English Composition Degree Program Information

Oct 25, 2019

Essential Information

English composition degree programs are offered at the master's and doctoral levels. Focusing on research, expressive writing, and evaluation, master's degree programs in English composition require a thesis or final examination. They qualify graduates for non-tenured teaching positions at colleges and universities.

Ph.D. programs in English composition feature areas of specialty along with a dissertation project and teaching assistantships. Doctoral programs also qualify graduates for full-tenured positions. There are several types of master's degrees focusing on English composition, including a Master of Arts in Composition, English Composition and English with a concentration in composition. Programs take two years to complete.

Admission to the compositions studies program requires a master's degree. Admission to the composition and rhetoric program requires 30 credits of upper-level undergraduate English coursework or a master's degree. Both programs require students to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and to submit letters of reference, a statement of purpose essay, and an academic writing sample.

Master's Degrees in English Composition

Each program is writing-intensive and consists of studies in writing, rhetoric, and research. Students work as writing tutors or graduate teaching assistants and take several courses in literature, which include studies in fiction, poetry, and drama. Other course topics include:

  • Discourse
  • Composing
  • Evaluation
  • Audience
  • Expressive writing

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degrees in English Composition

Doctoral programs related to English composition include a Ph.D. in English with a specialization in composition studies or English with a specialization in composition and rhetoric. The composition program consists of studies in writing, rhetoric, and research and includes additional instruction in foreign languages and teaching. To become a full candidate for the Ph.D. degree, students are required to take qualifying and comprehensive examinations and complete teaching assistantships, a dissertation prospectus and defense, and a final dissertation.

The curriculum in the composition and rhetoric program also has a graduate teaching and foreign language component and includes studies in English composition, literature, and research. Graduate courses are research-intensive and include studies in writing and the teaching of writing. Course topics are:

  • Cognitive theory
  • Classical rhetoric
  • Ethnographic research
  • Discourse
  • Postmodern writing

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

A master's degree in English composition is excellent preparation for a career as a writer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that jobs for writers and authors will have little to no change between 2018 and 2028 ( Roughly 123,200 writers and authors were employed in 2018, and they earned a median annual salary of $62,170 in the same year.

Popular Career Options

Graduates who hold a Ph.D. from either program are qualified to teach at 4-year colleges and universities. Many graduates go on to careers in research, publishing and faculty administration. Career options for graduates include job titles like:

  • English professor
  • Literary scholar
  • Writer

An English composition degree program enables students at the master's and doctoral levels to further hone their writing and research skills. Graduates could explore a career in the academe as members of the faculty or in the publishing industry as writers.

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