Do I Need an MFA to Teach College?

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For artists and creative people who want to refine their skills, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree is one way to take their crafts to a higher level. An MFA can open up a number of career possibilities including teaching college courses.


Teaching With an MFA

Virtually all teaching positions in colleges that pay a decent salary require a Ph.D., especially if you want to become a tenured professor. You can teach college with an MFA in creative writing, but your position would be limited to teaching freshman comp courses as an adjunct professor with no room for advancement.

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You should also keep in mind that adjunct teaching positions are very rare. Even worse, the pay is very low with virtually no benefits. You would not want to spend a lot of money on an MFA if your goal is to make a living from teaching. Also, if you do actually manage to get a coveted teaching position, you're likely to become so caught up in your teaching responsibilities that you won't have a lot of time to dedicate to your own writing.


Something else to remember is that you don't necessarily need an MFA to teach in a college. In fact, many teachers in MFA programs don't have that degree themselves. For example, in creative writing programs, teachers may be successful authors or industry professionals like editors or agents.

Consider also:Do I Need an MFA to Write?

Understanding the MFA Degree

You must have a Bachelor of Arts degree to submit an application to an MFA program. Typically, it takes two to three years to earn an MFA.


MFA programs teach students to become disciplined in their creative thinking. They help students polish their skills in the creative and performing arts, and students receive mentoring from professionals in their fields. These programs provide a structured environment in which students can collaborate and learn from their colleagues.

Popular MFA programs focus on writing, fashion design, acting, dancing, choreography or painting.

An MFA is usually considered a terminal degree. This means that it's the highest academic degree that can be awarded in a particular field. However, you can obtain doctorate degree in certain specific fields such as creative writing.


Something else to remember is that you don't necessarily need an MFA to teach in a college.

Consider also:Is an MA Worth the Money?

Weighing the Costs

While there are fully funded MFA programs available, competition is usually fierce. If you opt to pay your own way, getting an MFA can be very expensive, reaching upwards of ​$70,000 to $100,000​ at some of the most prestigious schools.


With these kinds of costs, you risk coming out of school with a substantial amount of student debt. The pay you would receive teaching as an adjunct professor would barely make a dent in reducing your student loans, so you have to consider other reasons to justify the cost of getting an MFA.

Higher-paying careers for graduates with an MFA could include jobs as editors, copywriters at advertising agencies, art directors or multimedia artists.

Consider also:How to Pay for Grad School