Choosing a college major can be difficult for anyone, but it is especially difficult for people who want to write for a living. In many ways, your choices are between art and commerce. The more a degree focuses on literary pursuits, the less likely it is to lead to a job straight out of college. The more a major focuses on job skills, the less fulfilling it can be for creative people.
In many cases, the best choice is to pick a career-based major and a more creative minor, or to pick a creative major, but find a minor that will help your job prospects. When choosing that way, you have options beyond what is listed here. For example, a major in creative writing might be well complemented by a scientific or business minor.
That said, below are the majors that appeal most to people interested in writing.
If you intend to be a fiction or poetry writer, this is the most obvious choice of major. It will get you grounded in the practice of creative writing and get you used to the process of getting your creative work reviewed, criticized, and edited. If there is a downside to this degree, it is that it trains you for very little besides creative writing. Making a living as a fiction writer is hard, and as a poetry writer it is much harder still. Pick this major if you are truly committed to that path, and that path only.
This major is focused on writing for newspapers, magazines, broadcast news and new media. If the idea of being a journalist excites you, than this is a solid major. Beyond writing skills, you will learn valuable research and editing skills. The downside to this degree is that journalism is an increasingly hard field to make a living in, so your job prospects aren’t dramatically better than those of a creative writing major.
English / English Literature
As an English major, you will study literature in-depth. There are far worse was to spend college than reading great literature. Teaching you how to write won’t be the primary focus, but reading literature does a great job of teaching you what to write about. This is not a major that leads to many job prospects straight out of college, but learning to read, write, and think critically is a skill that you can find handy in many professions.
If you want to write plays, a theater arts major will give you a great all-around education in the stage. This major does not focus exclusively on writing, but a good playwright should know more about theater than just writing for it. In addition, there are theater jobs besides writing and acting that may keep you afloat while you write. This is not a major that will give you a lot of career prospects straight out of college, but theater is very community oriented and good people generally find some work.
If you want to write for film, video, and new media this is an excellent major. When it comes to the creative mediums, film and television can be some of the most lucrative areas to write in. It is still not a major that will get you a lot of jobs right out of college, but the long-term prospects are good for people who stick with it through the first few years.
Majoring in liberal arts gives you a broad overview of many subjects such as languages, philosophy, literature, humanities, history and of course, writing. It won’t make you an expert in any one thing, but it will give you plenty of things to think about and write about. It won’t lead to a lot of jobs right out of college.
Linguistics is a far more technical approach to language than creative writing or English literature. It isn’t a common choice for aspiring writers, but it does offer many advantages. It is an in-depth study of the way we put words and thoughts together and how we communicate as a species. Good linguists have reasonable job prospects, and most undergrads go on to get a graduate degree before entering the job market.
A communication major studies interaction between people, from face to face encounters all the way to broadcast and social media.
This choice is more common for public relations and marketing writers than it is for creative writers. It provides you with some job prospects, but many people still find it a challenge to get work out of college.
A major in marketing will give you the foundations for copywriting and promotion, which is one of the more lucrative careers for writers. Marketing is an excellent minor for people who decide to major in creative writing or literature. Marketing is a competitive but profitable field with solid job prospects straight out of college.
Technical Communications / Writing
Technical Communications (or Technical Writing) is a major that has increased in popularity over the past fifteen years. The major focuses on researching and communicating complex topics, both through text and visual communication. Technical communication is one of the best paying career paths for writers, but it provides a much different skill set than creative writing.