Earning a Master's in English Online

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If you're looking to advance your career, pursuing a master's degree in English online is an excellent choice. According to CBS News, modern employers across industries prefer English over other undergraduate degrees, including business, law, and education. Earning a master's in English online is the most convenient and affordable way to set yourself apart from other candidates.

A master's in English degree teaches broad knowledge and transferable skills that serve professionals well across industries. This article outlines what to expect from an online English master's program, including coursework, prerequisites, funding opportunities, potential job growth, and professional resources.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in English?

Online master's in English literature programs attract a diverse pool of degree seekers. Bachelor's level learners often pursue this degree to advance their career prospects, while others want to explore specializations. Many working professionals choose to earn a master's in English online to increase their earning power.

Why Get a Master's Degree in English?

Pursuing Specialization

Earning a master's in English online gives degree seekers an opportunity to explore specializations in the field. Specializations allow learners to branch out to different industries, strengthening their job prospects upon graduation. Example specializations include rhetoric and composition, creative writing, comparative literature, and technical writing.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Graduates from a master's program can obtain comparatively lofty positions and salaries relative to professionals who only hold a bachelor's degree. This is especially true of English and English literature jobs in academia, where graduate-level study is required for even entry-level positions. Learners pursuing a master's degree in English online can access networking opportunities and job services that will help them in their career.

Online Learning Technology

Distance learners pursuing a master's in English online can explore emerging educational technologies, including digital conferencing software, Blackboard, and online data libraries. Many employers, especially in education, look for proficiency with these tools when evaluating candidates. Experience using these tools sets candidates apart in a competitive job market.

Prerequisites for Online English Programs

Degree seekers interested in earning a master's in English online should be aware of application requirements and prerequisites like those listed below.

    • Work Experience: Most online master's in English literature programs do not require work experience, allowing students to enroll straight out of bachelor's programs. However, related work experience strengthens your application.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Many programs require GRE test scores, though this varies by school. Scores must be less than five years old, and should be submitted directly to the admissions office. Some schools have specific score minimums for applicants.
    • Coursework: Every program is different, so prospective learners should research individual coursework requirements by school. Most programs don't have specific prerequisites, though some stipulate a minimum GPA, usually in the 3.0-3.5 range. Required coursework is typically split into core classes and free electives.
    • Recommendations: Most program applications require at least three letters of recommendation. These letters should be from former teachers, mentors, or supervisors who can speak to the applicant's temperament and aptitude.
    • Essays: Most applications ask for a personal essay or statement of intention, which should outline your academic history, professional goals, and reasons for applying. Some schools also require an academic writing sample.
    • Interviews: Most online master of English literature programs do not require interviews. However, this requirement can vary by school, so degree seekers should consult admissions offices ahead of time.
    • International Students International students must comply with regular admission requirements, and they must also submit TOEFL or IELTS scores to prove proficiency with the English language. Specific requirements, including minimum scores, vary by program.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in English?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the projected salary range for English language and literature teachers at the postsecondary level is very wide, at $36,770-$135,630. While job experience can earn promotions, pursuing a master's degree in English online helps students develop a broader skill set and, in many cases, attracts better career development opportunities.

Traditional Careers for Master's in English Graduates

Careers Stats Description

High School Teachers

Median Pay: $59,170

Job Growth: 8%

High school teachers educate students and prepare them for life after graduation. This job is ideal for people with excellent communication skills who are interested in secondary education.

Writers and Authors

Median Pay: $61,820

Job Growth: 8%

Writers and authors can work in any medium, including books, film and television, advertisements and blogs, and magazines or other periodicals. This career is best suited to creative, expressive people with exceptional writing skills.

Postsecondary Teachers

Median Pay: $76,000

Job Growth: 15%

Postsecondary teachers educate students in post-high school academic settings, including universities, community colleges, and vocational schools. They often conduct research and publish their findings in scholarly journals. This position is ideal for analytical thinkers interested in education.

Editors

Median Pay: $58,770

Job Growth: -1%

Editors, like writers, work in a variety of publishing fields. They support and assist writers by preparing content for publication, offering feedback, and providing general revisions. This job is ideal for self-motivated, detail-oriented learners with excellent written communication skills.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Non-Traditional Careers for English Graduates

In addition to traditional English positions, an online master's in English literature qualifies graduates for job opportunities in adjacent. Nontraditional English-related careers use the same core set of skills, but apply them differently. Below, you can read more about those career options.

Career Stats Description

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Median Pay: $111,280

Job Growth: 10%

Public relations and fundraising managers oversee marketing to enhance the public image of their organization and coordinate fundraising campaigns. This job is ideal for outgoing, detail-oriented people.

Skills Overlapped: leadership; communication; problem-solving; writing

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

Median Pay: $129,380

Job Growth: 10%

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers work with art directors, sales directors, and finance staff to develop and disseminate advertising content. This includes planning promotional campaigns and conducting market research. This position suits learners with analytical skills who excel in sales and marketing.

Skills Overlapped: analytical thinking; interpersonal skills; creativity; organization

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers

Median Pay: $52,100

Job Growth: -5%

Adult literacy teachers instruct degree-seeking adults in basic skills like reading and writing. They develop lesson plans, monitor student progress, and connect with the larger community. This job is ideal for people interested in adult education.

Skills Overlapped: communication; resourcefulness; cultural competency

Technical Writers

Median Pay: $70,930

Job Growth: 11%

Technical writers prepare journal articles, instruction manuals, and other complex technical documents, making them easy to understand. They often work within their organization's communication networks to distribute information. This job is best suited to detail-oriented, imaginative professionals with excellent written skills.

Skills Overlapped: critical thinking; writing; technical comprehension

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Paying for an Online Master's in English

Rising tuition rates, fees, and outside expenses can make it difficult to complete a course of study in any discipline. Fortunately, there are ways for degree seekers pursuing a master's in English online to defray costs. Alternative study timelines and accelerated programs often cost less, and subject-specific financial aids like grants, federal loans, and scholarships offset student fees and tuition.

Scholarships for Online English Master's Students

Along with grants, scholarships are the most affordable way to fund higher education, because they do not require repayment after graduation. There are a number of scholarships available to master's-level degree seekers, including some specific to students earning a master's in English online. Scholarships like those listed below help cover costs, making your education cheaper.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online English Program

Learners interested in earning a master's degree in English online can expect a robust curriculum. A typical course of study takes 4-6 academic semesters, or 1-2 calendar years. However, many degree seekers prefer a virtual classroom experience, which allows them to graduate and enter the workforce much sooner.

Major Milestones

  1. Completion of Core Coursework

    2-4 semesters prior to graduation (1-2 calendar years)

    The most important task in a degree program is completing core coursework. In class, learners gain new skills and demonstrate their abilities. They can also pursue free electives in adjacent fields.

  2. Comprehensive Examination

    2-4 semesters prior to graduation (1-2 calendar years)

    This milestone varies by program, but most schools have a comprehensive examination to check in on student progress. The test could be written or oral. This exam measures student readiness for graduation or advanced study.

  3. Thesis or Capstone Project

    1-2 semesters prior to graduation (up to one calendar year)

    While optional in many programs, a capstone project gives students a chance to apply their skills, gain practical experience, and conduct original research.

  4. Internships and Career Exploration

    1-2 semesters prior to graduation (less than one calendar year)

    At this stage, most degree seekers begin exploring job prospects or programs for further study. Most schools offer career resources, and students should take advantage of these ahead of graduation, so they are prepared to enter the workforce.

Coursework

Coursework is the backbone of any master's degree in English online. Specific course titles vary by program, but prospective learners can expect classes like these:

Introduction to Creative Writing

This course is a basic introduction to the craft of creative writing, covering major genres like drama, fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. Learners practice techniques of the craft, receive critique, and conduct peer reviews.

Technical Writing

This class is an overview of technical writing, covering skills used to craft compelling and accurate documentation for instruction manuals, how-to guides, case studies, white papers, and datasheets.

Research Methods and Theories of Literary Criticism

A core requirement for the degree, this course surveys popular methods, conventions, and theories for research and criticism in literature. Learners practice and apply these methods to classical texts.

Visual Rhetoric

Visual elements are often as important as language in the production and reception of literature. In this course, students identify current issues in visual rhetoric, study popular theories and trends in the field, and produce a capstone research project.

Teaching Grammar and Composition

For students seeking careers in education, this course is key, covering standard practices in classroom instruction. Equal parts pedagogy and content, it gives learners a chance to hone their grammar while developing an enriching teaching philosophy.

Degree Timelines

Most English master's programs online offer prospective learners multiple paths to degree completion. Timelines like those listed below can be tailored and customized to meet individual needs.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description

Part-Time

6-8 semesters
(3-4 calendar years)

This study path is tailored to working professionals seeking to balance academics with other commitments. Most programs require a minimum of 3-6 credit hours per semester. Though this path is convenient, it can be more costly due to rising tuition rates.

Full-Time

4-6 semesters
(2-3 calendar years)

This timeline is ideal for degree seekers interested in the traditional graduate student experience without outside obligations. A typical full-time learner enrolls in 6-9 credit hours per semester. This timeline is best suited to people who can devote most of their time to studying.

Accelerated

4-6 intensive semesters, including winter and summer terms
(1-2 calendar years)

This intensive, concentrated timeline is ideal for working professionals seeking to earn a master's in English online without disrupting their career, or traditional learners who want to graduate quickly. Most degree seekers take the same number of credits as full-time learners while also enrolling in summer and winter terms.

Licenses and Certifications

Most jobs outside the education sector for learners who earned a master's degree in English online do not require licensure. However, many primary, secondary, and English language teaching careers require state or department-level certifications. These licenses test competency and demonstrate aptitude, measured against standards established by professional organizations or the Department of Education.

    • Primary or Secondary Education Licensure: Degree seekers interested in pursuing a career in primary or secondary education must obtain proper licensure in states where they plan to teach. This certification normally includes an aptitude examination, but specific costs and requirements vary.
    • Teaching English as Foreign Language Certification: TEFL licensure demonstrates that a learner has met all requirements for teaching English as a foreign language outside the United States. Specific requirements vary by country and department of ministry.
    • Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Certification: TESOL certification is similar to TEFL, but only applies within domestic contexts. Many primary or secondary English teachers hold this licensure in addition to a standard teaching certification so that they can teach students with different language backgrounds. Specific requirements and costs for TESOL licensure vary by state.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations and field-specific resources provide degree seekers, recent graduates, and working professionals with opportunities to enhance their careers. These resources include annual conferences and events, continuing education programs, teaching and pedagogy guides, and job boards. These organizations also offer opportunities to network and collaborate with peers.

  • Modern Language Association: The MLA is the premier professional organization for English and English literature professionals in the United States. It provides educational and reference resources, hosts an annual conference, and publishes several scholarly journals.
  • American Comparative Literature Association: Founded in 1960, the ACLA is a professional guild that promotes rigorous literary study and criticism. It sponsors three scholarly journals, hosts regular conferences and workshops, and offers grants to first-time book authors.
  • Association of Writers and Writing Programs: The AWP is a professional organization that supports writers and writing teachers across the country. It sponsors professional events, houses a database of pedagogical materials, and offers job services and opportunities for career advancement.
  • The Modern Humanities Research Association: The MHRA promotes the study and dissemination of humanities scholarships, including academic work in English literature. It awards annual grants, funds several scholarly publications, and supports working professionals through pedagogical resources and research workshopping.
  • Western Literature Association: Established in 1965, WLA promotes literacy and interest in classical literature by hosting an annual conference, publishing creative scholarship, and facilitating collaborative peer views for both graduate students and postsecondary educators.

For working professionals in English and English literature-related fields, professional resources can make a huge difference. Whether you're seeking a promotion or planning to further your education, here are a few resources that can help.

  • Purdue Online Writing Lab: Hosted by Purdue University, OWL houses an impressive array of writing resources for both students and educators, including materials related to rhetoric and composition, grammar and mechanics, and style.
  • Project Gutenberg: Founded in 1971, Project Gutenberg is the first and most comprehensive online resources for primary texts and ebooks. Through this resource, teachers and students can access an impressive database of public domain works.
  • The Paris Review: First launched in 1953, The Paris Review is a widely circulated English language literary magazine. Known for its in-depth interviews with authors and other intellectuals, the publication also covers new developments in the field.
  • Grammar A-Z: Sponsored by Oxford English Dictionaries, this online guide provides working professionals with a handy yet robust reference guide for grammar and mechanics, including a comprehensive dictionary of common terms. This resource is particularly useful for teachers building lesson plans.