Online Master’s Programs in English

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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 obtained in research, critical analysis, and writing present students with a variety of career options after graduation.

The media and communications profession continues to grow at rates comparable to the average profession. Online media platforms and digital writing professions evolve continuously, ensuring that the demand for professionals educated in these mediums will increase as well. Below, is a list of some of the most promising graduate programs in English, information regarding what a master’s in English online offers you, and how you can meet your professional goals.

Top 10 Online Master’s Programs in English

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

  • Methodology

    To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:

    • Accredited at the institutional level
    • Private nonprofit or public school
    • Minimum of 1 online master’s degree in subject area

    Schools were then scored on factors such as:

    • Cost & Financial Aid
    • Number and variety of online program offerings
    • Student-teacher ratios
    • Graduation rates
    • Placement and support services offered
    • Academic/Career counseling services
    • Employment services
    • Loan default rates

    These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or “bang for your buck” of a college or degree program.

Identifying the best English master’s programs online can prove 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.

  1. Arizona State University-Skysong

    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.

  2. The University of Texas at Tyler

    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.

  3. Mercy College

    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.

  4. East Carolina University

    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.

  5. Old Dominion University

    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.

  6. Northwestern State University of Louisiana

    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.

  7. University of Nebraska at Kearney

    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.

  8. National University

    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.

  9. University of Louisiana at Monroe

    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.

  10. Southern New Hampshire University

    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.

What to Know About Online Master’s in English Coursework

The typical online master’s in English literature and writing provides students with exceptional critical thinking skills in addition to strong communication and writing skills. While some graduate programs in English only admit students who intend to complete doctoral degrees, many master’s programs prepare students for careers in teaching, academia, and other professional settings immediately upon graduation.

Though the content of online English programs does not typically differ from on-campus programs, the flexible structure may allow students to take a more condensed course load. Many online master’s programs in English enable full-time students to finish in one year or less. Many programs even allow employed students to take courses part time while still completing the degree in less than two years. In total, online master’s degrees in English typically include between 30-40 credits, though this number depends on the institution.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master’s in English Program?

Each master’s program in English presents a unique set of courses and objectives, though certain courses appear commonly across the board. The sample curriculum below includes some of the most common courses provided by top graduate English programs. These options may vary depending on the course, school, and/or specialization.

Critical Theory
Critical theory requires students to take knowledge from a variety of disciplines and apply it to the English program. Whether this comparative study takes the form of literary analysis or another form, the practice helps students develop critical thinking and translation skills.
Cultural Studies
Courses in cultural studies prepare students to understand cultures through the lens of multiple disciplines. By drawing from multiple 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 graduates develop a better understanding of diversity and community.
American Literature
American literature focuses on the literature produced by American authors, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. It often requires students to apply knowledge from other disciplines, but, most of all, it provides students with a strong foundation in both writing and literary analysis. Students also gain an understanding of the topics and issues that American authors faced throughout history.
Professional Writing
Nearly every profession values professional writing skills. Students hone their ability to craft and edit meaningful and powerful professional communications in these courses. Many professional writing courses enable students to specialize or focus on a specific field, such as financial writing, public relations, and/or medical writing.
Many view postmodernism as a rejection of, or departure from, the assumptions of modernism. Postmodern literature and/or analysis typically amounts to an exercise in skepticism, questioning things like moral systems. Courses in postmodernism require students to observe the institutions and power structures in place 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 or concentrations allow students to focus their degree into a particular area of study. While the available concentrations vary depending on the program, the list below includes some of the more common options.

Contemporary Literature
A specialization in contemporary literature focuses on the writing of contemporary authors and poets and deals with the issues deemed important or integral to modern society. The specialization typically narrows the scope of material to post-World War II.
Creative Writing
A creative writing specialization provides students with an intensive study in the creation and editing process 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. This approach allows students to consider and analyze the influences and/or 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?

While some online master’s programs in English include capstone projects that require students to develop a project that incorporates various skills and coursework from the program, a master’s thesis serves as the most common final project. A master’s thesis serves as a research project and/or paper that prepares students for the rigorous research and writing demands of a doctoral degree in English.

For students not pursuing a doctorate in English, a master’s thesis allows for a deep dive into a specific research topic. In addition to whatever expertise the specific research topic provides, the intensive study of a thesis provides students with skills in independent work, demanding research, and scholarly writing.

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

After ensuring that the prospective institution holds regional accreditation — which students can verify 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 any residency requirements and graduation rates.

Applicants can also look at a faculty’s qualifications and publications to get a clearer picture of the program’s strengths. In addition to aligning a student’s interests with a faculty or faculty member, students might also identify a graduate mentor or supervisor — or even find potential courses or specializations of interest. Furthermore, students 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 different careers. Gaining exemplary verbal and written communication skills prepares graduates for careers in publishing and/or communication, and expertise in literature and literary criticism gained from an online masters in English literature paves the way for a career in academia.

While a master’s degree in English provides graduates with the credentials necessary to acquire many different 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 make up just some of the career options available to writers. Though a bachelor’s degree is the typical requirement for entry level positions, advanced degrees enable writers to attain more competitive positions and 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. This typically requires managers to create communications 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 communications 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. This might include instruction manuals and/or 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 and/or degrees depending on the intended industry and position.

  • Interpreters and Translators

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

Occupation Median Salary Currently Employed Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years
Postsecondary Teacher $76,000 per year 1,314,400 +15%
Writers and Authors $61,820 per year 131,200 +8%
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $111,280 per year 73,500 +10%
Technical Writers $70,930 per year 52,400 +11%
Interpreters and Translators $47,190 per year 68,200 +18%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

What’s the Expected Job Growth for English Careers?

English degrees provide graduates with a very broad and flexible career outlook. This allows graduates to enter several different fields, typically 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. Postsecondary teachers, interpreters and translators, and technical writers all project substantial job growth through 2026. Other professions such as writers and communication workers fall in line with the average national job growth projections.

Professional Organizations for Careers in English

For graduates with master’s degrees in English, professional organizations offer many professional and financial benefits in addition to a stable network of peers. For recent and current graduates, these organizations offer access to industry resources, training opportunities, and networking events. Many of these organizations also offer career assistance, such as job boards, and member services.

Modern Language Association
The MLA publishing program provides its members with access to resources, conferences and conventions, and a network of professionals working in the languages.
American Society of Journalists and Authors
The ASJA national membership is made up of nonfiction writers from nearly every field. ASJA represents its independent writers and freelancers in the fight for better employment standards and offers member services.
Association of Writers and Writing Programs
The AWP advocates for and provides benefits to its membership, which consists of writers and teachers. The association offers access to helpful professional resources, conferences, training programs, and a network of writing professionals.
National Writers Union
The NWU is both a labor union representing freelance writers and a helpful resource for writers. It also connects writers to individuals and organizations looking for writing services. In addition to joining a network of freelancers, members receive access to insurance, grievance assistance, and press passes for various events.
The American Literature Association
The ALA advances the study of American authors and literature by enabling its members, both professionals and new graduates, to thrive in the study and teaching of American literature. The ALA hosts a major annual conference and provides its members with access to resources, training programs, and a network of like-minded professionals.

How to Pay for a Master’s in English Degree

English graduate students benefit from several different 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 some of the most 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 Federal Application For Federal Student Aid, or 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 scholarship opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing English degrees.

  • Professional Scholarships

    Professional scholarships come from associations promoting and/or supporting the industry. Many organizations provide financial opportunities to outstanding or deserving students — some to students in specific fields, others to students in certain regions. Many of the organizations that work within the literature and/or writing profession offer scholarship opportunities 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. At UNC Greensboro, for example, assistantships pay between $8,000 and $12,000 per year, and work ranges between 10 to 20 hours per week.

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