Creative Writing PhDs

Getting a PhD in creative writing is still a pretty new concept. Right now there are only thirty-two programs in the entire United States that offer PhD programs in English with creative dissertations. Because it is so new and rare, the MFA is still considered the terminal degree for creative writing at this point, but as MFA graduates become more and more prevalent, the hiring world is now looking for applicants with their doctoral degree. In fact, in the last few years some universities have begun to require it. So, what can you expect from a PhD in creative writing, what are its benefits, and how do you go about applying?


Completing a PhD in Creative Writing

A PhD in English with a creative dissertation at many universities, basically means a literature PhD plus creative writing. Some will even have you turn in a mini literature review dissertation, in addition to your creative dissertation. These programs will usually have you taking three classes at a time, one workshop and two literature classes, though the final year is normally spent entirely on your thesis. Sometimes one of those literature classes will be substituted for a language class, so that the student may meet the foreign language requirement. There are those programs that are heavily workshop based and will tip the workflow in the studio direction. All, though, do have a heavy concentration on literature.

The benefits of a PhD in creative writing are many-fold. One is professional experience. Make sure when choosing your program, you choose one that suits your professional interests. Some programs will offer you funding to teach. If this is something you would like to gain experience in, than choose the program that will allow you teaching experience in the kind of classroom you wish to pursue (like creative writing, literature, or composition). If, instead, you would like to pursue a career in publishing, many schools will offer you funding if you work on their literary magazine. If you wish to go that route, than choose a school with a prestigious magazine that would look good on a future resume. Also, a PhD program will provide you with seasoned mentors and a tight-knit community. You will meet people who are just as focused as you, in the exact same areas as you. Plus, most PhD programs are small. Therefore, the bond you forge with your peers will be even stronger than the ones you made in your undergraduate or master's careers.

Applying to a Creative Writing PhD Program

So, what does one need in order to apply for a PhD in creative writing? You will need a few things. First, you must take the GRE. Most people have already taken this when they applied for their master’s programs. Just make sure you have taken it in the last few years because the scores expire. You will also need to take the GRE literature subject test. Most PhD programs will have a minimum score that you must meet for this test. Furthermore, you will need writing samples, letters of recommendations, and transcripts, just like you did in the MFA application process. In addition to that, most schools require you to submit a critical essay, so that they can be sure you are up to par when it comes to literature.

Now that you know the benefits of a PhD in creative writing and what you need for your application, it’s time to apply. Poets & Writers magazine has a list of the top fifteen programs that offer PhDs in creative writing: http://www.pw.org/files/doctoral_secured_0.pdf. So, begin your search today and further yourself!