Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Creative Writing

Since people first started using written words, finding ways to creatively express ideas has been at the forefront of thought. In the current day and age where billions of words are strung together each and every day, uniquely conveying thoughts and emotions remains a central concern of anyone who writes. If you want to write fiction, poetry, or any pieces of writing outside the normal confines of nonfiction, creative writing is an academic discipline that can yield beneficial results.

An online creative writing degree opens wide the doors of expressive thought by helping you find your voice and hone your skills in writing about many different topics. You’ll learn about different genres, read notable authors who are masters of their form of writing, develop an editor’s eye, and write a long-form piece as part of your graduation requirements. By completing an online MFA instead of a bachelor’s degree, you’ll be better positioned for jobs while also having a more finely developed understanding of what makes for exceptional creative writing.

Words are essential to our day-to-day existence as a society, and they’re just as important to consumers, be they readers of your fiction or those listening to the President’s State of the Union address. After completing an online English master’s degree, countless opportunities exist to work as an independent author or for a company, organization, or agency. Although positions for writers and authors are only set to grow by 2% in the coming years, there are many jobs held by graduates of a master’s in writing online that don’t fit in this box. If you do happen to snag a role with this title, expect to bring home about $60,000 per year.

Like many other artistic fields, creative writing runs the gamut in terms of workload and salaries. While the starving artist image is certainly still valid, other writers find incredible success. But until those royalty checks start rolling in from that award-winning screenplay, it’s important to find a fully-accredited online program that won’t cost an arm and a leg. The list below recognizes 50 creative writing programs that are respected in the field but also committed to affordability.

7 Most Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Creative Writing
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The University of Texas at El Paso

Value Score 8.72
Average Tuition $4,336
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 36%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $241

Students from anywhere in the world can earn an online English master’s degree at The University of Texas at El Paso. UTEP is a global leader in distance education, and the school offers an affordable MFA in creative writing entirely online. The curriculum includes 14 online courses with an emphasis on workshop learning. In addition to workshops, students will receive a foundational education in theory and form through intensive literature courses. The program concludes with a thesis project where graduates produce a publishable manuscript in poetry or fiction. Graduates also leave the program qualified to teach English and creative writing courses at the collegiate level. Applicants must submit a writing sample and have earned a bachelor’s degree to be considered. This program places no limits on the number of students who can be accepted in any given application cycle.

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University of Arkansas at Monticello

Value Score 8.31
Average Tuition $4,590
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 72%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $255

UAM is known for its affordability, permitting students from several states to pay in-state tuition. The online MFA program at UAM emphasizes creative writing, critical thinking, and literary analysis. The 48-credit curriculum includes an extensive writer workshop where students discuss writing and literature with their peers in group critiques and receive feedback from their faculty mentor. Each student is accepted into one of three genres: fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. Students have the opportunity to attend pre-approved writers conferences anywhere in the world as a part of their 18 credits of electives. In the final thesis course, students will produce a book-length manuscript that must be deemed publishable by their faculty mentor and another faculty member. Students can use UAM’s writing center for free writing suggestions and support throughout the program. Students can move through the program at their own pace, as long as they take at least three credit hours per academic term.

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National University

Value Score 7.94
Average Tuition $10,962
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 79%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $406

The San Diego-based National University has 18 campuses around the U.S. and offers several affordable online degrees. With classes in nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and screenwriting, National’s online creative writing degree is designed for students who want to break into publishing and filmmaking, or teach creative writing at the university level. Students can expect to study the practical and theoretical aspects of language, rhetoric, literary format, and narrative techniques. National’s program stands out for its specialization in screenwriting, a rarity among other creative writing curriculums. The curriculum provides students a strong background in all types of writing and emphasizes reading from a writer’s perspective. Students are encouraged to choose literature courses for their electives, as the critical study of literature and its composition go hand-in-hand. Students can gain experience by contributing to the GNU, the student literary journal, during the program.

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Lindenwood University

Value Score 6.53
Average Tuition $15,672
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 20%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $453

Lindenwood University, a private school based out of Saint Charles, Missouri, offers a cheap online creative writing degree to students around the world. Lindenwood offers online and evening classes, which allows students to earn an MFA in creative writing on a busy schedule without sacrificing the advantages of studying at a university. Students in Lindenwood’s MFA in creative writing can complete the program on-campus or completely online and can specialize their studies in fiction, journalism, screenwriting, literary nonfiction, novel writing, genre fiction poetry, and more. The program provides a foundational education in writing fundamentals and workshopping, as well as “selected emphasis” courses and electives that can be tailored to a student’s interests. Online and on-campus MFA students work collaboratively with the same faculty, who are published authors, writers, and journalists. The curriculum includes 48 credit hours and a thesis project where students will create a 70–100 page manuscript. Students also have the opportunity to polish their writing by publishing in the school’s Lindenwood Review.

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Bennington College

Value Score 5.33
Average Tuition $19,540
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 87%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $1,983

Vermont’s Bennington College has produced many famous writers, including Bret Easton Ellis, Kiran Desai, Donna Tartt, and Michael Pollan. Bennington’s online English master’s degree encourages students to become a part of this rich tradition. Started in 1994, this program was one of the first online MFAs in the country. This low-residency program requires a 10-day residency at the scenic Bennington campus, and all other classes are offered online. Students can focus their studies in fiction, nonfiction, or poetry; they can also combine any two for a dual-genre focus. Bennington emphasizes reading and mentorship, and students consistently work closely with established writers. The program’s 5-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio makes it easy for mentors to spend quality time with all of their students. Students can take advantage of several scholarships to make this program even more affordable, including PEN’s Emerging Writers Fellows.

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Bay Path University

Value Score 5.29
Average Tuition $20,385
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 29%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $755

Bay Path University is a leader in online education. Bay Path made history in 2015 by founding The American Women’s College, the first fully-online degree program designed just for women. The school offers 22 distance learning programs, including a master's in writing online. The 39-credit online MFA in creative nonfiction can be completed either full- or part-time and is available completely online. Bay Path uses small class sizes to help students develop personal relationships with their peers. Establishing this rapport with professors and peers is crucial for having successful writing workshop. Unlike other online creative writing degrees, Bay Path gives students the opportunity to pursue several disciplines, including travel writing, food writing, magazine writing, journalism, memoir writing, and more. Bay Path students have the option to attend a summer writing seminar in Ireland. The one week stay in the seaside town of Dingle includes writing workshops with Irish writers and alumni of the MFA in creative writing program.

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Wilkes University

Value Score 5.13
Average Tuition $21,600
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 69%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $970

Wilkes University is a versatile option for students seeking to earn a master’s in writing online. The school’s MA/MFA in creative writing covers several areas of study, including fiction, poetry, screenwriting, playwriting, creative nonfiction, publishing, and documentary filmmaking. The filmmaking aspects of the curriculum make this MFA program particularly distinctive. This program has two convenient formats: low-residency and weekender. The low-residency format is hosted mostly online with two eight-day campus residencies in January and June. The weekender option substitutes those campus residencies with four weekend sessions per semester. These in-person components include visits from guest speakers, networking opportunities, and collaboration with peers, faculty, and writing experts. Applicants should note the importance of writing samples in the application packet. The school’s websites states quite clearly that “90% of acceptance decisions are based on your writing sample.” Wilkes hosts the Pennsylvania Writers Conference, an annual gathering of readers and writers designed to engage, empower, and educate the literary community. This conference is a popular professional development and networking resources for students in the MFA.

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