that serve them while championing diversity and excellence in creative writing.” Importantly, the AWP is also the governing body that evaluates MFA programs to ensure that they consistently provide high-quality education.

National Association of Independent Writers & Editors (NAIWE)

The NAIWE supports freelance writers of all kinds — including novelists, business writers, editors, and academic writers — by providing best practice guidance, networking opportunities, and writers' resources. A primary mission of NAIWE is to help writers develop multiple income streams by connecting them with freelance opportunities.


Is an Online Bachelor's Creative Writing Degree Worth It?

An online bachelor's degree in creative writing can be helpful for developing a student’s voice and providing a way for prospective writers to acquire the tools and techniques of the trade. The ability to write thoughtfully and clearly is valued across all fields and industries, making this degree path worthwhile for many. However, if a student's primary desire is to become a published author, that cannot be guaranteed with a degree. Being a published author not only takes skill but also talent, experience, and a bit of luck.

The ability to write thoughtfully and clearly is valued across all fields and industries.

Studying and writing from home may offer more flexibility and comfort than being on a busy campus and adhering to a rigid schedule. Since writing is often a reflective, solitary activity requiring uninterrupted attention, online coursework may make it easier for writers to focus. Furthermore, distance learning may help students develop self-discipline, time management, and organizational skills, which they can carry into their professional career. For example, an online degree may prepare you for remote work after graduation, especially a freelancing career. As technology improves and employers better understand the benefits of remote work, more jobs are transitioning online.

Ultimately, to determine a degree's value, students should consider their personal, financial, and professional goals. The following presents several pros and cons involved with earning an online bachelor's degree in creative writing:

Potential Benefits

  • Writing skills are transferable to a wide range of careers. Creative thinking and written communication skills are two of the top five skills employers desire, regardless of the position. Organizations need employees who are articulate in both speech and writing. They are looking for people who can develop a strong argument and think outside the box. For example, if a job requires updating social media or corresponding through email, a creative writing degree could prove an asset.
  • A degree program provides opportunities for networking. Students can connect with peers and mentors in the field — including authors, editors, and even publishers — throughout their program. Networking can help students navigate the publishing world, share advice and knowledge, and learn from the experience of others.
  • Students can build a substantial writing portfolio. Through coursework and projects, students develop a diverse body of work, which they can later present to prospective employers.

Potential Drawbacks

  • Completing course assignments may feel particularly restrictive to creative writers. Since the coursework in a creative writing program is intended to meet programmatic outcomes and objectives, it’s often highly specific. This focus removes some of the enjoyment, freedom, and inspiration from the writing process. Also, students may be required to write about topics that hold no interest for them.
  • Writer's burnout is a common phenomenon. Due to the imaginative nature of writing, a kind of creative fatigue can arise that other professionals don't necessarily have to grapple with. This type of stress often involves decreased motivation and a harmful internal dialogue that prohibits productivity. To avoid writer’s burnout, writers need self-discipline and organizational skills to effectively manage their time.
  • Some writing careers may not be financially sustainable. Writers who specialize in areas such as technical writing or public relations have bright job prospects and earn median annual salaries of $74,650 and $62,810, respectively. On the other hand, poets, freelancers, and fiction writers may not be able to rely on creative writing as their primary source of income.
This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.

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