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Q&A - Graduate Programs in English

How hard is it to gain admission to brick-and-mortar or online graduate programs in English?

Although there are more than 400 accredited English graduate schools in the U.S., available slots have been decreasing in recent years, even as demand has risen. For example, U.S. News and World Report’s current top-ranked English PhD program, UC Berkeley, typically accepts fewer than 8% of its applicants for overall graduate admission. However, even lower-ranked programs are quite competitive. Online English graduate programs may be easier to get into but are uncommon and currently lack the reputation of traditional English graduate school programs.

A strong application, including a top-notch writing sample, a convincing statement about why you want to get an advanced degree in English and positive faculty recommendations will help you get in. Being willing to relocate to another area of the country may also help your chance of being accepted by 1 of the best English graduate programs, so don’t automatically rule out schools outside your local area.

It is easier to find an accredited online masters in English than English PhD online programs, and such programs appear to have lower entry requirements than traditional English grad programs. For example, Morehead State University requires a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, 12 credits of upper-level English courses, and minimum GRE scores of just 146 in verbal and 140 in quantitative for its online masters program. University of Carolina Online also offers an online masters degree in English but does not post minimum required GPAs or GRE scores.

What are the average salaries for English degree graduates?

According to Payscale.com, the median salary of those with a BA in English is $61,600. Unfortunately, this amount does not seem to increase if you obtain an advanced degree in the field. Those with a masters degree in English earn a median salary of $52,500, and those with a PhD in English earn a median salary of $59,200. The low salary levels are due in part to the fact that many English advanced degree holders become teachers, which is unfortunately not a highly paid profession at any level, although teaching jobs often require an advanced degree.

There is little data on English online graduate programs, but given that those programs tend to not be selective, and the field in general is not accepting of online graduate degrees in English, we can assume that the salaries of these graduates will be the same or less than the salaries of those who graduate with advanced English degrees from traditional brick-and-mortar programs.

If I am interested in pursuing a graduate degree in English, what related graduate programs should I consider?

An English graduate program can take on a number of different forms and specialties:

English literature is the most common type of advanced English degree. English literature specialists commonly focus on either British or American literature and, from there, on a particular era or facet of literature such as gender studies, African American literature or pre-Civil War literature. A PhD in this field typically leads to a career in university teaching and literary research.

Literary criticism and theory is a type of advanced degree that leads to a path of academic teaching and research. As with English literature, literary criticism students also focus their work on a particular genre or era of literature.

Writing and rhetoric is a specialty that is sometimes also combined with technical writing studies as well. Graduates become teachers of writing and composition or writers in the business world.

Creative writing is unique because unlike other advanced English degrees, a terminal degree in creative writing is typically an MFA, not a PhD. In addition, because of the nature of creative writing, advanced online English graduate programs are more accepted in this specialty. Poets and Writers magazine offers a list of the top online graduate programs in English creative writing.

English education allows students to focus on the teaching of English, usually in a K-12 setting, and may also include state certification as a K-12 teacher.

Are there any iPhone or iPad apps that would benefit me while I am completing my on-campus or online English graduate degree?

Tech-savvy graduate students in English could benefit from a number of iPhone and iPod apps:

Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, a third-edition app of the venerable reference, explains 1,200 terms in a highly readable format, covering everything from the ancient dithyramb to the contemporary dub poetry, all without carrying around a heavy reference book.

Dictionary.com is a classic app on Time magazine’s top 25 apps of all time. It benefits English students in particular as they often need quick access to a word’s precise meaning and spelling. The app includes an online dictionary and thesaurus, as well as audio pronunciations and sample sentences.

Free Books is a good app if you are an English graduate student who would like to have 24-7 access to an in-house library. It has has a collection of over 23,000 classic works of literature, including Shakespeare, Greek classics and more contemporary writers.