Master’s in Writing vs MFA - What’s the Difference?

A man in a blue button down and grey pants sits on a couch with a laptop on his lap. He is looking up, thinking whether he should pursue a Master's in Writing or an MFA in Writing.

Strong storytelling has the power to create an emotional connection between a writer and their audience. Through this creative outlet, writers can communicate their unique experiences and perspectives in a way that deeply resonates with others — developing a sense of empathy, trust, and love for the arts.

If you’re looking for ways to strengthen your writing skills to model this connection, entering a graduate-level writing program — an M.A. or an MFA — may be your next step.

What is a Master’s in Writing?

A Master of Writing degree is a graduate program designed to expand career-focused professionals’ knowledge of written art and craft. In this program, students study writing and literature in a variety of genres while taking writing pedagogy courses and learning editing skills.

When you enroll in a master’s in writing program, you’ll likely be asked to select a concentration, such as:

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Poetry

What is an MFA?

A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree is a terminal degree designed for students who are passionate about a particular creative field or art. MFA students learn by gaining practical experience in their field of interest along with its history, classical works, and facts.

MFA programs span broad academic disciplines of art, including:

  • Writing
  • Dance
  • Fashion design
  • Filmmaking
  • Visual Arts
  • Theatre

If you decide to pursue an MFA degree in Writing, you’ll likely be asked to select a concentration:

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Poetry
  • Screenwriting

M.A. in Writing vs. MFA in writing

While both an M.A. in Writing and an M.F.A. in Writing are very similar graduate-level degrees, they differ in teaching opportunities, program length and degree type.


What are the differences between an M.A. in Writing and an MFA in Writing?

Earning an M.A. in Writing before pursuing a terminal degree provides an opportunity to get trained in writing pedagogy. This will make you a stronger applicant for MFA and Ph.D. programs because you will be already trained to teach. Hence, by earning an M.A. first, you may be able to get into better terminal degree programs. 

Who are you called to be?
Pursue your purpose at PLNU.

What are the similarities between an M.A. in Writing and an MFA in Writing?


Both master’s in writing and MFA degrees focus on the discipline’s particular craft, including its history and academics. This is great for those who are passionate about writing because at no other point in life will someone pay you for your academic writing.


Although both of these graduate programs heavily emphasize written craft, you’re not required to have a bachelor’s degree in English or creative writing to apply. Applicants of M.A. in Writing and MFA in Writing programs must hold any bachelor’s degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution.

While application requirements may vary depending on the program, applicants are likely asked to submit the following:

  • Official transcripts
  • Letter of recommendation
  • CV/Resume
  • Portfolio/Creative writing sample
  • Teaching statement

Collaborative Space

In both M.A. in Writing and MFA in Writing programs, graduate students are guided under the supervision of a faculty member. Students will also collaborate with their peers in writing workshops and perform advanced creative work for formal audiences.

Oftentimes, both of these higher education programs offer graduate teaching assistant positions, where full-time graduate students can aid in teaching an undergraduate curriculum, evaluate student assignments, and lead classroom discussions.


While not all master’s programs require a thesis, many do. For example, students in PLNU’s M.A. in Writing program will complete a master’s thesis — an independent thesis project written under the guidance of a faculty member at the culmination of their degree program.

Similarly, all MFA students are required to complete a thesis. Since the program is terminal, the thesis serves as a demonstration of your professional competency in written art. It is also your proof of artistic mastery through the creation of a body of work that contributes to, builds on, or extends knowledge in your written concentration.

Post-Grad Connections

Both M.A. in Writing and MFA in Writing students are provided with a strong professional network, as they are able to receive feedback and guidance from experienced faculty and peers. These programs also grant students access to publishing and literary communities.

Career opportunities with a Master of Writing degree

A master’s in writing program will prepare you for a wide variety of literary styles, genres, formats, and audiences. The knowledge and experience you’ll gain will help you lead a successful and fulfilling career in a variety of areas, including:

  • Journalism
  • Nonprofit or governmental organizations
  • Editing and publishing
  • Fiction and nonfiction
  • Higher education

Four careers that an M.A. in Writing will equip you for:

1. College Professor

Median annual salary: $76,920 (per BLS)
Projected growth from 2021 to 2031: 12%

2. Copywriter

Median Annual Salary: $64,855 (per ZipRecruiter)
Projected growth from 2021 to 2031: 4%

3. Communications specialist

Median annual salary: $58,370 (per ZipRecruiter)
Projected growth from 2021 to 2031: 6%

4. Social media manager 

Median annual salary: $54,358 (per ZipRecruiter)
Projected growth from 2021 to 2031: 10%

Careers opportunities with an MFA in Writing

With an MFA degree, you can establish a career in local newspapers and magazines, advertising agencies, freelance writing businesses, or schools. Depending on your state’s requirements, you may be able to teach at primary and secondary schools, or as an adjunct in higher education.

Four careers that an MFA in Writing will prepare you for:

1. College professor

Median annual salary: $165,081 (per
Projected growth from 2021 to 2031: 12%

2. Technical writer

Median annual salary: $78,060 (per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Projected growth from 2021 to 2031: 6%

3. Literary agent

Median annual salary: $51,293 (per ZipRecruiter)
Projected Growth from 2021 to 2031: 11%

4. Columnist

Median annual salary: $76,135 (per
Projected growth from 2021 to 2031: 4%

Which should I choose?

Talk to an admissions counselor to see which program is right for you!

If you want to develop a deeper understanding of how to faithfully expand the art and craft of your writing and its pedagogy, check out PLNU’s Master’s in Writing program. This two-year program will strengthen your practice in fiction, nonfiction, or poetry through a flexible curriculum and expert mentorship. You’ll also have the opportunity to be selected for various graduate teaching assistant positions!

Apply Now

Request Info