MFA/PhD Debate

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.


About Brian Fanelli

I'm a poet, teacher, music junkie and much more. My first chapbook of poems, Front Man, was published in 2010 by Big Table Publishing. My full-length book of poems, All That Remains, was published in 2013 by Unbound Content. My latest book, Waiting for the Dead to Speak, was published in the fall of 2016 by NYQ Books. My work has also been published by The Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Harpur Palate, Boston Literary Magazine, Kentucky Review, Verse Daily, Spillway, Portland Review, and several other publications. My poetry has also been featured on "The Writer's Almanac" with Garrison Keillor. Currently, I teach English full-time at Lackawanna College.
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