How to Become a Creative Writing Teacher

By Michelle Dwyer
Tutor helping student in class
monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Teaching creative writing brings with it many rewards. It's a field full of passion and invention. Becoming a creative writing teacher, however, takes a methodical plan of action that involves education, networking and a little creativity of your own. You'll find most creative writing jobs in MFA programs at universities across the country.

Get The Credentials

Earn a master of fine arts in creative writing. This is a "terminal degree," meaning it is the highest degree you can achieve in creative writing and with it, you're qualified to teach at any level. Some universities require the degree before they'll even consider you for a faculty position. Many schools, including the University of Indiana, University of Tennessee and Goddard College offer the MFA in creative writing. Read the requirements carefully. Some schools require travel at certain times of the year for residency training. You can also take online classes such as the MFA program at National University. Getting the MFA not only adds to your credentials, it can also open doors to possible teaching positions. Check with the career services department at your MFA college. Inquire about teaching positions at your alma mater and other universities.

Teaching at the high-school level requires a bachelor's degree and a state approved teaching certificate. Check with your local school district. All schools offer English classes, but not all offer creative writing classes.

Complete a Practicum

A way to begin teaching creative writing is to take a practicum or an assistantship during your course work. The Goddard school describes its practicum program through which students have taught in high schools, colleges and retirement communities. As a practicum teacher, you'll design your own course. For example, you can develop a class in short story writing, poetry or the graphic novel. The University of Indiana offers a teaching assistantship program. As an MFA student and student teacher, you'll teach three courses a year for three years for a total of nine courses. At lease six of these courses will be in creative writing.

Search Job Boards

Numerous job boards advertise creative writing jobs. General sites such as Monster have filters for you to query creative writing. You might run into the issue of companies wanting creative writers but not creative writing teachers. This still presents an opportunity for you to network. Contact the companies listed and inquire about other opportunities. You might be able to get an editing job, which can give you experience directing the flow of writing as you look for a teaching job. You can also check with the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. This site offers employment information for aspiring writing teachers.

Incorporate Creativity

If you're already an English teacher in a public school, try to incorporate creative writing into your curriculum. Check with your school first, however, to ensure you're not violating policy by changing the curriculum. Most schools offer teachers some latitude in lesson plans. For example, you can design lessons that require students to write short stories based on a writing prompt. For ideas and resources, contact the National Writing Project. The site offers resources on many writing genres.

Advance Your Education

While the MFA is a terminal degree, you can still advance your education in creative writing. Some schools offer a Ph.D. in English with a creative writing concentration. For your dissertation, you'll complete a creative work, a book-length manuscript that might be a novel or volume of poetry that you could submit for publication. This advanced degree opens the door to professorships at the university level.

About the Author

Michelle Dwyer is a U.S. Army veteran writing fiction and nonfiction since 2003. She specializes in business, careers, leadership, military affairs and organizational change and behavior. Dwyer received an MBA from Tarleton State University/Texas A&M Central Texas and an MFA in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, Calif.