Skip to main content
Publish date:

What is an M.F.A.?

Author:

Q: What exactly is an M.F.A. and how is it beneficial to writers? –Matthew G.

A: While the initials M.F.A. sound like an outer-space contraption that the government is trying to hide in the desert, it's actually a very valuable credential earned by some writers.

An M.F.A., or Master of Fine Arts, is one of the highest degrees you can earn in creative writing. Think of it as a graduate program for writers that includes workshops with other writers, instruction from dedicated faculty (including famous/successful writers) and vigorous deadlines. Typically you'll need a bachelor's degree to apply and most M.F.A. programs last about 2 years—though there are many options.

"There are large programs, small programs, full-time ones, part-time and low-residencies/long-distance programs," says M.F.A. Confidential blogger, Kate Monahan. "The key things to consider when picking a school are location, size of the program, on-campus vs. long-distance learning, available funding (many programs offer full-tuition), available faculty members, visiting authors, school’s ranking/reputation and potential teaching fellowships."

As for the benefits, the advantages of M.F.A. programs span from refining your writing skill-set to literary magazine assignments. But the most valuable jewel is that it grants you access to resources that are normally off-limits to writers, specifically research assistants, teaching opportunities and writing workshops with published authors (sometimes there are even one-on-one opportunities). These advantages helped Michael Chabon, Alice Sebold and Elizabeth Kostova—all alumni of M.F.A. programs—land book deals.

And if you're looking for a practical reason to enroll, Monahan has it: "The true importance of an M.F.A. program is finally giving yourself permission to take your writing seriously."

Amen to that.

Brian A. Klems is the online community editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwmedia.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line.

Looking for more?


Visit Writer's Digest Community

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is ending your story too soon.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes with Magic

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes With Magic

In this post, trained fighter and author Carla Hoch explores the process of writing fight scenes with magic—how to make the unbelievable believable, how limitations bring us closer to our characters, and more.

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

If you're a freelance writer who is able to secure assignments, an essential tool you'll need is an invoice. In this post, Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer shares a very basic and easy invoice template for freelance writers to get the job done (and get paid).

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

A career behind the curtain helped Amy Neswald in creating her own stories. Here, the author shares 3 things being a broadway wig master taught her about storytelling.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let things get a little out of control.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 14th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

After an intense writing challenge, you might feel a little lost. Here are some tips from Managing Editor and fellow Wrimo Moriah Richard for capitalizing on your momentum.

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Ian Douglas discusses how he incorporated implausible conspiracy theories to uncover the truth in his new science fiction novel, Alien Hostiles.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 589

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a yesterday poem.