Job Description: Creative writing professors teach various forms of creative writing such as fiction, nonfiction, playwriting, and screenwriting, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in colleges and universities. Creative writing professors are often expected to publish their own literary works while teaching. Creative writing faculty are usually faculty members in a larger campus English department.
Training and Educational Qualifications: The terminal degree in creative writing is the master of fine arts (MFA) degree, which is normally required for a full-time, tenure-track position at a college or university. A few doctoral programs in creative writing, or a combined doctorate in creative writing and literature, do exist. Some of those degree holders also seek jobs teaching creative writing positions in academia; however, the MFA is still the most common degree in the field.
Job Outlook: Overall, employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2016. A significant proportion of these new jobs will be part-time positions. Job opportunities are generally expected to be very good although they will vary somewhat from field to field as numerous openings for all types of postsecondary teachers result from the retirement of current postsecondary teachers and continued increases in student enrollment.
Finding a job teaching creative writing is one of the most competitive academic fields in higher education. Prospective candidates should have both excellent academic credentials and a well-regarded record of publication. Without at least one published book (and sometimes more than one), a prospective applicant will not be competitive with other applicants seeking a position teaching creative writing at the college level.
Salary: Earnings for college faculty vary according to rank and type of institution, geographic area, and field. According to a 2006-07 survey by the American Association of University Professors, salaries for full-time faculty averaged $73,207. By rank, the average was $98,974 for professors, $69,911 for associate professors, $58,662 for assistant professors, $42,609 for instructors and $48,289 for lecturers.
• Opportunities for postsecondary teaching jobs are expected to be good, but many new openings will be for part-time or nontenure track positions.
• Creative writing is one of the most competitive academic fields.
• Most applicants will need to have an MFA in creative writing and a record of publication to be competitive for vacancies.
Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?
It depends on where the universities are. Bigger cities tend to have clusters of universities, which means more jobs in the field.
What is your typical day like?
I teach creative writing classes two days a week. On the days I teach, I go in and teach, then maintain my office hours in which I meet individually with students, and I also attend various meetings connected to the English department and creative writing program.
What are your job responsibilities?
Teaching creative writing classes and overseeing a program that contains eight faculty members and approximately one hundred majors.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Teaching. I teach what I love, and working with young writers continues to feed my enthusiasm for my own writing.
What do you dislike about your job?
The bureaucracy that I sometimes have to deal with in terms of scheduling classes, etc.
Have you had any turning-point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?
When I read a book called A Government Job at Last edited by Tom Wayman, it convinced me that I could write about things that mattered to me, things that I knew and cared about such as factory work and working-class life, and find places that might publish my work.
How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?
When I was in high school, I became hooked on writing. I had the encouragement of a couple of teachers who helped give me the confidence to pursue a career in the arts.
Describe how you got into this industry and how you got your most recent job.
I had published enough in graduate school to get an interview for the job at Carnegie Mellon. I had experience editing literary magazines and running a reading series, which also helped.
What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
Getting an endowed chair at Carnegie Mellon.
If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?
Perhaps journalism or publishing.
To what professional associations do you belong?
I belong to the Associated Writing Programs and the Academy of American Poets.
What professional publications do you read?
I read many, many literary journals. Two journals I read for information on writing are Poets & Writers magazine and the Writer’s Chronicle.
What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?
As soon as you think your work is polished/finished, begin working on getting it published. It is extremely difficult to find a job teaching creative writing if you have not published anything.