MFA Diary: What is an MFA?

I never grew up saying "I want to get an MFA in creative writing."  I didn't even know what an MFA was until I started taking creative writing classes at the University of San Diego.  My wonderful writing teacher at the University of San Diego, Dr. Halina Duraj, was the first person who told me that I should consider getting an advanced degree in creative writing. 

An MFA is short for Master's of Fine Arts.  It's a terminal degree, meaning that it is the highest degree that one can get in the typical MFA fields like photography, visual arts, theater, creative writing, and more.  These programs engage students in the process or practice their field, rather than focus on academic research. 

After doing some research and talking with some current MFA students, I've learned that an MFA writing program consists mainly of writing, reading, lectures, and workshopping (getting feedback on your stories).  Every program will have its differences.  While the MFA is a terminal degree, there are PhDs for creative writing out there.  However, they don't seem to focus on the craft as much as academic research, just like an MA would.  

Odds are that if you found this page, you probably know what an MFA is and are considering applying to a program, whether in creative writing or otherwise.  For me, I instinctually loved the idea of an MFA writing program.  Of course, there are other things to consider when applying.  If you're still on the fence on what you want to do, here are some questions I asked myself and had to do research on/think about for myself:  

  1. Why do I want to get an MFA? 
  2. What will I do in an MFA program?   
  3. What do I imagine will happen after I get an MFA?
  4. What will I learn in an MFA program?
  5. Am I ready to go to graduate school?  
  6. What kind of opportunities can open up during the process of getting an MFA (i.e. internships, teaching, etc.)?
  7. How much money will it cost?

I realize that the answers to some of these questions aren't quite solid for everyone and I don't think that they're the only questions to ask.  However, I think it's helpful to take some time and really know why you want a certain degree or not.

So, do your research, talk with program directors and participants.  Make sure it's something you want.  I know I have. 

If there's anyone out there with experience on the decision to get an MFA, please comment below!   I'd love to read what you have to say.