A Complete Guide to Certificate Programs in Creative Writing – Introductory, Graduate, and Genre Certificates

Written by Scott Wilson

writing certificate programs

Creative writing certificates are short, focused programs that bring a slice of college-level instruction in creative writing in an affordable and manageable package.

Often offered today by the very same college and universities that teach full degrees in creative writing, certificates provide a more flexible option to honing your writing skills.

With a certificate, you’ll get much of the same focused instruction in various areas of creative writing as you would in a degree program.

By cutting out the full scope of a college degree, and instead zeroing in on a particular element of creative writing, you can save money and time while still getting the education you need to notch up your writing skills and refine your technique.

Make no mistake—even a bit of formal education will offer huge improvements in your native writing skills. Every writer can use the kind of training offered in creative writing certificate programs. In just a few months, certificate programs can help any writer:

A Certificate Program Offers a Chance to Get Granular

reading for pleasureCertificates can also help you develop specific skillsets in creative writing genres or techniques. There’s a broad spectrum of styles and types of creative writing in the market today. Even if you are already an accomplished writer, you may want to upskill into a new field. While a degree may offer concentrations in certain types of creative writing, certificates are free to focus on a single genre or element of a writing career, including:


  • Memoir or biographical writing
  • Fiction, or subcategories in:
    • Science Fiction
    • Literary Fiction
    • Fantasy
  • Poetry
  • Children’s literature
  • Screenwriting
  • Journalism

While full degrees, even those with concentrations, end up covering a broad scope of general knowledge and different types of writing, a certificate brings the chance to deliver only the kind of content you’re interested in.

What Creative Writing Certificate Programs Bring to the Table for New or Established Writers

caught in deep thoughtCreative writing is one of those fields that many people come to later in life. Maybe you were discouraged from pursuing your creative passions when you were younger, or maybe the burning desire to write came to you only after you had some hard-won life experience behind you.

Even if you are still in or about to enroll in college, you may have taken a hard look at the dollars and cents of a writing career and decided that a more conventional job suits you better. The professional preparation needed to become a nurse, a lawyer, a programmer will definitely take up most of the credits in any degree program you decide to pursue. A course or two in English literature or poetry may whet your appetite but not sate it.

In either case, returning to college for a full degree in creative writing can be a real challenge. Most people won’t have the time, and maybe not the money, to pursue their passion for writing through a full, formal education.

These are the situations that certificates in creative writing are made to handle. Taking only a few weeks or months to complete, they deliver university-quality training at a far more affordable price than a complete degree.

Different Types of Certificate Programs in Creative Writing Cater To Different Goals

Certificate programs are usually offered by schools that already have strong degree offerings in creative writing. That’s a boon to certificate students, since the courses are typically taught by the same experienced professors that fuel the degree programs. In some cases, those faculty members are accomplished authors in their own right.

Some creative writing certificate programs bring in published and respected authors as guest lecturers or visiting writers to offer even more exposure to the kind of talent and experience you can best learn from.

With such a diverse range of subjects in the creative writing world, you’ll need to be careful about picking the right type of certificate program. In general, there are four kinds:

Introductory Certificates in Creative Writing

Designed to give non-English majors a quick introduction to the world of creative writing, these programs are just the thing for people getting their feet wet in writing. They often cover similar ground to associate degree programs, but drop the general education subjects—perfect if you already hold a degree in a different field.

Post-Bachelor’s Certificates in Creative Writing

Post-bachelor’s graduate certificates offer more advanced training in creative writing, aimed at students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in English or a related field. The coursework in these programs is at the graduate level, mirroring some of the classes offered in MA or MFA programs in creative writing. You’ll typically be asked to develop a work in some depth for critique and review, and you’ll engage with more advanced narrative, plotting, and character development techniques.

Genre Certificates in Creative Writing

Some certificate programs are focused instead on developing your skills as a genre author. Whether it’s learning the art of character development or helping you learn how to prepare a novel for submission and publication, these certificates offer a specialized slice of the education you cover in a full degree program. Because they are so specific, however, they are an excellent solution for creative writers interested in honing a particular aspect of their skill.

Post-Graduate Certificates in Creative Writing

There are also post-graduate programs in creative writing, designed for students who have already earned an MFA or MA in the field. The most common of these are post-graduate certificates in teaching creative writing. These offer training not in creative writing itself, but rather in teaching it to others, to prepare you for positions as an instructor in creative writing programs. Other post-grad certificates offer an extra helping of assistance in reviewing and revising manuscripts for publication, usually those already begun as a master’s project.

These types aren’t exclusive; you may find genre-specific certificates that are taught at the graduate level, for example.

Certificates are most commonly offered in part-time, evening or weekend formats. They’re designed to fit around the schedule of working professionals.

Creative Writing Certificates Keep the Coursework Simple

reading in libraryThe coursework offered for certificates will vary widely depending on the type of program you pick. Where programs are run by established colleges and universities, they will often be identical to classes offered in degree programs.

In general, the kind of coursework in any creative writing certificate will consist of the same three kinds of classes commonly found in those degree programs:

Many certificates in creative writing also allow some flexibility in picking your coursework. Although your elective options might only amount to one or two classes, you frequently have a wide range of different choices—everything from exploring specialized genres to understanding the publishing industry.

Online Creative Writing Programs Are a Perfect Fit for Certificate Students

Creative writing programs at every level are well-suited for online formats. But certificates are even better suited to remote learning than most. You’ll find a lot of options for online certificate programs in creative writing and good reasons to take a hard look at them, including:

Most online programs in creative writing aren’t entirely asynchronous, though. To offer real discussion and participate in valuable feedback, group meetings through Zoom or other online forums connect you even more closely with professors and fellow students. Some hybrid models even take you on campus or to retreats where you have the time and space to give your undivided focus to improving your craft for a day or a weekend.

When you put that kind of flexibility together with the affordability offered by certificates, they become an easy choice to help take your writing game to the next level. Whether you are a retiree settling down to put your autobiography together, a college student rounding out your writing skills for a future as a professional writer, or a mid-career professional in another field sitting down to work on that great novel idea you have been kicking around, a certificate gives you exactly the education you need.

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