Writing Majors for College Students
College Information for Potential Writers
There are many possible writing majors for those who know they want a college degree and career in writing. Both the variety of available majors and the depth of the degree programs are notable, and this is good news for future writers and students of any genre.
As they begin to pursue their writing degree, potential writing majors should keep in mind the conventional advice about selecting a college and program. Issues like geography and size are indeed important. But the most important characteristic to consider after that is what kind of writing you hope to do in the future. If you're undecided about the area or type of writing you want to do, check out this information on different writing genres.
Once you've got an idea of your preferred genre, you are ready to choose a specific writing major and writing degree program that works for you.
In addition, you may be wondering if you even need a college degree to be a writer. This also depends on the kind of writing you aim to do, but, in general, a major in writing and a college education can greatly increase career opportunities.
Here are the 20 writing majors for college students seeking a writing degree, along with a few example programs and links to colleges and other resources.
There are very general writing degrees available; that is, one can major in just "writing." For example, Grand Valley State University in Michigan offers a writing major which results in either a Bachelor of Science (BS) of Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree, depending on your chosen concentration.
A general writing major would likely offer a variety of writing classes in different genres and prepare you for many different specialties within your writing career. GVSU's program seems to allow you to customize your experience a bit by selecting a "module" that lets you concentrate on a specific niche or specialty.
The professional writing major is similar to a general writing degree as above, although likely without the more creative elements available, such as work in poetry or creative writing. This is a career-oriented writing program, and the one most recommend to aspiring freelance writers.
Michigan State University, offers a BA in Professional Writing within their Department of Writing and Rhetoric. Students choose from three different specializations: digital/technical writing (this would be perfect for the aspiring freelance writer), writing for non-profits or editing and publishing.
Many other colleges offer this major, too. For example, Miami University and Purdue tout similar programs.
Technical writing, science writing, and business writing are the "user-friendly" writing careers: they are careers aimed at making complicated information friendly to its users.
Technical writing involves providing simplified text about complicated or specialized topics for users who need it. Your classes may focus on understanding your end user (audience). You will also learn to produce different composition formats, such as white papers, instruction manuals, assembly instructions. and technology supports.
Arizona State University offers a BS in Technical Communications. In addition, you may want to consider a combined major in technical writing and another discipline, such as Michigan Tech's BS or BA in Scientific and Technical Communication.
Science and Medical Writing
Science and medical writing career opportunities are growing, just like other health and STEM career fields.Science writing, science journalism, science communications and medical writing are all legitimate standalone majors for aspiring writers:
- MIT offers a graduate-level major in science writing, as does Johns Hopkins. Lehigh offers an undergrad degree in science writing.
- BU offers a degree in science journalism.
- UCSC offers a major in science communications.
- Medical writing majors seem to be limited to graduate programs, such as those at the University of Chicago and University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
Although you can find business writing most often taught within business colleges as part of business administration programs, there are standalone majors available. One is this business writing major within the Interdisciplinary Studies program at Baruch College, a part of the CUNY education system.
This writing major would be ideal for those looking to practice the craft within a corporate environment.
Earning a BA in creative writing will give you the two things you need most as a writer: practice and feedback. Although creative writing may be the domain of aspiring authors, freelance writers can also make a living by writing creatively. This is a writing major that is readily available nationwide, including this BA at Columbia or this one at Emory.
This major seems to be the default when more specialized programs aren't available.
A major in English forces you to write, and then rewrite. That constant practice can hone your writing skills, and expose your writing weaknesses. A requisite editing class was never lost on any freelance writer, either. Finally, a major in English will also teach you to read critically and research thoroughly.
The solid skills that accompany a journalism degree are a great selling point. Of course, if you're looking to write specifically for newspapers and magazines, this is your major. This program is ubiquitous, but students may also consider specialty journalism degrees, such as this Masters in Art Journalism offered at Syracuse University.
There is a stand-alone major in publishing offered at many universities, however, these majors seem to be for those interested in working for publishers, and are not aimed specifically at writers. However, most publishing majors do seem to have a fair amount of editing instruction, so they could prove helpful in launching a freelance writing or freelance editing career.
If you're still interested in this program, check out Emerson, Hofstra, Pace and Portland State University.
An undergrad degree in linguistics will really push a student writer into the minutiae of our language. You'll learn to manipulate words and syntax in a very thorough and specific way, which will undoubtedly buoy your writing.
Linguistics is one of the more commonly available undergrad programs, but for more specialization, check out Georgia Southern University's BA in Writing and Linguistics.
A general degree in the liberal arts or humanities studies covers a wide range of subjects and will bolster research and writing skills, while also giving you some more specific subject matter expertise to work with. Again, this is an easy program to find in many geographic areas.
Since much of the education major deals with pedagogy and curriculum development, along with the development of written materials, I've included it here as a potential choice for writers who want to specialize in writing for school and reference markets.
This is a fertile career area. Education writing is one of the niches where they're always hiring! There are also many editing opportunities available with curriculum development companies and textbook packagers.
You may consider majoring in rhetoric if you're drawn to analyzing words and text, and how composition and speech are used to influence others, further agendas, construct narratives or create policies.
This would be an ideal major for those interested in writing in law, policy, politics, non-profit, social justice or related topics.
Colleges that offer this major include Berkeley and Bates.
If you're specifically interested in script-writing, screenwriting, film criticism or arts journalism, you may want to consider theater or cinema majors that include some coursework in these topics. Cinema studies, specifically, may be housed within a larger media department or media studies program.
BU has a degree program in cinema and media studies and in screenwriting.
General communications degrees are available, as well as more specific degrees like mass communications, media or media communications.
Communications studies are sometimes more general, covering everything from television to politics to technical topics, so be sure to narrow down what you really want in your program, or look for programs that offer concentrations within the major, so that you can focus on writing aspects.
Media or media communications programs (also covered below in more detail) are often euphemisms for or focused on journalism (covered above) or marketing/advertising programs (covered below). That's a lot of topics and genres; choose your major carefully!
As opposed to the more general communications programs described above, digital communications programs often focus on mobile, online or interactive communications.
Many writers out there wish to specialize in web or social media writing and communications. Be sure to check out related majors in "new media" or "emerging media" (which are covered below).
If digital communications is your choice, check out NYU's BS in Digital Communications here.
Media/New Media/Emerging Media/Social Media
Those who want to write specifically for online, interactive or mobile platforms will want to check out these relatively new programs and degrees.
Although a more general media degree will likely include many aspects of communications or mass communications (described above), it will also cover the emerging media market.
However, if you'd like a program that is more specific and focused solely on social media, emerging media and so on, consider SNHU's BS in Marketing, which has a concentration on social media, or BU's MA in Emerging Media.
Marketing is a fairly safe choice for writers hoping to concentrate on copy generation, copywriting or some types of media/new media. It's also a great choice for writers who prefer to work within a corporate environment. For freelance writers, this major will set you up to nab some lucrative clientele.
Undergrad degrees in marketing are fairly easy to find. But some colleges, such as Webster University, offer a specialization in writing or copywriting.
Writers looking to focus on a copywriting career aren't limited to a marketing degree, though. You can also check out advertising courses, such as this Canadian school's dual advertising-copywriting program.
A public relations degree will teach the writer in you to manage messages and effectively communicate with clientele and the public--both skills that freelancers and other writers use daily.
In addition, PR coursework is heavy in writing instruction. You could additionally support your writing goals by minoring in a writing field while working on a PR degree.