Dear Publication Advisors

MFA Programs: Are They Worth It?

Dear Publishing Advisors,

I’m trying to decide whether or not I should get an MFA.  My friends (who aren’t writers) say that it’s common knowledge that the more education you have, the better your chances are at basically everything.  My one friend who isa writer says that MFA programs are a waste of money if you already know how to write.  I know how to write and have been writing my whole life, but I’m worried I won’t be able to get a writing job without the education qualifications.  Since MFA programs are so expensive, I’m not sure what to do.  Suggestions?


Seeking Educated Answer

Dear Seeking Educated Answer,

This is a tricky question.  You say you know how to write and have been writing your whole life.  Have other people (besides friends and family) praised your writing abilities? Are they avid readers or other writers? What have they published and where?  These questions may sound snarky, but they matter.  Can you trust who or what is backing your opinion?

If you have received good criticism (not to say that a piece of writing shouldn’t have suggestions and edits) from peers and instructors, it sounds like you’re well on your way. But on your way to what exactly?

Making a living as a writer is extremely difficult.  Even if you publish, most publications do not pay enough to cover rent.  Going to an MFA program will not necessarily help you get a job as a writer.  In fact, it might make your financial difficulties worse.  If you are interested in attending an MFA program to learn more about the craft, interact with terrific teachers, and network, this may be a perfectly viable choice for your future.  If you are specifically looking for employment by earning an MFA, I would suggest a different route.

In the age of the internet, writers need to know how to market.  They need to know how to sell their skills through social media, blog followings, and connecting with online publications.  If money is the bottom line, I would suggest taking business/marketing classes.  Being creative doesn’t stop at the end of the page.

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Rebecca Lee