The MA Debate

I have watched many videos, read many articles and blogs, and researched many options in an attempt to decide which master’s degree I want to pursue. Or, do I want to go forward with a master’s degree at all? I suppose the final question is the one that I will have to answer before I can decide the first one.

My aspirations lean toward an MFA, a Master’s of Fine Arts, or alternatively toward no M at all. However, after years of dedicated schooling tailored to my interests, I was beginning to wonder if I should consider continuing with something broader. But I am getting ahead of myself. An MFA is a beast of contradictions. While many writers hold an MFA it is certainly not a requirement (though neither is a BA) and many hold the opinion that an MFA can hamper the ambitious writer; instead of nurturing one’s own style it creates writers who all sound the same. I tend to take that particular stance with a grain of salt as this has also been said about a BA and creative writing courses in general. And, without those, I would not be where I am. So is this stance against the MFA mimicking those against the BA? And would this then mean that an MFA might be indispensable to me?

There are a few distance MFA options available, and the choice boils down to genre. For myself, there is one genre that I am most interested in, and maybe two that hold interest, but certainly not three. For one MFA, the genre I am most interested in isn’t offered. For the other, it requires study in three genres to create a diverse learning experience. This sounds appealing, but it would then hamper the progress I could make in one genre while I was dabbling in the others.

The next, and possibly more practical, option is a Masters of Integrated Studies (MAIS). This degree you are able to customize to fit specific (non-creative writing) aspirations. It may be possible to find more work through this program of study, but not in the field I most desire. So this would mean putting my goals on the back burner and studying for a few more years to get a job I don’t particularly want to fund life while what I really want to do with that life stays on the back burner.

It may seem like this is a cut and dry choice. And perhaps it is. Maybe all I need is to dig in and find the courage to pursue something which a majority of people deem un-pursuable. To once again throw societal standards out the window and do something that if I don’t I would forever regret. I posted on the unofficial AU Facebook page looking for opinions on the matter. One response was that education is about finding ourselves. A master’s degree is not solely an academic pursuit but a personal discovery. Thus, if one is to pursue a master’s degree, it should be in what that person is most passionate about.

The decision on the worth of pursuing an MAIS, or an MFA, is ultimately a personal choice. A choice that has to be considered and understood for what it is. Do I want to pursue more education and put some of my writing on hold while I do? Or do I want to dive in head first? Ultimately, the MFA (or MAIS) will always be there. There will always be an option to continue; it is not a choice that needs to be made immediately after completing an undergraduate degree.

Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature