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Writing Seminars Overview


  As a Writing Seminars major, you have the opportunity to work closely with a collection of professional writers published in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction prose. The coursework offers training in literary craft from the bottom up, specializing in a kind of writing workshop where literature and craft are studied together. Students may concentrate in fiction or poetry, or they may study more than one genre, including playwriting, essay-writing, science-writing, screen-writing and criticism. In addition, Writing Seminars majors ground their studies in a range of courses in literature, philosophy, history and language.

  Imaginative writing (whether a story, a poem or an essay) is the other conversation we have with our fellow humans. Through literature, we learn what it's like for others to live in the world. Learning how to write a poem or story—to convert our own experience into a shaped narrative or arresting metaphor—is to send back to the world our own report.2 With a degree in Writing Seminars from JHU, you have the opportunity to give the world your story.

Degree Options

  • Undergraduate:
    • B.A. in Writing Seminars
    • Writing Seminars minor
  • Graduate:
    • M.F.A. in Fiction
    • M.F.A. in Poetry
    • M.A in Science Writing


Writing Seminars Career Options


  As a writer, there are many possible professions and career paths. Producing quality, publishable writing is always a primary emphasis, and this can happen in various forms such as freelance writing for any subject from pharmaceutical drugs to tractor magazines, grant-writing, technical writing for company manuals, and/or text-book writing. However, you can also use your skills as a writer for other professions such as teaching writing, editing, reviewing manuscripts, and/or seeking graduate and phD programs. As a Writing Seminars major, you can explore which career path best illuminates your writing talents.

Listed below are actual job titles that JHU alumni acquired with their degree in Writing Seminars:

  • Art Director
  • Cartoonist
  • Computer Programmer
  • Editor
  • Film Director/Producer
  • Freelance Writer
  • Grants Writer
  • Journalist
  • Lawyer
  • Reporter
  • Senior Copywriter
  • Social Worker
  • Sports Producer
  • Teacher
  • Technical Editor
  • Television Director
  • Writing Tutor Coordinator

  Quality writing is pertinent to every career field. Detailed, expert training in writing form and technique is a valuable skill for the professional workforce today. In addition to publishing your work, the skills you develop as a Writing Seminars Major can apply to several other industries:



Writing Seminars Career Prep


  The field of professional/creative writing is vast and ever changing. While your major in Writing Seminars may influence the career path you choose, it is not the only factor. Internship and research experience, extracurricular activities, and the skills you develop as a result of your academic and out-of-class experiences all influence the career paths of Hopkins students.

  • Internships and Research Experiences
    • To be competitive in today’s job market, it is important you apply the knowledge gained from coursework to the workplace. Employers value the academic preparation Johns Hopkins University provides, but they want to see your ability to employ knowledge outside the classroom. Internships in professional work environments are an excellent way to apply the knowledge you will obtain through the Writing Seminars program. Research experience in literature and writing also provides opportunities to showcase your transference of skills from coursework to the workforce.
    • To learn more about internships, consult the Career Center here.
  • Extracurricular and Volunteer Activities
    • Employers want to see your ability to work on a team and to lead a project. Involvement in extracurricular and volunteer activities is the most effective way to develop and hone these skills. Meet with your Career Counselor and/or Academic Advisor for more information on volunteer opportunities and extracurricular activities.
  • Develop Skills and Abilities Associated with Writing
    • As a Writing Seminars major, you not only have the unique opportunity to specialize in the skills needed to study, analyze, and critique literature, but you will also learn to apply these skills to your own creative writing work, developing the craft of writing as a skilled reader and writer. There are many other skills you will develop as a Writing Seminars Major:
    • Reading and writing with care and thought
    • Generating ideas, images, games, and metaphors
    • Applying close reading and interpretation
    • Shaping general ideas into specific points and programs
    • Writing and editing documents
  • Communication
    • Listen with objectivity and paraphrase the content of a message
    • Use various forms and styles of written communication
    • Use various media to present ideas imaginatively
    • Maintain group cooperation and support
    • Interact effectively with peers, superiors and subordinates
  • Work Independently (Initiative)
    • Maintain deadlines and manage time effectively
    • Apply curiosity and creativity to projects and small groups/teams
  • Organization and Accuracy
    • Apply information creatively to specific problems or tasks
    • Identify resource materials useful in the solution of a problem
  • Critical Thinking/Analytical Skills
    • Evaluate information based on appropriate standards
    • Create innovative solutions for complex problems
    • Analyze the interrelationships of events and ideas from several perspectives
    • Create, imagine and develop new concepts; approach existing elements in new ways and merge abstract ideas to form original solutions to problems
  • Research and Investigation
    • Use a variety of sources of information
    • Identify information sources appropriate to special needs or problems
    • Formulate questions relevant to clarifying a particular problem, topic or issue
    • Navigate various research sites with efficiency and accuracy

  Additional skills may be applicable depending on what career path you choose. Schedule an appointment with a Career Counselor to discuss the skills necessary for your individual career plan.



Writing Seminars Alumni


  Writing Seminars graduates from John Hopkins University go into a variety of fields. Since 2005, the Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans six months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses.

Hopkins Alumni in Writing Seminars

Josh Siegel- Filmmaker, Self-Employed, Writing Seminars, Minor in Film & Media Studies, Class of 1996

  1. Describe what you do and how you got started in your current career. - The majority of my success thus far has been as a line producer, i.e. the person pulling the strings behind a film production – budgeting and scheduling, hiring crew, arranging vendors and shooting logistics. After Hopkins, I moved to LA to go to film school, at which point some production opportunities presented themselves, so I jumped in feet first. Although my background (and heart) is in the creative side of filmmaking, production calls upon my creativity for the frequent problem solving (and pre-solving) required. I am hoping that someday soon one of the projects I am involved with as a full producer will get off the ground, as that will enable me to be more creatively involved.
  2. What is most rewarding about your job and/ or industry? What is most challenging? - Rewarding: I get to earn a living doing what I have always wanted to do – make movies. Challenging: The movies do not make themselves. If anything, they do everything in their power not to get made!
  3. Is your career the same or different from what you had envisioned your career would be when you started at Hopkins as an undergraduate? How is it similar and/or different? - I always knew I'd be working in a creative field, and had always hoped to be able to become a filmmaker. Although, as aforementioned, I might at the moment be working in a slightly different capacity than originally envisioned, it sure beats flipping burgers.

Margaret Richards- e-Learning Specialist, The IRIS Center at the University of MD , Writing Seminars, Applied Mathematics & Statistics, JHU Class of 2001, Master’s in International Education Policy, Harvard 2005

  1. How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - After working/traveling in Asia for a year after college, I got into the idea of working to improve outcomes and opportunities for youth internationally. No goal when I started Hopkins... have fun and swim fast!
  2. What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - I lost a job as a consultant when the economy tanked in 2001 (my offer was rescinded) and decided to spend a year teaching in Korea. I came back, worked for an NGO theater company, then a lifeguard, then got an internship working in education in Baltimore (www.mbrt.org). They kept me on as a consultant while I was in grad school for international education and I still work for them. They helped me get 2 other consulting jobs and I am not a PT consultant / PT Specialist at the IRIS Center. Shortly after grad school, I also spent 6 months directing a program in Micronesia.
  3. What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - Carnie - I actually worked at the Bloomsburg Fair in PA for a few weeks. I temped at Hopkins Hospital and coached swimming before I went off to teach in Korea. It was a bumpy first year but I'm glad I had the fun I did...
  4. What advice do you have for current students? - Learn things that are useful in addition to things that you enjoy. Writing Sems was my 'fun' major because I liked writing plays and things but never wanted to be a writer for a career. Math Sci was my practical major - it helped that I liked math and was good at it (not Calc II and III bu I did well after that!). Writing and analytical skills are REALLY important and useful when looking for jobs - I've learned that surprisingly few people have both so I'm glad I do.
  5. What is your typical day like? - I consult from home 1/2 my week so no day is typical. Here's today: Wake up at 630, get dressed, get to the IRIS Center at 9. Check e-mail, finish reviewing a set of slides for a training I'm facilitating next week on poverty assessment. 11am team meeting on the training, make sure others are up to speed on their tasks for the training. 12: Fill out JHU survey. 12:30 will be lunch, more slide review and research on sample design to enhance our training in that area. By 4 I'll be working with students that work here to help get together materials for the training and for a career fair I'm attending at SAIS to represent IRIS. At some point this afternoon I'm going to get edits to an article I wrote for an online microfinance newsletter (www.microlinks.org). I have to finish those edits before I leave. At 7 I'm getting a massage. At 8:30 I'm holding an online review discussion for my students; I teach math to adult undergrads at Trinity College in DC and their midterm is tomorrow. At 10:30 I'll eat dinner hopefully!
  6. What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: getting to design and lead projects and see their impact. Challenging: being young and trying to work in a city where everyone is as qualified as I am for jobs I want.
  7. What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - If you want to be a program manager (managing grants, deliverable, project objectives, finances, budgets, etc), look for jobs as a program assistant. If you want to be a specialist in some field, hold out. It's VERY hard to cross over from the project management side to the implementation / project design side.
  8. Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - Tech is big right now - knowledge management is an emerging buzz word that I happen to have experience in. Poverty outreach is increasing and the emphasis on M&E and showing results has been rising in the past few years.
  9. What skills and out-of-class experiences are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - Working abroad (far more important than studying abroad). Language skills (especially things like Arabic, Russian, Mandarin and other less-spoken languages). Volunteering abroad is great.
  10. Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - Totally depends. It's an evolving field and funding sources are up in the air with the economy so we're all wondering where we'll be. Rising in the field can be slow because of the need for specialized skills (lots of jobs require a particular language or realm of expertise) so developing a useful skill is important. Moving into the tech side of education and learning has been good for me in terms of finding work.
  11. Which professional organizations and resources should students look into or get involved with? - devex.org is the best place to look for jobs. Try idealist.org too.
  12. What related occupations and industries would you recommend students explore who are interested in your industry or career field? - There are lots of jobs for people with specialties in other fields like law, economics, governance, business development, etc so gaining 5-10 years of experience in those areas can be useful if you are so inclined.

    Jacoba Urist- Freelance writer, Political Science and Writing Seminars, Class of 1998, Institute for Policy Studies, J.D.

  1. How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - I have always wanted to be a writer and came to Johns Hopkins for the Writing Seminars program.
  2. What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - I went to graduate school (twice, a Masters and law school). I then practiced law and worked in private equity for three years before leaving to write full-time when I got a literary agent.
  3. What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - I went to graduate school. So my first "real" job after college was actually after law school, working at a large Manhattan law firm.
  4. What advice do you have for current students, especially freshmen and sophomores? - Take any class that interests you. Don't worry about how it fits into your major or minor or what kind of grade you'll get in it or how it will look on your transcript. If it intrigues you, try it. Don't pick classes that you think fit a certain mold or will "help you" down the road or get into a better graduate school. Pick classes that make you excited to get up in the morning. One of my favorite seminars was called "the anthropology of garbage." who would have thought?
  5. What is your typical day like? - Ah! Writing full-time is hard. I wake up at 7:30, get coffee, take my dog to the park (I live in new york city). I make sure that I'm at my computer by 9:30. I write (editing at this point) for four hours before I take a break. I let myself check the internet for an hour before going back to work or going to any meetings that I might have in the afternoon. I then read from 4:00-8:00 during the week to keep up with current fiction. I try to get through a novel a week.
  6. What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: Getting to do what I've wanted to do since I was four years old. Write novels! Challenging: There's lots of rejection. First from agents. Then from Editors and then ultimately, people can trash your book on Amazon. You have to grow a thick skin. It can also be lonely, working from home.
  7. What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - I do not think there is any typical path. Just read and write a lot.
  8. Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - Not really an applicable question.
  9. What skills and out-of-class experiences (i.e. internships, co-curricular activities, volunteering, etc.) are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - Read a lot. You have to love books. Also, you can always get great internships in New York in publishing. At large publishing houses, literary agencies- anything in the book business would be great to get to know the field.
  10. Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - Again, all writers are different. There is no real way to answer this question.
  11. What related occupations and industries would you recommend students explore who are interested in your industry or career field? - Explore anything that inspires you. I can't say it enough. Just take a job that looks interesting. I was a lawyer for a few years and it forced me to read and write critically. Work at a magazine or a newspaper. Or a bank. Or go to graduate school. Do anything that appeals to you- but make sure you read and write all the time.

Patricia McGowan- Partner, Venable LLP, Writing Seminars, Class of 1992 J.D., 1995

  1. How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - Law was not my original goal, but once I settled on writing seminars as a major, I needed some way to apply my degree and earn a living.
  2. What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - I went straight to law school, worked in a small firm doing a little bit of everything, increasingly focusing on transactional work and then lateraled into a large firm with a strong corporate practice, which has been my practice focus for the past 10+ years.
  3. What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - Other than part-time or summer jobs, yes, my first full-time job was as a lawyer.
  4. What advice do you have for current students, especially freshmen and sophomores? - It is not necessary to know your career path while still in college - be open to possibilities and trying things outside of your comfort zone or what you think is your certain career. Life takes interesting twists.
  5. What is your typical day like? - I check my e-mail before heading into the office, arriving around 9am. I respond to multiple e-mails (averaging about 50 substantive e-mails a day) and telephone calls (probably between 5 and 10 a day) throughout the day, while reviewing and providing comments on, or drafting, a variety of transactional documents (securities offerings, merger agreements, loan documents, board resolutions and so on) - there is a lot of reading. I typically work on 10-15 different client matters a day. I conference with colleagues inside and outside of the firm. Typically, I grab lunch with one or more colleagues, sometimes eating at my desk and generally work until 7/8/9 o'clock, depending on the day. There are, of course, internal meetings, administrative and other non-client matters to address, as well.
  6. What’s most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: I get to work with a lot of very smart people that I also like, and the work is varied and interesting (mostly). Challenging: The lack of control over my schedule - it is a 24/7 world and you need to live life around your work to a certain extent.
  7. What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - As a summer associate (a law school student hired for the summer) or as a junior associate.
  8. Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - It will continue to grow and everything will move at an even faster pace.
  9. What skills and out-of-class experiences (i.e. internships, co-curricular activities, volunteering, etc.) are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - You need a law degree, but most training/experience/skills are gained after hiring.
  10. Where can someone in an entry-level position expect to be in two years? Five years? Ten years? - It varies, depending on whether you stay on a law firm partnership track, choose to stay in a law firm on a more flexible, possibly non-partnership, schedule, or leave to go in-house or to the government.
  11. 11 What related occupations and industries would you recommend students explore who are interested in your industry or career field? - Anything they have an interest in - it can often be applied in one way or another. There are a lot of different groups that are involved in every transaction that I see - from business people running the company to investment bankers, financial printers to public relations.

Additional Alumni Profiles

    Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.

    For more information on what you can do with a Writing Seminars Major go to What can I do with a major in English or What can I do with a major in Journalism.

    Want to know more? Read our Hopkins Career Profiles on Journalism, Publishing, Public Relations, Teaching, and Media & Entertainment. If you would like to talk about how your search is going, we invite you to make an appointment with a Career Counselor by calling 410-516-8056.

  LinkedIn.com - a professional networking site where you can identify Hopkins alumni. Join the LinkedIn Johns Hopkins University Alumni Group to add over 4000+ alumni to your network.



Writing Seminars Grad School


  The Career Center is here to help you navigate the graduate school search process. Click here for guidelines and preparing for Graduate School and Professional School.

  For information on the specific programs, the best people to talk to are the experts in your field you wish to study, faculty members and graduate students in that specific discipline. We strongly encourage you to talk with your advisor and other faculty members with whom you have a good working relationship. This will also help when you request letters of recommendation. The Career Center has a handout to guide you in asking for letters of recommendation.



Writing Seminars Societies


  Involvement with professional associations is a great way to further explore your potential career paths as a Writing Seminars major. These groups will not only provide materials and further resources to help you make your career decision, but they also provide essential networking benefits. In addition, many professional associations have student chapters at JHU.



Writing Seminars Links