Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Post-MFA plans?

by Emily May Anderson

I'm curious what you all are planning after the MFA.

I know that I want to teach, but I'm still undecided as to whether I'll apply to PhD programs, and, if so, whether I'll apply in Lit or only to programs that have a Creative dissertation option. I'm also still sort of waiting to see how this lit seminar goes this semester before I can really know if I even have any hope of tackling a Lit PhD. I had a meeting with the MFA director today, and while he gave me good info regarding degree requirements and thesis stuff, I'm still just as undecided about what I should do next as I was before.

I wish someone would give me a straight answer about what my chances of landing a teaching job (anywhere - community college, private college, branch campus, etc - I'm not picky and not hung up on getting a job at a prestigious university) with just an MFA and some good teaching experience. I know there are lots of variables and it's impossible to predict these things, but just in general - what are the chances of getting a job with just an MFA?

So, those of you who want to teach, are you going to take the "terminal" MFA and go on the job market? Or are you going to apply to PhD programs, and in what?


  1. I am doing the same thing you're doing: waiting to see how this lit class turns out this semester before I commit to applying for a PhD.

    My dream is also to teach poetry on the college level but I just feel like that's so unrealistic :( Even with a phd. I do think it's also possible with an mfa and like 3 books and maybe an award lol. I really don't know. I look as a phd as more time to try to get those books out so when you hit the job market, you'll be competitive.

    Right now, I'm leaning toward getting a regular job post-mfa and writing around that. I know I can do it. I wasn't broke before the mfa and I like the idea of being financially stable. But I'm back and forth on this because I know I've got to give 100% to my writing if I'm going to be happy.

    Have you ever read this: http://jacketmagazine.com/35/gottlieb-jobs.shtml

    Michael Gottlieb? Any relation, Josh?

  2. I have come up with some tentative plans.

    1) Move back to California, to the LA or bay area, and get a job (doing...something) while still writing.
    2) Applying to PhD in creative writing and post-MFA fellowship programs (like Stegner and WISC).
    3) Perhaps also applying to straight up lit programs, especially at a UC.
    4) Go to Japan/Korea and teach English for a bit, then do numbers 2 and/or 3.

    Currently, I am leaning toward 2 and 3. I am not sure what's going to happen though. Luckily it is still quite a while before I (we?) need to worry about this particular dilemma.

  3. I've been thinking about this somewhat recently as well.

    1) I've been thinking about more graduate school, whether that is a MA in literature (or a related field) or a PhD in English Literature, Creative Writing, African Diaspora Studies, Education, etc. Obviously, I'm not so sure. Really glad I have 2 more years to figure this out.
    2) Spend a few years teaching in other communities: prisons, high schools, senior centers, and/or whoring myself out as an adjunct.
    3) Move to France and live as an artist.
    4) Teach English in Thailand.
    5) Continue my career in nonprofit administration with arts organizations.
    6) Find a rich husband and pop out some kids before he realizes how much of a liability I am.
    7) Strip...professionally.

  4. Haha, Raina, I love your answers.

    I'm currently torn. I mean, I know the jobs are technically elusive, so I'm thinking I'll apply for a few in places I wouldn't mind living, that would be OK for my fiance to relocate-- and if that doesn't work, I'll fall back on my writing portfolio. I've been working as a freelance writer for a newspaper for two years, and by the time I have my MFA, that'll have been almost five years. I feel like I'll find a paper or a magazine that needs a writer, and I'll do that.

    Either way, I'm trying not to let myself worry: I'm still not 100% sure how I'm even going to get there. I guess I'm waiting to see what my timing in my personal life is before I decide my professional life. Does that make me not a modern woman?

  5. From what I hear, to get a teaching gig at a university with an MFA you need to have a book published, two for the fancy places. You can adjunct, but the pay is usually not great and some places don't offer any health insurance, etc. to adjuncts.

    Community colleges will, of course, hire you without a book, but you may have to teach comp. and they will probably overwork you.

  6. I'm glad I am in a three year program and have a couple more years to figure this out because even thinking about it scares me. I'm really considering the creative writing Phd route just to buy more writing time (and maybe live in Hawaii!). I think it's either that or teach lots of comp at the local community colleges (I'm in the DC area, so there are lots of them). I was a lawyer and the editor of a national magazine before starting the MFA, but I don't want to go back to those things--I had no time for my own writing.

  7. This is a great topic, Emily. I was just talking to a classmate yesterday about our future plans. UNCG is a 2 year program, and it feels strange to think ahead already, but a year can fly by fast!

    Depending on the day, I really lean toward applying for a PhD. Other days, I whine about the time commitment and workload, so I don't know. I finally managed to get my boyfriend of 3 years to move to NC, and part of the "agreement" was that after my gig here, I would follow him wherever he wanted to go. This might land me in San Francisco, but who knows.

    Teaching seems like an ultimate (and likely) goal, but I'm also holding out for some sort of editing/publishing position. I have a passion for publications and everything that goes into them, so I wouldn't mind being in some sort of publishing house.

  8. PhD in Composition and Rhetoric is my current plan, but we'll see if anything changes between now and summer. I just don't think I'd enjoy a PhD in Lit, and the more I look at PhDs in creative writing, they seem very much like the work I've already completed during my MA and MFA.

    and I think this is a great post, because really for those of us with 2 year programs and with most PhD deadlines closer to Dec. 15th, we DO have to make those kinds of decisions now. That's only 9 1/2 months away

  9. Being in a three year program, I'm really looking forward to reading about all of y'all's experiences applying to Phd programs so that I can go into it a year later with my eyes open.

  10. OH! I'll be applying for tv writing fellowships with Nickelodeon and Disney. Also the Stegner. Just a bunch of crap shoot stuff that I don't even count as part of my plan because there's no way to bank on any of it. Seriously, nothing I want to do has good odds of happening lol

  11. @JayTee--so when you get hired at Nickelodeon, you need to call me so I can get a job working for "iCarly" and/or hooking up with Spencer ;)

  12. Community college gigs are pretty get able but you'll be adjunct without benefits for a long time. The three books or one or two as contest winners is actually pretty accurate for univ level jobs. Look into jobs like academic advising and student services they like master grads :)

  13. I like everyone's answers (nice question, by the way, Emily). People seem to have hit the nail on the head when it comes to being able to get a teaching job, too, so I'll just move on to the next part of your question...

    Going somewhere new--like, say, overseas...sounds awesome. Right now I'm in the same boat as you, Whitney; but hey, somewhere like San Francisco could be great.

    That's what I'd most like to do, but I have no idea what I'm going to do.

    Apply for fellowships, potentially. If I do pursue further graduate study, I'd like to take a break first (if not doing some kind of teaching, then just finding work that leaves me with the brain-space to write when I get home).

    And though I am interested in further graduate study (after taking a break of some time), for me it's less as a matter of "funded writing time" than because I think there's a lot I'm still going to want/need to learn about writing/literature/philosophy 3/5/10 years from now.

    I just hope to still be writing then. And not only writing, but liking what I'm writing...

    Oh, and @JayTee: No relation. I guess there's just a lot of us Gottlieb's mucking around...

  14. I love the name Gottlieb. It's interesting to me because it, Amadeus, and the Czech name Bohumil all mean "God's love," but they each represent one of the three major European language families (Germanic, Romance, and Slavic, respectively). I'm a part-time linguistic trivia nerd.

    So kudos on the first half of your last name, brother.

  15. Damn Nick, now I wish I knew some awesome trivia about the name McRae. Aside from it meaning "bad-ass poet," of course.

  16. There's some really great discussion going on on pw's creative writing phd thread: http://www.pw.org/speakeasy/gforum.cgi?post=292073#292073

    Seth's dropping some knowledge today lol

  17. Crazy...I was just browsing a journal and I ran into some work by another Gottlieb! This one by the name of Daphne. Guess you never know how many Gottlieb's there are until you encounter one..and then another...and so on lol

  18. A Ph.D. in rhet./comp. would give you a better chance at a tenure-track teaching job than would a Ph.D. in English: just a question of numbers.

    Here's some food for thought for anyone considering a Ph.D. in English/other humanities discipline:





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