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Graduate School in English, Creative Writing, and Related Disciplines

About 40% of Wilmington students say they are considering graduate school--consistent with national averages. There are many fields and specializations one can choose. Some considerations about the different kinds of programs follow below, as well as links to useful resources, with an emphasis on programs available in south-central Ohio and the adjoining areas.

MFA or Ph.D. in Creative Writing

Creative Writing has long been one of the most popular concentrations for English majors. While students are urged to appreciate that it is not a "professional" field of study in that, like music, it is unlikely one can secure full-time employment as such, it is nonetheless something human beings need to do on some level, and get great satisfaction from doing. Everyone owes it to themselves to be good at something besides their 9-to-5 job specialty--if writing poetry or plays is that thing for you, then why not? As the mythologist Joseph Campbell always said: "Follow your bliss." At the same time, there is a practical side: communications skills may be the most highly valued that you can bring to a prospective employer, and an MFA demonstrates not only the ability to write clearly, but with style. Furthermore, the popularity of creative writing studies means there certainly is a demand for qualified instructors, at both two-year and four-year colleges.

The appropriate credential for one who would teach collegiate creative writing has long been the MFA, with concomitant demonstrated success in publication of one's work. However, in recent years the Ph.D. in creative writing has become far more common, with over 40 American graduate programs offering the degree. As the number of tenure-track faculty jobs in American colleges and universities continues to stagnate or decline, the competition for the remaining jobs can only intensify. The Ph.D. programs are intended to provide one with the professional background and range of expertise suitable for a faculty member in an English department, where the doctorate has long been the standard requirement for scholars of literary studies.

The list at the bottom of this page links to programs in our area which offer MFAs, Ph.D.s in Creative Writing, and MAs in English and related fields (note that while Ohio University offers a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, they do not offer an MFA as such, although their MA can take a Creative Writing focus).

MA in English Literature

The Master's Degree in English, besides its obvious interest for those who wish to continue their study of literature, is one of the two graduate degrees acceptable for the requirement for high-school English teachers seeking tenured positions; the M.Ed. is the other. While it is sometimes anticipated that Ohio will follow the lead of other states and at some point also restrict this requirement to the English MA only, as of this writing no firm prediction of when this will happen can be made.

High-school teachers or teacher candidates are generally expected to complete a master's degree on a part-time/night-school/summer-school basis, while employed full-time in teaching duties. Unfortunately, those who have an MA in hand may be at a disadvantage when seeking initial employment, since their initial hiring-in would have to be at a higher pay scale; it appears that this does not commonly happen.

Those who wish to pursue an academic degree are urged to attend a full-time, day-school, competitive-admissions MA program, since this is the best preparation for determining whether you wish to go on to a Ph.D.

Ph.D. in English Literature

The decision to seek a Ph.D. in English is not an easy one. The number of permanent faculty positions in American colleges continues to decrease, and the competition for those remaining becomes ever more intense. In brief, a student who wishes to pursue the "professor track" is urged to apply to numerous programs; to make every effort to get into one of the 12 highest-rated programs nationwide; and to be willing to move to whatever geographic location in the U.S. may subsequently provide a job opportunity. Those who cannot or will not follow this path are urged to review their expectations, since without these criteria, success is even more doubtful.

Graduate English Programs in South-Central Ohio

Listed alphabetically. Some of these are part-time programs; some are full-time. Please consult with knowledgeable advisors about applications and choice of programs; Wilmington's faculty are well acquainted with these institutions, and can help you decide which is best for you. We may also be able to put you in touch with alumni who are currently enrolled in some of them.


Students should generally plan to apply to graduate school in the fall of the year before they wish to enroll; the GRE exams, if required by the program, are particularly important to complete by the required due dates.

Paying for Graduate School

Unlike undergraduate college, graduate programs generally do not cost money in the same way. Well-funded graduate programs will generally provide some sort of assistance for most or all students admitted. In English this is most commonly associated with teaching a course or two in the undergraduate program, but some assistantships are research or otherwise non-teaching. Full-time graduate programs may prohibit additional employment in jobs elsewhere, since your course of study is to be your full-time occupation. Costs will vary between state and private universities; state universities usually charge tuition to out-of-state graduate students. Students are urged to familiarize themselves with the very wide range of scholarships and financial aid that may be available to them, both through the university itself and through state, federal, or other public or private agencies. For example, students of Native American ancestry may find tribal scholarships available to them, in addition to those from other sources.