Online Masters in English Literature: Program Info

Get info about online programs in English literature. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, as well as career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Online master's degree programs in English literature specifically are not very common. However, there are several distance learning master's degree programs in English that have a heavy focus on literature. Also, there is at least one online program focused on multicultural and transnational literature. These degree programs can often be completed entirely through online learning, although certain hybrid programs require some on-campus presence, such as for on-site presentations. Applicants to these programs will need a bachelor's degree and GRE scores.

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Master's Degree in English Literature

Depending on the individual program, students pursuing English literature master's degrees online may study the subject through critical, theoretical or educational points of view. Applicants to such programs must hold bachelor's degrees and submit both undergraduate transcripts and GRE scores. Many programs require remedial courses for those whose undergraduate studies lack enough English and literature credits.

Program Information and Requirements

Students enrolled in English literature master's degree programs can often complete the entire degree online in 2-3 years. Some programs require in-person presentations, and students may choose to take certain classes on campus. Online delivery methods typically involve Internet-based classroom tools that allow teachers to post assignments, start discussions and share lecture videos.

Many schools offer orientations and tutorials for first-time online students. Independent learning and time management skills are emphasized in orientation as being important for success in online degree programs.

List of Common English Literature Courses

The coursework required in an online master's degree program in English literature varies by school; however, students can expect to cover various time periods and genres. Topics may be covered through theoretical, historical and critical perspectives, and most programs include writing components.

Literary Criticism

In a literary criticism course, students read critical texts from a range of time periods. Readings may include Classic, Neo-Aristotelian and New Criticism literature.

American Literature

An American literature course covers writers such as Emerson, Steinbeck, Hemingway and other contemporary authors. Students learn about movements in American literature, such as transcendentalism, and learn about various genres and regional styles. Some programs offer more than one course in American literature.

Ethnic English Literature

An ethnic literature course surveys the landscape of multicultural contributors to English-language writings. Some groups covered include Jewish Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Caribbean peoples.


This course covers English literature instruction. Students may have the opportunity to teach, under direct supervision, in a classroom setting.


A linguistics course, as part of a master's in English literature program, teaches students syntax, semantics and other aspects of the theoretical framework of the English language. Some linguistics courses focus on linguistics as part of teaching English.

Career Information for Graduates

Graduates from English literature degree programs may pursue careers in teaching, writing, advertising or media, or they may apply to doctoral degree programs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that secondary school teaching jobs will increase around 6% during the 2014-2024 decade, though they didn't break down the data by subject taught. The BLS notes that those in writing professions will experience intense competition for work during the 2014-2024 decade.

According to the BLS, median salaries for writers and authors were $60,250 as of 2015, while high school teachers earned a median of $57,200.

Continuing Education Information

Depending on state requirements, those interested in becoming teachers may need to complete additional educational coursework. A Ph.D. is helpful for moving into administrative positions, such as school principal or superintendent.

Students with a bachelor's degree wishing to study English literature can enroll in an online master's program to study literary criticism, linguistics, American literature and more. Graduates may be qualified for a range of jobs in writing, editing and teaching, though aspiring teachers may need to complete additional state requirements.

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