Help Wanted: A Prospective Student Seeks Advice

Recently, I received an e-mail from a self-described “frequent reader” of this blog. This person gave me permission to share his/her request for advice with the full blog community.

Basically, our fellow practicing writer is “trying to figure out what is the difference between a Master’s in Professional Writing and a M.F.A in Creative Writing with a focus on Creative Non-Fiction.”

Anyone have insights to share on this? My own first guess is that it might depend on the program(s) in question, that there’s surely some variation among MPW programs just as there can be among MFAs. Beyond that, I’m suspecting that the MPW (generally speaking) might have a more forthright focus on publishing and a broader commercial outlook, and that MFA programs (again, generally speaking) may require more reading and critical writing.

But let’s please hear from all of you.

4 thoughts on “Help Wanted: A Prospective Student Seeks Advice

  1. b.mousli says:

    I just applied to a MPW and the difference I found between MFA and MPW is that MPW can be multidisciplinary when in most MFA you are either or. The MPW I applied encourages strongly its students to have a "concentration" and then to take classes in other genres. And it has several classes on the "market", and general approaches to publishing, etc.
    Thanks for this post!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear Beatrice:

    I am in the process of researching MPW programs. Can you recommend any sources? As I have found that its very hard to find information on this.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Don't know about a MPW but if the real question is, which one will help you find an employer who will pay you to write, don't forget journalism programs. I work at a graduate journalism program and the students learn basic digital media skills plus in-depth broadcast, newspaper, magazine or hard-core digital skills, after which they do well in the job market. Judging from experience the non-fiction MFAs across campus may be astonishingly good writers but they have almost no access to employers, get no street reporting experience and oftentimes wander over to our school to attend our lectures and jobs talks.

  4. Tara Mae says:

    I'm getting a candidate for a MFA in poetry and part of my program requires me to take Creative Nonfiction. Our program really focuses on how Creative Nonfiction runs the gamut: from participatory journalism to lyric essay, prose poems, etc. It's about learning how to do everything that poets and fiction writers do (narrative arc, characterization, strong emphasis on language) but with the facts.

    If I wanted to develop strong "reporting/journalism" skills as well as try my hand at more creative works, I'd really consider an MFA program. University of Memphis also requires students to learn how to send out query letters, write book proposals, etc., so it's still as grounded in the market as say a MPW may be.

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