Masters in English programs could help learners hone skills in creative and professional writing, literary criticism, research and bibliography. Earning a masters degree in English often exposes students to a full menu of major authors, periods and genres. Apart from traditional literary areas, course plans might also cover areas such as linguistics, critical theory, composition and rhetoric.
written by Rana Waxman
Masters in English programs typically award the Master of Arts (MA) in English or Master of Arts in English Literature. A MA in English differs from a MA in Education or Teaching (MAT, MEd) which are all about how to teach English. It is also distinct from a MFA (Master in Fine Arts) which is often devoted to creative writing and storytelling.
Course plans for Masters in English programs vary though frequently include course blocks from which students make a selection of one or more courses from each block. Common themes among these building blocks could include the following five areas.
Block classes are often designed to provide a broad, “generalist” preparation for future plans such as teaching, doctoral level graduate work, and comprehensive examinations. Electives or extra courses in one block go more in depth and students may have some leeway with this. Either way, it is reasonable to expect an emphasis on close reading, analysis, and writing.
Make sure to verse yourself in the offerings of individual schools.
The average full-time student might earn their Master in English in 1.5 to 2 years, but some students may take longer due to their schedule restrictions. Also, credit requirements could range between 30 and 36 credits.
BY THE NUMBERS
8,928 people graduated with a master’s degree in English in 2015 v
As a general rule of thumb, to apply into English Masters programs, students need to furnish transcripts that show a minimum of an earned Bachelors degree from a nationally or regionally accredited college or university. It is up to the school to set the minimum GPA, and many schools look for at least a 3.0 on a scale of 4.0.
Other material that may need to be sent in with the completed application could include some or all of the following.
Applicants often, but may not always, need to provide a sample of writing. There is no one recipe here, only general guidelines, provided by each school.
Beyond the personal essay which features the reasons one wants to study English at a designated grad school, applicants may need to submit a 10 to 20-page critical writing sample. This might need to reflect one’s ability to read, theorize and write persuasively.
For those students who are applying into a Masters in Writing or Master or Fine Arts (MFA) program, the ‘writing sample’ could entail more of a portfolio or body of written work. For instance, examples of fiction or verse.
A Master of Arts in English could take students on an explorative journey through areas ranging from literary fields and creative writing to linguistics, women's literature, critical theory, and cultural studies. In addition to a diverse syllabus, students might also study ways to apply current theory and research to an analysis of literature, writers, movements, and genres.
Apart from the compulsory courses, a MA in English curriculum is often flexible enough to enable participants to customize the course plan. For instance, students might want to line up courses to match a career goal such as teaching. Or build on an enthusiasm for a specific literary tradition (E.g. American Literature, British Literature).
Most MA English programs have students complete a thesis in their final term as a culmination of their work in the program. This capstone is often supervised, though a student researches on their own. Institutions set the tone for this final project and may give students some options as to how they complete the requirements.
For students who want to test the waters for a PhD in English, an English Masters degree (MA) may be appropriate. PhD programs often grant MAs along the way to the PhD, so if a student opts out of the PhD, they could leave with the MA in English in hand, having extended their education.
MA in English students might be able to choose enough electives to fulfill a concentration. The areas of emphasis could be set by the school, or the school may work with the student to help them structure their own focal area. For instance, partner school, Seton University offers three “spokes”: (1) literature, (2) writing and (3) creative writing.
Literature: Masters in English Literature programs could allow students to explore a literary period, genre or author more in depth through targeted electives. Extra coursework might draw from composition theory and practice, creative writing, fiction, rhetoric and the like.
Writing: Masters in Writing programs might have students take core courses in literary research, criticism and advanced American and British Literature. Students might also choose to explore scientific and technical writing, fiction, rhetoric or another genre more explicitly.
Creative Writing: Masters in Creative Writing might meld core courses in advance writing with literature electives. Students may also take part in fiction, poetry and/or non-fiction workshops.
Another brand of Masters in English programs is a Master of Arts in English with an Emphasis in Education. Some core elements of a MA in English/Education might include pedagogy at the university level, teaching writing and literature, practice of professional writing and theories of writing and rhetoric.
This type of program might prepare students with the skills and knowledge to teach undergraduate courses at two-year or four-year higher learning institutions for both campus and online modalities.i Or, help students prepare to pursue their PhD – which may be required to pursue a career in postsecondary schools.i
Distinct courses might be featured in an education-focused MA English program, as it is one thing to write, another thing to know a subject well enough to teach it to diverse groups. Preview a few sample topics below, then review school course lists.
Pressed for time? You could earn an online Masters in English which may provide added convenience and the flexibility to study anytime, anywhere. Online platforms may be both intimate and interactive, though feedback is generally through technology – emails, chats, discussion boards and so forth.
Or, look for English Masters programs at nearby or non-local grad schools, depending on your needs. Some schools have evening sessions which could engage students in lively discussions, with the opportunity to engage, network and interact.
Alumni of MA in English programs might pursue a range of different careers, as well as further graduate study. For instance, some graduates may go onto earn a PhD in English and/or seek credentials in order to teach English, literature or writing. I As well, an ability to interpret texts and use persuasive arguments might be useful in law school. Just another potential option!
Those with mad writing skills might seek an opportunity in journalism, editing, reporting or publishing.ii Others may hope to parlay their ability to effectively communicate into the pursuit of a public relations, nonprofit or fundraising career.iii
Students fluent in English and also, a second language might pursue a career as a translator or interpreter. Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of interpreters and translators is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is considered much faster growth than for other occupations. iv
Participants in Masters English programs might build skills in several areas.
Find the perfect Masters in English program for you. Here’s how. Narrow your search with filters for format (online, campus). Alternatively, use the menu to find schools in a specific city, state or country. This yields a list of sponsor schools to choose from and contact directly through the form provided.
[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-4 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/editors.htm#tab-4 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/management/public-relations-managers.htm#tab-4 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm#tab-6 | [v] nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_318.30.asp