During a master’s in English online, students may specialize in literature, rhetoric and composition, or teaching English. After completing their degree, graduates can work as writers and authors, editors, or educators, applying skills gained during their master’s program in the professional workforce. A graduate degree prepares professionals for advanced positions in their field, such as managing editor or senior technical writer, and increases their salary potential.
An online degree in English can help students take the first step towards entering a career that allows them to apply their passion for grammar, literature and other areas of focus within the field. An online learning program also gives students the opportunity to pursue their degree while maintaining other time commitments such as work or family matters. With so many schools offering online English programs, it can be hard to know which school is “best”. To help with this, we’ve ranked schools across the country based on factors such as cost, institutional financial aid, and graduation rates. Discover which schools made the cut below.
While earning a master’s in English online, graduate students build core skills in literary analysis, rhetoric and composition, and literary theory. Most programs offer several different specializations, including British or American literature, technical writing, and teaching writing and literature. In any concentration, master’s students gain writing and research skills that benefit professionals in many fields.
Earning a master’s degree in English typically requires between 30-36 credits of coursework, which may include a master’s thesis or examination. Full-time students can complete the degree in two years, while part-time students may require additional time. Some programs may offer an accelerated option for students to complete their degree in less time. Online programs provide a flexible schedule for graduate students, allowing some students to continue working while completing their degree.
Graduate programs in English offer a variety of courses, depending on the graduate student’s specialization. The courses listed below cover some of the most frequently offered classes in a master’s in English online program regardless of specialization.
Classes on literary theory introduce graduate students to theoretical approaches to literature. The course may focus on a particular field, such as romanticism or modernism, or a particular theory such as new historicism, gender analysis, or postmodernism. Graduate students read prominent literary theories and analyze their works, and the course may require a research paper comparing multiple theories.
Graduate students study the theory behind teaching writing and the practice of teaching. The course may introduce different methods of teaching writing, principles of teaching, and the history of teaching writing. Students may build tools and course materials to teach writing at the secondary or post-secondary level.
Classes on rhetoric and composition cover the histories of composition and literature, critical assessments of teaching English, and writing instruction. Graduate students may also study topics such as writing assessment, literary analysis, research methods, and important works in composition studies.
Seminars in literature focus on a particular field within literary studies, such as 19th century literature, medieval and Renaissance literature, or postmodern literature. Graduate students read important works from the time period and critically appraise them.
A world literature course introduces graduate students to national literature from non-Western countries. The course may focus on a theme, such as colonialism or cultural identity, or it may focus on a single country. Graduate students read novels, plays, poetry, and other works of literature, and the course often culminates in a research paper.
During a master’s in English online, graduate students complete research papers, literature reviews, and analytical papers as part of their coursework. Most programs also include a final master’s thesis or master’s examination in order to graduate. During a master’s thesis, graduate students work under a faculty adviser to conduct research and apply theoretical framework to an original argument. Master’s students then defend the thesis before a faculty committee. Alternatively, students may take a master’s examination covering their research areas; the exam may be written or oral, depending on the program.
Within a master’s program, English graduate students may focus on one of several areas, including literature, rhetoric and composition, technical or professional writing, or teaching English. Concentrations allow students to build advanced skills in their subfield, preparing them for specialized careers after graduation. Each program’s specializations vary, so prospective students need to research the options before applying.
With a literature specialization, graduate students focus on the literary works of a particular time and place, such as colonial American literature, medieval literature, or 20th century British literature. Students read works produced in their focus area and secondary source interpretations of those works, including literary theories.Rhetoric and Composition
A rhetoric and composition specialization emphasizes the theory and practice of writing. Graduate students may complete courses in semiotics, methodologies, and language. They may also explore the evolution of rhetoric and rhetorical theory, rhetoric in different contexts, and research methods.English Teaching
A concentration in English teaching prepares graduates to work a secondary school English or language arts teachers. Graduate students take classes in language, literature, composition, and writing, with an emphasis on teaching these skills. The classes cover the theory and practice of teaching English. Some programs may require that incoming students hold a current teaching license.
With a master’s degree in English, professionals work in a variety of fields, including writing, publishing, and education. The degree prepares graduates to work as writers, editors, or technical writers, or to work in education as a secondary school teacher or a postsecondary instructor. In many of these fields, a master’s degree qualifies candidates for advanced positions, such as senior writer or executive editor. Some positions may require additional certification or licensure. Below are a few prospective careers for students with a master’s in English.
Writers create written content for books, magazines, advertisements, and websites. They may write fiction or nonfiction, conduct research to support their writing, or write copy for advertisements. Most writers work with an editor or client to create a finished piece, but many are self-employed or complete work on a freelance basis.
Editors develop story ideas, review written content, and revise pieces for publication, editing fiction or nonfiction in the form of articles, books, or advertising copy. Revision of unclear text, verification of factual information, and evaluating pieces to decide what to publish constitute some of an editor’s daily tasks. Managing editors and executive editors oversee an editorial staff, making decisions about daily operations, hiring, and running a publication, public relations firm, advertising agency, or broadcast.
Technical writers communicate complex technical information to customers and users in clear and concise language. They work with engineers, product designers, and developers to understand a product or service, create how-to guides or instruction manuals, and communicate technical information internally for their company. Technical writers may also work with users to improve and revise content.
High school teachers educate adolescents, providing academic lessons and assessing student strengths and weaknesses. Teachers create lesson plans, grade assignments and exams, and communicate with parents. Most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for a state teaching license; a master’s degree in English may also meet the licensure requirements. Teachers with a degree in English may teach language arts, literature, or drama.
English professors design courses for post-secondary students attending two-year or four-year institutions. They create syllabi, compose lectures, teach courses, and grade student work. Professors may also conduct independent research and publish their work in academic journals. A master’s degree in English meets the minimum qualification to teach at many community colleges, and graduates may also serve as instructors at four-year colleges and universities.
Professional organizations help English graduate students build a network of fellow students and working professionals while earning their degree. Many organizations offer annual conferences, publications, and programs to support students and early-career professionals. By researching professional organizations, graduate students can ease the transition from school to the workforce.
An organization of independent nonfiction writers, ASJA offers professional development resources such as mentoring, market information, and meetings with editors. The society also hosts seminars and workshops.
An association of English teachers, NCTE offers professional development resources, lesson plans, and teaching strategies. The council also hosts events, provides web seminars, and offers a career center.
Dating back to 1883, MLA advocates for English, literature, and foreign language teachers. The association offers an annual convention for networking and professional development, publishes research, and provides career resources.
STC represents technical writers and others in the field of technical communications. The society publishes research, hosts an annual conference, and offers a certified professional technical communicator program.
A professional organization for writers, the Authors Guild offers advice on copyright protection, reviews writer contracts, and provides legal assistance. Member benefits include a reference guide for contracts, regional chapters, and events.
After earning a master’s in English online, graduates pursue careers as writers, editors, and educators. The chart below shows the salary range for some of the most common career paths, including the lowest, median, and highest salaries in the field. While a master’s degree does not guarantee eligibility for every position, the degree can help professionals advance their careers in any of these areas.
|Job Title||Lowest 10% Earned Annually||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10% Earned Annually||Job Growth 2016-2026|
|Writer||Less than $30,520||$61,820||More than $118,760||+8%|
|Editor||Less than $30,830||$58,770||More than $114,460||-1%|
|Technical Writer||Less than $42,410||$70,930||More than $113,810||+11%|
|High School Teacher||Less than $39,080||$59,170||More than $95,380||+8%|
|English Professor||Less than $36,770||$64,910||More than $135,630||N/A|
Source: BLS 2018
Many career paths with an English master’s degree show potential growth over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, both writers and high school teachers may see an increase in the number of job openings of 8% by 2026, with technical writers in even higher demand, with a projected increase of 11%. These growing fields offer opportunities for career advancement for candidates with a graduate degree.
Salaries in every field vary depending on the individual’s degree level. As students earn advanced degrees, their salaries typically increase. According to a report by the Center on Education and the Workforce, professionals with a bachelor’s degree in English earn a median annual salary of $53,000. With a graduate degree in English, professionals earn a higher median salary of $68,000, an increase of $15,000 a year.
The accreditation process reviews colleges and universities to determine whether they meet standards for academic excellence. Schools voluntarily undergo accreditation review from nonprofit accrediting agencies. During the review, the accrediting agency measures a university’s student learning outcomes, checks its faculty qualifications, and assesses the graduation requirements for every degree. Only universities that pass the review receive accreditation, and schools must undergo a periodic review to maintain their accredited status.
When choosing an online master’s in English program, prospective students should only apply to programs that hold regional accreditation. The most prestigious standard, regional accreditation meets the federal guidelines to qualify for financial aid. Students with an accredited degree often qualify for more certifications and licenses. Some states, for example, only grant teaching licenses to candidates with an accredited degree.
Many graduate students earning a master’s in English online pay for their degree by applying for financial aid. Some students can fund their degree with savings or by working while in school, while others rely on a mix of loans, scholarships, fellowships, and grants.
Online graduate students qualify for federal financial aid, which offers loans, grants, and work study. Applicants fill out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, providing information about their graduate program and finances, in order to receive a financial aid package. Federal financial aid must be repaid after graduation.
Many English programs offer graduate funding in the form of fellowships or scholarships. Graduate students may need to apply for funding with a separate application requiring additional essays or letters of recommendation.
Offered by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the graduate fellowship offers up to 15 awards between $5,000 and $15,000 to support graduate students who plan to go into teaching. Applicants must submit an essay, a CV or resume, an autobiography, an academic writing sample, two letters of recommendation, and unofficial transcripts.
The federal financial aid office offers the TEACH grant program for students earning a degree who plan to teach in a high-needs field in a low-income area. Graduate students can receive up to $4,000 a year, and recipients must then teach for four years in the eight years after graduating to meet the eligibility requirements.