The Pros and Cons of a Creative Writing Degree

The pros and cons of a creative writing degree

by Peri Cimen

You may have found yourself wondering whether you need a creative writing degree to succeed as an author. Of course, many writers specialise in other fields before deciding to write their first book, with some of them having no prior experience in writing. So, the answer is no. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be a valuable experience for aspiring or established writers.

If you’ve been debating whether a degree is right for you, here are the pros and cons of undertaking a bachelor’s or master’s degree in creative writing…


  • Workshops: Workshops can provide a great opportunity for feedback whilst you’re working on a project. By feeding back on other people’s work too, you can gain insight on how to approach your own.
  • Visiting talks: Most degree programmes arrange visiting talks and additional workshops with published writers, agents, and editors. Hearing advice first-hand from writers and industry professionals can demystify the elusive writing and publishing process.
  • Time to write: By doing a creative writing course, you can dedicate a substantial amount of time to writing. A BA degree can last between 3–4 years (full-time) and an MA degree can last between 1 year (full-time) and 2 years (part-time). This can be particularly useful if you have a busy work or home life, or if you struggle to focus on writing tasks without deadlines.
  • Structure and pacing: Regardless of what you write, structure and pacing are undeniably important—even nonfiction books need a strong narrative to hook their reader. Facts and figures alone probably won’t change someone’s life! Tasks like writing short stories, for example, can help you grasp foundational, transferable skills for crafting narratives.
  • Community of writers: A creative writing degree gives you the opportunity to engage with writers from all over the country writing in all kinds of different mediums and genres. Whether you use the course to network, make life-long friends, or form your own writing collectives, you can find support and advice from the people on your course as well as the tutors.


  • Not individualised: Courses can’t be tailored to the individual, and there will be several people on your course working on vastly different projects. It can be frustrating if you feel like you aren’t making progress in the areas you want to focus on, so be mindful of this!
  • Money: Undergraduate and postgraduate degrees cost a lot of money. This can be anywhere between approximately £4,000 per year (part-time) and £9,250 per year (full-time). There are student loan options, but you might not like the idea of having to pay it back for years to come. Some people work and save up the money specifically for postgraduate degrees, but the truth is that there are plenty of courses and services online that cost less and won’t set you back financially.
  • Assessments: You will inevitably be assessed during a creative writing degree. This can take the fun out of writing. Some people thrive with deadlines, whilst others struggle to feel inspired. And then, once your assignments are all handed in, it can be demoralising to receive bad grades, even though these aren’t necessarily a reflection of your abilities since writing is so subjective.
  • Time: A pro, but also a con. Yes, you get a focused writing period, but this also takes a lot of time. An undergraduate degree lasts for three years minimum. If you have other priorities, it can be hard to juggle assignments, writing tasks, visiting talks, and social events. Plenty of people have managed this successfully, but it’s a matter of personal preference—especially if you don’t enjoy being spread so thin!

To sum it all up…

If you want to spend a few years focusing on your craft, building a network of writers, and gaining feedback from tutors, then a creative writing degree is a rewarding experience. It can help you figure out your strongest and weakest areas and give you sufficient time to work on them. But bear in mind that each university is different, and depending on where you go and which course you choose (BA or MA), you will have a different experience.

That being said, it’s still possible to create these opportunities without this. The degree itself isn’t where the value lies. Seeking out writing workshops, having conversations with agents and editors, and finding like-minded writers are all possible without a degree.


As previously mentioned, there are other courses and services out there. There are book coaches and editors you can hire to look over your work, identify any structural or grammatical issues, and provide helpful advice on how to move your projects forwards.

If you’re interested in free alternatives, however, there are also a number of community workshops and meet-ups advertised online and in local areas; you just have to do a little extra work to seek them out!

At The Book Shelf, we provide coaching and editing services for nonfiction authors, so don’t hesitate to approach us if you need some additional support.