A new Labor Department report shows the demand for creative writing majors grew last year to its highest level ever, making a bachelor’s degree in the field more valuable than even a triple major in engineering, computer science and business.
The rise in demand is leading to what Deborah Malarkest of the Washington Post describes as the advent of professional urban poets, or “Puppies” — a generation of creative writing majors who are becoming wealthy as companies fight to hire them.
The average starting salary in the U.S. for a creative writing major is now higher than six figures — $101,232, according to the report — and even higher for those with concentrations in poetry or playwriting.
“Corporate America has finally realized the importance of hiring people who can not only write, but who can write creatively,” said Renata Monty, author of the bestseller “Why Poets Boost Your Profit.”
“Today, there’s only one word: words,” Monty said. “Words in ads. In company Facebook pages. Tweets. Financial audits. Internal emails. Memos. And so on.”
Monty says that companies need hundreds or even thousands of words strung together, each day, and no one knows how to put words together better than a creative writing major.
“It wasn’t a poet who came up with McDonald’s slogan ‘I’m lovin’ it,’ but it could have been,” Monty said.
Petroleum giant Exxon Mobil is one of many Fortune 500 companies that is using innovative ways to snag creative writing majors fresh out of graduation. In March, the company finished construction near its Texas headquarters of a 20,000-square-foot facility that can house up to 150 creative writing majors, each getting his or her own cramped living space reminiscent of a bare-bones studio in New York or Paris. The facility also includes a non-corporate coffee shop, a used clothing store and two dive bars replete with a colorful cast of squatters and artists that will keep creative writing majors feeling like they are experiencing the grittiness of a Bohemian existence.
Rob Steggert graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the field in 2000. He worked for many top companies before venturing out on his own as a creative writing consultant. He says what helped him the most in his career was an intermediate fiction workshop he took in 1999 with the late Jon Sutherland, a former instructor at the University of Colorado.
“Mr. Sutherland taught me how to trim dialogue, to make it lean,” said Steggert, who has just bought a second home in Aspen. “We studied Hemingway and Carver, and I mastered the art showing and not telling. Look at me now. I just turned down an offer from Google to head their words division. Life as a creative writing major is sweet.”
The Labor Department report estimates that if trends continue, by 2020 creative writing majors can expect just under $178,000 per year– more than the starting salary for a family physician or a member of Congress.