The MA in Creative Writing

sketch-280x374On October 15, the awesome human being who is Dinty Moore said the following on Facebook. He shared it with his network of friends (a small legion!) and in a few groups to which he belongs.

It’s really great advice for undergrads and their writing mentors who are in the midst of MFA Admissions Season.

I’ve reproduced it here with his permission.

An Open Letter to My Many Friends Who Teach Creative Writing to Undergraduates: 

Many writing teachers still advise their undergraduate students that they “may as well go for an MFA because an MA doesn’t qualify you for anything.” Well, that makes sense for some students, but not all of them, especially now with the growth in the degree. So, we’d like to offer:

Five Good Reasons to Suggest an MA (Yes, an MA) to Your Students

1 With competition to enter MFA programs increasing at such an unprecedented rate, many students are coming up blank when they first apply. A younger student might not be ready for a top MFA program and may be wasting time and money applying (for now.)

2 The MA path, though, allows an extra two years to focus on enhancing a writing portfolio. A hard-working student can write a lot of poems, stories, and essays in two years. If they still want that top MFA program, their chances have greatly improved.

3 Here at Ohio University, those two years come with generous graduate assistant teaching stipends, excellent travel funding, and close faculty mentoring. In other words, time to write, teaching experience, and no student loans necessary (if the student is frugal).

4 For a student considering the PhD in creative writing as the ultimate goal, the MA could be a better path. Our MA students take graduate literature seminars and training in rhetoric and composition in addition to their workshop courses, and have had excellent success pursuing doctoral studies.

5 Even if the student doesn’t intend to pursue a degree beyond the MA, two years of focused study, workshop, and mentoring on poems, stories, or essays will make the student a stronger writer, reader, and thinker.

So please suggest the MA to your students, especially those with potential but perhaps a need to develop a bit further along the way.

Visit for further information, or email Dinty W. Moore at

Cathy’s Thoughts

I teach in an MA program in Creative Writing as well. You can find out more about it here. 

One thing I like about our program is that students DON’T specialize in a genre. They’re required to choose from a menu of workshops:

  • Fiction (me and Sean Lovelace)
  • Poetry (Mark Neely and Katy Didden)
  • Creative Nonfiction (Jill Christman and Silas Hansen)
  • and Screenwriting, too! (Matt Mullins and Rani Crowe)

I’ve got a few good reasons, too

1. An MA will give you time to figure out what genre you are–if you’re unsure. And you pretty much HAVE to know when you apply to MFA programs, which are completely taxonomical by genre track.

2. An MA gives you some time to mature. Right out of college, I applied to 10 MFA programs and was only accepted at two–and one of those with no funding. Given how many programs did not accept me, a few years writing on my own and/or an MA program would have given me and my work time to mature.

3. Completing an MA demonstrates that you really are ready for graduate study. As someone who used to teach in an MFA program, I can tell you that if I’m looking at two candidates, and their writing samples are about the same, and one has an MA under their belt–well, that says a lot about their ability to do well in an MFA program.

If you know of a great MA program in CW, please include a link to it in the comments!

CW Programs Teaching


  1. Maybe it’s so obvious as to not need saying but the MA, or any graduate degree, has value even if one is not intending to–or decides not to–go further into graduate study. Not to sound too pollyannish, but two years focusing on writing and learning is always time well spent, never wasted, even if you sell hot dogs. Maybe especially if you sell hot dogs.

  2. Rebekah Mays says:

    Thanks for collecting these thoughts and adding your own! A lot of these points resonate, but I especially like your point about genre. Some MFA programs let you mix genres a bit, but it’s good to know that it’s more flexible with an MA. Food for thought.

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