Comparative Literature Master Degree Programs

A masters in comparative literature allows you to study written works from various ethnic, religious or cultural groups, or from various countries. Comparative literature can also involve the study of literature’s relationship to another discipline, such as religion, architecture, or film.

The interdisciplinary nature of a comparative literature graduate program means study may encompass foreign language, religious studies, sociology, history, visual and performing art, and cultural studies. Comparative literature graduate students explore how literature impacts, and is impacted by, both the culture from which it emerges and other forms of human expression.

Comparative literature graduate students should ideally possess the following qualities:

  • Passion for both written and spoken language
  • Excellent research skills
  • Fluency in at least one foreign language
  • Interest in pursuing an interdisciplinary field of study
  • Curious about literature from different cultures

Comparative Literature Graduate Programs and Curriculum

Comparative literature graduate programs vary in their areas of specialization and focus. It’s important to identify your particular research interests, and apply to schools whose faculty can support your research and study goals. The following is a sampling of core courses that a comparative literature student might expect to encounter during their graduate study:

  • Introduction to literary theory
  • Comparative queer literary studies
  • Literature as performance
  • The 19th century Spanish novel
  • Modern Arabic literature
  • Shakespeare and gender
  • Fictions of ethnicity
  • War and literature

Most students who are considering applying to a graduate program in comparative literature plan to pursue a Ph.D., as that is the terminal degree. Some comparative literature graduate programs require applicants to apply first to the M.A., while others admit directly to the Ph.D. program. However, most confer a M.A. upon completion of the M.A. requirements, which includes a certain number of courses and completion of written and oral exams. Completion of the Ph.D. requires further coursework, a dissertation, a passing grade on written and oral exams, and usually, demonstrated fluency in two foreign languages.

Comparative Literature Graduate Program Application Requirements 

Prerequisites for applying to comparative literature graduate programs might include a bachelor’s degree, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, transcripts, and any applicable standardized test scores. Some schools have a minimum GPA requirement. In addition, particular core courses in English literature may be required, as is a certain level of proficiency in at least one, and possibly two, foreign languages. The admissions department at the school of your choice can provide you with more details.

Comparative Literature Careers

Many students may pursue a comparative literature Ph.D. with the intention of becoming university professors. However, those holding a graduate degree in comparative literature might also be qualified to enter a variety of other fields, including publishing, marketing, communications, secondary education, consulting, film, translation and journalism.

Comparative Literature Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a post-secondary teacher in 2012 was $68,970. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $35,670, and the top paid 10 percent earned over $142,270. Employment growth between 2012 and 2022 was projected to be 19%, which is faster than the average of all other occupations. The 2012 median salary for a writer was $55,940 per year, with a 3% projected job growth between 2012 and 2022. Reporters earned a median yearly salary of $37,090 in 2012; employment was expected to decline by 13% between 2012 and 2022. The graph below summarizes 2012 BLS salary data for select careers that might be pursued by graduates of a comparative literature program.

comparative literature graduate programs

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