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.
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.