While some degrees have a clearly defined career path that limits graduates to a specific profession, a broad range of opportunities are available to those with a master's-level understanding of the English language. Graduates of master's degree programs in English tend to have highly developed oral and written communication skills — abilities that can be used in nearly every professional field.

Their mastery of the English language allows graduates with advanced degrees in English to work across multiple industries, including but not limited to marketing, education, business administration and arts and entertainment. Depending on their other skills, English graduates may qualify for positions as foreign language interpreters, curriculum consultants, recruiters and advertising managers.

Graduates with a master's degree in English may also have an advantage when it comes to writing or editing jobs, which feature fairly competitive markets where an advanced education can be a big help.

We'll go over some frequently asked questions about English degrees, list some of the top schools for English graduate study and run down a few of the top jobs available once you've finished your program. Read on for more info on English master's programs online.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many colleges and universities around the country feature fully online master's programs in English. Master's degrees in English education, in particular, are common distance education options. Other institutions may offer the chance to take certain classes online and others in a traditional classroom, providing a hybrid experience that provides some of the flexibility offered by English master's programs online while retaining some of the familiarity of attending classes in a face-to-face environment.

If you're hoping to take your career into academia, studying literature or other texts professionally and writing reports on your thoughts and findings, English master's programs are an important part of the journey. Nearly every professor or professional scholar at an accredited college or university earns at least a master's degree before they establish their careers. Some academics also go on to earn a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree, which also typically requires that you complete a master's degree before enrolling.
Accreditation is an assurance that the services and instructional programs provided by an institution of higher learning have been evaluated by an independent review board and found to meet an accepted standard of quality. It's important to make sure the school you attend is accredited, in particular if you plan to apply for a post-graduate program after finishing your master's. Check to make sure the school you choose is accredited by one of the following regional organizations:
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)


Master's in English Program Overview

Master's programs in English typically entail substantial amounts of reading and writing, with coursework often being devoted to discussions of the assigned material rather than traditional classroom instruction. Programs that offer concentration options in fields like English education and linguistics may also feature some lecture-style courses.

Although curriculum tends to vary by concentration, here are a few of the courses you might find on your schedule during a graduate English program:

  • Critical reading and analysis
  • Introduction to linguistics
  • Research methods
  • American literary periods
  • British literary periods
  • Survey of literary and cultural theory
  • History of the English language

In addition to taking all required courses for their program, students pursuing a master's degree in English must also participate in a thesis or capstone project. M.A. students typically write an extensive research paper on a proposed topic, and Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) students — typically those with creative writing concentrations — put together collections of fiction, poetry, drama or other original written work to present to the faculty committee.

Earning an online master's degree in English

How long does an online master's in English program take?

The exact length of time you'll spend earning your master's degree in English is determined by the curriculum offered at your chosen school, but most programs fall within a fairly standard range of required credits. Most graduate-level English programs require 30-36 credits, which are commonly broken out into six- or nine-credit semesters.

English graduate students typically spend 2-3 years in school en route to their degrees, although intensive or accelerated plans may also be available for students looking to shorten the calendar length of their programs.

What are the requirements to start an online master's degree in English?

Before applying to an online master's in English program, students should plan on earning an accredited bachelor's degree. Some institutions may prefer or require an undergraduate degree in English or a related field, but others can look to your application essay, writing portfolio and other admissions materials as the primary decision-makers of your quest for enrollment.

Many colleges and universities also have a basic GPA requirement for admission, with 2.5-3 being a common range. You'll also likely be asked to submit up to three letters of recommendation from colleagues or former professors.

Why earn a master's in English online?

If you're looking to advance in your existing career, chances are you won't want to leave your job for 2-3 years to earn your master's degree. Earning a master's in English online can allow you to participate in discussions and submit writing assignments without the need to show up at a physical campus, taking some of the stress out of balancing your work and school responsibilities.

Programs that don't involve much discussion or group analysis may also be offered asynchronously, allowing you to view classroom lectures and complete coursework at any time of day that's convenient for you.

Degree Timeline

Year one

The first year of an English master's program usually includes introductory courses in your chosen specialty and a primer seminar course that prepares you for the rigors of graduate study.

Year two

Seminar courses and workshops make up much of your second year, as well as the early stages of planning and outlining for your graduate thesis project.


The last two or three semesters of English master's programs are often reserved for intensive focus on your thesis, working with your chosen thesis advisor to help you stay on track and put together a high-quality project.

Master's in English concentrations

While nearly all English programs work to improve students' professional writing, oral communication and textual analysis skills, many also offer concentrations in specific subdisciplines that can allow you to specialize your study plan.

The following topics may be offered as degrees unto themselves or as program concentrations within a general master's degree in English:

  • Applied linguistics. If you're interested in the way that English and other languages are learned and used across cultures, as well as in understanding the mechanical components and grammatical patterns of language in general, this concentration can help you learn more.
  • Creative writing. Master's degrees in creative writing may be offered as an M.A. or an M.F.A. in English and typically focus on studying the semantic and structural features of fictional and expressive text. Sub-concentrations in creative writing include, fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and scriptwriting.
  • Literature. In contrast to a creative writing degree, in which students endeavor to create new literary work, an M.A. in literature concentrates on analyzing the great books, poems and plays of the past and learning ways to effectively teach them to future students.
  • Professional writing. The ways in which language is used in business, industry and government tend to differ quite a bit from the evocative descriptions and emotional content of literature and drama. A concentration in professional writing can help you master English as it's used in workplace settings.

Career Outlook

What Can You Do with a Master's in English?

Many of the careers available to graduates of English master's programs may not explicitly require an advanced degree, but your high-level language skills can help you stand out from the pack. Here's a short list of careers to consider:

Technical writer. Engineers, software developers and other innovators have a need for writers who can break down the technical and procedural details of a product and create clear, concise documentation that can be passed on to potential users. Having some experience or education in a technical discipline can help you land jobs in this field as well.

Journalist. Earning a master's in English, particularly after completing an undergraduate degree in journalism, can elevate your ability to effectively describe events in the news for both short- and long-form outlets. Graduates who focused on creative nonfiction while pursuing their degrees can often make use of those skills in a journalistic career.

Editor. A strong editorial presence is essential for high-visibility English language work, whether literary, technical or journalistic. Earning your master's in English either online or on campus requires extensive reading and textual analysis, sharpening your sense for proper syntax and usage and teaching you to read critically at all stages of the editing process.

English teacher or professor. Master's in English graduates can also put their expertise to use in the classroom, working to teach the basics to high school students or diving into the classics as a college or university professor. M.A. students hoping to teach may be able to concentrate their studies in English education.

Copywriter. Advertising is big business, and well-crafted language has been an essential part of advertising since the beginning. Copywriters use their writing skills to create promotional copy for companies or brands, whether it's arranging the perfect few words into a catchy slogan or writing persuasive speeches.

English Salaries by State

State NameAverage SalaryAnnual Job OpeningsProjected Job Growth Potential
District of Columbia$112,2503010.4%
New York$102,9501,23017.6%
Rhode Island$92,410304.5%
New Jersey$88,4602509.9%
Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Financial Aid for a Master's in English

The sticker price of a campus-based or online master's in English can be fairly steep, but you may not have to bear the financial burden on your own. Here are a few options for financial aid in English master's programs:

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2020 by CollegeXpress.

Master's in English Certifications

Whether you earn your M.A. in English online or on campus, it can open doors to a wide range of different professions. Here are a few professional certifications to think about once you're finished with your degree:

Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing

Offered at introductory, intermediate and advanced levels, this certification can sharpen your expertise in contemporary editing approaches and procedures. The introductory level tends to be focused on mechanics, while the higher levels also consider things like tone, context and audience.

Requirements: Completing the assigned courses the only stated requirement for certification, but some familiarity with editing and close reading can help a great deal in the process.

Exam Format: Each level of certification consists of a series of six or seven courses with an assessment exam at the end of each one, with the advanced level also including an online seminar class.

How long does the certification last?: No expiration date is listed for this credential.

Certified Copywriting Specialist (CCS)

Whether or not you studied advertising-specific writing in the course of your English education, earning this certification can help you demonstrate to employers that you understand the tools and techniques of good copywriting.

Requirements: Candidates must complete two required readings before taking the exam.

Exam Format: 80 multiple choice or true/false questions and two short essays with a two-hour time limit in total.

How long does the certification last?: No official expiration date is listed.

CIW Web Design Professional

Web design is often considered a good pivot career for artists and designers, but strong writers with Web design skills can also distinguish themselves in the field.

Requirements: A basic understanding of internet functionality, including some familiarity with HTML and XML, is strongly encouraged.

Exam Format: Two exams of 70 and 72 questions with a 75-minute time limit for each.

How long does the certification last?: CIW certifications do not expire.

English Teacher Certification

If you intend to teach English or literature at the elementary or high school levels, you'll need a state teacher certification before you can start your career. Check with your State Board of Education for details as they apply to you.

Requirements: Varies by state.

Exam Format: Varies by state.

How long does the certification last?: Varies by state.

Professional Associations for Master's in English

Professional associations can help you stay on the leading edge of your field and give you access to a valuable network of established and aspiring professionals. Here are just a few of the associations for graduates with master's level English degrees:

Membership in this group of more than 25,000 scholars and teachers provides access to exclusive publications, discounts on a range of goods and services and more.
Founded in 1934, the Academy of American Poets features a total of eight membership levels with increasing benefits, all of which include reduced admission to events and a subscription to the association's bi-annual magazine.
Comparative literature is a fairly common M.A. concentration, and the ACLA is the primary organization in the U.S. for the practice of cross-cultural literary study.
Membership in PEN consists of authors, journalists, poets, screenwriters, editors, playwrights, editors, publishers, translators, literary agents and dedicated readers who work together to celebrate literature and defend free expression.