John Hewitt's Blog

College majors for aspiring writers

MFA programs are great for graduate students, but what about students who are just entering college with a writing career in mind? There are so many directions for students to go in. Some people even think that writers should study something besides writing. For example, a person who studies history will get plenty of opportunities to write while in college, and by learning about history they will learn about something that they could actually write about. Choosing a major is a difficult task for any student, aspiring writer or not. If you are interested in studying writing, here are a few majors that you should consider:

Creative Writing

This is the most common and highly recommended major for writers. Students take reading and writing courses in fiction, poetry, drama and composition. They also take several literature courses. This major is a solid preparation for a variety of writing careers, but is more artistically oriented than journalism, media arts, marketing or communication. If your goal is to become a novelist or a poet, this major is probably the best fit for you.


This major is focused on writing for newspapers, magazines and in some cases broadcast news. Classes focus on reporting, editing, publishing, photojournalism, design, Internet research, ethics and media law. While the world of journalism is not necessarily in opposition to creative writing, the emphasis here is on discovering, working with, and presenting factual information in a news setting. If you are interested in a career as a reporter, this is the major for you. You might also consider it if you want to enter the field of public relations.

English / English Literature

The English major is all about reading, understanding and forming opinions about literature. The focus is on the analysis of such aspects of literature as cultural influence, historical perspective, rhetoric, symbolic meaning and the development of language. Students gain an in-depth knowledge of classic (and sometimes modern) literature and learn how to analyze and write about literature in an academic setting. While this major is less focused on writing than journalism or creative writing, it will give you an excellent perspective on literature. Potential novelists and poets should give this major some consideration. It has the added benefit of preparing people to teach English.

Theater Arts

Theater Arts focuses on the the entire theater production process from writing to performance to stage building and show promotion. While some creative writing programs have play or screen writing aspects, this major delves completely and thoroughly into the performance arts. If you hope to write for the stage or the screen, this is a major you should consider.

Media Arts

Media arts focuses on film, video and new media. You will study media history, theory, and criticism as well as film and video production. If you are looking to write for television or film this is an excellent major. It can also be beneficial if you are looking to move into public relations or advertising / marketing writing.

Liberal Arts

Liberal Arts is a broad major that offers students the leeway to study topics in several different departments. For example, a liberal arts major may take several classes in English, languages, philosophy, humanities, religion and even business or economics. If you are looking for a well-rounded education that allows you to focus somewhat on writing, you should consider a liberal arts major.


Linguistics is the study of human language, encompassing particular languages and properties common to all languages. Linguistics majors must generally become conversant in multiple languages. Unlike an English or creative writing major, this major allows you to focus on how language works. It is more scientific than creative, but a deep understanding of language can contribute to your writing skills in many ways. Because linguistics focuses on such language fundamentals as PhoneticsMorphology andSyntax, linguistics can be a surprisingly good choice for aspiring poets and people who wish to approach writing from a deeper level.


This is the study of communication and social interaction — its processes and effects. Students analyze interpersonal communication, social influence and persuasion and the social effects of media and information technology. This is a rare and rather specialized major for most creative writers, but it can provide a solid background for writers interested in technical writing or persuasive writing such as speech writing.


If you plan to write sales material, you should either major or minor in marketing. This subject will prepare you for every aspect of developing and promoting a product or service. While marketing isn’t as romantic a writing field as poetry or fiction, it is an excellent way for writers to pay their bills.

Technical Writing

Technical writing majors are growing in popularity. These majors teach document design, audience analysis, editing, project management and communication on a technical level. Many new programs are springing up because of the demand for people who can write in a technical or professional manner. The field is broader than it looks on the surface. Besides the obvious technical writing fields such as software documentation, a technical writing major can also prepare you to write about science, medicine or the law. A technical writing major teaches you how to communicate complex subjects in a clear and concise way. If you have interest in these areas of writing, give a technical writing major a try. It isn’t glamorous, but it will help you pay your bills.