If you intend to write for a living, you may well be wondering what to major in to actually become a paid writer. In all honesty, you don’t necessarily need to have an undergraduate degree to pursue some careers in writing, but it can help. Just so long as you have creativity, coupled with top quality English writing and grammatical skills, you’ll discover there are online writer openings that are a potentially good fit.
However, if you definitely intend to further your studies, and want to major in the subject most suited to your writing ambitions, you may find the following summary helpful.
Studying at university is an eye opener, and offers a variety of exciting life experiences and learning options that can’t be found elsewhere. As stated above, you could actually pursue a writing career throughout your studies and build a great portfolio of impressive work at the same time. Once you’ve created a killer portfolio, you’ll find it far easier to approach employers for writing jobs or impress freelance clients with your skills.
Reasons to pursue an undergraduate degree prior to launching a writing career
It can’t really be denied that studying for a degree can help you further your writing ambitions and open avenues you may never have considered. Some of the benefits include:
- Hones writing skills and builds writing ability
- Teaches research skills
- Gives discipline to meet writing deadlines and write succinctly to chosen topics
- Improves written English language
- Offers experience in writing reports, essays, dissertations
- Provides learning in a variety of subjects and disciplines
What to major in to become a writer
There are lots more reasons to study for a degree to help further your writing career. When it comes down to choosing what to major in to become a writer, it’s important you have some idea of the career direction you plan to take. For example, if you’re particularly keen on becoming a travel writer, you may choose to study joint honours in English or Journalism and then further your studies in some other popular language, such as Spanish or German. Alternatively, if you want to become a science writer, you may want to major in a science subject and perhaps take additional English or journalism courses at the same time.
There are lots of renowned authors who never studied for a university degree, including Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain and HG Wells. Other authors have used the education acquired at university to create more authentic works, including John Grisham, who used his law education to inform details in his legal thrillers, and Michael Crichton, whose medical degree helped with all the genetic detail needed in his Jurassic Park novel. So, if you do plan to write novels and create complex works of fiction, you may want to set targets for the sorts of subjects you will be covering and make decisions on your major accordingly.
Writing careers can take a number of forms. You may want to write novels, plays, screenplays or become a journalist, feature writer or copywriter. So, step back and think about your strengths and the career you want to pursue before making a final decision on your degree course.
Many experts state that English is an essential major for anyone planning to become a writer. But, just some of the other popular degree subjects that can lead to successful writing careers include:
- Creative writing
- Marketing and communications
- Business writing
- Drama, music or the performing arts
- Media studies
- Writing for performance
Skills you’ll need to become a writer
If you’re confident your written skills are of an acceptable quality to become a writer and communicate effectively with your reader, some of the additional expertise and transferable skills you’ll need include:
- Creativity and the ability to keep coming up with new ideas
- Great research skills
- Ability to meet deadlines
- sufficient discipline to ensure you write on a regular and sustained basis
- Proofreading ability and the skills to hone and perfect copy
- Sufficient persistence to keep plugging away at a piece of text until it is of an acceptable standard
- People skills for interacting with publishers, clients and other writers
Writing any piece of work requires considerable discipline. If you hope to become a novelist or playwright but don’t have the persistence or, indeed, the time to write texts between 20,000 and 100,000 words in length, then this may not be the right writing career for you. Majoring in a creative writing discipline may help you develop all the above skills and build the levels of creativity needed to write works of fiction or drama.
You may want to think about the benefits of writing shorter pieces of text like blog posts, factual articles, journalistic copy or marketing copy. In this case, majoring in journalism will give you opportunities to write copy suited to a range of publications and in varying tones of voice. Your journalism degree will also involve writing longer academic essays which will help you develop the research skills needed to write saleable copy of a factual nature. However, you may instead choose to take one of the many online writing courses available.
There are lots of different openings for writers across the entire business and lifestyle sector. So, taking the time to consider your entire skillset is important before making any decision on what subject(s) you will study at university. As already noted, it’s entirely possible to earn money as a freelance writer while pursuing your educational goals, and this gives you opportunities to write different copy and texts which may inspire you to move in a different career direction.
Main image credit: Anastasiya Gepp
Internal image credits: Abby Chung, Burst