If you have a passion for storytelling and dream of writing for television, movies, or theater, you may be considering a college major in script writing.
Turning your creative talent for writing scripts into a career is an exciting prospect. However, like pursuing fame and fortune in Hollywood, script writing as a major and career path does come with some risks and downsides.
So how do you determine if majoring in script writing is the right educational investment to achieve your career goals as a writer?
By evaluating key factors like job market demand, pay potential, necessary skills, and more against your own strengths, interests, financial situation, and risk tolerance.
This guide will walk through the nine most important considerations to help you decide if script writing is a good major choice for you.
Growing Entertainment Industry Drives Steady Demand for Writers
There is no denying the entertainment industry continues on an upward growth trajectory, which translates to growing demand for scriptwriters across mediums.
According to IBIS World, the film and video production industry has averaged 3.6% annual growth from 2017 to 2022 despite pandemic impacts. By 2027, it is expected to grow to $247 billion as streaming and digital channels continue gaining market share.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also forecasts steady 8% national job growth for writers and authors from 2020–2030, outpacing the average across occupations.
Certain scriptwriting specialties like teleplay, speech, and screenplay writers could see even faster than average 12% growth in the coming years. All contribute to nearly 139,000 total projected writing job opportunities this decade.
This data indicates that majoring in script writing puts you on track for strong job prospects, especially if you differentiation yourself by focusing on writing for rapid growth mediums like streaming television services.
Superior writing skills, creativity, and the ability to thrive under pressure will be vital to competing against the influx of aspiring writers chasing entertainment industry careers.
Choose From Diverse Script Writing Specializations
Pursuing a script writing degree provides the flexibility to specialize in writing for a particular entertainment medium that aligns with your talents, interests, and career aspirations. Common specializations include:
- Screenwriting: This involves penning scripts specifically designed for film and television. Screenwriting programs focus heavily on plot structure, character development, and writing dialogue.
- Playwriting & Screenplay Writing: Dedicated to scriptwriting for live theater and stage productions. Builds skill in bringing plays to life through vivid stage directions and compartmentalized acts.
- Television Writing: Centers in the fast-paced world of writing scripts for a variety of television formats. From fictional sitcoms and dramas to unscripted reality shows.
- Radio Script Writing: Scripting for radio drama, comedy sketches, advertisements, discussions, and other broadcast formats. Great for those interested in podcast writing.
No matter what entertainment medium most appeals to you, the fundamental skills learned in a script writing program transfer across specialties.
These include story research, plotting story structure, creating dynamic characters, writing effective dialogue, formatting scripts to industry standards, editing, and working collaboratively.
Complement Script Writing With a Dual Major
Given the nested freelance business nature of most writing careers, strategically complementing a script writing major with a secondary area of study can strengthen your qualifications and job prospects after graduation.
Common complementary majors include:
- Business/Marketing: Helps promote your scripts and creative services. Builds knowledge of entertainment industry monetization.
- English Literature: Enhances writing skills while strengthening analytical abilities. Also prepares for teaching careers.
- Graphic Design/Web Design: Technical skills to showcase writing through digital mediums and supplement income.
- Foreign Language: Translation services can provide additional writing-related income. Useful for interpreting foreign films and scripts too.
- Public Relations: Builds promotional skills to pitch scripts and get publicity for your creative projects.
For the strongest employability, consider minoring in a secondary area that supports script writing while pursuing a writing degree as your primary major. Or research programs that allow you to double major more easily.
Understand the Irregular and Competitive nature of Script Writing
While scriptwriting major graduates can find success within entertainment and media companies, advertising firms, radio stations, theater groups, and education organizations, the reality is that most careers take an independent freelance form initially.
Early years are spent attempting to sell scripts on spec to studios, production companies, and agencies while also cobbling together short-term gigs.
This erratic freelance nature of the work results in unsteady and infrequent paychecks, especially at the start. While the top 10% of experienced screenwriters and playwrights earn over $100k annually from a lucky hit script or television deal, most average under $60k per year in the first decade of work according to Payscale.
Surviving on modest income between sporadic bigger paydays is commonplace, requiring both financial planning and a high tolerance for income variability.
Additionally, the sheer number of qualified script writing program graduates flooding the industry leads to extreme competition for the limited staff writing jobs and script acceptance slots available.
Having mentors to vouch for you, participating in internship programs, and relentlessly promoting your portfolio provides a much-needed competitive edge.
Completing a script writing program is the bare minimum qualification expected nowadays. Standing out requires major initiative.
Build an Impressive Portfolio Starting in College
To successfully compete in the saturated writing job market after graduation, scriptwriting majors must utilize their college years to create an impressive portfolio of writing samples, production credits, and industry connections.
Faculty advisors emphasize developing a diverse mix of scriptwriting work incorporating different genres, formats, mediums, characters, and themes.
Opportunities to further build your portfolio and gain visibility while still in school can include:
- Participating in screenplay writing contests and workshops
- Volunteering to write for the university newspaper, radio station, or theater group
- Publishing a serialized scripted podcast through school media outlets
- Submitting scripts to student film production groups and school talent agencies
- Entering television spec script contests sponsored by studios, networks, and industry organizations
- Working part-time as an assistant at a film studio, writers’ agency or script consultant service
By actively producing script portfolio pieces and making strategic industry contacts throughout college, you will be poised for the greatest job market advantage and earliest success upon graduation.
Capitalize on Mentorship While Enrolled
One major benefit of completing a structured script writing program is taking advantage of curriculum-built mentorship, tutoring, and mastery benchmarking required to develop effective, industry-ready writing skills.
The college years provide indispensable access to script-writing professors and faculty advisors who can closely mentor your skills.
Constructive feedback loops, critique sessions with instructors, and joining peer revision groups with fellow students are vital for refining talent.
Scriptwriting majors also spend classroom time reviewing case studies of real-world examples, both extraordinary successes and cautionary tales.
There is no replacement for learning techniques and best practices directly from accomplished, experienced Hollywood writers, producers, and directors recruited to teach university programs. Their insider tips help graduates avoid common rookie mistakes and repeat past success strategies.
Some undergraduate programs also facilitate annual networking events attended by professional writing program alumni now working in prominent film, television, radio, and theater roles.
These conferences feature panel discussions, masterclasses, and science mentoring relationships. Making these early career connections proves invaluable for new graduates seeking script recommendations, writing job referrals, and freelance gigs.
Take Advantage of College Internship Programs
Internships arranged through university entertainment industry partnerships provide incomparable exposure to real-world media companies, literary agencies, studios, and production companies during summer and semester breaks. These highly competitive programs let students experience first-hand what working as a scriptwriter entails.
Intern writers typically participate in writers’ room sessions, draft script outlines or scenes, observe tapings, provide administrative support, or complete research assignments. Prominent internship partners affiliated with top undergraduate script writing programs include:
- Walt Disney Studios Writers Program
- Nickelodeon Writing Program
- Warner Brothers Television Writers Workshop
- NBC Writers on the Verge Initiative
- Sundance Institute FilmTwo Initiative
- CBS Writers Mentoring Program
- National Hispanic Media Coalition TV Writers Program
- HBOAccess Writing Fellowship
Impressing sponsor executives can shorten the post-grad job search. Over 30% of NBC writing program interns have gone on to staff writing positions at NBC, Nickelodeon, HBO, and Showtime.
Proving your talent through a prestigious entertainment internship is the clearest path to securing agent representation, recommendations, and staff appointments necessary to advance a Hollywood writing career quickly.
Take an Honest Self-Assessment of Goals and Personality
As established above, script writing major graduates can expect a long road filled with rejection and lean periods for most who stick it out in entertainment industry writing careers.
Are you willing to potentially spend years working low-paying office production jobs while writing unpaid spec scripts during your free hours with no guarantee of success?
Can you withstand having the majority of your written scripts passed over because they don’t align well with current studio production slates or network programming direction?
The reality of paid writing jobs matching a new graduate’s qualifications being severely limited must be factored into your career expectations.
Success is certainly possible with consistent quality output, ample self-promotion, industry networking, and an unrelenting drive to keep writing through waves of rejection from agents and producers.
You must also analyze if your personality, disposition, and soft skills fit the high-pressure writers’ room environment of passionate debates, rapid rewriting under deadlines, and handling intense criticism without crumbling.
The ability to deeply examine people and settings to craft organic dialogue and dimensional characters is also imperative.
Scriptwriting is not for the creatively blocked, conflict-avoidant, or easily discouraged. However, those able to handle fluid writing assignments, rapid revisions, team collaboration, income swings, and waves of rejection may find the challenge of scriptwriting careers highly rewarding.
The Bottom Line: Script Writing Degrees Hold Risk and Reward
Scriptwriting college majors undoubtedly provide impassioned storytellers with a supportive environment and structured skill-building pathway designed to set graduates up for entertainment media careers.
However, achieving reliable employment and sustainable income solely from creative script writing involves weathering an uneven road rife with rejection and financial uncertainty.
While formal script writing educations reduce career barriers in this notoriously closed, relationship-driven industry, they cannot replace raw talent, business savvy, mental resilience, and a relentless drive to put creative visions on paper for the screen.
Candidly evaluating your tolerance for risk and uncertainty before committing to script writing studies and subsequent freelance career pursuit is absolutely vital.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth getting a screenwriting degree?
A screenwriting degree provides fundamental script formatting, story development, and industry relationship-building knowledge that is difficult to master on your own. Formal training also helps new writers avoid common beginner mistakes that would trigger outright rejection from agencies. However, academic programs are not required to become a working screenwriter. Continuously writing scripts and promoting your portfolio ultimately matters most for breaking in.
Is script writing a good career?
Script writing holds appeal as a potential career that allows creatively channeling your passion into film, television, theater and other entertainment mediums. However, it also carries higher uncertainty and instability than most careers, especially at the outset. Adaptability to ever-changing writing assignments, handling waves of rejection, and financial planning around income variability determine long-term success and satisfaction levels.
What is the best major for script writing?
While specialized screenwriting, playwriting and broadcast writing programs directly support entertainment media careers, complementing writing studies with business, marketing, PR, English literature or graphic design courses can provide additional income options. Dual majoring is ideal for hedging against the inconsistent nature of freelance script writing.
Is script writing a major?
Yes, script and screenwriting programs have grown increasingly common as bachelor’s and master’s degree majors offered at colleges over the past decades. Curriculums blend writing workshops, entertainment business instruction, relationship-building, and internships to prepare students for media industry careers.
Is it hard to get a job as a screenwriter?
The vast number of aspiring screenwriters versus the limited number of annual films and television productions make standing out fiercely competitive. Most non-union screenwriting jobs come from building a strong industry referral network and successful script portfolio over years. Quickly rising to staff writing roles relies heavily on talent, luck in script timing, and leveraged personal connections.
How hard is it to get a job in screenwriting?
Incredibly difficult for those lacking talent or meaningful entertainment business relationships. On average, less than 5% of active screenwriters work full-time while 95% patch together contract work between optioned scripts or pitches. Unpaid spec scripts often outnumber paid assignments for non-established names. Becoming a produced, credited screenwriter through major studios normally takes 5-10 years.
What do most authors major in?
According to statistical research, the most common college majors for professional authors are English, journalism, communications, and creative writing. Business, marketing, and media production majors also appear frequently since writing books often carries an entrepreneurial element.
What are the odds of becoming a screenwriter?
Slim for most aspiring entertainment writers without leveraged industry contacts or extraordinary, commercially viable creative vision. Each year, only around 600-800 new screenwriters join the Writers Guild of America having written a commercially produced film or television script. That equals less than 1% odds for each aspiring screenwriter starting out annually.
Do screenwriters make millions?
Only a tiny fraction of working screenwriters ever earn seven-figure payouts. The top few percent may hit big on a high-grossing film franchise or TV series then supplement with sustained smaller fees over time. But most produced writers earn modest four to low six-figure incomes fragmented across multiple short-term script and rewrite projects rather than millions.