A master's degree program in English language arts generally takes around two years of full-time study to complete. Unlike an undergraduate major in this field of study, graduate-level courses place a strong emphasis on individual research. Prior to graduation, students must present their research findings in the form of a thesis. All master's programs within this field require prospective students to have bachelor's degrees, preferably with a major or a minor in English.
A successful degree candidate should have a solid idea of specialization before starting their graduate study for optimal career preparation. Schools that offer distance learning master's programs in this field of study typically award a Master of Arts in English or a master's degree in English language arts with a focus on teaching. These programs may be offered fully online or in blended formats.
Program Information and Requirements
Like master's degree programs offered on campus, online programs in English are structured around lectures, textbooks and tests, with teacher interaction in the form of e-mail, 'live' voice or video conferences and discussion forum participation. Programs can typically be completed totally online, but those students who choose to complete a thesis have to go to campus to present and defend their work before a committee.
Online students have a chance to design the curriculum around courses that help further research a particular concentration or area of focus. Some programs offer students a chance to get involved in a digital internship, which could involve editing the literary school paper or assisting teachers in developing a course curriculum. Coursework in a distance learning English program could include the following:
- Technical writing and editing
- Modern English rhetoric
- Teaching literature and writing
- American and British literature
- English syntax
Many campus-based programs in this field of study expect students to complete a thesis as their culminating experience, and some online programs have this requirement as well. However, a number of schools offer distance learners the option to pursue a non-thesis track. Students usually can complete additional English coursework as an alternative in these cases.
Many believe that English majors have a particularly difficult time settling into a career, which may in part be due to the number of options available to graduates with this degree. The most obvious careers are in teaching, and the degree can be supplemented with a teaching certificate for a quick slip into pedagogy. According to 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay was $57,730 for elementary teachers and $60,440 for high school teachers (www.bls.gov).
Many graduates also work in copywriting, human resources and public relations. Careers in journalism or writing, while highly desirable, are very competitive, so many writers sustain themselves with additional jobs while they pursue their writing part-time or on their own time.
There are several online master's degree programs offered for students in English language arts. They usually combine reading-based coursework with writing assignments and independent research in the student's field of interest, so they are well-suited for a distance learning format.