Sunday, August 27, 2006

M.A. vs. MFA

Puzzled in Prairieland writes...

Since graduating last fall (BA English, creative emphasis), I’ve worked crappy jobs and pondered far too much. I had been locked tight on the idea of heading straight to an MFA, but then the benefits of an MA were posed to me by some of my co-workers, disgruntled and crusty adjunct English profs. (I work in a writing center). An MA buys time to decide: MFA? Creative PhD? It buys growth and the potential for better MFA/PhD program, if I do well. If I decide on the MFA later, having the extra degree wins a teensy bit of respect from non-creative folk (“more Lit. = pain = respect”--cranky English profs.). I don’t really know. All I know is I want to write and teach writing, both craft and Lit. ideally, and I’ll do whatever to give that goal a chance at survival. Would an MA be a waste of time and money? Should I listen to the crusties?

PiP, I can't tell you whether to do an M.A. or an MFA. I can tell you that you've articulated many of the advantages of an M.A. very well. Two of my colleagues at UMass went the M.A.-->MFA route, and they really appreciated what they'd learned at the M.A.

Anyone out there with an M.A.? We'd appreciate your take.

7 comments:

Kim said...

Yeah, I got an MA and am now in an MFA program. I definitely feel grateful for the MA--gave me a strong foundation in lit and theory (whereas the MFA is emphasizing craft and the art). It also gave me time to strengthen my manuscript and get serious about my next move.

potatoeater said...

I received an MA before going after an MFA. For me individually, I don't think I would've gotten into ANY of the MFA programs I applied to (and certainly not with the amazing funding I received) without the time and instruction I got during my MA. In truth, I feel that the only difference between most MA's and most MFA's is one letter and, perhaps, the required length of the final thesis. So why not go after both (as long as you’re not going into debt for it).
It's your own choice, but getting two extra years of support and writing time can be very helpful. You need to be honest about yourself and whether or not you can get into the MFA programs you want… if not, just wait, no reason to go somewhere crappy because you jumped the gun. Remember also, many people apply to a few MFA programs and a few MA programs and just see what happens (assuming you can afford the extra application fees). Good luck.

Lea D. said...

Is it unheard of for a person to get their MFA first and then go back and get an MA?

Abdul B. Abad said...

Lea D.,

Although I am only working towards an undergraduate degree, I asked my boss, who is the head tutor in our department, what his advice to me was on preparing for graduate school. I asked if I should go for a MFA or MA in English. He actually got his MFA first because he didn't want to get an English Literature degree, but he went back later to get it. So to answer your question, no, I don't think it is unheard of.

Jessica said...

Wow, I simply Googled, "MFA vs. MA English," not expecting to find an answer to my question, but I feel better already after reading about your decision and the above comments.

I have also been having this debate with myself, though I've been accepted and committed to an MA program next fall. I never really considered doing both an MA and MFA - I just assumed if I went the MA route that I'd get my Phd. But it all seems clear to me now. Do the MA, and not only will it buy me time to decide my next step, but it will build my skills and help me make a more informed decision. I feel better already - thank you!! What did you decide to do?

aliya seen said...

You need to be honest about yourself and whether or not you can get into the MFA programs you want. The rewriting services have the same services of the writing.. Thanks for this interesting.

Taylor J Roberts said...

Posting a little late here, but is it weird to be an
MA and still try and get published? I'm all about wanting to do poetry, but I got accepted to the MA program. Just wanting to see if their are MA people who are wanting to be writers as well and aren't in the MFA program.