Online English Graduate Programs

Online Graduate Programs in English meld courses from across the English disciplines to demonstrate strong oral, written and critical thinking skills.

Online English Graduate Degreeswritten by Rana Waxman

Why Study English at the Graduate Level?

Students who turn towards online graduate programs in English may find it a dynamic and engaging discipline that requires more than just extensive reading. Yes, it is likely that many hours will be spend scrutinizing various genres of literary texts.

Graduate studies in literature could allow and require students to undertake advanced coursework and ample intellectual projects. Most programs also ask students to write lengthy papers.

Here are 4 possible outcomes of this type of work.

  1. You may become adept at debate.
  2. It may help you learn to frame narratives.
  3. The process could help amp up research and bibliography skills.
  4. A search for hidden undertones in texts could bolster analytical strengths.

Apart from the mental workout, students could study English at the graduate level for a variety of reasons. It may be worthwhile to assess the answers to these questions, then look at online English schools to see which one might provide an appropriate program.

  • Do you hope to pen the next great novel?
  • Write a critically acclaimed study of Shakespeare?
  • Dedicate yourself to inspire the next generation of college students?

Most online graduate degree in English programs are structured around one of these themes. This may allow online students to zero in on an area they want to research or in which they want to hone expertise. Whether this is pedagogy, creative writing, a broad historical period in literature, genre or something else.

Online Graduate Programs in English: Overview

Two of the common online graduate programs in English and literary fields are the Master of Arts (MA) and the Doctor of Philosophy

(PhD). Both MA and PhD programs often require students to engage in similar kinds of scholarly activity, but the PhD is the more advanced degree.

That stated, an MA is not necessarily a prerequisite for a PhD, and universities set up these degrees in a variety of ways. Some universities might offer only an MA degree; some offer only a PhD; some offer MAs and PhDs in separate programs; and some offer PhDs with the option of acquiring an MA along the way.

It may also be possible in some universities to earn a graduate certificate in English online. These are typically short and focused non-degree programs. For instance, a certificate might be all about how to write professionally or how to teach English as a second language (TESOL).

Online Masters in English Programs

Online English Masters programs could offer students one to two years of advanced study. The kinds of studies undertaken by MA students vary by school and department, so be sure to research degree requirements for each program you consider.

Course plans could cover areas such as literature, writing, linguistics, rhetoric and literacy, film and media and cultural studies. Students may also take certain courses that examine the links between English and other areas of study.

For a general online MA in English, students may be required to complete about 36 credits. Part of these are usually core courses (e.g. 15 credits). Students might then work with an advisor to choose a concentration and electives.     

See below for some general examples of core MA topics. Then, peruse course lists for individual schools to see what they offer, as credits, courses and concentrations vary.

  • Graduate Studies in English
  • British Literature
  • American Literature
  • Rhetoric
  • Professional Writing

Concentrations for an Online Masters in English program are typically built to help students go more deeply into a meaningful area. Literary Studies, Rhetoric, Education and Professional Writing are a few possibilities.

Literary Studies: An online MA in English with a focus in literature could broaden and refine knowledge of literary traditions, theory, research and scholarship. Such programs are often flexible enough so students might explore the genres, periods and topics that interest them.

Rhetoric: An online MA in English with a focus in rhetoric might also bring in elements of writing and studies in digital media. Coursework might delve into areas such as pedagogy, composition theory and persuasion. Students might gain social media literacy in tandem with an ability to write for multimedia platforms.

Education: An online MA in English with a focus in English might provide the necessary coursework to earn a post-degree certification in English Education. Students might gain the tools to instill skills and motivation in language and literature to secondary students. Coursework could span classroom strategies, lesson plans, and adult learning theories.

Professional Writing: An online MA in English with a focus in professional writing might help students learn the ins and outs of how to write for a workplace setting. This could include how to write grants, proposals, reports, procedures, policy statements, and more. Students might also refine an ability to analyze documents, edit and write concisely, correctly, coherently and clearly.

To cap their studies, online students may need to successfully complete a wide-ranging exam, write and defend a thesis. To fulfill these requirements, a full-time student might need one to two years.

Graduates of a MA in English might strive for a PhD in English, undertake a further degree, or pursue a teaching career with community colleges or high schools.i

Online PHD in English Programs

An online PhD in English is a research degree, and the highest academic award in the field of English language and literature. Applicants may need a MA or apply with a great undergraduate record.

Online PhD English students might meet with integrated studies in writing, rhetoric, discourse, textual studies and technology. The emphasis on research could help students examine texts and media from multiple angles: form, purpose, composition, audience, culture and community.

The coursework and potential for research opportunities are often geared to appeal to professionals in and outside academics. Students might therefore apply into a PhD with a specific emphasis area.

  • Literary and Cultural Studies
  • Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Studies
  • Technology and Media Studies
  • Self-Designed Emphasis

Students may be required to take about 48 credit hours in some online English PhD programs. This might take a full-time student about one year to complete, however dissertation work might add length, and each school sets its own requirements.

A PhD in English might help graduates pursue teaching careers at the university level. Postsecondary teachers at 4-year colleges and universities typically need a doctoral degree in their field.i

Online English Graduate Programs: Format

The way that online English graduate programs are formatted could vary so it is important to refer to individual schools to see how they operate. In some schools, the actual programs are the same as the ones taught at the university campus. Same instructors, same degree. Different delivery.

Furthermore, a program could be 100% online or mostly online with some on campus intensives for distance learners. These are usually planned-out in advance and may go into material that lights up through live interaction.

Students might take part in live, regularly scheduled online class meetings and access course materials via computer from any location. Live (synchronous) courses are streamed from classrooms (on campus). Webcams and headsets could make it easy to ask questions, discuss course materials, see and hear classmates and the professor.

Asynchronous courses may have no – or few – live meetings. Students then access courses through the school’s online learning management systems at their own pace within set deadlines.

Apply to Online Graduate Programs in English

Filter your search for an online English graduate degree at the Masters or Doctoral levels. Then, easily apply through the on-page form provided.


  • No application fee for April & June terms
  • Some of the nation's most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
  • Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
  • Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access
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