As John Steinbeck once said, "The profession of writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business."
Working as a writer or author can be a tricky business. Writers build their careers on experience and reputation, but a college degree can help open many doors.
Potential degrees in writing
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, writers, authors and editors generally hold a bachelor's degree in a field related to writing, such as journalism, English or communications. Writers who want to focus on a particular subject in their writing could be well-served by a degree in that field; for instance, those writing history textbooks might pursue a degree in history or political science. Writers who want to cover the financial industry may pursue additional coursework in economics or finance.
Writing focused online liberal-arts degree programs can take many forms, from creative writing to journalism to marketing copy. No matter the specialty, a writing portfolio is an essential element for writers on the job market. Many degree programs in writing offer opportunities either in class or through internships for writers to gain experience by writing fiction, reporting news stories or crafting advertising copy.
Since writing does not require hands-on training, online degrees in writing are popular. Students in online writing programs can share drafts of work and send feedback to other writers via email or online forums. Online degrees in writing allow students to work at their own pace, writing when inspiration strikes. Online writing programs may also be a great choice for working students who want to improve their writing skills for professional or personal reasons.
What to expect from a career as a writer
Writing is a field that has been dramatically changed by the rise of online media. Today, many writers must tailor their content to a digital audience. While online media has created a wealth of new opportunities for writers, it has also led to shrinking job opportunities in traditional print media. Writing is a competitive field, and the BLS predicts opportunities will be best for writers with experience in new media and electronic formats.
According to the BLS, 70 percent of writers were self-employed in 2008. Among the 30 percent employed by outside companies, about half worked in scientific, professional, technical or publishing industries. Jobs for writers are traditionally found in major media markets, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. However, many writers use the Internet to allow them to work from almost anywhere.
Though many writers work in home offices, they might not have set hours. The nature of covering a news story or meeting a deadline can occasionally mean working around the clock. Writers can spend a great deal of time researching, interviewing sources, writing drafts and working closely with clients to achieve the best outcome before deadline.
The BLS reports a mean annual wage of $64,960 for authors and writers in 2010. While wages at the low end of the spectrum are less than $26,610 per year, established writers can make significantly more. The BLS reports that the upper ten percent made more than $109,440 in 2010.
Good writers are creative, curious and skilled communicators. Writers also need to be able to meet deadlines and work under pressure. In a job market where many work as freelancers, they must also be flexible, self-motivated and able to manage their time well to build a stable career in the industry.