Online Master’s Programs in English

December 1, 2021 • 6 Min Read

Find a program that’s right for you.

Enrolling in a master's degree in English online offers graduate students the chance to fine-tune their education and specialize their skills in a profession of their choice. The advanced skills gained in research, critical analysis, and writing prepare students for various career options after graduation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects media and communications careers to grow at rates faster than the average profession. English majors interested in communications jobs should enter an in-demand field upon graduating. Below, we offer a list of some of the most promising graduate programs in English. You'll also find information on what an online English master's degree can offer you, and how you can meet your professional goals.

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Identifying the best online master's degree in English can be challenging. Many of the nation's top colleges and universities offer an English master's program online, and nearly every student looks for something different. To simplify this part of the process, the list below serves as a ranking of schools and programs based on a number of factors, including graduation rates, tuition costs, and the services provided to students. The ranking gets its data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and published materials provided by each institution.

What Are the Best Online Master's Programs in English?

Arizona State University-Skysong true View School Profile Scottsdale, AZ

A public school based in Scottsdale, ASU offers an online master of arts in English that prepares students for careers in a variety of fields, such as management, marketing, copywriting, and editing.

The 30-credit online master's in English allows students to learn at their own pace. Students can choose from electives based on their career goals. Notable courses include composition studies, linguistics, and approaches to research. Students culminate the degree with a graduate capstone seminar.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit a personal statement, a CV, and two recommendation letters.

The University of Texas at Tyler true View School Profile Tyler, TX

Part of the University of Texas system, UT Tyler offers an online master of arts in English that helps students develop critical thinking, analysis, and research skills.

The 36-credit online master's in English program offers small courses that facilitate individualized attention from faculty. Students can choose to complete their degree fully online, on campus, or in a hybrid format. The program offers thesis and non-thesis tracks. Non-thesis students must take additional courses.

Tuition varies based on residence and enrollment status. All applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.25 GPA and completion of prior coursework in English. Applicants must also submit an essay detailing their reasons for pursuing a master's in English.

Mercy College true View School Profile Dobbs Ferry, NY

A private school based in Dobbs Ferry, New York, Mercy offers an online master of arts in English that allows students to study literature from a variety of cultures and traditions.

Mercy's 30-credit online master's in English offers courses on topics like literary criticism, advanced creative writing, and American literature. Students must pass a comprehensive exam before their final semester of the program. They must also complete a thesis to graduate. Many graduates go on to earn doctoral degrees in English. Others pursue careers in teaching or writing.

Prospective students can transfer up to six graduate English credits toward the degree. Applicants must submit transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a writing sample.

East Carolina University true View School Profile Greenville, NC

A public university based in Greenville, North Carolina, ECU offers an online master of arts in English that allows students to tailor the degree to their interests and goals.

Students pursuing the master's in English online can choose from concentrations in literature, creative writing, and rhetoric. All students must enroll in a research methods course based on their concentration. Students also choose electives based on their concentration. For example, a creative writing student may take advanced poetry or script writing. Students can either write a thesis or complete a Comprehensive Assessment Project (CAP) to graduate. Those pursuing a CAP must take additional English courses to complete their degree.

Applications require official transcripts, three recommendation letters, and a statement of intent. Students applying for the creative writing concentration must submit a portfolio of original writing in one genre. This program does not require prospective students to submit GRE results.

Old Dominion University true View School Profile Norfolk, VA

A public research university located in Norfolk, Virginia, ODU offers an online master of arts in English that prepares students for doctoral programs and careers in a related field.

The 30-credit online MA in English develops students' skills in writing, textual analysis, and document design. Students also examine the theory and practice of writing in professional environments. Notable courses include digital writing, management writing, and new media. Students culminate the degree with a portfolio project, oral exam, or thesis.

Students living in Virginia pay less in tuition than out-of-state residents. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in English or a related field and submit a writing sample that demonstrates graduate-level writing skills.

Northwestern State University of Louisiana View School Profile Natchitoches, LA

A public university located in Natchitoches, NSU offers an online master of arts in English with four concentrations: writing, southern culture, literature, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Students can also pursue a general track.

All students must take a course in bibliography and literary research. Students then choose electives based on their area of study. For example, TESOL students may take a class in syntactical theories, while literature students may enroll in a medieval rhetoric course. Students culminate the degree with a thesis or two papers. Students who write two papers in place of a thesis must also take an additional elective course.

Applicants must submit official transcripts, GRE scores, and two recommendation letters.

University of Nebraska at Kearney View School Profile Kearney, NE

Part of the University of Nebraska system, UNK offers an online master of arts in English that prepares students for careers in writing, teaching, and editing. Graduates can also pursue doctoral study.

Students earning the 30-credit master's in English online study topics such as literary criticism, poetry writing, and reading problems in secondary schools. Courses take the form of seminars, workshops, and directed readings. Students must pass a comprehensive exam or write a thesis to graduate.

Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts indicating at least 18 completed credits of English coursework. Applicants must also submit three recommendation letters, a personal statement, and a writing sample.

National University View School Profile La Jolla, CA

The largest private school in San Diego, California, NU offers an online master of arts in English that helps students succeed in fields within and beyond English studies. The program develops critical thinking, writing, and analytical skills.

The master's in English online program offers small, interactive classes that facilitate individualized support from professors. Some courses last only four weeks. In these accelerated courses, students can focus on one subject at a time. Learners study topics such as rhetoric, gothic studies, and film studies. NU's program also offers opportunities for career development. For example, students can edit or write for the school's literary journal or newsletter.

NU offers tuition discounts to military service members and their dependents. The school is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

University of Louisiana at Monroe View School Profile Monroe, LA

Part of the University of Louisiana system, ULM offers an online master of arts in English with specializations in creative writing and literary studies.

Students specializing in literary studies must enroll in a bibliography course. Creative writing students are required to take at least nine credits of workshops. Workshops cover either poetry or fiction writing. All students culminate the degree with a thesis. If interested in teaching, students can work as a graduate teaching assistant. Graduate teaching assistants must teach composition and complete a supervision practicum.

Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA and 30 completed credits of upper-level undergraduate English courses. Students can transfer courses from other accredited schools with a grade of B or better.

Southern New Hampshire University View School Profile Manchester, NH

A private school located in Manchester, SNHU offers an online master of arts in English that offers some of the lowest online tuition prices in the country. The program features an asynchronous format, allowing students to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

Courses focus on British and American literature. Students take courses on topics like Shakespeare, African American literature, and Victorian literature. Students can enhance their writing skills by optionally participating in the school's online literary journal and fall fiction contest. Many graduates pursue careers in areas like advertising, technical writing, and public relations. Others find careers in nonprofit administration or fundraising.

Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA and submit a personal statement.

Sul Ross State University View School Profile Alpine, TX

A public school based in Alpine, Texas, Sul Ross offers an online master of arts in English that allows students to pursue their interest in literature.

Students pursuing the master's in English online can choose from thesis and non-thesis tracks. Students writing a thesis take 24 credits of literature coursework. They also take six credits of coursework related to their thesis. Non-thesis students complete 36 credits of coursework. Learners study topics like Irish literature, the American Renaissance, and transnational literature.

Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA undergraduate GPA and at least a 290 on the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE. Sul Ross offers scholarships for full-time graduate students to help fund their education. Students can apply for scholarships online.

Valdosta State University View School Profile Valdosta, GA

A public university located in Valdosta, Georgia, VSU offers an online master of arts in English studies designed for middle and secondary school teachers.

The 36-credit program includes literature, composition, and grammar courses. Many professors teach asynchronous courses, giving students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Others require live online class sessions. All live courses take place on weekday evenings to accommodate the schedules of working educators.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in English with a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit official transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a cover letter. They also need at least a 153 on the verbal section of the GRE or 4.0 on the analytical section.

University of Memphis View School Profile Memphis, TN

A public school based in Memphis, Tennessee, UofM offers an online master of arts in English with concentrations in composition studies, professional writing, English as a second language (ESL), linguistics, and literature.

The program's ESL concentration takes place fully online. Other concentrations may require in-person classes. Some concentrations require students to pass a comprehensive exam to graduate, while others require a thesis. All students must complete 30 credits total.

Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree in English or at least 12 credits of English coursework with a grade of B or higher. They must also hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit official transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose.

Texas Tech University View School Profile Lubbock, TX

A public university based in Lubbock, TTU offers an online master of arts in English that prepares students for graduate study, as well as careers in writing-related fields.

Students can choose from a variety of concentrations, including literature, creative writing, digital humanities, and film studies. The program offers thesis and non-thesis tracks. Students who choose to write a thesis complete 30 credits of coursework and six thesis credits. Those who do not write a thesis complete 36 credits of coursework and a writing portfolio.

Applicants must submit a CV, three recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose. They must also complete a writing sample that demonstrates their critical thinking skills. Students looking to concentrate in creative writing must provide a sample of original work.

The University of West Florida View School Profile Pensacola, FL

Located in Pensacola, UWF offers an online master of arts in English with concentrations in literature and creative writing.

The 36-credit program limits classes to 20 students, allowing learners to receive personalized attention from faculty. Students participate in live class sessions through videoconferencing. These sessions occur on weekday evenings to accommodate working professionals. Students choose between thesis and non-thesis tracks. All students must demonstrate competency in one foreign language.

UWF's English department offers grants to online graduate students. Students can also apply for paid teaching and graduate assistantships. Applicants must demonstrate at least a 3.0 GPA and 20 credits of completed English coursework. They also need a GRE score of at least 153 in the verbal section and 4.5 in the analytical writing section.

Wayland Baptist University View School Profile Plainview, TX

A private school located in Plainview, Texas, WBU offers an online master of arts in English that prepares students to conduct independent research in the field. The 37-credit MA in English online program develops students' critical thinking and analysis skills. Many graduates pursue doctoral degrees or careers in education.

Required courses include literary theory and advanced research. Students can also choose to write a thesis and present their work to a committee of three professors. Those who do not write a thesis take additional coursework. All students must pass a comprehensive exam. The comprehensive exam consists of an analytical essay based on a specialized reading list.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students must also submit two recommendation letters and a writing sample. Students can transfer up to 12 graduate-level credits toward the degree.

University of Central Florida View School Profile Orlando, FL

A public university based in Orlando, UCF offers an online master of arts in English with a concentration in technical communication that prepares students for writing jobs in the technical field.

The 33-credit program gives students the skills needed for jobs like technical editor, international communications professional, and web content specialist. Notable courses include persuasive writing, technical editing, and proposal writing. Students can complete a research project or thesis to culminate the degree.

Prospective students must demonstrate competency in one foreign language. They must also submit GRE scores, two recommendation letters, a goal statement, and a professional writing sample. UCF offers fellowships to qualified applicants.

Ohio University-Main Campus View School Profile Athens, OH

A public school based in Athens, OU offers an online master of arts in English that qualifies students to teach secondary and college-level courses. The master's in English online program offers flexible course schedules that allow teachers and other working professionals to earn their degree with limited career disruption.

Learners study topics like literary history, composition, and creative writing. Each course runs for seven weeks. Most students complete their degree within four semesters. Students culminate the degree with a publishable master's essay. The English department encourages students to examine classroom applications from middle and secondary school in their essay.

Applicants must submit a writing sample, personal statement, and CV. This program does not require GRE results.

Murray State University View School Profile Murray, KY

A public university based in Murray, Kentucky, Murray State offers an online master of arts in English that prepares students for doctoral study and teaching positions.

Students completing the 30-credit MA in English online take courses on topics like research methods, British literature, and American literature. Students must pass written and oral comprehensive exams to graduate.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a major or minor in English and a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit GRE scores and letters of recommendation.

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania View School Profile Slippery Rock, PA

A public school located in Slippery Rock, SRU offers a 30-credit online master of arts in English that covers topics such as rhetorical theory, digital writing and publishing, and literary and cultural studies. Students culminate the degree with a six-credit capstone course that focuses on research and interdisciplinary writing methods.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit an essay on their writing-related career goals, two letters of recommendation, and transcripts. Students may apply for a graduate assistantship with the English department. The school awards graduate assistantships to students for up to two years.

Northern Arizona University View School Profile Flagstaff, AZ

Located in Flagstaff, NAU offers an online master of arts in English that covers topics such as literary criticism, medieval literature, and feminist theory.

The 36-credit program includes thesis and non-thesis tracks. Students not writing a thesis must take additional coursework. Many graduates pursue careers in publishing, public relations, or teaching. Others go on to earn a doctoral degree.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit two recommendation letters, a writing sample, a resume, and a personal statement.

Morehead State University View School Profile Morehead, KY

A public university located in Morehead, Kentucky, MSU offers a 30-credit online master of arts in English that covers advanced literary theories. The program features an asynchronous format, allowing students to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations.

Students earning the MA in English online study literature, creative and technical writing, and linguistics. Notable courses include technical writing, Old English, and sociolinguistics. Students must pass a written comprehensive exam to graduate. The exam focuses on an American and British literature reading list. Students enrolled in three courses a semester can apply for a graduate assistantship. Graduate assistants must commit to 20 hours of work each week.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a major or minor in English and a minimum 3.0 GPA. They also need at least a 146 on the verbal section of the GRE and a 140 on the quantitative section.

Minnesota State University-Mankato View School Profile Mankato, MN

A public university located in Mankato, Minnesota State Mankato offers an online master of arts in English that comprises 33 credits.

The program covers American, British, and world literature. Courses include gender in literature and children's literature. Students also enroll in electives based on their interests. Many instructors hold live course sessions to discuss literary texts. Capstone projects allow students to research specific literary topics, genres, and periods.

Applicants must submit a personal statement describing their goals, a research-based writing sample, and two recommendation letters. This program accepts applications on a rolling basis.

Louisiana Tech University View School Profile Ruston, LA

A public school based in Ruston, Louisiana Tech offers an online master of arts in English that allows students to specialize in literature or technical writing.

Students earning the 33-credit MA in English online take theoretical and practical courses. Faculty and students work together to create a reading list based on students' interests. The program offers thesis and non-thesis tracks. Students on the non-thesis track complete a comprehensive exam in lieu of a thesis. Graduates often pursue doctoral degrees or teaching jobs.

Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and demonstrate prior coursework in English. They must also submit a personal statement and GRE scores. In place of GRE scores, applicants may submit a writing sample.

Ohio Dominican University View School Profile Columbus, OH

A Roman Catholic university based in Columbus, ODU offers an online master of arts in English that develops students' writing and critical thinking skills.

Students earning the 33-credit master's in English online study literary genres, figures, and critical approaches. Notable courses include short stories, film and visual rhetoric, and contemporary literature. Students choose between a thesis or capstone project to culminate the degree. Capstone projects include a 15-page paper.

Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. This program prefers applicants to hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applications must include a personal statement, transcripts, and three recommendation letters sent directly from the references.

What to Know About Online Master's in English Coursework

An online master's in English provides students with strong critical thinking, communication, and writing skills. While some English graduate programs only admit students who intend to complete a doctorate, many master's programs prepare students for careers in teaching, academia, and other professional settings.

Though the content of an online English degree does not typically differ from an on-campus program, busy students may benefit from an online program's flexible format. Many online master's programs allow full-time students to finish in one year or less. Many programs even allow employed students to take courses part time while completing the degree in less than two years. A master's in English online typically includes between 30 and 40 credits. But the number of required credits varies by program.

Common Courses in an Online Master's in English Program

Coursework in an online master's degree in English varies by school and program. The sample curriculum below includes common courses provided by top graduate English programs.

Critical Theory
Critical theory requires students to take knowledge from various disciplines and apply it to the English program. Students may use literary analysis to complete this task. The course helps students develop critical thinking and translation skills.
Cultural Studies
Courses in cultural studies prepare students to understand cultures through the lens of many disciplines. Students create a clearer picture of what forces, institutions, and processes contribute to a society's makeup. In addition to critical thinking and problem-solving skills, cultural studies enrollees develop a better understanding of diversity and community.
American Literature
This course focuses on American authors' literature. Learners study fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The course often requires students to apply knowledge from other disciplines. Students develop skills in both writing and literary analysis. They also gain an understanding of the topics and issues that American authors faced throughout history.
Professional Writing
Nearly every profession values professional writing skills. In this course, students hone their ability to craft and edit meaningful professional communications. Many professional writing courses allow students to focus on a specific field, such as financial writing, public relations, or medical writing.
Postmodernism
Many view postmodernism as a rejection of, or departure from, the assumptions of modernism. Postmodern literature and analysis challenge students to practice skepticism, questioning things like moral systems. The course requires students to observe the institutions and power structures that governed thinking in the past.

What Specializations are Available in a Master's in English Program?

Built into many online master's programs in English, specializations allow students to focus their degree on one area of study. While available concentrations vary depending on the program, the list below includes common options.

Contemporary Literature
A specialization in contemporary literature focuses on the writing of contemporary authors and poets. It deals with important issues integral to modern society. The specialization typically focuses on post-World War II material.
Creative Writing
This specialization provides students with an intensive study in the creation and editing of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. It also helps prepare students who plan to teach creative writing professionally. Some creative writing specializations allow students to choose a specific genre to explore in depth.
Women/Gender Studies
Students specializing in women and/or gender studies explore texts using an gendered or genderless lens. Students consider and analyze the influences and conditions under which women and genders were represented in texts, typically with consideration to both time and place.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Some online master's degrees in English include capstone projects. These projects require students to develop a project that incorporates various skills and coursework from the program. But a master's thesis is often the most common final project. Often a research project or lengthy paper, a master's thesis prepares students for the research and writing demands of a doctoral degree.

For students not pursuing an online Ph.D. in English, a master's thesis allows them to research a specific topic in depth. Learners often gain expertise in their research area. They also strengthen their skills in independent work, research, and scholarly writing.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in English Program?

Prospective students should check that schools hold accreditation. They can verify this through the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. Learners should also consider the diversity of a program's faculty and course offerings. A varied and inclusive institution may allow for more opportunities. Students should also pay attention to the degree conferred since some English graduate programs only admit students seeking a doctorate. Online applicants should also note residency requirements and graduation rates.

Applicants can also look at a faculty's qualifications and publications to better understand a program's strengths. Doing so may help students identify a graduate mentor or supervisor. Or, they may even find potential courses or specializations of interest. In addition, learners should review the awards and honors bestowed upon an institution's faculty members.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in English Degree

An online master's degree in English provides graduates with a diverse and flexible set of skills, qualifying them for many careers. Gaining strong verbal and written communication skills prepares graduates for careers in publishing or communication. Expertise in literature and literary criticism paves the way for a career in academia.

While an English master's degree provides graduates with the credentials necessary to acquire various positions, it does not guarantee eligibility. Some positions require additional training, licensure, and/or certificates to qualify for employment. Some positions even require a specific degree concentration.

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers educate college and university students in various disciplines and concentrations. The subjects a professor teaches depend on the English graduate's concentration or specialization. While colleges and universities typically require teachers to hold doctoral degrees, many community colleges allow graduates with master's degrees to fill teaching positions.

Writers and Authors

Copywriters, creative writers, content writers, and bloggers comprise some career options for writers. Though entry-level positions typically require a bachelor's degree, advanced degrees allow writers to advance to more competitive positions and earn higher salaries. The writing profession highly values the research skills, writing proficiency, and knowledge writers gain from a master's degree in English.

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Public relations managers oversee the presentation, maintenance, and improvement of their client or employer image. Managers create communications materials that accurately present a company's or client's message. Fundraising managers serve a similar function, but they tend to run fundraisers and campaigns that satisfy specific interests and goals. Many of these positions demand applicants with advanced degrees in a communication field, such as English. Government and high-profile organizations often require candidates with substantial experience in addition to a master's degree.

Technical Writers

Technical writers prepare the text and written information for various professional documentation. They may create instruction manuals and how-to guides. Technical writers research, collect, and organize the necessary information. They then recreate it in concise and understandable language for the end-user. Advanced degrees prepare technical writers with advanced research and writing skills. Some positions require additional training or degrees depending on the intended industry and position.

Interpreters and Translators

In a globalized society, interpreters and translators are in high demand. They not only transmit text and information from one language to another but also transfer meaning, tone, and context. A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum requirement for these positions, and fluency in at least one other language. A master's degree in English can lead to more opportunities with higher earning potential.

Occupation Median Salary Currently Employed Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years
Postsecondary Teacher $80,560 per year 1,276,900 +12%
Writers and Authors $67,120 per year 143,200 +9%
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $118,430 per year 89,000 +13%
Technical Writers $74,650 per year 52,300 +12%
Interpreters and Translators $52,330 per year 81,400 +24%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

What's the Expected Job Growth for English Careers?

English degrees provide graduates with a broad and flexible career outlook. This allows graduates to enter various fields, depending on their interests and educational path. Overall, the projected job growth looks promising for most professions available to graduates with English master's degrees. The BLS projects job growth for Postsecondary teachers, interpreters and translators, and technical writers to grow through 2030. In addition, the BLS projects other professions such as writers and communication workers to grow about the same or slightly higher than the national job growth average.

How to Pay for a Master's in English Degree

English graduate students benefit from many financing options. In addition to federal financial aid, which should serve as the first route a student explores, many schools, programs, and professional organizations offer funding opportunities for promising English students. The list below highlights common financing options.

Federal Financial Aid

Most students receive some form of federal financial aid. The application process costs nothing and offers students the opportunity to receive grants and loans. Some students also receive low interest rate loans after applying for the FASFA.

Program Scholarships

Many English graduate programs offer financial rewards to exceptional students. Some scholarships, such as entry scholarships, require no application; others require students to complete applications, essays, and/or submit work experience proof to qualify. Kent State University, for example, offers several scholarships to both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing English degrees.

Professional Scholarships

Professional scholarships come from associations promoting or supporting the industry. Many organizations provide financial opportunities to outstanding or deserving students. Learners may qualify based on field of study or geographic location. Many of the organizations that work within the literature or writing profession offer scholarships to students taking advanced degrees in English. For example, the Children's Literature Association supports English graduate students with financial scholarships of up to $5,000.

Work Study Programs

The availability of work study programs depends on the school and program. But many graduate students help fund their education by working with the school they attend. For graduate students, some schools offer work opportunities in the form of teaching or research assistantships.

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