English PhD Degree Program Information

In addition to completing comprehensive exams, writing a thesis, and taking graduate-level classes in specific areas of interest, doctoral English students may also be required to teach undergraduate English courses. Prospective doctoral students should verify what is needed to apply for admission, such as a master's degree, related coursework or proficiency in a foreign language.

Essential Information

Doctoral English programs can take 5 to 6 years to complete and have intensive prerequisites and requirements for graduation, including exams, a written thesis, subject specialization, and teaching. Specializations within an English doctoral program include literary theory, professional writing, rhetoric, linguistics or the study of a specific genre or major period of literature.

  • Prerequisites: BA in English, sometimes a master's in English, foreign language proficiency, coursework in linguistics and/or literary criticism, writing samples
  • Program Specializations: Numerous, including those based on time period (Medieval, Renaissance, 19th century, etc), geography (British, African, American), subjects (gender, ethnic, or cultural studies), or techniques (linguistics, rhetoric, creative writing, or theory).
  • Program Length: 5-6 years
  • Other Requirements: Teaching undergraduate English courses, thesis

Ph.D. in English

Prerequisites may vary, but many doctoral programs require a master's degree in English. Some programs consider applicants with a bachelor's degree in English and confer a Master of Arts in English as part of the Ph.D. program. The curriculum usually focuses on knowledge and research in British and American literature and the study of language and composition. However, students may also gear their studies toward a particular specialization or topic for their dissertation and research. Some courses may be required, such as those in pedagogy and theory of composition or surveys of literature based on time period or geography. Topics addressed in an English doctorate program might include:

  • British Romanticism and Imperial Culture
  • Contemporary literature and cultural theory
  • Modernism in literary thought
  • History of literary theory
  • Gender and early sexuality in early modern literature
  • Rhetoric

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that postsecondary English teachers could expect to see employment growth of 12% between 2012 and 2022 ( According to the BLS, in May 2014, the 76,320 individuals employed as postsecondary English teachers earned an annual average salary of $68,390.

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