2020 Best Master's in Creative Writing Online Programs

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 3/20/2020
2020 Best Online Master's in Creative Writing Badge

The 14 schools on this list are the best value options for obtaining an online master's degree in creative writing based on alumni salaries and low tuition rates. Mount Saint Mary's University - CA is the #1 school, with a median alumni salary of $127,100 and a yearly tuition of $17,946 for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. The University of Texas at El Paso ranks #2, with a median salary of $104,311 and an annual tuition rate of $10,350.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 $17,946 $127,100
# 2 #2 $10,350 $104,311
# 3 #3 $13,500 $103,300
# 4 #4 $22,816 $103,250
# 5 #5 $29,969 $102,914
# 6 #6 $15,700 $89,500
# 7 #7 $13,260 $79,863
# 8 #8 $11,286 $70,212
# 9 #9 $15,600 $68,500
# 10 #10 $11,340 $57,600
# 11 #11 $38,475 $67,200
# 12 #12 $15,000 $56,893
# 13 #13 $7,875 $52,700
# 14 #14 $11,880 $46,200
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Creative Writing Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 Mount Saint Mary's University - CA

  • Annual Tuition: $17,946
  • Median Salary: $127,100
  • Locations: Los Angeles (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

Mount Saint Mary's University in California offers an online Master of Fine Arts in creative writing that prepares graduates to teach the craft at the college level. The curriculum includes instruction in writing and literary theory, writing workshops, and coursework in the humanities discipline, providing students the chance to understand the role of history and culture in stories and storytelling. Workshops are facilitated through video conferencing, allowing for meaningful interactions among students and professors. Students graduate the online creative writing degree program with a completed manuscript in the genre of their choice.

#2 The University of Texas at El Paso

  • Annual Tuition: $10,350
  • Median Salary: $104,311
  • Locations: El Paso (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The foundation of the online Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of Texas at El Paso is the writing workshop. In workshops, students cultivate their writing and knowledge in the creative process as they work toward completing a publishable manuscript in fiction or poetry. Through coursework in creative writing and the theory and form of the discipline, graduates of the online creative writing degree program are prepared to pursue careers in teaching writing at the college level or in publishing.

#3 Albertus Magnus College

  • Annual Tuition: $13,500
  • Median Salary: $103,300
  • Locations: New Haven (CT)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

Students in the online Master of Fine Arts in writing program at Albertus Magnus College are given the freedom to personalize their plan of study to a schedule and pace most convenient for them. The program provides packets detailing all required readings and assignments at the beginning of each course, and writers participate in three intensive workshops each semester in an online forum. Students are instructed in writing skills, the creative process, genre conventions, market trends, and what agents and publishers are looking for when receiving synopses, outlines, and manuscripts. Under the guidance of a portfolio mentor, students graduate the program with a collection of publishable work.

#4 University of Denver

  • Annual Tuition: $22,816
  • Median Salary: $103,250
  • Locations: Denver (CO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The online Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of Denver provides a well-rounded education in both the craft and the more practical fundamentals of writing. Students are instructed in writing routines and habits, the writing process, and in defining genres and audiences. In addition, students of the online creative writing degree program also learn how best to market their manuscripts to agents and publishers. The university offers several concentrations within the MFA, including fiction, creative nonfiction, professional poetry, and dramatic writing.

#5 Drexel University

  • Annual Tuition: $29,969
  • Median Salary: $102,914
  • Locations: Philadelphia (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The online Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Drexel University provides students a number of experiences to broaden their writing horizons. Students are offered the opportunity to diversify and share their passion for the craft through study abroad, international writing intensives, and programs that bring writing into the lives of veterans, incarcerated individuals, and patients in hospice. The two-year online creative writing degree requires three five-day residencies on campus, which allows students to network with peers, professors, and published authors.

#6 The University of West Florida

  • Annual Tuition: $15,700
  • Median Salary: $89,500
  • Locations: Pensacola (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The master’s in creative writing online program at the University of West Florida has multiple start dates. Students can specialize in Fiction, Nonfiction, or Poetry. The program requires 33 credit hours, 18 of which will be at the 6000-level. There is an optional thesis track. The UWF online creative writing degree provides real-time lectures through a free video-conferencing service that allows for classroom-style interaction with faculty and fellow students. Courses are held in the evening, but daytime events are available. For admission to the program, most prospective students must have at least 20 credit hours of undergraduate junior or senior level English, a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0, and a 413 MAT or 153 GRE verbal score and a 4.5 analytical writing score, although this can be waived under certain conditions. Prospective students must also submit a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and a 2,500-word sample of fiction or nonfiction, or 10 poems. Online students are given access to library services, the writing lab, tutoring, and technical support. The online creative writing degree also provides editing opportunities with two different literary journals.

#7 National University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,260
  • Median Salary: $79,863
  • Locations: La Jolla (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

National University’s online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing was the first in the United States to offer an online MFA with no required residency. Students specialize in Nonfiction, Fiction, Screenwriting, or Poetry, but do not have to choose right away. Furthermore, this online MFA accepts students interested in writing young adult and genre fiction. Rolling admission allows students to start their online creative writing degree at any time of year. To graduate, 58.5 or more quarter units are required. Most courses are intensive eight-week workshops, and the elective pedagogy classes will qualify MFA graduates to teach at the college level. In the online workshops, students read and critique each other’s work under faculty guidance and advice, taking one online workshop at a time. For a final thesis project, students work individually with a member of the faculty to complete a work of publishable quality. Over one-quarter of graduates report publishing their thesis. Coursework is completely online and asynchronous. Admission requirements include National University graduate admission and portfolios of creative writing (such as 10-20 pages of poetry). MFA students are also able to participate in the editing process of the university’s online literary journal, The GNU.

#8 Southern New Hampshire University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $11,286
  • Median Salary: $70,212
  • Locations: Manchester (NH)
  • Accreditation: NECHE

The online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University allows students to earn their master’s in 15 months if they take two courses per term. There are five graduate terms a year, and applications are accepted at any time. Decisions are made within days of receiving the required materials. The SNHU master’s in creative writing online program offers concentrations in Nonfiction, Fiction, Poetry, and Screenwriting. Thirty-six credits are required to graduate: 30 credits for the major’s requirements and 6 in major electives or the chosen concentration. Courses have assignments, discussion boards, and specified deadlines, but students schedule their own online time. There are no GRE or GMAT requirements for admission. Prospective students should contact admissions counselors who will walk them through the application process, which includes submitting a personal statement. SNHU offers a wide range of online education services, including tutors, a writing center, career services, academic advising, technical support, an online accessibility center, an online library and bookstore, and online wellness resources. There is also an online student union, where classmates and faculty can meet, work on projects, or attend virtual university clubs.

#9 Regent University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $15,600
  • Median Salary: $68,500
  • Locations: Virginia Beach (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Regent University offers a Master of Fine Arts in Film-Television taught from a Christian perspective. This online program offers a concentration in Script and Screenwriting, which is considered a terminal degree. To graduate, students must complete 44 credits within five years while maintaining a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. There are eight sessions per year, and students can begin with any session, as long as they are accepted, enroll, and pay at least two weeks before the start date. Online course plans are flexible, with many students taking only one or two classes per semester. Courses help students build their professional portfolios in writing for film, television, and stage so that they graduate with at least three completed full-length scripts. Students are mentored by experienced, faith-based professionals. Regent University’s online MFA program allows students to establish themselves with professional credentials that qualify them to work as a professional screenwriter and teach at the university level. There is also an online MA in film-television with concentrations in Producing and Script Writing. Admission is based on standardized tests, GPA, references, a writing sample, and a personal goals statement.

#10 Saint Leo University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $11,340
  • Median Salary: $57,600
  • Locations: St. Leo (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Saint Leo University's online Master of Arts in Creative Writing degree is a low-residency program designed to be completed in two years, although students can take longer if they maintain continuous enrollment. The MA in creative writing offers concentrations in Fiction, Nonfiction, or Poetry, with an optional focus on writing for veterans. Coursework includes three eight-day residency courses on campus in summer (9 credits), then 27 online credits taken during the year. The eight-day residencies include creative writing workshops, panel discussions, readings, and craft talks by faculty, visiting writers, and publishing professionals. During the residency, students meet with their faculty mentors to design the work plan they will complete from home, guided by their mentor. Graduate coursework wraps up with the completion of a book-length work of writing. The process begins with the application writing sample, which should be in the genre of the intended concentration. Applications also require a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and transcripts showing a bachelor’s degree with a 3.25 or higher GPA. Students should apply at least 60 days before the term begins in mid-July.

#11 Savannah College of Art and Design

  • Annual Tuition: $38,475
  • Median Salary: $67,200
  • Locations: Savannah (GA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Fine Arts in Writing at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers a 90-credit hour degree program online, with four start dates per year. In addition to traditional creative writing, students study subjects like digital media for current industry knowledge. Many students have class credits in publication by graduation. Writing skills are taught through workshops that foster discussion in a flexible, 24/7, online format. There are designated due dates, but otherwise, student work is asynchronous. Most courses for the online creative writing degree are taught by writers who also teach on campus. Each quarter lasts 10 weeks, and each course requires 12–17 hours of work per week. Applications are accepted year-round, no later than 30 days before the quarter begins; however, students who want to be considered for financial aid need to apply at least six months. Students apply online, and advisors guide them through the process. Application results usually take two to four weeks. A variety of e-learning resources are available, including peer tutors, student counselors, access to software, and textbook rental. There are also career services, including resume development, portfolio building, self-promotion, and assistance in finding employment opportunities.

#12 University of Nebraska at Omaha

  • Annual Tuition: $15,000
  • Median Salary: $56,893
  • Locations: Omaha (NE)
  • Accreditation: HLC

At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the master’s in creative writing online program is a low-residency MFA that can be completed in two years. Students earn 60 credit hours towards a degree concentration in Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Screenwriting, Playwriting, or Young Adult. Applications are accepted anytime, and there are two start dates per year. The program combines five 10-day, on-site residencies with four 16-week semesters online. At each residency, students attend workshops, lectures, craft discussions, and readings, and they meet with their faculty mentors. During individual conferences, students work with their mentors to create an individualized study plan for each semester. This one-on-one work takes place alongside creative writing workshops. Students spend at least 25 hours per week on their graduate work each semester. During the final residency, students deliver a craft lecture and present a public reading from their MFA thesis. There is no set number of students in any given concentration that the program seeks to fill, so each application is considered on its own. Applications are filled out online, and official transcripts are required.

#13 Tiffin University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,875
  • Median Salary: $52,700
  • Locations: Tiffin (OH)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Tiffin University’s Master of Humanities degree with a concentration in Creative Writing offers students a curriculum that spans all types of writing, including fiction, poetry, screenplays, performance writing, young adult fiction, and creative nonfiction. This MH degree prepares students to work in the fields of community college education, editing, authoring, journalism, freelance writing, technical writing, publication assistance, advertising, and public relations. A 15-week semester starts every January, May, and August, and students can begin at any point. The 30 credit hours required to graduate can be completed in 1.5 years for full-time students and 2.5 years for part-time. A capstone project is required. Although students should log in daily to participate in discussion and chat forums and to see assignments and announcements, the time they choose to do so is up to them. Attendance is tracked through the submission of assignments and/or discussion participation. An online course demonstration is available on the Tiffin University website. Applying for the online creative writing degree is free, and there are advisors available to answer questions. Once accepted, students can access the online Pfeiffer Library, as well as academic guidance and support offered by the DragonQuest system. Other student services include professional skill-building workshops, university email, and free access to Grammarly.

#14 Lindenwood University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,880
  • Median Salary: $46,200
  • Locations: Saint Charles (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Students enrolled in the online Master of Fine Arts in Writing program at Lindenwood University can declare their emphasis in Nonfiction, Fiction, or Poetry, or take classes in multiple genres. The program is comprised of 48 credit hours of fully online classes and can be finished in 24 months. The curriculum includes classes on literature and craft and creative writing workshops. A graduate thesis is required. There are no prerequisites, and students can take courses in any order. However, if they do declare an emphasis, they are required to take at least 27 hours in that area and to write their thesis in that chosen genre. Online classes, managed through Canvas, can be accessed from any location and are smartphone friendly. Although students usually set their own schedules, they may sometimes use Skype to attend a live lecture or interact with professors and classmates. Admission to the MFA program is based on a 7- to 10-page creative writing sample and a statement of purpose. Students must also meet university requirements, which include transcripts with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA (some exceptions can be made), and three letters of recommendation. Online students have access to the library, academic advisors, the IT Help Desk, and other support services.

Online Master's in Creative Writing Overview

The most common type of online master’s degree is the Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing. An online MFA program offers workshops, provides more in-depth feedback than bachelor’s programs, and exposes students to a myriad of other writing styles. It also often prepares graduates to teach the craft to others at the collegiate level. The preferred method of learning for this program is “low-residency”, meaning that the majority of the work is completed online, but once or twice a year students convene for a week to attend live intensive seminars.

Many programs take two to three years to complete, require 36 to 70 credit hours, and call for a completed creative writing thesis upon graduation. Traditionally, the programs offer concentrations in poetry and fiction, with select programs now offering coursework in media related fields. For admission, students need to hold a bachelor’s in any area of study—though a degree in a communications or writing-related field is favorable—have a 2.0 to 3.0 minimum GPA, and obtain a satisfactory GRE score. Many individuals that hold this online degree go into publishing, communications, copywriting, teaching, and authoring.

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