My friend and fellow writer Rachel Strayer recently posted an interesting blog entry regarding getting an M.F.A. in creative writing as opposed to a PhD, especially if you want to teach in academia full-time. I recommend reading her post, which she wrote in a response to a blog post by Michael Nye, an editor of the Missouri Review. Check out his post, too.
Nye makes a great point that there are A LOT of M.F.A. graduates seeking full-time teaching work, and maybe a PhD makes a candidate more attractive to a school looking to hire. There are also so many growing M.F.A. programs out there, but limited teaching jobs. Rachel points out some of the positives of an M.F.A. It’s a terminal degree, and it puts writers in touch with a larger writing community.
I enjoyed both posts. Personally, I’m glad I got an M.F.A. Since graduating with one, I’ve published in journals, released a chapbook, read all over the tri-state area, and taught poetry/creative writing classes. The M.F.A made this possible because the program expanded my knowledge of poetic movements and gave me time to hone my skills. I’m a far better reader/writer now than before I finished the program.
An M.F.A. could lead to full-time employment in academia, but other factors also lead to that, including a school’s budget and faculty retirements, as well as writer’s publishing credits. Furthermore, having an M.F.A. doesn’t mean one needs to be a tenure-track professor. There are also jobs in journalism, publishing, tech writing, etc. And sometimes, the class load and committee work of full-time professors leaves less time to write.
If the circumstances are right, an M.F.A. can lead to teaching, but other factors must be considered, and other job opportunities exist, too.