Monday, May 29, 2006

Teaching: MFA or M.A.?

Pondering in Portland writes...

I was recently working in a booth at Wordstock, a literary festival in
Portland, and was lured into a debate about terminal degrees. If my goal is
to teach at a community college, and possibly at the university level in the
future, would an MFA provide a better foundation than an MA? I'm applying to
the MA program in Literary Nonfiction at the University of Oregon, but I am
debating applying to a few MFA programs as well. Of course, funding is the
biggest obstacle.

This is a total man-facter, PiP. The most obvious point: the MFA is a terminal degree, while the M.A. is not. Though the MFA is becoming pseudo-terminal with so many writers going on for the Ph.D. in the last few years.

Generally speaking, the MFA involves more academic work, and is considered to be more of a rigorous experience. But so much of the teaching marketplace relies on having published books, so really the degree is a secondary thing. You have to have a degree, but the publications are the number one issue.

Bottom line, PiP: I'd apply to both types of degrees and then attend the program where you're accepted and where you feel most comfortable and challenged.

As always, I'd appreciate additional comments.

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