Creative Writing, Master of Fine Arts

Department of English

College of Arts and Letters

This program, which involves completing a creative thesis, allows you to balance academic course work in English with the serious study of creative writing.

  • To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units.

    You must additionally complete:

    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
    • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
    • All work toward the master's degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.

    Read the full policy here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 36
Additional Admission Requirements

Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

Thesis Thesis is required.
Oral Defense Oral Defense is required.
Research Individualized research is required.
Progression Plan Link View Program of Study

Purpose Statement

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing balances the study and practice of creative writing with academic coursework in English. Students participate in writing workshops in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, undertake coursework in literature, and study critical theory. MFA candidates will present a creative thesis of between 45 to 120 pages, depending on genre. 

The MFA Program at Northern Arizona University allows you to:   

  • live and write in the beautiful, vibrant city of Flagstaff
  • focus on poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction
  • participate in intensive writing workshops with dedicated professors

Student Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of the Creative Writing MFA students will be able to:

  • Examine, explicate, analyze and evaluate literary texts of considerable difficulty in order to determine the place of the student’s own work within a literary tradition.
  • Develop the student’s own critical and aesthetic position, based on recognizing, understanding, and interpreting critical positions and literary arguments of other authors.
  • Read and respond thoughtfully and thoroughly to work by other MFA students in order to hone the critical, intellectual, and analytical skills that are crucial to success in a broad range of literary, artistic, cultural and professional fields.
  • Investigate the world of literary publishing in order to discover suitable journals, magazines and/or quality trade book publishers to which the student author can submit his/her own finished work.
  • Refine skills in drafting, revising and editing in a primary literary genre with the goal of producing a polished creative manuscript of marketable quality.
  • Actively participate and network in a community of writers and cultivate a professional identity through performing one’s work in both written and oral forms to include:
    • public readings,
    • interviewing other writers,
    • attending outside readings,
    • writing book reviews,
    • serving on editorial boards, and
    • organizing literary events.
Upon completion of the thesis manuscript, students will develop a professional presentation of an excerpt to their community of writers in a public reading.


Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

    • 2 letters of recommendation
    • Writing sample
    • Personal statement or essay
Master's Requirements
  • This Master’s degree requires 36 units distributed as follows:

    • Creative Writing courses: 12 units
    • Supportive coursework: 12 units
    • Electives chosen with your advisor’s approval: 6 to 9 units
    • Thesis: 3 to 6 units (if 6 units of thesis are selected, it will reduce the number of units of electives required for the degree)

  • Take the following 36 units :
    • 500- and 600-level creative writing courses, some of which may be repeated for 9 units of credit (12 units)
    • Coursework in literature, literary criticism, literary theory, and/or readings in creative writing (12 units) 
    • Electives chosen with your advisor's approval (6-9 units)
    • ENG 699, for the research, writing, and revision of an approved thesis. Please note: You may end up taking more than the 6 units of thesis credit you can count toward your degree because you must register for it each semester while you are working on your thesis. (3-6 units)
    • Note that up to 6 units of 400-level literature courses may count toward degree, with advisor approval
Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.