Degree programs in children's literature involve not only the appreciation and composition of written works for children but also in-depth study into child literacy and tools that facilitate learning at a young age.
Students interested in teaching careers can look for programs that include education training and teaching assistantships to qualify them for teaching licensure after graduation. Some schools limit the number of students they accept into their programs, making previous education and performance critical.
For a bachelor's degree in children's literature, students must have a high school diploma or GED and SAT or ACT scores, and the program will last 4 years. For a master's or doctoral degree in children's literature, students must have completed a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field (e.g., English) and provide letters of recommendation, GRE scores, undergraduate GPA requirements, a creative writing portfolio and a personal statement. The master's degree can take 2-5 years, and a doctorate can take 3-5 years.
Bachelor's Degree in Children's Literature
Undergraduate majors, such as English, literature or early childhood education, can include concentrations or courses in children's literature. Bachelor's degree programs introduce a variety of literary works and genres, though students may choose electives specifically in children's literature. In some cases, schools may allow candidates to customize a syllabus that focuses on English, children's authors and literary history.
Courses in children's literature teach students about the style and type of books and materials designed for young and adolescent children. Topics may include:
- Cultural literature
- History of literacy
- Poetry and verse
Master's Degree in Children's Literature
Many schools offer master's degree programs in children's literature, education and library science. Students may find fully or partially online master's programs that focus on training for an academic career.
Coursework varies by the focus of the curriculum. Some programs offer professional studies that develop writing skills; others teach techniques for library organization and literary programs for children. While earning a master's degree, individuals may take courses covering different aspects of children's literature, such as:
- Picture books, poetry and fictional writing for children
- Public library operations
- International literature
- Teaching reading skills
- Historical and contemporary authors
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Children's Literature
Doctoral candidates in children's literature programs research the growth and progression of literary composition, as well as the social effects and developmental aspects literature has played on young readers. Students may choose to concentrate on the artistic element of the field or prepare for a career in academia. Students may participate in teaching assistantships or fellowships to subsidize graduate school costs.
Courses in a Ph.D. program may include a diverse blend of literary genres, topics and theory. Students may customize a curriculum on subjects specific to children's literature, though many doctoral-level programs require some instruction on teaching and research. Some course material may include:
- Cultural and international literature
- Literacy development
- Foreign language literature
- Fiction, fantasy and poetry for children
- Teaching language arts and reading
Master's degree-holders qualify for several careers in children's literature. Some positions may require state licensure, registration or certification. A few career options include:
- School administrator
Career Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in children's literature may pursue a career as a primary or elementary school teacher, librarian or author. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teaching positions for elementary teachers were expected to rise 6%, and demand for librarians was projected to increase 2% from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported in May 2015 that the average annual salaries for elementary teachers and librarians were $57,730 and $58,930, respectively.
The BLS reported that individuals interested in pursuing a career in postsecondary education may see a 13% increase in job opportunities for 2014-2024, while writers and authors could anticipate 2% growth in employment over this period. In May 2015, professors of English and literature earned an average salary of $71,210, and writers made $69,130 per year, according to BLS data.
Bachelor's degree holders interested in teaching young children must be licensed. Public and school librarians also usually acquire state-mandated certification. State regulations for public school teachers and librarians vary and may require earning a master's degree or specialized training in education or library studies.
A degree in children's literature can ready a student for a career in teaching or as an author, with opportunities to focus on the academic or artistic side of study.