Program Summary

Our MFA program focuses on the actual practice of writing as well as its literary underpinnings. You are exposed to writing as an art form and as a professional pursuit. We know your goal is to publish, so our program is geared toward getting your work out in front of an audience.

Students are admitted into the program in a particular genre: poetry, nonfiction, or fiction. We believe the MFA program is a chance for you to explore aspects of writing and literature that interest you. Writing workshops serve as the core of our program. Although you will take the majority of your workshops and complete your thesis in your concentration genre, students may explore other genres by using their remaining 4-credit required workshop and elective credits. Students can take courses in any of the following areas: poetry, fiction or nonfiction.

Students will develop and revise their creative writing, improve their critical thinking skills, and demonstrate knowledge of the literature of their chosen genre as they create a body of original work of publishable quality. 

At the conclusion of their coursework, students submit and defend a manuscript in one genre to be approved by a thesis committee. MFA students must complete at least 16 credits (four courses) of their required 20 credits of workshops in the genre of the thesis. Students are expected to complete the degree requirements within seven years.

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The Creative Writing MFA program requires 48 credit hours, including:

  • A minimum of 20 credits of writing workshop courses (16 credits of which must be in the chosen thesis-genre)
  • 12 credits of literature courses
  • 12 credits of department electives
  • 4-credit master’s thesis

Required Workshop Courses

Poetry Workshops

Number Course Credits
WR 605 Poetry Workshop 4
WR 610 Form in Poetry 4

Poetry students may take genre workshops more than once.

Nonfiction Workshops

Number Course Credits
WR 613 Nonfiction Workshop 4
WR 655 Writing the Nonfiction Book 4
PB 687 Column Writing 4
PB 676 Magazine Writing 4
WR 515 Topics in Nonfiction (summer offering) 4

Nonfiction students students may take genre workshops more than once.

Fiction Workshops

Number Course Credits
WR 606 Fiction Workshop 4
WR 608 Special Topics in Fiction 4
WR 652 Novel Workshop 4

Fiction students may take genre workshops more than once.

MFA Thesis

Number Course Credits
WR 699 MFA Thesis 4


To complement the workshop experience, students take 12 credits of Literature courses and an 12 credits in departmental electives.

Focus in Translation

Translation / Global Engagement Focus (8 Credits)

Approval of the GPD is required to do this focus.

Within this focus, apart from fulfilling their workshop requirements, students in the MFA in Creative Writing program can fulfill their elective requirements by taking two classes from the following options: a class offered at the Emerson campus, such as the Translation Seminar or the Translating Cultures course (both listed under the Topics LI 615 number); a course from one of the Global Pathways Programs; or a directed study. Students will complete a required translation project as part of this focus; they can do so as part of the work in one of the classes and options listed above.

Teaching College Composition

Each year, a selected number of graduate students in Writing, Literature, and Publishing learn to teach writing at the undergraduate level. Teaching College Composition is a 4-credit, one-semester course that prepares students to teach at Emerson and then at other institutions after graduation.

Although taking the course does not guarantee a part-time teaching position at Emerson, students who have completed the course are interviewed by faculty and may be offered appointments. Many students find that this foundation in teaching is a valuable tool in pursuing jobs after graduation.

MFA Thesis

For completion of the MFA degree, students are required to write a thesis of “near publishable” quality. The thesis may consist of a collection of poems, short stories, essays, a novel, novel excerpt, or a nonfiction book or excerpt. Minimum required lengths for MFA theses vary according to genre.

It is strongly suggested that the student begin planning the thesis early and develop a work that approaches a publishable book in concept and form. When nearing completion of the program, a student applies for a thesis committee with a chair who works closely with that student to make a work plan, develop the final manuscript, and schedule a thesis defense.