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Top Ten Majors for Writers

College Education Choices for Freelance Writers


You're sure you want to write, but unsure of what to major in to be a writer? Here are ten majors for writers, along with example programs, links and summaries.

1. English

Students studying on library floor
Blend Images-Dave and Les Jacobs
A major in English forces you to write, and then rewrite. That constant practice can hone your writing skills, and expose your writing weaknesses. A requisite editing class was never lost on any freelance writer, either. Finally, a major in English will also teach you to read critically and research thoroughly.

2. Journalism

The solid skills that accompany a journalism degree are a great selling point. Of course, if you're looking to write specifically for newspapers and magazines, this is your major.

3. Liberal Arts

A general degree in the liberal arts or humanities studies covers a wide range of subjects and will bolster research and writing skills while also giving you some more specific subject matter expertise to work with.

4. Communications

General communications degrees are available, as well as more specific degrees like "Mass Media Communications."

5. Marketing/P.R.

Marketing is a fairly safe choice for writers hoping to concentrate in copy generation, and for those who wish to round out their skills. A public relations degree will teach the writer in you to manage messages and effectively communicate with clientele and the public--both skills that a freelancer uses daily.

6. Professional Writing

I've come upon this general writing degree more often lately. For example, Michigan State University offers a BA in Professional Writing in their department of Writing & Rhetoric. Curriculum generally includes some editing classes, along with media-specific classes such as "Writing for the Web."

7. Technical Writing

A highly specialized degree in a highly specialized field--this major will teach the writer to distill and present technical information in the form of white papers, brochures and instruction booklets. If you are a writer who is looking for the most lucrative choice in majors, this is probably your best option, given that you can handle the subject matter.

8. Linguistics/ESL

An undergrad degree in linguistics will really push the writer into the minutiae of the English language--in a good way. You'll learn to manipulate the language on a more specific level than an English major. I've included the ESL (English Second Language) derivative here as many post-grad degrees in linguistics will lead to teaching in the ESL field. However, those seeking to freelance write as a career should not discount the BA in linguistics as a choice.

9. Creative Writing

Although not generally thought of as a pathway to freelancing, earning a BA in creative writing will give you the two things you need most as a writer: practice and feedback.

10. Education

Since much of the education major deals with pedagogy and curriculum development, along with the development of written materials, I've included it here as a potential choice for writers who want to specialize in writing for school and reference markets. There are also many editing opportunities available with curriculum development companies and textbook packagers.

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