Free Online Writing Courses

Colleges that offer a writing degree commonly offer specializations under the umbrella of English studies. Depending on the college, these specializations may include technical writing, creative writing and journalism, among other subjects. For the purpose of this introduction to a writing-oriented education, we will focus on two popular specializations: creative writing and technical writing. The creative writing route is a great option for individuals who enjoy expressing themselves through the written word.

These students will learn a variety of writing forms such as novels, short stories, poetry, memoirs, and literary essays. Technical writing, a specialization more suited to the technically minded student, emphasizes the creation of scientific research reports, employee manuals, data management systems and product user guides. This guide will detail sample courses, specializations, degree types, and recommended resources for both technical and creative writing degrees.

Sample Courses

Most undergraduate writing programs start with introductory composition classes, during which students learn the basics of formatted writing, including the ever-popular essay format and all of its subformats. Students also gain basic skills such as rhetoric and critical analysis. Undergraduates will then move on to upper division courses that go in depth with technical or creative writing.

Upper division technical writing courses emphasize clear and concise writing, a necessary skill for providing resource documents for employees, product users and scientific researchers. Some courses may focus on specific industries, such as the case in writing for consumer instruction manuals, for example.

Upper division creative writing courses are usually dedicated to specific formats and styles. In poetry classes, students will learn about different syllable meters and linguistic concepts like enjambment, which helps writers control the pace, flow and meaning of their verses. Longform writing courses, such as a novel or memoir writing workshops, can provide students with a safe environment to share their work and gain valuable feedback.

Possible Specializations

Creative writing and technical writing are sometimes categorized as specialties, though some colleges offer further specialization in sub-categories such as poetry for creative writing and grant writing for technical writing students.

Degree Types

All degree types, from the associate level to the doctoral level, are offered to English majors. Before you begin your application process, it’s important to evaluate the type of job you would like to have post-graduation, so you can choose a degree type based on your goal. The following section offers our recommendation on degree types for a variety of writing careers.

Associate

Students can pursue both creative and technical writing at the associate degree level. Due to the limited amount of time (generally two years), writing students will only learn the basics of composition, as well as a limited introduction to specialized classes like creative fiction for creative writing students and information design for technical writing students.

Bachelor’s

Students in this program will generally spend the first two years taking introductory writing courses and other prerequisites like math and science, followed by two years of upper division or speciality classes that go in-depth on a variety of subjects. Creative writers have a wide breadth of media- and entertainment-related careers to choose from, such as freelance journalist, novelist, drama critic or playwright. Technical writing graduates who earn their bachelor’s degree can explore career opportunities with scientific, technical and government research organizations.

Master’s

Students who commit to a master’s degree track in creative writing will get to hone their skills within one or two writing forms. They are usually expected to complete a long-term creative project, such as a novel or poetry collection, by the end of their master’s program. Both creative and technical writers who graduate with this degree will qualify for editorial positions in newsrooms, publishing houses and marketing departments.

Ph.D.

Doctoral level graduates in the creative and technical writing fields often pursue teaching roles within academic institutions. These students dedicate their time and research to the writing specializations they chose as undergrads or master’s students. Those who look outside of academia can qualify for director, editorial or administrative roles within publication environments.

Students can explore merit-based funding and networking opportunities by joining national honors societies such as Sigma Tau Delta. Those who wish to develop professional contacts, stay on top of current industry news and find continuing education resources should consider membership with the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs or the Society for Technical Communication.

Ideal Candidates for Writing

Since nearly two-thirds of writers are self-employed, professional writers must have the drive and self motivation to stay on task, as well as the ability to fill out their own employment and tax paperwork. The ability to meet deadlines is crucial for professional writers as well, making this field a good option for people who are conscientious and efficient with their time. Writers able to complete their assignments by deadlines are valued within newsrooms, PR departments and publishing houses. Professional writers must also think outside-of-the-box, as they are often expected to come up with their own topics for news articles, stories or content.

Career Pathways

Technical and creative writers enjoy a fair amount of scheduling and work environment flexibility, since their main tools are a computer and the Internet. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for writers is $55,940 a year, or about $26.89 an hour. Technical writers may enjoy a better career outlook post-graduation, as the information industry provides the highest percentage of writing jobs, followed by technical and scientific services industries.

Aspiring writers who are thinking about applying to a degree program should leverage English department faculty members, college admissions teams, financial aid offices and current students as resources. Professional societies, local news editors and college career offices can be great sources of information for students examining their career options after graduating with a writing degree.

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Featured Article

Operators Are Standing By

2014-03-16

Has this ever happened to you? You’re lingering by the canapés at a cocktail party when a stranger comes up and asks, “And what do you do?”

You say, “I write novels.”

He says, “The novel is dead,” and throws a drink in your face.

Maybe you’re at the misfit table at the wedding of a college friend. The bride’s second cousin turns to you and says: “I heard you’re a writer. What do you write?”

Colson Whitehead, New York Times
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Writing in the News

Source: Writers Digest

Our Favorite Writing Blogs

Writing Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • College English

      Another journal from the NCTE, this is a "professional journal for the college scholar-teacher" and publishes articles about "literature, rhetoric-composition, critical theory" and other topics.

    • English Journal

      Published by the National Council of Teachers of English, this journal has an academic slant but also provides a wealth of information on the writing process.

    • Journal of Technical Writing and Communication

      This journal aims to "meet the diverse communication needs of industry, management, government and academia."

    • JSTOR

      Though not a journal in and of itself, JSTOR is one of the most-used collections of literary journals in the country, compiling academic writing across all subjects.

    • Mid-American Review

      An international journal from Bowling Green State University features "the best contemporary fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and translations."

  • Trade Magazines

    • New England Review

      This magazine, widely respected since 1978, accepts writers' submissions and publishes those stories and articles nationally.

    • The New Yorker

      One of the most well-known literary magazines, The New Yorker is also one of the oldest and includes a circulation of over a million readers.

    • The Writer Magazine

      Geared toward a modern audience, this magazine includes practical examples of improved writing and solutions to writing problems, literary magazine profiles ...

    • Writer's Digest

      One of the longstanding trade magazines in writing, this publication includes articles on fiction and nonfiction writing, publishing, marketing, and many other ...

    • Yale Review

      With a decidedly scholarly audience, this magazine features fiction, poetry, and critical book reviews from submitting authors.

Writing Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • Anderson Center Residency Program

      Deadline: February 1 for May-July residency; March 1 for August-October residency

      Award Amount: Paid workspace, room, and board

      Through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Anderson Center offers residencies for artists and writers during the summer and fall, allowing writers to both work and present that ...

    • National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships

      Deadline: Poetry, March 12; others TBD

      Award Amount: $25,000

      The organization offers fellowships for writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry each year, allowing writers to "set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement."

    • Nevada Arts Council

      Deadline: Rolling

      Award Amount: Varies by project

      The Nevada Arts Council provides rollling grants to "Nevada's contemporary, folk and traditional artists of distinction," including writers.

    • Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowships

      Deadline: April 1 and October 1

      Award Amount: Varies by project

      RISCA offers fellowships for creative artists from all disciplines, including writing, aiming to provide artists with the funds and time to "pursue their work and achieve specific creative and career ...

    • Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellowships

      Deadline: February 28

      Award Amount: $27,000

      This fellowship is awarded as an academic year in residence at the University, in addition to the monetary award, and is usually given to up to six writers working on a first book of either poetry or ...

  • Scholarships

    • Al Neuharth Free Spirit Award

      Deadline: February 1

      Award Amount: $1,000

      This scholarship, which consists of both a monetary award and a trip to Washington D.C. for a student from each state, is given to high school juniors with an ...

    • Live Poets Society of New Jersey: National High School Poetry Contest

      Deadline: March 31, June 30, September 30, December 31

      Award Amount: $100 to $2,500

      All high school students are eligible for this poetry contest, which requires unpublished poetry of 20 lines or less.

    • National 10-minute Play Contest

      Deadline: November 1

      Award Amount: $1,000

      Open to applicants of all ages, this scholarship is awarded by the Actors Theater of Louisville and seeks to find and put on plays from new playwrights.

    • National YoungArts Foundation

      Deadline: October 18

      Award Amount: $250 to $10,000

      Awarding scholarships in nonfiction, novel, poetry, play or script, and short story, this foundation asks for writing portfolios from students aged 15-18 or in ...

    • New York Financial Writers Association Scholarship

      Deadline: April 15

      Award Amount: $3,000

      This scholarship is designed for journalism students in New York City, either undergraduate or graduate, and requires interest in a business or financial ...

    • Robert G. Zimmerman Scholarship

      Deadline: March 1

      Award Amount: $5,000

      One of the country's most prestigious awards, the National Press Club gives this scholarship to a high school senior interested in journalism.

    • Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

      Deadline: Varies by partnering college/university

      Award Amount: Total of $250,000

      "Teens in grades 7 through 12 can apply in 28 categories of art and writing for the chance to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published."

Writing Internships

  • AAAS Minority Science Writers Internship

    Deadline: March 1

    Offered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, this 10-week internship gives minority students interested in journalism the chance to work with Science magazine over the summer.

  • Columbia University Press

    Deadline: Varies

    The national publisher offers college or recent graduate internships in marketing and sales, subsidiary rights, editing, and possibly other areas.

  • CQ Press Summer Internship

    Deadline: Rolling

    CQ Press, part of SAGE Publications, is looking for a 10-week intern to help with research and written publications specific to the governmental sector.

  • Folio Literary Management

    Deadline: Varies

    The organization offers a wide range of internships with authors and publishers and also gives college students the chance to attend a 12-week "Intern Academy" as part of their experience.

  • Grove Atlantic

    Deadline: August 1, December 1, and May 1

    This publisher offers college juniors, seniors and recent graduates the chance to learn about the publishing industry, subsidiary rights, editing, and publicity in writing.

  • HarperCollins Summer Internship

    Deadline: TBD

    The publisher aims to give interns a "broad introduction into the world of book publishing while immersed in the daily activities of a specific group."

  • Marina Maher Communications Summer Internship

    Deadline: Rolling

    Interns at Marina Mahler may be graduate or undergraduate students and will be asked to help with press releases, media monitoring, conducting research, coordinating media efforts and other tasks.

  • Oregon Public Broadcasting

    Deadline: Varies

    The public radio station offers a wide variety of internships that may fit writing students, including positions in educational media, web copy, news, and production.

  • Poets & Writers Internships

    Deadline: TBD

    The trade magazine offers winter internships for high school or college students interested in the literary world, grants, journalism, and writing for nonprofits.

  • Smithsonian Magazine

    Deadline: April 1

    Smithsonian offers both an editorial internship and a digital internship for undergraduates or recent graduates who have a "proven aptitude for writing and web journalism skills."

Writing Student & Professional Organizations

  • Student Organizations

    • English Graduate Student Association

      Part of George Washington University, this organization is one of the country's premier professional and social organizations for students of writing, offering ...

    • Professional Writers Club

      Formed by Purdue University, this student organization aims to provide English and writing students with "social, academic, and career opportunities" and often ...

    • Sigma Delta Tau

      As the International English Honor Society, this organization "strives to confer distinction for achievement in English language and literature in ...

    • Student Association of Graduates in English (SAGE)

      Not to be confused with SAGE Publishing, this Kansas State Group is improving English students' experience and knowledge.

    • Writer's Bloc

      A strong student organization at Iowa State University, Writer's Bloc is "devoted to promoting outlets of creative expression for writers and visual artists."

  • Professional Organizations