Is A Creative Writing Degree Worth It?

"All I have ever wanted to do since I was twelve years old is write. I hope to be a published author someday. I’m already working on my first novel, and I have really high hopes for it. Worse, there isn’t much else that I actually seem to enjoy all that much. When I think about the future, I see myself as an author, but not much else. And I know the odds are against me. I was wondering whether it’d be worth the thousands of dollars of student loan debt to major in creative writing, and whether that would ultimately help me succeed? Or should I major in something else? Or nothing?"

asked by Jeff from Bangor, ME

It is tough being a writer and knowing in your heart it is all that will make you happy. You are right though that it is extremely unlikely that you will ever make a living as an author of creative works. It is a one-in-a-million shot. That does not mean you should not take it, but you should also start thinking pragmatically about your future. Maybe there is no profession other than creative writing that will fill your life with happiness and meaning. But you still need to pay your bills, so you are going to need to find a job. And to that end, a college degree is still an excellent idea.

So should you major in creative writing or in something else? That is the next big question. The honest truth is that creative writing is not the world’s most useful, practical degree, though it is a bachelor’s degree. So whether or not it will pay off for you to major in it depends largely on what you would plan on using it for.

Creative writing can certainly be a fun degree, and it can help you to meet likeminded people who share your passion. It rarely leads to a job in creative writing though. It may help you land a gig in publishing or copyediting, but even that is a long shot since there is not a lot of demand.

Creative writing is a bachelor’s degree, however, which means you may be able to land a generic job in an unrelated field which requires a bachelor’s degree, but does not specify beyond that. You also may be able to go on to a graduate program in a related or unrelated field (you could even feasibly go on to medical school or law school).

I would however urge you to think about majoring in something unrelated (unless the ideas above appeal to you). As you have already stated, you probably are not going to find a lifetime of fulfillment through your day job.

A great day job that pays the bills and allows you to live in some comfort however can be your key to survival, and may enable you to spend less time worrying about where the next meal is going to come from and more time focusing on your writing. That does not mean you should pursue something you hate, but you should at least pursue something that you can tolerate.

You can love a job for what it gives you and allows you to do on a practical level, even if you are not passionate about the work. Look into advertising, PR, dental hygiene, nursing, and other high-demand fields.

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