The best college majors for writers help you grow both as a writer and as a person. When it comes to writing, the degree most people think of is the Master of Fine Arts in English. It’s a good degree for a writer, though far from the only option. What do you major in when you’re an undergraduate? There are so many directions for students to go in.
The best college majors for a writer may not be English or writing
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. By learning about history they will learn about something they could write about. The same can be said of just any major. There’s nothing wrong with a prospective writer studying business, science, or psychology. Choosing a major is a difficult task for any student, aspiring writer or not. Still, there are some common degrees that writers pursue. Here are a few of them to consider.
Creative writing major
This is the most common and highly recommended major for writers. Students take 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 many of the other possibilities listed here. If your goal is to become a novelist or a poet, this major is the most common degree to pursue.
This major is focused on writing for newspapers, magazines, online news, and in some cases broadcast news. Classes focus on reporting, editing, publishing, photojournalism, design, 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 literature major
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 modern literature. They learn how to analyze and write about literature in an academic setting. This major is less focused on writing than journalism or creative writing. However, it will give you an excellent perspective on literature. Potential novelists and poets should give this major some thought. It has the benefit of preparing you to teach English Literature. Teaching is a common day job for creative writers.
Theater arts major
Theater Arts focuses on the entire theater production process. This includes writing, performance, stage building, and show promotion. While some creative writing programs have play or screenwriting focuses, this major delves deeply into the performance arts. It is a less common major for writers. Still, if you hope to write for the stage or the screen, this is a major you should consider.
Media arts major
Media arts focus 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, advertising, or marketing.
Liberal arts major
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, philosophy, humanities, languages, 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. It studies particular languages and properties common to all languages. Students of linguistics 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. A deep understanding of language can contribute to your writing skills in many ways. Because linguistics focuses on such language fundamentals as Phonetics, Morphology, and Syntax, linguistics can be a 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, persuasion, as well as the social effects of media and information technology. This is a rare and rather specialized major for most 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 to make a living as a writer.
Technical writing major
Technical writing majors have become increasingly common. The market for technical writers has grown in the past twenty years. These majors teach document design, audience analysis, editing, project management, and communication on a technical level. 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 an 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. I’ve been doing it for thirty years.
The best college majors for writers make you better
Writing skills and passion are more important than a particular major. There is no substitute for writing every day, no matter what your major may be. Pick the major that sounds best for you, but keep your focus on writing.
Additional Resources for finding the best college majors for writers
- BA in Creative Writing
- BA in English
- What major or degree is best for becoming a technical writer?
- How to Choose a Major and Minor for a Career in Writing