Best Online Master’s Degrees in English: 2016

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Advanced Options with a Graduate Degree in English

To earn advanced credentials that can allow for more opportunities professionally and creatively, a graduate degree in English is a compelling choice for many students. Journalism, marketing, digital publishing and teaching can become potential career paths, and a graduate degree makes it possible to attain success at higher levels in each field. Learn why graduate degree holders land more interviews and earn more during the course of their careers.

Timeline of an Online Master’s in English

Getting in: The Application Process

As students prepare to apply to programs for an online master’s degree in English, they should make sure they’ve chosen programs that fit the needs of their schedule, budget, and career path. Competition is high for the best programs, meaning students should submit applications that highlight their achievements and set them apart as outstanding prospective additions to the program. Most programs require the following:

  • GRE scores.

    The Graduate Record Examination is a standardized test taken by many students bound for graduate school, and is often required. If your scores aren’t as high as you’d like them to be, you can retake the test and improve your scores. You should focus on scoring well on the verbal reasoning section, as English graduate programs likely place a heavier weight on it.

  • Transcripts (paper/electronic).

    Request official transcripts from all previously attended colleges to be sent either by mail or electronically to the schools of your choice.

  • Letters of recommendation.

    Carefully consider which professors, employers, or other professionals you’d like to ask for letters of recommendation. A recommendation from someone in the field of English, journalism or literature can tip the scales in your favor.

  • Financial support documents.

    Research your financing options. Programs for master’s degrees in English can vary widely in tuition cost, so it may be wise to meet with a financial adviser to discuss your options.

  • Essays.

    Because you’re entering a program that values the written word, it’s important that your essay be clear and engaging. Prioritize this portion of your application, and give yourself sufficient time to compose, edit and submit your essay by the school’s deadline. Some schools may also require additional samples of written work that are relevant to the emphasis of the student’s choice.

Year 1

During the first year of an online master’s program in English, students cover fundamentals such as American Literature, British Literature and Composition. In the latter part of the year, students start planning for their program emphasis—such as literature, linguistics or teaching—and may begin taking some concentration courses. Students should work closely with an academic adviser to ensure all classes are completed in the proper order and by graduation deadlines.

Year 2

The second year of the program shifts to an intense focus on the student’s chosen concentration, such as linguistics or creative writing. Students will complete the required courses and do a graduate project or thesis that is presented to a thesis committee or other panel of professionals. Now is also the time to apply for jobs, internships and student teaching positions. Although most online master’s in English programs last for two years, many students, particularly those who work, will find that completion takes slightly longer. Some schools offer accelerated programs that allow the student to graduate in as little as one year.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

Upon completion of coursework, students should be prepared to showcase the knowledge and skills they gained through the online master’s program. Most schools require at least one, and sometimes more, of the following in order to graduate:

  • Master’s Thesis.

    A thesis is an intensive research and writing project that encompasses the English degree’s pursuits. It must contain original research and theories, and often takes three or more semesters to finish. The topic of the thesis must be approved by a committee.

  • Comprehensive Examination.

    Students completing online master’s programs in English will have to take a comprehensive examination which demonstrates their analytical and interpretive skills. The examination may take the form of a written essay or an oral presentation given to a panel of professionals, and will be exhaustive of the student’s learning career in English.

  • Foreign Language Proficiency.

    Most English master’s degree programs require students to demonstrate proficiency in reading and writing at least one foreign language. In many programs, students will have to complete at least two years of college-level foreign language classes, and may be required to take an exam, pass the classes with a grade of “C” or higher, or otherwise prove proficiency to a graduate studies committee.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in English

Because of the popularity of master’s degrees in English and the variety of programs available, students can use the search tool below to help narrow their options. Create a shortlist of schools by applying the filters for location, degree level, school type, tuition, and even student population.

Student Population:
School Type:
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Master’s in English Career & Salary Paths

The online master’s English program opens doors in many sectors. By choosing a concentration during their master’s education, students can specialize their skills and knowledge and become priority prospects in their fields. Here are some of the most common concentrations in the English master’s program, as well as a few of the career paths graduates can take after achieving their degrees:

Concentrations
Literature

The study of literature is perhaps the most common—and the most broad—of all English concentrations. From American and British Literature to more narrowed studies of poetry, screenwriting and playwriting, or literature in other languages, students will develop reading, writing and critical thinking skills on a professional level. They will also learn discipline-specific research methods.

Career:
Postsecondary/High School Teacher
Postsecondary/High School Teacher

Plans lessons and teaches students principles of English through reading literature, engaging in creative writing, and studying linguistics.

Publisher
Publisher

Oversees the preparation of books, journals, and other published works as they move through the various stages, including conceptualization, editing, design, production, and sales.

Education Policymaker
Education Policymaker

Creates policies and programs for school districts or higher education institutions.

Editor
Editor

Plans and revises content published in magazines, newspapers, books and other publications, as well as on websites. Editors check copy for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, and suggest improvements to improve readability and overall content.

Linguistics

Linguistics is the scientific study of the language and its structure, including topics like phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse analysis, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics. By studying linguistics on a broad spectrum, programs prepare students for careers in teaching, publishing, public service, translating, and more.

Career:
Postsecondary/High School Teacher
Postsecondary/High School Teacher

Plans lessons and teaches students principles of English through reading literature, engaging in creative writing, and studying linguistics.

Publisher
Publisher

Oversees the preparation of books, journals, and other published works as they move through the various stages, including conceptualization, editing, design, production, and sales.

Technical Writer
Technical Writer

Prepares instruction manuals, journal articles, web content, and other documents to communicate technical information effectively. They also develop, gather and distribute technical content among customers, designers and manufacturers.

Speech Pathologist
Speech Pathologist

Assesses, diagnoses, treats and prevents speech-related disorders. These specialists help children and adults who have speech rhythm or fluency problems, or who cannot produce certain sounds.

Interpreter/Translator
Interpreter/Translator

Converts information from one language to another. Interpreters work in spoken or sign language; translators work with written documents.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Instructor/Foreign Language Teacher
English as a Second Language (ESL) Instructor/Foreign Language Teacher

Teaches languages to non-native speakers, covering both everyday and academic language skills. Work environments include public, private, and postsecondary institutions.

Editor
Editor

Plans and revises content published in magazines, newspapers, books and other publications, as well as on websites. Editors check copy for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, and suggest improvements to improve readability and overall content.

Composition and Rhetoric

This concentration focuses heavily on rhetorical history, theory, criticism, and pedagogy, studying the stylistic and argumentative aspects of written works. Students will research and practice composition, theoretical and practical writing tools, and the integration of reading and writing.

Career:
Postsecondary/High School Teacher
Postsecondary/High School Teacher

Plans lessons and teaches students principles of English through reading literature, engaging in creative writing, and studying linguistics.

Publisher
Publisher

Oversees the preparation of books, journals, and other published works as they move through the various stages, including conceptualization, editing, design, production, and sales.

Technical Writer
Technical Writer

Prepares instruction manuals, journal articles, web content, and other documents to communicate technical information effectively. They also develop, gather and distribute technical content among customers, designers and manufacturers.

Editor
Editor

Plans and revises content published in magazines, newspapers, books and other publications, as well as on websites. Editors check copy for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, and suggest improvements to improve readability and overall content.

Creative Writing

Coursework in this concentration allow students to explore different genres of writing from poetry to fiction to essays, and learn effective ways to compose and edit various pieces. Students also receive graduate-level training in literature and literary criticism.

Career:
Postsecondary/High School Teacher
Postsecondary/High School Teacher

Plans lessons and teaches students principles of English through reading literature, engaging in creative writing, and studying linguistics.

Publisher
Publisher

Oversees the preparation of books, journals, and other published works as they move through the various stages, including conceptualization, editing, design, production, and sales.

Editor
Editor

Plans and revises content published in magazines, newspapers, books and other publications, as well as on websites. Editors check copy for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, and suggest improvements to improve readability and overall content.

Creative Writer
Creative Writer

Writes books, articles, marketing materials, and more. Creative writers can work in many different fields such as public relations, corporate communications and academia, either on staff or as freelancers.

Technical Writer
Technical Writer

Prepares instruction manuals, journal articles, web content, and other documents to communicate technical information effectively. They also develop, gather and distribute technical content among customers, designers and manufacturers.

Professional and Media Writing

In the professional and media writing concentration, students learn the more technical and professional methods for writing. Some programs offer courses that teach students field-specific skills and methods in areas such as research writing, copywriting, speechwriting, legal and business writing, and more.

Career:
Creative Writer
Creative Writer

Writes books, articles, marketing materials, and more. Creative writers can work in many different fields such as public relations, corporate communications and academia, either on staff or as freelancers.

Publisher
Publisher

Oversees the preparation of books, journals, and other published works as they move through the various stages, including conceptualization, editing, design, production, and sales.

Technical Writer
Technical Writer

Prepares instruction manuals, journal articles, web content, and other documents to communicate technical information effectively. They also develop, gather and distribute technical content among customers, designers and manufacturers.

Education Policymaker
Education Policymaker

Creates policies and programs for school districts or higher education institutions.

Instructional Coordinator
Instructional Coordinator

Develops educational programs and materials for schools, companies and organizations. They work directly with teachers, principals and clients to help implement and assess the curriculum.

Editor
Editor

Plans and revises content published in magazines, newspapers, books and other publications, as well as on websites. Editors check copy for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, and suggest improvements to improve readability and overall content.

Potential Salary Increases with a Master’s Degree

Students often pursue a graduate degree in English because the credential opens up more career opportunities, such as the chance to teach at the postsecondary level (see the figures below). Statistics also show that those who hold a master’s command somewhat higher salaries compared to graduates with a bachelor’s degree, with an advanced degree translating into some $6,000 more per year. According to PayScale data, people with a bachelor’s degree in English earned between $39,400 and $68,800; those with a master’s degree in English earned between $45,900 and $74,000.

Growth potential 12%
Average salary $60,160

Additional Resources & Links

  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

    Speech pathologists can find field-related conference and event dates, career opportunities and articles about the industry.

  • Association of American Publishers

    Members can browse this professional site for job openings, learn about the publishing industry, and find information on programs and events.

  • Association of Writers & Writing Programs

    Writers, teachers, students, editors and publishers can network, find job openings, enter contests, find conference and event dates, and read field news on this site.

  • National Council of Teachers of English

    As a professional organization of educators in English studies, literacy, and language arts, NCTE provides a forum for group networking, subscriptions to publications, and educational news regarding elementary, middle, secondary and college institutions.

  • Society for Technical Communication

    This professional association is dedicated to the advancement of technical communication. Members can search archives for published articles, connect with other members, search for jobs, and find event information.

  • Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc

    As one of the world’s largest organizations for teaching English to non-native speakers, TESOL offers books and journals related to the industry, as well as information about events and career development.

Best Online Master’s in English Degrees

A wide variety of online master’s degrees in English is available to students, ranging in emphasis (literature, journalism, creative writing, arts and humanities, communications, etc.), course hours, and completion time. Students can take the first step in choosing an appropriate program by comparing their features and rankings. Learn which online programs ranked highest in 2015-2016’s Best Online Master’s in English Degrees.

Read more about our methodology here.

RANK COLLEGE SCORE TEACHER/STUDENT RATIO COST GRADUATION RATE
1 University of Northern Iowa 100.00 16:1 64%
1 East Carolina University 100.00 18:1 59%
3 Harvard University 99.00 8:1 98%
4 Asbury University 98.50 12:1 68%
5 Murray State University 97.75 16:1 52%
5 University of Southern California 98.00 9:1 91%
6 University of Central Florida 97.25 31:1 70%
6 MidAmerica Nazarene University 97.25 7:1 50%
6 Azusa Pacific University 97.25 11:1 67%
9 University of Alabama at Birmingham 97.00 18:1 56%
10 Goucher College 96.75 9:1 64%
10 Eastern University 96.75 11:1 61%
10 Dominican University 96.75 11:1 63%
13 Lincoln Christian University 96.25 14:1 57%
14 Canisius College 96.00 12:1 68%
15 Northern Arizona University 95.50 18:1 52%
16 Lindenwood University 94.75 13:1 50%
17 University of San Francisco 94.25 14:1 70%
17 University of North Dakota 94.25 19:1 55%
17 North Greenville University 94.25 14:1 50%
20 The New School 94.00 10:1 60%
21 Emporia State University 93.75 18:1 39%
21 Columbus State University 93.75 17:1 32%
21 Bowling Green State University-Main Campus 93.75 19:1 55%
22 University of Maryland-Baltimore County 94.00 19:1 61%
24 University of Memphis 93.50 14:1 44%
24 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania 93.50 22:1 67%
26 Sul Ross State University 93.25 15:1 28%
26 Greenville College 93.25 11:1 48%
28 Gardner-Webb University 92.75 13:1 54%
29 Wayland Baptist University 92.50 10:1 32%
29 Utah State University 92.50 22:1 50%
31 Biola University 92.25 17:1 69%
31 Arkansas Tech University 92.25 20:1 45%
33 Wilkes University 92.00 15:1 56%
34 Buena Vista University 91.75 9:1 46%
35 Southeast Missouri State University 91.50 22:1 51%
35 Fort Valley State University 91.50 17:1 32%
37 Wilmington University 90.75 14:1 35%
38 Kennesaw State University 90.50 21:1 43%
39 Morehead State University 90.25 18:1 43%
40 Heritage University 90.00 8:1 19%
41 Newman University 89.75 14:1 48%
42 Minnesota State University-Mankato 89.25 23:1 50%
42 Nyack College 90.25 12:1 42%
43 The University of Texas at Tyler 89.00 21:1 45%
43 Louisiana Tech University 89.00 24:1 52%
45 Nova Southeastern University 88.75 16:1 46%