Master’s Degrees: Are They Worth It?—Part V: Professionalism

Perhaps this aspect of my graduate education was unique to my degree—a Master of Professional Writing—but during my time in the program, I learned how to make a living as a professional writer.

To be fair, I had already been making a living as a professional writer for more than a decade—before and during the program. Post-fulltime job, though, I’ve discovered even more avenues down which to pursue that ever elusive paycheck:

  • Business of Writing: There’s more to writing a book than just the writing. Also part of the process are query letters (if you’re a fiction writer), book proposals (if you’re a nonfiction writer), and business plans (if you’re either). You’ll need to find and work with agents and editors at publishing houses. And you’ll have to develop a publicity campaign, whether with the aid of a professional hired by your publisher or not. A graduate writing program can help prepare you for all of this.
  • Freelancing: Let’s face it: few writers are lucky enough to actually make a living from their novels alone. Writing newspaper and magazine pieces can supplement one’s income. Moreover, a strategically placed editorial or article can help promote your nonfiction book.
  • Short Stories: Often you won’t get paid more than a couple of contributor copies if your short story appears in a literary journal, but the publication is a nice credential to include in your résumé and cover letter.
  • Blogging: Any writer worth his/her salt needs to be online. A blog showcases your work, not only in your regular entries but by providing a platform for links to your published pieces. Further, if you’re doing any freelancing writing or editing, you can connect with potential clients online.
  • Public Relations: Although the working relationship between journalists and publicists can sometimes be antagonistic, their jobs are quite similar in that they both involve research and interviewing as well as writing. Although would-be writers may not automatically consider entering public relations, a graduate program can introduce you to this and other writing-related career options.
  • Teaching: A master’s degree can open the door for collegiate-level teaching. Every institution of higher learning, from junior colleges to four-year degrees, require freshman to take an introductory composition class. And those incoming freshman are often anxious about their academic writing, offering tutoring opportunities for trained writers.

Have I missed anything? How else are master’s degree programs beneficial to writers—or not?

Caught in the ’Net

Grammar vandals fined $3,000 and banned from national parks for typo eradication activities.

Writers wait for Bread.

Battle royale: “Writers Vs. Editors.”


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