Literature Degree and Course Information

Oct 25, 2019

Essential Information

A bachelor's degree program in literature or English with a concentration in literature offers fundamental skills in critical thinking and exposure to a variety of types of literature. Options at the graduate level include a master's degree in literature, which includes studies in writing, literary theory and major authors, and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Literature, which can lead to a career as a professor, researcher or literary scholar.

Entrance into bachelor's programs require a high school diploma or equivalent, while master's and doctoral programs usually require a bachelor's degree and writing samples. Bachelor's programs usually include an internship, and master's and doctoral programs typically include foreign language requirements and a culminating thesis or dissertation.

Bachelor's Degrees in Literature

Undergraduate degree programs that focus on literature are offered under a variety of degree names depending on the institution, including a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in literature. Programs include extensive studies in literature, poetry and drama. Students learn about world literature, English composition, literary theory and major authors. Topics in the program might include:

  • The Enlightenment
  • The Romantics
  • African American authors
  • Augustan literature
  • Greek and Roman literature

Master of Arts in Literature

A master's in literature program includes studies in drama, poetry and literary criticism. The curriculum may cover subjects like linguistics, creative and technical writing as well as teaching electives. Graduate literature courses teach students to explicate poetry, analyze literary texts and write scholarly research papers. Topics in the program might include:

  • Victorian authors
  • American novels
  • The Beat Generation
  • Modernism
  • Women authors

Ph.D. in Literature

A doctoral program in literature prepares students for careers in research, writing and teaching at the college (postsecondary) level. Ph.D. candidates can choose an emphasis area, such as critical theory or American studies. Areas of focus include the influence of literature on language, culture and society, literary theories and movements and literary research. The curriculum covers topics like:

  • Deconstruction theory
  • Post-modernism
  • The Renaissance
  • Gothic fiction
  • Experimental literature

Popular Career Options

A bachelor's degree in literature can lead to a variety of careers, including jobs in business, communications, writing and more. Graduates are qualified for the following jobs:

  • Technical writer
  • Public relations associate
  • Copywriter

Master's degree graduates can pursue careers in education, publishing, media and more. Career options include job titles like:

  • Teacher
  • Writer
  • Editor

Ph.D. degree recipients can additionally seek careers in post-secondary education and research. Job titles may include:

  • College or university professor
  • Literary critic
  • Researcher

Continuing Education Information

Students who want to pursue a career in teaching can enroll in a post-bachelor's teacher education program. Generally an 18-24 month program, graduates who complete additional state licensing requirements are qualified to teach in elementary and secondary schools.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( estimated that job growth for all postsecondary teachers may increase 11% from 2018-2028. There were about 1.4 million jobs in that profession for the year 2018. According to the BLS, postsecondary literature and English language teachers made a median annual salary of $66,590 in May 2018.

Those seeking a literature degree have numerous options within the universities and colleges across the country. All levels of study include components of literary theory and criticism, as well as the study of literature and major authors across various time periods and genres. Literature degrees prepare graduates for work in writing, editing or teaching, and can be used in many fields not specific to the study of literature.

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