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Program Overview

Master’s in Writing

MA in Writing

Northwestern’s part-time graduate program in writing provides students the opportunity to grow as artists within the specializations of fiction, popular fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. The small-group workshop format allows for individual attention from published, award-winning faculty. Students also have the opportunity to learn the ropes in teaching writing, publishing, and editing. Flexible scheduling — with courses offered evenings and weekends on Northwestern’s Chicago and Evanston campuses as well as online and in hybrid format — gives students the opportunity to balance their professional, personal and writing lives. While earning their degrees, students connect with other writers at readings and other events in an artistic community that extends beyond the University into Chicagoʼs vibrant literary scene.



About the MA in Writing

Stuart Dybek

In class, I've had cops, bankers, teachers, librarians, musicians, and journalists. That diversity among adults who are so passionate about writing is enormously valuable. Everyone learns something from everyone else.”

Stuart Dybek, faculty member

Writing Program Goals

  • To help students determine the strengths and weaknesses of their writing, and learn how to evaluate criticism of their work
  • To teach students how to take their writing apart, re-think and revise it
  • To show students how to experiment with different styles and forms
  • To guide students in creating a publishable manuscript or portion of one
  • To teach students how to read literature as a writer and a critic
  • To train students to teach creative writing, informed by current pedagogy and classroom experience
  • To give students the opportunity to edit an international literary magazine with their peers
  • To provide students with the tools to create strong applications for jobs in teaching, publishing, and editing

Curriculum for MA in Writing

MA in Writing

Core Courses (6 courses)

  • 3 workshops in one genre: MCW 411 Poetry Writing Workshop, MCW 413 Fiction Writing Workshop, or MCW 461 Nonfiction Writing Workshop
  • 1 cross-genre course: MCW 479 Poetry for Prose Writers or MCW 480 Prose for Poets
  • 2 graduate-level literature courses

Electives (3 courses)

  • 3 courses drawn from MCW special topics courses, internships in teaching and publishing, literature courses or liberal studies courses. Students can take a maximum of 2 independent study courses as electives

Thesis (1 course)

  • MCW 590 Capstone Writing and Revision

Electives are chosen from the graduate course offerings in the Master of Arts in Literature program, creative writing special topics courses (MCW 490) and the seminars and internships (practica) in teaching and publishing. Since good writers also need to be good readers, students must take electives in literary studies. Recent electives include courses on reading poetry; the narrator in fiction, nonfiction and poetry; and writing humor. Independent studies round out the program and provide an opportunity to strengthen writing portfolios.


The final project of both the MA and MFA programs is a creative thesis, an original work of high literary merit (judged on the basis of art as well as craft). The creative thesis is structured and revised under the supervision of a faculty member (or faculty mentor) and a second reader. The project may be one long piece or a series of shorter pieces. It may include or be an expansion of work written during the student's course of study as long as it represents a culminating effort to shape stories, prose pieces, a long piece, or a group of poems into a coherent, self-sufficient work. This large-scale project supplements the smaller-scale study of craft with the invaluable experience of creating a larger work. And for students who plan to pursue book-length publication after graduation, the master's creative thesis may be the first version of a work in progress.


Northwestern also offers a part-time MFA program in Prose and Poetry.


MA in Writing Courses

Explore MA in Writing Courses. You can narrow your course search by day, location or instructor.

Writing Faculty

Learn from a faculty of esteemed writers in small-group workshops where instructors facilitate discussions that help students examine and address strengths and weaknesses in their writing as well as open up possibilities for re-thinking and revising. Get to know the instructors on our MA in Writing Faculty page.

Master's in Writing Admission

Candidates for admission to the MA in Writing program must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution or its foreign equivalent and possess a strong academic record, preferably in English, writing or related fields. For a complete list of requirements, see the Master's in Writing Admission page.

Tuition and Financial Aid for Writing

Tuition for the MA in Writing program at Northwestern is comparable to similar US programs. Financial aid opportunities exist for students at Northwestern. Complete details can be found on the MA in Writing Tuition and Financial Aid pages.

Registration Information for Writing

Already accepted into the Master's in Writing program? Get ahead and register for your classes as soon as possible to ensure maximum efficiency in your progress. 


Careers in Writing

Northwestern University’s MA in Writing is an art degree. Students pursue the degrees in order to become better writers, able to create prose and poetry that draw on a full range of the craft. On a more practical level, MA students become better writers, which prepares them for a variety of careers. For details visit the Writing Career Options page.

Find out more about Northwestern's MA in Writing

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