Writing Majors for College Students

College Information for Potential Writers

The craft of writing encompasses many disciplines, and there are many related college majors to choose from. Potential writing majors should keep in mind the conventional advice about selecting a college and program. Issues like geography and size are important. But the most critical characteristic to consider after that is what kind of writing you hope to do in the future—perhaps fiction, journalism, poetry, or business writing. Each has unique qualities.

Once you've got an idea of your preferred genre, you are ready to choose a specific writing major and writing degree program that works for you. Do you even need a college degree to be a writer? This also depends on the kind of writing you aim to do, but, in general, a college education can greatly increase career opportunities. 

Here are 20 writing majors for college students seeking a writing degree:

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Writing (General)

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One can major in just "writing." A general writing major offers a variety of writing classes in different genres and prepares you for many different specialties within your writing career. Some allow you to customize your experience by selecting a module that lets you concentrate on a specific niche or specialty.   

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Professional Writing

The professional writing major is similar to a general writing degree, without the more creative elements available, such as work in poetry or creative writing. This is a career-oriented writing program, and the one most recommended to aspiring freelance writers.

Professional writing can break down into specializations such as editing and publishing, digital/technical writing, and writing for non-profits.

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Technical Writing

Technical writing, science writing, and business writing are the "user-friendly" writing careers. These writers aim to make complicated information friendly to readers.

Technical writing involves providing simplified text about complicated or specialized topics for users who need it. Your classes may focus on understanding your end user (audience). You will also learn to produce different composition formats—such as white papers, instruction manuals, assembly instructions, and technology support. 

 In addition, you may want to consider a combined major in technical writing and another discipline.

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Science and Medical Writing

Science and medical writing career opportunities are growing, just like other health and STEM career fields.Science writing, science journalism, science communications and medical writing are all legitimate standalone majors for aspiring writers. Medical writing majors seem to be limited to graduate programs.

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Business Writing

Although you can find business writing most often taught within business colleges as part of business administration programs, there are standalone majors available.

This writing major would be ideal for those looking to practice the craft within a corporate environment.

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Creative Writing

Earning a BA in creative writing will give you the two things you need most as a writer: practice and feedback. Although creative writing may be the domain of aspiring authors, freelance writers can also make a living by writing creatively. This is a writing major that is readily available nationwide.

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English/English Literature

This major seems to be the default when more specialized programs aren't available.

A major in English forces you to write, and then rewrite. That constant practice can hone your writing skills, and expose your writing weaknesses. The editing requirement will also help any freelance writer. A major in English will also teach you to read critically and research thoroughly.

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The solid skills that accompany a journalism degree are a great selling point. Of course, if you're looking to write specifically for newspapers and magazines, this is your major. This program is ubiquitous, but students may also consider specialty degrees in topics such as art journalism.

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There is a stand-alone major in publishing offered at many universities, but these majors seem to be for those interested in working for publishers, and are not aimed specifically at writers. Most publishing majors do offer a fair amount of editing instruction, so they could prove helpful in launching a freelance writing or freelance editing career.

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An undergrad degree in linguistics will really push a student writer into the minutiae of language. You'll learn to manipulate words and syntax in a very thorough and specific way, which will bolster your writing.

Linguistics is one of the more commonly available undergrad programs.

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Liberal Arts

A general degree in the liberal arts or humanities covers a wide range of subjects and will bolster research and writing skills, while also giving you some more specific subject matter expertise to work with.

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Since much of the education major deals with pedagogy and curriculum development, along with the development of written materials, it's a potential choice for writers who want to specialize in writing for school and reference markets.

Education writing is a fertile career niche. There are also many editing opportunities available with curriculum development companies and textbook packagers.

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Rhetoric/Rhetorical Studies

You may consider majoring in rhetoric if you're drawn to analyzing words and text, and how composition and speech ​are used to influence others, further agendas, construct narratives, or create policies.

This would be an ideal major for those interested in writing in law, policy, politics, non-profit, social justice, or related topics.

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Theatre/Cinema Studies

If you're specifically interested in scriptwriting, screenwriting, film criticism, or arts journalism, you may want to consider theater or cinema majors that include some coursework in these topics. Cinema studies, specifically, may be housed within a larger media department or media studies program.

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Communications/Mass Communications

General communications degrees are available, as well as more specific degrees like mass communications, media, or media communications.

Communications studies are sometimes more general, covering everything from television to politics to technical topics, so be sure to narrow down what you really want in your program, or look for programs that offer concentrations within the major, so that you can focus on writing aspects. 

Media or media communications programs are often focused on journalism or marketing/advertising.

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Digital Communications

As opposed to the more general communications programs described above, digital communications programs often focus on mobile, online, or interactive communications.

Many writers want to specialize in web or social media writing and communications. Be sure to check out related majors in "new media" or "emerging media".

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Media/New Media/Emerging Media/Social Media

Those who want to write specifically for online, interactive, or mobile platforms will want to check out these relatively new programs and degrees.

Although a more general media degree will likely include many aspects of communications or mass communications, it will also cover the emerging media market.

However, if you'd like a program that is more specific and focused solely on social media, emerging media and so on, look for schools offering concentrations in those specialties.

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Marketing is a fairly safe choice for writers hoping to concentrate on copy generation, copywriting, or some types of media/new media. It's also a great choice for writers who prefer to work within a corporate environment. For freelance writers, this major will set you up to nab some lucrative clients.

Undergrad degrees in marketing are fairly easy to find. But some colleges offer a specialization in writing or copywriting.  

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Writers looking to focus on a copywriting career aren't limited to a marketing degree. Some schools offer advertising and copywriting.

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Public Relations

A public relations degree will teach you to manage messages and effectively communicate with clients and the public—skills freelancers and other writers use daily.

In addition, PR coursework is heavy in writing instruction. You could also support your writing goals by minoring in a writing field while working on a PR degree.

Writing Majors: Choice and Customization

A writing major can tailor their educational program to very specific needs and goals. Students and future writers should consider their desired genre, preferred work setting, and their own talents when designing their college program and choosing a writing major.