M.F.A. in Creative & Professional Writing

mfa illustrationGraduate Director: Dr. Phoebe Jackson (973) 720-3704; MFA Program Coordinator: John Parras (973) 720-3067  

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative and Professional writing is a full-residency program of 41 credits, with tracks in Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Cross-Genre. We provide a supportive academic environment focused on the production of high-caliber writing and are geared to prepare you for real-world work in teaching, writing, editing, and publishing. Graduate Assistantships and teaching opportunities with tuition waiver are offered to outstanding students.

Designed to hone essential creative skills and nourish talent in poetry, novel writing, short fiction, memoir, literary biography, film/theater scripts, cultural studies, professional writing and more, the program aims to advance your writing to a competitive level. You take intensive writing workshops, study contemporary literature, and gain valuable experience in manuscript evaluation and editing. In our pedagogy courses, you practice up-to-date methodologies in the teaching of writing. And because we are a small program, you receive close, individual guidance from faculty members, particularly while you work on your culminating M.F.A. thesis project—a substantial manuscript of publishable quality.

Our core creative writing faculty have published widely--poetry, novels, short story collections, adolescent fiction, memoirs, literary biographies, TV/film/theater scripts, and cultural studies--and have extensive experience in pedagogy, editing, and the publishing industry. Accomplished faculty members in the Department of English will help guide your reading interests and encourage you to explore both the process and the product of the writing craft in the context of today’s literary publishing standards. And because we understand that creative writing is a profession, we cover the in’s and out’s of preparing manuscripts for submission, researching publication markets, corresponding with agents and editors, and other skills essential to careers in writing.

Located commuting distance from New York City, we run an annual Spring Writer's Conference, which has featured writers such as Francine Prose, Russell Banks, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Chang-Rae Lee. We also publish Map Literary: A Journal of Contemporary Writing & Art, and welcome students to participate as submissions readers and to assist in the production and editing process. This year Map Literary is proud to inaugurate the yearly Rachel Wetzsteon Chapbook Prize. And in collaboration with The Playwright’s Theater of New Jersey, we have inaugurated a program in which, each semester, professional actors and directors arrange live performances of William Paterson University M.F.A. student writing (poetry, fiction, scripts). In addition, M.F.A. students regularly read their work on campus as part of our Living Writers Series.

Career Preparation

The M.F.A.'s rigorous course of study prepares you for a wide variety of careers, including secondary education and university-level teaching, book and magazine publishing and editing, journalism, copywriting, public relations, and professional writing. You will benefit from the program’s applied focus on developing a substantial manuscript portfolio, targeting appropriate markets, and submitting work for publication according to professional standards. Teaching opportunities at William Paterson University are available to outstanding alumni.

Course of Study

The combined studio/research M.F.A. program of 41 credits encompasses four major components:

  • writing workshops (18 credits) – courses in fiction, poetic craft, creative nonfiction, memoir, literary biography, script writing, criticism, writing for young adults, technical writing, professional writing, writing for the web…
  • the study of literature (12 credits)—courses in Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Faulkner & Morrison, Postcolonialism, Adolescent Literature, Queer Literature, Ethnic Literature, The Beat Generation…
  • a teaching portion with an optional publishing/editing internship opportunity (3 credits), and
  • a master’s thesis--a substantial manuscript of publishable quality, accompanied by an essay on writing craft (8 credits).

The program can be completed in two years. With evening classes and online offerings, the program is ideal for commuters. On-campus housing is also available. In addition, summer courses, including our intensive Summer Writing Institute program, are offered regularly. Full graduate course descriptions can be found in the graduate catalog by clicking here.

Tuition & Fees (click for rates)

Graduate Assistantships (click for application materials)

Financial Aid (click for information)


The requirements for admissions are:

  1. a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university;
  2. a cumulative grade point average of no less than 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in the undergraduate major;
  3. two letters of recommendation attesting to your writing skills;
  4. a Statement of Purpose addressing your writing interests, reading influences, and career-related goals (approximately 750-1000 words); send an electronic copy to parrasj@wpunj.edu and to graduate@wpunj.edu; please send the Statement of Purpose in a separate email from your ten-page Writing Sample (see below), and include your full name and student ID;
  5. a ten-page Writing Sample (double-spaced for prose) in the genre you intend to pursue. Send an electronic copy to parrasj@wpunj.edu and to graduate@wpunj.edu; please send the ten-page Writing Sample in a separate email from your Statement of Purpose, and include your full name and student ID.

The Miller Analogies Test (with a minimum score of 400) or the Graduate Record Examination General Test (with a minimum score of 150 verbal and 4.5 analytical) is recommended--especially for those seeking Graduate Assistantships or on-campus employment--but not required.


Apply Now

The application fee may be waived for those visiting one of our graduate classes or attending an Open House. Please contact John Parras at parrasj@wpunj.edu for details. For more information visit: Graduate Admissions and Enrollment Services at William Paterson University

Non-Degree Status

Those with a bachelor's degree may also take up to three graduate courses as a non-degree or non-matriculated student prior to applying to the program. We recommend ENG 6160 Creative Writing I as a starting point.

Information for Current Students


Don't hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or want to learn more. We'd be happy to speak with you.

The M.F.A. program can be called at (973) 720-3704 or emailed at parrasj@wpunj.edu