English Literature Degrees by Degree Program Level

English literature degree programs are offered at the associate's through doctoral levels. In each program level, students may choose genre or period-specific concentrations, and program admission requirements vary by school.

Essential Information

Students in associate's degree programs in English literature learn to improve their writing skills through coursework in critical analysis, rhetoric, and literature. Bachelor's degree programs sometimes focus on a specific genre of literature, such as poetry or drama. Students in a master's degree program in English literature focus on literary analysis and criticism, often in a specific genre. In addition to completing advanced literature coursework, students write a thesis. Doctoral programs in English literature focus on the advanced critical analysis of literature and require a dissertation.

  • Program Levels in English Literature: Associate degrees, Bachelor's degrees, Master's degrees, Doctorate degrees
  • Prerequisites: Initial enrollment in the program requires a high school diploma or equivalent; SAT or ACT scores are also ideal for admission into the program.
  • Program Specializations: Often programs will allow specialization areas such as periods or genres (i.e. romantic period, Elizabethan literature, novels, drama, poetry).
  • Program Length: Depending on the program level, program length may vary from two to four years or more.
  • Other Requirements: Students of higher-level programs may be required to complete a thesis or dissertation.

Associate Degree in English Literature

Associate degree programs in English literature typically include about 60 credit hours of classes and may be completed in as little as two years. Graduates of associate's degree programs in English literature often choose to continue their education to earn a higher degree.

Associate's degree programs in English literature offered through community colleges don't usually have competitive admissions, meaning that all applicants who meet the requirements are admitted. Students usually need to hold a high school diploma or a pass the General Educational Development (GED) test before enrolling in an associate's degree program.

Classes in most associate's degree programs in English literature focus on helping students develop writing and analytical skills. Most programs suggest that that students complete courses in the following subjects:

  • Rhetoric and writing
  • Critical analysis
  • English literature
  • American literature
  • World literature

Bachelor's Degree in English Literature

Full-time students can complete a bachelor's degree program in English literature in four years. Students sometimes choose to specialize in a particular genre or period of literature, such as Elizabethan literature or the romantic period.

Admission into a bachelor's degree program in English literature may be competitive and not all qualified applicants are admitted. Applicants should have a high school diploma or equivalent and usually need to take a college entrance exam, such as the SAT or ACT. Each school has unique admissions requirements.

Students in bachelor's degree programs in English literature sometimes take specialized courses that discuss literature from particular genres, such as novels, drama and poetry. Some classes also cover different periods of literature. The list below includes subjects commonly taught in English literature bachelor's degree programs:

  • Modern fiction
  • Writing short stories
  • Shakespearean drama
  • Analyzing literature
  • World literature

Master's Degree in English Literature

Master's degree programs in English literature usually take two years of full-time study to finish. The curricula for English literature master's degree programs help students further improve their abilities to analyze and critically evaluate literature.

Most schools require students to hold a bachelor's degree in English literature or a related field before enrolling in an English literature master's degree program. Students sometimes have to take the graduate record examination (GRE) to show academic aptitude.

Students enrolled in English literature master's degree programs take advanced courses in specific types of literature. Schools often allow students to choose a particular area of specialization. It is also common for schools to require students to complete a thesis as part of the program. The courses listed below are usually offered in English literature master's degree programs:

  • Critical theory and practice
  • American literature before 1800
  • American literature after 1800
  • The works of William Shakespeare
  • The works of John Milton

Doctorate in English Literature

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the most advanced degree available in English literature. Some programs require students to complete a comprehensive examination on English literature as a whole and a dissertation on a topic of the student's choosing prior to graduation.

Those admitted to an English literature Ph.D. program must hold a master's degree in the subject. Students must show a great deal of intellectual and academic ability to earn admittance to a Ph.D. in English literature program.

The coursework for English literature Ph.D. programs typically focuses on advanced critical analysis of specialized periods or genres of literature. Subjects listed below are often emphasized in these programs:

  • Literature criticism and analysis
  • Genre studies
  • Critical methodologies
  • Advanced rhetoric
  • Dissertation research

Popular Career Options

Graduates of associate's degree programs in English literature are qualified for entry-level jobs in fields such as publishing, writing, sales and business. Some common jobs for people who hold an associate's degree in English literature are:

  • Copywriter
  • Publishing assistant
  • Sales associate
  • Technical writer
  • Office administrator

Employers in many different fields value the skills in critical thinking and analysis that students learn in English literature bachelor's degree programs. People who earn a bachelor's degree in English literature often enter careers in the following fields:

  • Educator
  • Author
  • Nonfiction writer
  • Advertising executive
  • Business administrator

Graduates of master's degree programs in English literature often qualify for jobs in education, publishing, public relations or writing. Listed below are some common careers in those fields:

  • Elementary school educator
  • Middle school educator
  • High school educator
  • Public relations director
  • Novelist

Many people who hold a Ph.D. in choose to teach at the college level. Others work in business, publishing or writing. Below are some careers for which English literature Ph.D. graduates qualify:

  • Tenure-track professor
  • Non Tenure-track professor
  • Author
  • Editor
  • Publishing professional

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