I Have an MFA. What Now? 6 Career Paths for MFA Graduates

You're a writer with an MFA. What now? Editor Chelsea Henshey shares six possible career paths for writing MFA graduates here.
Author:
Publish date:

The MFA degree is of the utmost importance—until someone asks you what your plans are after graduation. Don’t know what to do with your MFA? You’re not alone. Here’s some advice to help you decide.

6 Career Paths for Writing MFA Graduates

Teaching

Before you even graduate, you’re most likely going to work in a Writing Center and/or teach undergraduate courses for your university English Department. This not only pays some or all of your tuition, but provides you with work experience. If teaching is your passion, you have two to three years of experience under your belt and valuable connections in the field of academia.

(6 Things Teaching Taught Me About My Own Writing.)

Here’s where things get complicated: Sans one or two successful books, with an MFA, you’re most likely going to be an adjunct professor, and if you’re lucky, a full-time lecturer. And, in most cases, you’ll be teaching composition rather than creative writing. In order to be a lecturer or professor of creative writing, you’ll need published books and, in nine out of ten cases, a PhD.

The PhD

A PhD in creative writing is a popular option. You get three to five more years to hone your craft, immerse yourself in a community of writers, and gain additional teaching experience and opportunities. For many of us, it’s a natural choice. The problem is, how do you find the time to apply to PhD programs during the final semester of your MFA?

I think we all remember the application process for the MFA. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking to say the least. Now, imagine wading through this process in the midst of your thesis. Can it be done? Of course. Do you want to do it? That’s another story. Taking a year to save up for application fees, doing your research, and revising your sample (most likely the thesis you’ve just finished), could increase your chances of acceptance. And once you have that PhD, you’ll have increased teaching opportunities and a better salary.

Editorial

So what happens if you don’t want to teach? Some MFA programs have students working as part of the editorial staff of their affiliated literary magazine. In my case, I worked as reader for two years and assistant fiction editor for one year, but other students in my program worked as managing editors and online editors. Editorial skills are extremely valuable and transferable. Check editorial listings for magazines, book publishers, newspapers, websites, webinars, etc. In addition, you’ll find you’re qualified for copyediting, proofreading, and indexing jobs.

*****

Copyediting

Writer's Digest is proud to offer our Copyediting Certificate Program. This workshop will provide training for aspiring copy editors in order to give them practical and marketable workplace skills. As a student in this certification course, you will progress from the fundamentals of grammar, form, and composition to advanced copyediting skills.

Click to continue.

*****

Freelance

Editing not your thing? Use your MFA to write copy for advertising agencies and websites, write articles and reviews for newspapers, or write proposals, case studies, grants, speeches, etc. While most of these opportunities are freelance, with a little creativity and organization, you can manage your own freelancing business.

(How much should writers charge per word or per project?)

Stay in Touch

One of the best aspects of the MFA is the opportunity to work and study in a community of writers. This doesn’t have to end after graduation. Don’t forget to stay in touch with fellow writers and advisors. When you’re knee-deep in a manuscript and need a critique, ask the readers you know you can trust.

Keep Writing

The most important thing to remember once you complete your MFA is to keep writing. It sounds obvious, but it’s much harder than you think. Once you leave that community, once your thesis is defended, bound, and slid onto your bookshelf beside your favorite writer (or hidden on the bottom shelf), it’s difficult to know where to start, and without a deadline and advisor, procrastination is an easy option. The reality is, it’s time to get serious. Unlike the last three years, you’re going to have to schedule your writing around a full-time job. Yes, you’re busy. Yes, you have things to do. But make sure to take a moment and remember why you wanted that MFA in the first place.

20 Authors Share Their Biggest Surprise in the Writing Process

20 Authors Share Their Biggest Surprises in the Writing Process

Experienced writers know to expect the unexpected. Here are surprises in the writing process from 20 authors, including Amanda Jayatissa, Paul Neilan, Kristin Hannah, and Robert Jones, Jr.

Ruth Hogan: On Infusing Personal Interests in Fiction

Ruth Hogan: On Infusing Personal Interests in Fiction

Author Ruth Hogan discusses the process of learning a new skill in writing her new novel, The Moon, The Stars and Madame Burova.

Do You Find an Editor or Agent First?

Do You Find an Editor or Agent First?

It's a common question asked by writers looking to get their first book published: Do you find an editor or agent first? The answer depends on each writer's situation.

writer's digest wd presents

WDU Presents: 7 New WDU Courses, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new WDU courses, a chance at publication, and more!

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

Editor is a very broad term in the publishing industry that can mean a variety of things. Tiffany Yates Martin reveals what a professional editor is and why writers should consider using one.

From Script

How to Find the Right Reader for Feedback, Writing Female Characters and Tapping into Emotionally Authentic Characters (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script Magazine, read film reviews from Tom Stemple, part three of writing female characters, interviews with Free Guy scribes Zak Penn and Matt Lieberman, The Eyes of Tammy Faye screenwriter Abe Sylvia, and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Chasing Trends

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is chasing trends in writing and publishing.

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Lessons Learned From Self-Publishing My Picture Book

Author Dawn Secord shares her journey toward self-publishing a picture book featuring her Irish Setter named Bling.

Poetic Forms

Crown of Sonnets: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the crown of sonnets, a form that brings together seven sonnets in a special way.