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Degree for screenwriting/author?

I would like to be a screenwriter when I am older, only I'm not entirely sure of what to do whilst I write on the side. I want to go to university but I don't entirely know if an English Literature degree is for me.

What degrees would you recommend are good if I want to write books and film scripts as I don't want to study film (I want to do that in my spare time)?
I was thinking maybe sociology or philosophy but I've been told they're useless degrees with poor employment prospects. Is that true?
Would an English literature degree be the best option?
If you want to improve your creative writing skills then a degree in creative writing will be the best option to do that. If you take English lit then you’ll only be able to work on your writing, ideas, etc in your own time.

If you want to maximise your portfolio of work the.mn studying creative writing in a university (or a city with another university) with a strong practical film production degree will give you the most opportunities to develop your scripts and treatments into actual films and get used to working with directors and producers.
Original post by PQ
If you want to improve your creative writing skills then a degree in creative writing will be the best option to do that. If you take English lit then you’ll only be able to work on your writing, ideas, etc in your own time.

If you want to maximise your portfolio of work the.mn studying creative writing in a university (or a city with another university) with a strong practical film production degree will give you the most opportunities to develop your scripts and treatments into actual films and get used to working with directors and producers.


Ok, thanks for the advice. Would a filmmaking degree have access to networking opportunities then because you mention directors and producers?
A screenwriter is a pretty pie in the sky idea for a career. There is a tiny chance that you would ever make money doing this.

Choose a good degree with good prospects and do screenwriting on the side. I would not recommend putting all your eggs in this basket.
Original post by chazwomaq
A screenwriter is a pretty pie in the sky idea for a career. There is a tiny chance that you would ever make money doing this.

Choose a good degree with good prospects and do screenwriting on the side. I would not recommend putting all your eggs in this basket.

Hi thanks for this, but just out of interest, what would you say is a 'good degree with good prospects'?
The degrees I'm interested in are: filmmaking, English Literature, Philosophy or Sociology.
Original post by SRA22
Ok, thanks for the advice. Would a filmmaking degree have access to networking opportunities then because you mention directors and producers?

I wouldn’t recommend a film making or film production degree if you want to be a screenwriter unless you’re interested in writing/producing/directing projects from start to finish.

I mentioned attending a university WITH film production students - they produce/direct etc and you build your skills working WITH them. There’s plenty of ways to build a network with film professionals without studying film.
Original post by PQ
I wouldn’t recommend a film making or film production degree if you want to be a screenwriter unless you’re interested in writing/producing/directing projects from start to finish.

I mentioned attending a university WITH film production students - they produce/direct etc and you build your skills working WITH them. There’s plenty of ways to build a network with film professionals without studying film.

Ah ok yes, I get what you mean now. I don't just want to write my scripts though, I want to be involved in making them from start to finish, because in my head I know exactly how I want it to go and it wouldn't feel right to just write my scripts and leave it at that.
Original post by SRA22
Hi thanks for this, but just out of interest, what would you say is a 'good degree with good prospects'?
The degrees I'm interested in are: filmmaking, English Literature, Philosophy or Sociology.


Well, none of those degrees have particularly good prospects. Still fine to study them as long as you realise that they're not going to do much in getting you a career. Many vocational degrees have the best prospects, followed by STEM + economics, followed by arts and humanities as a crude generalization.
Original post by chazwomaq
Well, none of those degrees have particularly good prospects. Still fine to study them as long as you realise that they're not going to do much in getting you a career. Many vocational degrees have the best prospects, followed by STEM + economics, followed by arts and humanities as a crude generalization.

Really? Universities wouldn't offer degrees if they had low employment prospects. What makes you say that? There's loads of jobs you can get with an English literature degree. Would you say the same for a degree like law? I'm pretty sure that has good employment prospects?
I'm interested in publishing books and writing for tv/film so I wanted to know whether a degree would be a useful thing to do. I know you don't need a degree to be a published author but I need a job while I write so I would like to know if an English Literature degree would be useful or whether another subject would equally be ok?
Also, would it be best to write screenplays first and then move into publishing or the other way around, as I do want to specialise in writing both books and scripts?
Original post by SRA22
I'm interested in publishing books and writing for tv/film so I wanted to know whether a degree would be a useful thing to do. I know you don't need a degree to be a published author but I need a job while I write so I would like to know if an English Literature degree would be useful or whether another subject would equally be ok?
Also, would it be best to write screenplays first and then move into publishing or the other way around, as I do want to specialise in writing both books and scripts?


Try searching for courses that combine your interests - some examples of what's on offer from Lancaster's website:

https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/english-language-and-creative-writing-ba-hons-q3wv/
https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/english-literature-and-creative-writing-ba-hons-qw38/
https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/film-and-creative-writing-ba-hons-pw38/
https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/film-and-english-literature-ba-hons-pq33/

This is just a selection from one uni - try searching some other uni websites.
Original post by SRA22
Really? Universities wouldn't offer degrees if they had low employment prospects. What makes you say that? There's loads of jobs you can get with an English literature degree. Would you say the same for a degree like law? I'm pretty sure that has good employment prospects?


Oh my sweet summer child.

Law is a vocational degree and indeed has good employment prospects - if you get a good grade from a good university that gives you a good chance at a training contract.
Moved to unis
Moved the thread to a more relevant forum
Hey @SRA22,

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I honestly don't think there's any such thing as a useless degree. Yes, there are some degree programmes that lead to more obvious career pathways e.g., medicine, engineering, finance. But that doesn't meant that Arts, Humanities, or Social Science degrees have less value (although that, sadly, is increasingly a narrative that is being popularised) or that they don't prepare you for employment.

In addition to providing you with subject-specific knowledge, a good degree programme will also teach you a range of transferable skills and will give you opportunities to showcase those. I did my BA in English Literature and, before returning to do my MA and PhD, I worked in estate agency for 11 years. I can honestly say that the ability to think critically and laterally, to modify my presentation and 'voice' to my intended audience, to present myself and my work with confidence, and to organise my own time - all skills I learned as part of my degree programme - were invaluable during my career.

Additionally, it's really important that you actually enjoy your degree course. 3 years is a long time to be studying a topic in depth and, if the passion isn't there, the course - let alone the career that comes after it - is going to be a slog.

That said, it is also important to be realistic about your career options. Cuts to funding in the arts and humanities have reduced career stability, routes into the profession and salaries. That doesn't mean there aren't jobs out there but it's something to consider and you may want to have a 'back up' plan in place. Many authors and screenwriters have 'day jobs' when they're starting out, for example.

In terms of the degree programme you choose, it really depends on how focused you want to be. If you're still exploring your options and want to keep all routes open, a degree in English and/or Creative Writing might be your best bet as you'll get chance to explore both the critical analysis of existing literature, and various modes of writing. You can also get joint honours courses that combine subjects. At Keele, for example, we offer English Literature alongside both Film Studies and Philosophy, amongst others (https://www.keele.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/undergraduatecourses/englishliterature/).

Depending on the university, you might also be able to add in some film modules, or take some screenwriting elements alongside your degree programme. In addition, lots of universities increasingly encourage their students to undertake interdisciplinary projects so there might be opportunities for you to partner with students undertaking film or media courses to create your own works.

Finally, there's always postgraduate courses that would allow you to specialise. As someone who is in the process of changing their career in their mid-30s, I am testament to the fact that you don't have to commit to a 'job for life' at 18! Personally, I think getting a broad base of knowledge - and plenty of transferable skills - from your first degree is important. If you're absolutely committed to a particular career path/route then that's great - go for it! - but, if not, don't feel you have to specialise at this stage.

Hope that helps!

Amy Louise
PhD Candidate and Student Ambassador, Keele University

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