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Friday, 14 September 2012

Is a college degree necessary to become a full-time writer?

another guest post on #wwbb
Lauren Bailey

It’s the age-old question of whether institutionalized credit trumps raw talent. Before you begin chomping at the bit to defend either direction, I have to come clean and say that there are opportunities for writers of all education backgrounds, which makes the title a bit of a trick question.

The first step to understanding the world of full-time writing is to broaden your perception of what a full-time writer does. There are many different occupations that demand writing, but most of my fellow creative writing majors have landed jobs in other sectors – like finance and education. Being a full-time writer means being a full-time thinker. Some people, even passionate and talented people, find that writing full-time is more of a burden than a joy.

It’s true that the intellectual and creative demands of being a full-time writer are sometimes exhausting; and no matter what anyone tells you, being a writer is full of rejection and disappointment. For most of us; however, writing is as natural as breathing, and when things go awry, it’s just part of the job and part of life.
Anyone who wishes to become employed by a major corporation will need an undergraduate degree. The market for writers is extremely competitive. A degree in English literature, technical writing, journalism, creative writing or PR is a good place to begin. For those who wish to publish as freelancers or as book authors, the market is less about credentials and more about writing samples.

Common jobs for writers

Book Authors – Writers of fiction and non-fiction alike have come from various backgrounds and levels of education. Authors are artists, plain and simple; but the disadvantage to being a book author is that the art must also be marketable in order to become a full-time job. Alas, you have to be a real literary genius to pull off anything completely avant-garde these days.

Participating in workshops that are offered in creative writing programs will expose beginning authors to the basics of proofreading, editing and writing on a deadline. Although it can be stifling at times, a creative writing emphasis can usher budding writers into the first stages of publishing, and it is, as the name suggests, the most liberal of education in terms of creativity.

Journalists – Good journalists have highly analytical minds and a natural ability to restructure information. Though sometimes the job can be a bit dull – there is a ton of research and sleuthing involved – it can also be controversial and fast-paced. Unlike book authors, journalists work with other writers and benefit from the mentorship of an editor. Community-minded individuals may be better suited for a journalism career rather than a solitary life as an author.

PR Manager -- Corporations across the nation are looking for public relations managers who can mitigate damage in crisis situations and serve as connecting points for media campaigns. The day-to-day life of a PR manager is full of press-releases, both writing and reading; but it may also include managing public statements and organizing events. Highly social writers and all-around great communicators would enjoy this job. Oh, you also have to be extremely business minded. Some elements of PR can be a bit nasty, especially when smoothing over a company’s mistakes. Mitigating damage in crisis situations can be extremely stressful and demanding, making this job perfect for the adrenaline junkie.

Copy Writers – Another business-minded job, marketing writers are those who work well under direction or with a specific goal in mind. Often, writing is a bit of an open-ended venture; but for the copy writer, the message needs to be succinct and clear while also being cleverly cloaked. It’s a tricky business, but like the journalist, a copy writer is a part of a larger team that works under a creative director.

Content Writers – In the dawn of the Internet age, the position of content writer has cropped up in major cities. Content writers write articles for Websites and blogs. The job is a unique merging of journalism and marketing; as the content is researched and independent, yet affiliated with the host site.

Wait…there’s more.

Education is essential to capturing the attention of a major corporation, but more important than a college degree is an outstanding portfolio. The first step to becoming a full-time writer is producing large volumes of work – whether through freelance articles to your local newspaper or your indie blog. The more you write, and the more you get rejected, the better you will become.

If you are interested in learning more about writing, consider taking a free online course before you enroll in any major.

Lauren Bailey is a freelance blogger for bestcollegesonline.com. She loves writing about education, writing, and health. As an education writer, she works to provide helpful information on the best online colleges and courses. She welcomes comments and questions via email at blauren 99 @gmail.com.

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