Monday, October 08, 2007

Opportunities after the MFA

Devashree writes...
Hi, 'm writing from India. Planning to apply for MFA in Fall 08. This question might've been answered before, but nevertheless...After completing the MFA, what precise job opportunities do we have? I'm aware of that fact that it takes a considerable amount of time for our very first book to get published or our script to get accepted, but in the mean time, what are the other job opportunities do the MFA sudents have? Being an international student, I really need to know the means to manage there after my education is over.Please, any kind of help is most appreciated.


Daryll Lynne here--

We just had the "professional development" portion of the MFA given to third-years, so I've got a fresh, if alarming, take on what's out there. First you need to understand that you're not getting the MFA to learn a job skill or walk into a paying career. No "precise job opportunities" are attached to the MFA.

The theory of the MFA degree is that it is a terminal degree qualifying you to teach at the junior college/university level. As you state, you also need a book or three or four to apply for one of those cushy, tenure-track positions, which will be a few years down the road. Consider that hundreds of people graduate with MFAs each year, but only a few tenure-track jobs are available. Competition is really high for those jobs, and not everyone who wants one gets in. Realistically, what you can expect is this:

Assuming you're specifically choosing programs with a TAship, you will have the opportunity during the MFA to teach Freshman composition, an intro to creative writing class, and if you're really lucky, an intro to lit of some kind. You may also have opportunities to teach in the local high schools or at a prison or some such. The TAship plus the MFA will qualify you for the instructor mill--which means teaching a bunch of Frosh comp classes and maybe, and this would be like winning the lottery, a lit or creative writing class. These jobs pay poorly, typically offer no insurance or guarantee of a job past the 9-month school term (though there are multi-year contracts out there), and often you must move around or supplement by teaching at several schools at once (I have one aquaintance who teaches 5-6 comp classes at the university and local junior college in town plus some online classes down the road in Indy). One of my advisors described this as "soul-breaking" and recommends against it. If you really want to teach, she suggested going out into the world to do any other job but instructor mill for a few years and get a book or two out, then come back and teach. (I know, doesn't help you as an international applicant.)

If you want to extend that MFA experience and boosting the academic job possibilities a bit, consider going on to a PhD (or applying to one in the first place). Even if it's a creative thesis, you have to take at least one other track, which qualifies you for actual lit or comp jobs at the university level.

Other thoughts:

Some states will allow you to teach at the high school level for a few years with a grad degree but without a teaching certificate (you might consider earning one after the MFA). Those typically pay a little better and have benefits. (I don't know how things work for international applicants, so you'll need to check on that.) English doesn't need as many people as Math and Science, so it is a bit competitive even at the high school level in some locations.

Some MFA programs have literary journals, which give you some editorial and layout experience, so there's the possibility of finding work in the editorial world, though I don't have much info on this. Entry level editorial positions don't pay much, as I understand. There are post-graduate certificates available in editing that you might consider (the one at Denver University is 3 months over the summer and cost $3600 when I looked into it two years ago). There may be other opportunities like copy-editing and such that others could suggest.

There are a few competitive fellowships out there, usually for a year or two, where you teach a class or two and otherwise are obliged only to write.

If you have the desire, technical writing jobs seem to be plentiful right now.

On the bright side, I heard a recruiter-type speaking about choosing English majors and MFAs over MBAs for business and management-type positions because we know how to communicate effectively. You might consider going outside of academia for a job after school.

Sorry that's a bit bleak. Anyone with cheerful advice please chime in.

47 comments:

Erika D. said...

We started to get into this on a thread over at the Poets & Writers Speakeasy last week, and I mentioned that a group of us--all holding MFA degrees and working non-teaching jobs in colleges/universities--had proposed an AWP panel this year to discuss, well, non-teaching jobs in colleges/universities that may be especially suited to MFA alums. Unfortunately, the proposal wasn't accepted. But for those who like academic environments, colleges/universities can offer many good writing-related jobs: magazine publishing, marketing/development, speechwriting, arts administration, and more. (Often, having a master's degree can be a plus for those jobs.) And the security of health insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits is pretty nice.

I think that it's wise to think broadly about opportunities after the MFA. Think about fields, perhaps not directly related to the MFA on first glance, that would not make you crazy to be dealing with 9-5 (or whatever your hours may be). Yes, it's nice to have the relative freedom of freelancing/adjuncting, but there are definitely tradeoffs there, too, which can make your own "creative" work suffer.

To the extent possible, look for environments that will value your MFA background and writing life outside the office. Beyond colleges/universities, these might include literary/arts centers, nonprofits, publishers, etc. And (it can't be overstated) look for jobs that will offer you health insurance, retirement savings, paid vacation, and other benefits (elusive in the world of freelancing/adjuncting).

Lizzy said...

It's odd that a panel such as you describe would be rejected by AWP, erika. I perked up immediately when I read what you'd written. As an MFA student now, this is *exactly* the kind of panel I'd love to see at AWP. Do they not want to give us hope that there's more for us out there than we've been told, or what? I mean, I think we all want to be able to make a living and still have a little time to write. That's all.

Anyway, this is a great post. Wish I had more to add. Thinking about job-hunting gives me a headache. But all we can do is work toward our goals and try to enjoy the ride, right?

Devashree said...

Thanks a million guys...this info has been extremely helpful...Also, I wanted to know, that, if u wanna make a career in scriptwriting, is MFA degree helpful? And is it possible for the MFA degree holders to approach film makers with the script or is there a different, maybe a more precise procedure for that?
P.S- Btw, did I mis-read something in the first comment, or did u really say "teach at the 'prison'"??

JoeyD said...

I know almost nothing about novel to film adaptation (other than what I read in film geek websites), but I know that there are MFA programs that emphasize, or at least give you the option to write for the screen. UC Riverside has a MFA in "Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts," and of course there's USC's Masters in Professional Writing Program (I live in SoCal, hence the West Coast-centric perspective). Both programs utilize a 'multi-genre' approach, so you could write literary fiction and simultaneously bang out that "_Hamlet_ in Space" sci-fi epic that has been gestating in the back of your mind (it's been knocking around in my sick head, anyway).

And two of my professors (one a female, the other a male) started out teaching at prisons...so don't knock it 'til you try it, I suppose.

Erika D. said...

Lizzy, thanks! We thought it was a pretty good idea, too, and I don't see our specific focus repeated elsewhere in the AWP program, but I have to confess I've never quite understood the way AWP goes about accepting or rejecting panels.

That said, I do see a number of career-related panels scheduled this year (see the schedule at awpwriter.org).

For instance, it looks as though several panels will discuss leading workshops outside the conventional college/university classroom. See "Writers in the Schools," "WITS International," "Writers Beyond the Schools," "Not Your Usual Workshop," and "Voicing Needs and Creative Survival: Writing in Multilingual Community Spaces," for just a few examples.

There's also going to be some focus on career options with nonprofits and/or publishing. See, for example, "An Alternative to Teaching: Preparing MFA Students to Work in Nonprofit Arts Agencies," "Innovative Internships & Practica in Teaching, Public Arts, and Publishing: Preparing the Low-Residency Student for Life After the MFA," and "Alternatives to Academia."

From the roster, I'm assuming that freelancing and magazine staff jobs may come up in the panel on "The Road Not Taken: Pursuing Careers."

And there's more, to be sure. Plus, of course, "Getting on The Tenure Track: The MLA Interview and Campus Visit," for those who do want to pursue that route. And for those who will be teaching composition, "Recognizing Common Ground: Creative Writers as Composition Teachers."

I agree that career panels are very important for AWP to run, especially considering the ever-growing MFA student population.

Gustavo Llarull said...

The MFA program at UMass-Amherst often offers a "Fiction to Film" class. I sat in on that class when I visited, a couple of years ago, and it was fascinating. This year -- my first year at UMass -- the faculty member who teaches it is on leave (a one-year Guggenheim fellowship), so the course isn't offered. But I think as of next year it will be offered again. It's something to keep in mind... Now, one thing is whether some MFA programs may train you in script-writing; quite a different thing is whether that gives you any chances to land a job as a writer/screenwriter... I have no clue about the latter. My suspicion is that, besides your training, other factors enter the picture here (e.g., contacts, networking, luck!, etc.)

Erika D. said...

And a week later, I'm back with what I hope you'll find a useful link, on Post-MFA Career Resources.

Amy said...

I applying for low-residency MFAs this winter ... programs that will allow me to keep my 8-year editorial career rolling while I delve deeper into the craft of writing. Meanwhile, as I read all of this, I recall that very few of my editorial colleagues in book publishing, advertising, and communications have had MFAs in Writing. It's a good thing, too, because most editorial jobs aren't nearly lucrative enough to repay student loans.

I recall the words of a copywriter I interviewed for career day back in 8th grade: "If you want to write, you have to live first.”

What I am suggesting is that we keep options open and not get too attached to jobs like "editor", and "writer". People without MFAs can do these jobs well (for cheaper than you might hope). Having also done creative recruiting, I can say I don't think the MFA is much of a sell for most jobs.

Getting certified as a paralegal or yoga teacher after the degree might bring in some cash while the ol' writer's brain stays free to finish that all-important novel. Some of the most successful artists/writers I know have noncreative day jobs....

lauren said...

I am researching possible job opportunities after (hopefully) getting my MFA degree. I have read numerous posts and articles about teaching in different levels of education. I am 24 and i am starting my third semester of college. I have no desire to teach but I am also realizing I may not be talented enough to be an artist. The issue is that art has always been and will always be my passion. What other career options are possible for me aside from teaching with an MFA?

Research Writer said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.
Writing a Research Paper

Custom said...

Hello,
Nice blog, its great article informative post, thanks for sharing it. Thanks for the information!

UK Dissertation

my said...

Hi,
This is really a nice post, you share good piece of information.
Dissertation Help

uk said...

Hi,
Nice post! You have worked hard on jotting down the essential information. Keep sharing the good work in future too.

Assignment Writing

SE said...

Hi,
Very nice, unique and informative post. Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work.

Buy Essay

Coursework help said...

Hi,
This is inspiring; I am very pleased by this post. Nice info at this post thanks!!! I really like it

GCSE coursework

Dan said...

Hi,
This is really great work. Thank you for sharing such a useful piece of information here in the blog.

Custom Term Paper

Research Writer said...

this kind of blog always useful for blog readers, it helps people during research. your post is one of the same for blog readers.

Thesis Papers Writing

donna said...

AV,無碼,a片免費看,自拍貼圖,伊莉,微風論壇,成人聊天室,成人電影,成人文學,成人貼圖區,成人網站,一葉情貼圖片區,色情漫畫,言情小說,情色論壇,臺灣情色網,色情影片,色情,成人影城,080視訊聊天室,a片,A漫,h漫,麗的色遊戲,同志色教館,AV女優,SEX,咆哮小老鼠,85cc免費影片,正妹牆,ut聊天室,豆豆聊天室,聊天室,情色小說,aio,成人,微風成人,做愛,成人貼圖,18成人,嘟嘟成人網,aio交友愛情館,情色文學,色情小說,色情網站,情色,A片下載,嘟嘟情人色網,成人影片,成人圖片,成人文章,成人小說,成人漫畫,視訊聊天室,性愛,a片,AV女優,聊天室,情色

Alan said...

This post was very useful. I shared it on facebook. When you get a chance, please check out my article,
"The Never-Ending Journey," at http://wp.me/pC3Xj-dK

Research Writer said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.
Term Paper Writing

Ashok said...

Once upon a time,getting the IT job was very difficult.But now it is easy for all graduates.Now IT companies starts recruiting.They searches for the skilled persons.so, graduates who wants to getting the IT job must have good knowledge on their platforms.There are more job openings in Top MNC's, in all major cities in India.

Advertising said...

I have never seen such a great site before

buy essay | research papers

Shopping Blog said...

Before finding out about links of london uk watches you should be familiar with some of the terminology. cheap links of london The word horology has two meanings; it is the study or science of measuring time links london jewellery or the art of making clocks, watches, and devices for telling links of london sale time.Since the first appearance of man on the earth an effort has links of london silver been made to determine time.The tracking of the sun's movement across discount links of london the sky, candles that were marked at intervals.Water clocks did links of london bracelet not depend on the observation of the sky or the sun.

N. McC said...

After getting my MFA in 06 I scored a Creative Writing adjunct position in my local community college district (AZ, 10 colleges in the county). There are restrictions limiting adjuncts to a 9 hour load, which equates to teaching 3 classes a semester. I was thrilled to teach creative writing as there are almost no programs as such at this level, but when I found I brought home a grand total of $150/wk per class (I put in about 15 hours now, but more in the beginning) I nearly cried. With two full classes, working everyday online, I still don't make enough to pay the health insurance premiums for me and my two kids. I work at home, so there's my upside, but my pay is abysmal, shameful. My son makes more at 18 working at a retail pool supply outlet, with better benefits to boot. Wish I was still cute enough to bartend on the weekends and write during the week. But book sales being what they are, horrific, I'm wondering what I was thinking ten years ago.

Amy said...

speechwriting, arts administration, and more. (Often, having a master's degree can be a plus for those jobs.) And the security of health insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits is pretty nice. graduate certificates | online doctoral degree

dissertation said...

it's good to see this information in your post, i was looking the same but there was not any proper resource, thanx now i have the link which i was looking for my research.
Masters Coursework Help

Christina Gomes said...

If there is job opportunities with MFA than why not peoples try MFA?
online degree

Katie said...

I dont think so mfa worth anything for now. Link Building Services Social Bookmarking Submission SEO Services

Christina Gomes said...

Agree with katie mfa worth nothing.
Movies torrents

James said...

Nice guide about writing.
Access Healthcare

vaqas said...

Its looking nice about Writing MFA Blog.
Security Camera System

mandela said...

Whoever is doing MFA for a precise job should be aware of this.MFA is not giving any opportunity of a precise job.I am also going to do MFA.It's all about learning and increasing your skills.
auto insurance companies

zinx said...

I am advising is we maintain options amenable and not find too that come with jobs including "editor", and "writer". Men and women without MFAs can do these jobs very well (for less expensive than you can hope). Getting also completed creative enrolling, I can state I don't believe the MFA is quite a bit of a cost most careers.
internet dating

johnwhite said...

It is a very good site to write creative ideas in his book.
datingsites

Kirmizi said...

Nice information,
Kuzey Güney many thanks to the author. Sensiz Olmaz It is incomprehensible to me now, Yalancı Bahar but in general, the usefulness and significance is overwhelming. Seni Bana Yazmışlar
Thanks again and good luck! Kırmızı Eşarp

seni bana yazmışlar said...

Thanks very nice share ... I follow your site constantly ... important issues ... Congratulations ... Seni Bana Yazmışlar I entered this site by chance, but I found very interesting. eximia A greeting to all the people who visit this page. güncel haber And yemek tarifleri Or Altın Fiyatları "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.

diparud2009 said...

As far as I understand MFA is not a degree linked with job precises.After completing MFA its not necessary that you will get e job on sure but you will have the quality to teach on junior or college level.

sadiya said...

As far as I understand MFA is not a degree linked with job precises.After completing MFA its not necessary that you will get e job on sure but you will have the quality to teach on junior or college level.
affordable car insurance

Hair Transplant in turkey said...

Thanks for the information. I really enjoyed, I would like get more
information about this,because is very beautiful, thanks for sharing
Saç Ekimi
Diş Doktoru
Freelance Web Tasarımcı

Bernard Atkinson said...

Actually I am writing my essay project and getting important points from different blogs and forums and This is my pleasure to being here on this blog..
______________________
Write my Essay

Op Dr Ali Mezdeği said...

Site's character and a great color match .. I will recommend your site to the other platforms.
Saç Ekimi

peter anderson said...

I like your blog post. Keep on writing this type of great stuff. I'll make sure to follow up on your blog in the future.
buy dissertation proposal

alexa jeam said...

Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!
advertising | top advertising agencies in Pakistan | Marketing Agency | Advertisement

Op Dr Ali Mezdeği said...

Site's character and a great color matchJinekomasti

rory hennessy said...

hey guys i want to draw and paint probably will an MFA help? does it give more income than if i just do the BFA? or is the MFA is just about to teach drawing and other things?

Leo Nelson said...

Thanks, such as a great information. dissertation writing service

Arpita Mishra said...

You have hit the nail! I was once a desperate homemaker not confident enough to stand up to the world. I am a good one though. I can sew, knit, cook, and take tuitions (for my children). But making money out of…I have never dreamt of. One day I came across buy yelp accounts,excellent invitation flyers and that changed my life. I am now selling my teaching skills by recording syllabus for fifth to eighth graders, and people have bought my video. I still cannot believe it. Want to make money like me? Check out www.zopthemes.com too. You can earn for whatever you can do. The sky is the limit.