You need two basic things to be a writer: knowledge of your topic and enough understanding of the rules of writing to put together an article or book that readers will understand. A bachelor's degree is a good starting point for an aspiring writer. Your major should be determined by the type of writing you wish to do.
A journalism degree is hard to beat. J school teaches you to thoroughly research your topic, write concisely and accept criticism. You will learn about the editing process and have your work so pummeled you will create copy that is worthy of "The New York Times." Journalism professors are often journalists themselves, giving you the added benefit of that real-world experience. A journalism degree is great if you are interested in writing nonfiction material for books, magazines, newspapers or online articles.
Creative Writing Degree
A creative writing degree is what you want if you wish to write fiction or advertising copy that doesn't require great technicality. Here, you will learn about themes, genres and point of view. Writing the next great novel requires dozens of decisions: First or third person? Sparse or flowery text? Require the reader to think or spell things out? Creative writing courses will help you answer these questions and hone your skills, with plenty of feedback. Programs such as the one offered at Southern New Hampshire University will help you prepare a manuscript that is fit for publishing.
Technical Writing Degree
Technical writing degree programs prepare you to write in the scientific, engineering and other professional fields. This is the dry writing that is considered boring by some, but the technical writer often enjoys being precise and creating copy that other writers cannot. A technical writing major will prepare you to write speeches, white papers, product manuals, brochures, reports and presentations.
Many writers don't have a degree in writing at all; they are nurses, doctors, engineers, attorneys, botanists, chefs or veterinarians. Often, so much technical information is required for a report that the best person to write it is an expert in the field. If you aspire to write in one of these fields, make sure you also have a solid basis in grammar, punctuation and sentence and paragraph structure by taking a few elective classes in English, composition or technical writing. Writers with specialized degrees may produce textbooks, grant applications, journal articles or reports.
If you're confused about which type of writing education to pursue, give yourself a test. Create a short story. Write out an explanation of how to perform a task, such as preparing spaghetti. Pen a persuasive argument for or against the death penalty. Create a news story describing an event you attended recently. Which piece of writing excited you the most? Next, consider whether you like to work on short projects or long ones. This will help you determine if you would rather write books or stories, lengthy journal articles or internet snippets. Now that you have an idea what you want to write, you can decide on the best educational path to follow.
J. Lucy Boyd, RN, BSN has written several nonfiction books including "The Complete Guide to Healthy Cooking and Nutrition for College Students." She is frequently called upon to provide career guidance to medical professionals and advice to parents of children with challenges. She also loves teaching others to cook for their families.