How to build the career you want with a creative writing degree
It all depends on what you want next.
I want to share a personal story with you about my journey to find a career that complimented my desire to write. Hopefully, you'll learn how to use any degree, even one in creative writing, to craft the kind of profession and life you want.
Writing is a core skill
I bounced between a few different majors during my undergraduate years. I started as a mechanical engineering major and, after half-a-dozen changes, graduated with a degree in classical and medieval studies (CLAM for short).
Throughout it all, my focus was on writing. I learned to write technical documents, academic papers, short stories, persuasive essays, and more. I even had a few small pieces published. But still, I had no idea how to turn my writing passion into a career. Neither did anyone around me.
So, I went to graduate school… twice!
And it was during this time that I learned the most important lesson any writer can know.
Even though writing is important to every industry, writers are often the least paid workers. But with just a few small shifts, you can change this for yourself and earn what you deserve.
Where can you get a creative writing degree
Before we jump into the opportunities below, I wanted to highlight how accessible a writing degree can be.
In the US, approximately 400 colleges offer creative writing degrees. That doesn't include the 200 Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs offering writing concentrations.
These numbers tell me two things:
- First, there is a huge demand for writing education. People want to learn this skill, and incredibly talented people love to teach it.
- Second, there are more opportunities for writers than you might think. Hundreds of programs mean thousands of people are graduating every year and finding a way to realize their dreams.
What jobs can you get with a creative writing degree
Alright, here’s where I explain the small shift that could lead to big breaks: find an industry you're curious about and learn how they use writing. What I've found is that the most writing-intense jobs with the highest salaries do not have "writer" in the title.
For example, marketing careers all refer to writing as content. In most software companies, there’s technical documentation. Many remote customer service positions are much more writing-focused than outsiders imagine. Then there are adjacent opportunities in communications, public relations, journalism, and editing.
All of the ones we’ve mentioned focus on the traditional career path. For creative writers who aren’t afraid of a little more risk, the creator economy has opened countless new doors. Now it’s easier than ever for entrepreneurial individuals to make a living by starting newsletters and blogs, self-publishing books, ghostwriting for executives, and more.
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How to find the right writing career for you
My own story has been a winding path of discovery. I spent a decade in higher education while building a book publishing company. In the next phase, I became a full-time freelance writer and landed a big contract with an amazing software company.
Currently, I’m in a career position where I get to work on massive-scale content projects (with 6- and 7-figure budgets) and write articles like this, for myself and clients, in my off-hours.
After publishing some 4 million words over the last decade, here are my best tips for finding your perfect fit.
- Experiment often. The more you try things, the faster you’ll get answers. Start a blog or newsletter, self-publish a fiction story, pick up a few freelance projects in different industries — and pay attention to what sticks.
- Interview experts. Research what the actual day-to-day tasks look like for a profession you're considering. Be honest about your strengths and preferences, so you don't mistakenly pursue what you think you should want instead of optimizing for what you need.
- Be limitless. Never feel limited by your degree, background, network, or anything else. If you know how to write well, the world is your oyster. Treat it that way.
- Keep flexible goals. Finally, don’t be afraid to shift along the way. Follow your curiosity; say yes to things that scare you. And always be proud of what you produce.
Your creative writing degree can open any door you choose, given enough effort and persistence. But if you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of options available, the solution is simple. Focus on the next right step, and watch the journey take care of itself.