What Is Professional Writing?

Woman writing at her desk with a notebook in an office

If you have a passion for the written word, you might consider pursuing opportunities to sharpen your professional writing skills with a related college degree. While a degree in professional writing can enable you to explore competencies that are necessary for various professional writing jobs, it is not suitable for someone interested in the creative writing field.

But what is professional writing, exactly? Let’s take a look at what it is and what types of jobs you might pursue. We’ll also answer some common questions, like What is the difference between formal and professional writing?

In This Article:

Understanding Professional Writing

If you’re thinking of pursuing professional writing jobs, you’ll first need to get a sense of the style, goal and types of professional writing. Professional writing usually needs to be informative and concise, and it sometimes needs to be persuasive. Professional writing needs to be error-free, and it tends to be objective (not emotional or creative) and formal. The audience may be coworkers, employees, employers or clients/customers.

This begs the question, What is the difference between formal and professional writing? There are significant overlaps in these areas. Formal writing is a style that professional writing also embraces. However, formal writing may or may not be produced in the workplace. The term “formal writing” simply refers to any type of writing that does not have a conversational or informal tone.

What’s the Difference Between Professional Writing and Other Types of Writing?

Professional writing encompasses a large category of types of writing. Grant proposals, business reports, press releases, copywriting, journalism and even business-related emails can all fall into the category of professional writing.

Professional writing is distinguishable from creative writing. A creative writer may produce a movie script or novel intended to generate revenue for business purposes. Their work is part of the creative project while a professional writer may be hired to write marketing content for the movie or novel release. Professional writing is also distinguishable from personal writing, such as journaling, as well as academic writing, which includes articles found in academic journals.

What To Expect From This Degree

If you decide to enroll in the Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing for New Media degree program at Grand Canyon University, you can expect to examine the core competencies of language and communication. You’ll also examine new media technologies and how best to produce client-focused writing for digital and interactive platforms. You’ll have opportunities to examine publication technologies, professional writing techniques and numerous professional writing examples and styles.

Professional Writing Jobs

As you work through a curriculum focused on developing professional writing skills in your degree program, you may wish to look ahead to some career options after graduation. Here’s a look at some common professional writing jobs.

Advertisement Copywriter

Copywriters are charged with producing marketing and advertising-related writing for companies trying to sell products or services. Collaborating as part of a team, copywriters must emulate the client’s intended tone and follow their style guidelines while explaining the benefits of their products or services in an attempt to convince the audience to make a purchase. Copywriters may produce a wide range of materials — from website copy and blogs to flyers and billboard writing.

Corporate Communications

A corporate communications professional works for a company that needs to produce internal and/or external communications. For instance, this type of professional writer may collaborate with the human resources department to produce employee handbooks and guidelines. They may also develop press releases and similar materials for distribution to media outlets.


Editors work to bring out the best in a writer’s work. They may establish the overall mission and vision of a publication, oversee a team of in-house and/or freelance writers and develop the style guidelines that writers must follow. Editors can also be responsible for going over writers’ work line by line and correcting it for grammar and clarity.

Grant Writer

Grant writers play an important role in the nonprofit world, although they may also perform work for other types of entities. They are responsible for developing grant applications that are intended to secure funding for nonprofit organizations, programs and initiatives. A grant writer may choose to specialize in a particular type of nonprofit, such as those that serve refugees or those that promote women’s health.


If you enjoy sharing stories, journalism might be right for you. Journalists research, write, edit and proofread news stories, features and articles to be used on television, radio, magazines or newspapers, both in print and online. They are responsible for identifying and interviewing sources, checking the facts to ensure accuracy and producing objective writing that approaches each topic with a balanced viewpoint.


As a member of a marketing team, your goal would be to develop strategies to sell and promote products, services or ideas. As a writer you would help to communicate these strategies, not unlike an advertisement copywriter.

Public Relations Specialist

Public relations (PR) specialists are responsible for monitoring, promoting and curating the reputations of clients, who may be individuals (e.g., professional athletes) or organizations. PR involves understanding your clients and supporting them, as well as maintaining, managing and influencing public opinion of your clients’ reputations using media and communications. PR specialists often produce press releases, media briefs, ghostwritten articles on behalf of their clients and similar types of writing.

Science Writer

This career involves evaluating scientific data and converting the information into writing that your intended audience (either consumers or scientists/students) can easily understand. This career could be a good fit for strong writers who also have a passion for exploring the sciences.

Technical Writer

As a technical writer, you would translate complex data into simple language for publications like technical journals and manuals. You would research, study statistical reports and conduct interviews with subject matter experts for defense contractors, software developers, scientific research organizations and governmental agencies. In this particular type of professional writing job, clarity, conciseness and brevity are of utmost importance.

Become a Professional Writer

If any of those professional writing jobs appeal to you, here’s an overview of how to become a professional writer. Although everyone may follow a unique path, professional writers may benefit from formal education. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that an undergraduate degree in English, communications, journalism or a related area is a general requirement for obtaining employment as a writer.1

Examine Core Writing Competencies

Your first step toward pursuing a career as a professional writer is to enroll in a related degree program, such as a BA in Professional Writing for New Media. This program is designed to prepare students to become communications professionals by teaching them essential writing competencies. Some of the core skills that you will explore and practice while earning this degree include:

  • The analysis of literature and informational texts
  • Identification and analysis of rhetorical situations and devices
  • Production of printed and digital written composition
  • Development of persuasive and engaging messaging

In addition, you’ll be encouraged to explore professional ethics and broader strategies in the communications field.

Practice Professional Writing Skills

Throughout this program, you will have opportunities to both examine and practice a broad range of writing skills and complete coursework in areas such as technical writing, creative writing, multimedia journalism, public relations writing and science writing. The writing assignments you complete for your courses may form the beginnings of a professional portfolio that you can use during your job search after graduation.

Become a Writing Professional

After earning your professional writing degree, you can position yourself to pursue a career in an area such as grant writing, journalism, editing, social media writing or publishing. It can also be helpful to complete an internship to bolster your resume.1 If you feel called to pursue a career in writing, then this may be the ideal program for you.

Earn Your Professional Writing Degree at GCU

The mission of GCU’s Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing for New Media degree program is to develop workplace-ready graduates who are prepared to apply ethical practices in the field. It combines courses in both creative and technical subject areas. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about this and other communications-related degree programs at GCU, a private, Christian university.

1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a writer or author. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved Feb. 14, 2024.

Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on April 9, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.