5 Non-Teaching Career Paths for MFA Grads

While some creative writing MFA graduates pursue academic teaching posts, plenty of writers also apply their talents to other rewarding career paths. Our AU MFA grads find success in a range of fields – journalism, marketing, editing, politics, entertainment, and more – often while rigorously pursuing their own creative work. Here are a few examples of the successes our MFA grads have found in various industries:


  1. Communications & Administration. In the time our MFA candidates spend in the DC area, they have access to a diverse range of organizations and activities, and some use their writing talents to get involved in the political or publishing worlds. A recent example is Madeline Pillow, a recent graduate hired on as editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate. Jay Melder, another AU MFA graduate, has lent his skills to the political world. He now works as a Chief of Staff at the DC Department of Human Resources. His previous roles include a role as director of communications and external affairs at the US Interagency Counsel on Homelessness.


  1. Radio. With a variety of news and entertainment outlets calling DC home, our graduates sometimes snag jobs that take their word skills off the page and onto the airwaves. AU MFA graduate Teri Cross Davis spent five years as a radio producer for WAMU on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, and now coordinates lectures and poetry readings at the Folger Shakespeare Library.


  1. The National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA – an independent federal agency that funds the arts – is an amazing resource for our nation’s artists, and being located in DC, it’s right at our fingertips. AU MFA graduate Amy Stolls has distinguished herself as the NEA’s literature director – she’s been with the NEA’s literature program for more than 15 years and now oversees grantmaking in literature. Stolls’ own writing continues to figure prominently in her life: her publishing credits include the young adult novel Palms to the Ground (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), winner of the 2005 Parents’ Choice Gold Award, and the novel The Ninth Wife (HarperCollins, 2011), as well as more than a dozen personal and literature-related essays.


  1. Nonprofits in the Arts. Just as it is home to a range of government agencies, DC has doors open to nonprofit organizations in the arts – including Americans for the Arts and Culture Capital – some of which become of students’ and graduates’ places of work. Many students also become involved in nonprofit organizations outside DC. Our alumnus Michelle Franke (Meyering) has distinguished herself as the executive director of PEN Center USA, as well as the founding editor of literary journal “The Rattling Wall.” She has produced over 200 literary events across Southern California and was named a 2013 “Face to Watch,” impacting the writing world even beyond her own publications and her teaching record.


  1. Television. MFA program graduates hold down TV positions from Hollywood writers’ rooms to news broadcasting stations. AU’s very own Glen Finland has not only had successes in her writing career, publishing NEXT STOP (Putnam), a Barnes & Noble Great New Writers 2012 Discovery pick, but she also spent ten years as a reporter/producer at Potomac News.


Inevitably, MFA students encounter a friend or family member who asks, “But what can you do with a creative writing degree?” In addition to the most important answer – focusing on improving your craft – you can now offer five more examples of potential career paths. We hope you’ll consider joining us.

Learn more about American University’s creative writing MFA program.

2 replies
  1. Kevin cauto says:

    Many commenters on many sides of various tracks periodically note that one of the problems with the teaching profession is that there is no career path.the teacher holds the job at the pleasure of the administration.


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