MA/PhD Requirements

Graduate Creative Writing Degree Requirements

UW-Milwaukee offers both the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in English with a concentration in Creative Writing (Plan C). Our graduate program encourages students to explore a varied body of genres, forms, and literature so that they may grow as both writers and scholars. The result: our graduates use their degrees personally and professionally–not only do they write and publish, but they also secure academic and non-academic employment. And we have been helping our students in this regard for quite some time; UW-Milwaukee is one of the first schools in America to offer a PhD with a concentration in Creative Writing. 2014-2015 marked our 45th Anniversary Year!

For specific degree requirements, please scroll down or click on the following links:

Master of Arts in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing (Plan C)


Thinking about applying? You must meet Graduate School requirements in addition to the following departmental requirements to be considered for admission:

  • Undergraduate major in English or related field, with background appropriate for a concentration in Plan C.
  • Undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with your academic ability and achievement.
  • A creative writing sample of up to 30 pages of fiction or non-fiction or 10 pages of poetry
  • An academic writing sample of 10-20 pages.
  • A one-page personal statement explaining your interest in studying at UWM.

The Master’s Degree Program

The MA in English with a Creative Writing Concentration enables you to hone your craft as you take courses that contribute to both your creative and academic development. A minimum of 30 credits is required, including:

  • 6 credits in 600- or 700-level literature courses (at least 3 credits at the 700 level).
  • 6 credits in either 715/815 (Narrative Craft and Theory/Fiction Workshop) or 716/816 (Poetic Craft and Theory/Poetry Workshop).
  • 6 credits in writing courses at the 600 or 700 level.
  • 12 credits electives, which may include 1-6 credits of English 790 (Masters’ Workshop).
  • No more than 12 credits may be earned in 600-level courses.
  • A final project, which shall be a collection of fiction and/or poetry, a novel, or other substantial work of imaginative writing.

The Project and Exam

In addition, you will complete a final project and an oral examination, usually lasting an hour and a half, which covers your final project and a reading list of at least 30 texts (45 if you intend to continue in the PhD program) representative of your literary background and interests.

  • The final project is a substantial portfolio whose nature is determined in consultation with your Master of Arts Examining Committee.
  • For fiction writers, the final project typically consists of at least 70 pages of work.
  • For poets, the final project typically consists of a poetry manuscript containing a significant number of poems determined in conjunction with the student’s advisor.
  • Your Master of Arts Examining Committee consists of three members, at least two of whom must be members of the English Graduate Faculty.

For more information on the MA in English, please consult the Department of English Graduate Student Handbook.

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Doctor of Philosophy in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing (Plan C)


If you hold a master’s degrees from another institution, your application for admission is evaluated on the basis of standard application materials: GPA, statement of purpose, three supporting letters, and samples of creative work and academic writing (see Admission in the Master of Arts section above).

If you are accepted into the program, you are provisionally admitted for doctoral study and are required to complete an Academic Review within six weeks of finishing 12 credits. The Academic Review is a one- to two-hour meeting with three faculty members of the English Graduate Faculty, at least two of whom come from the Creative Writing faculty. The Review covers your academic progress in doctoral coursework, two unrevised course papers, and a list of 20-25 books you select in consultation with the reviewers.

If you’re already in the UWM Master of Arts degree program in English, you must apply to the Department of English Graduate Policy Committee for admission. Your admission must be recommended by three members of the Graduate Faculty. An application for admission also must be submitted to the Graduate School.

Admission to the Creative Writing doctoral concentration must be approved by the Creative Writing Advisory Committee before Graduate Policy Committee consideration.

The Doctoral Program

The PhD requires 54 credits beyond the BA, including no more than 27 credits earned at the master’s level. Your course distribution requirements include:

  • 6 credits in 715/815 and/or 716/816
  • 21 credits at the graduate level* in literature and cultural theory, rhetoric and composition, professional writing, and/or media, cinema, and digital studies
  • 15 credits in creative writing courses at or above the 700 level
  • 12 credits electives
  • The above credit count includes up to 27 credits from a master’s program.

*These credits must be 600-level or above, with no more than 6 credits at the 600 level. Doctoral students may not accumulate more than 6 credits of English 999.

In addition, the PhD requires:

  • Reading knowledge of a foreign language.
  • Minimum residency requirements.
  • The Doctoral Preliminary Examination.
  • The Dissertation.

Second Language Requirement

Consult the English Department Graduate Student Handbook for information on the Second Language Requirement.

Residency Requirements

Residency is defined as 8 to 12 graduate credits in each of two consecutive semesters, or 6 or more graduate credits in each of three consecutive semesters, exclusive of summer sessions.

Residence credit cannot be earned at the master’s level or before the master’s degree is awarded.

The Doctoral Preliminary Examination

The doctoral preliminary examination consists of a written examination and an oral examination designed to demonstrate your knowledge and ability to conduct advanced research in one or more areas of study.

  • These exams draw from a reading list and rationale prepared by the student and approved by the student’s preliminary examination committee and the Graduate Policy Committee.
  • The written examination must be at least eight hours long, and it is frequently taken as a two-day, take-home, open book exam. It may be taken at the University or at home, if the committee agrees on the location.
  • The two-hour oral exam covers issues raised during the written exam and/or focuses on the proposed dissertation. It must follow the written exam within 7-10 days.
  • Students take the preliminary exam after completing all doctoral course work or with no more than three credits of doctoral course work remaining.
  • Students cannot take the exam if they have any incomplete or unreported grades or a GPA less than 3.0.
  • The exam must be finished within one semester after all course work is completed, excluding summer session.

The Dissertation

For students in Plan C, the dissertation is a substantial piece of creative work (as opposed to the academic work required by dissertations in the other concentrations).

  • The student may choose to write a dissertation proposal of 7-12 pages, which must be presented to and approved by the Graduate Policy Committee within one semester of achieving dissertator status, or the student may choose to complete a Dissertation Intention Form, which must be approved by the student’s Committee, the Coordinator for Creative Writing, and the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies and which commits the student to writing a critical introduction in prose (3000-9000 words) that demonstrates the correlation between the candidate’s academic and creative interests.
  • The Department considers 200 pages a reasonable length for the dissertation although, due to the nature of the genre, dissertations that consist of poetry will be shorter.
  • The completed dissertation is subject to an oral defense, to be arranged by the Coordinator according to Graduate School regulations. A copy of the dissertation is kept in the Department office.

For more information on the PhD in English, please consult the Department of English Graduate Student Handbook.

Graduate Grievance Procedures

Federal law and UWM policy require programs and departments to have procedures for graduate students to appeal academic decisions such as grades or scholastic standing. These procedures ensure the protection of students’ rights. These pages serve as a reference on procedures for graduate student academic appeals.

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