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English Language Degree Programs, Majors and Certifications Overview

With programs available from the associate's to the doctoral level, a typical English curriculum provides a strong background in composition, literature, linguistics and creative writing.

Essential Information

Associate of Arts in English programs are primarily intended for students who plan to further their studies at 4-year colleges or universities. Coursework in a Bachelor of Arts in English program involves in-depth study of different genres of literature, as well as classes in research and analysis. Students must have a high school diploma to begin an associate's or bachelor's program.

Master of Arts in English curricula offer courses on more specific components of the field, allowing students to specialize in areas in which they're most interested. Doctoral programs in English are typically designed for aspiring college professors or researchers.

For convenience and flexibility, online courses are an option.


Associate's Degree in English

Associate's degree programs in English typically can be completed in four semesters. In addition to core courses in basic composition and American literature, associate's degree candidates might encounter the following classes:

  • Fiction writing fundamentals
  • Introduction to journalism
  • Women's literature
  • Children's literature
  • Storytelling

Bachelor's Degree in English

Through a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English program, students learn about speech and composition and develop their research and critical thinking skills. They also study an array of literature, examining its historical and cultural origins. Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in English should be able to collect, analyze, combine and communicate information, thus qualifying them for a range of careers. Typical courses in an undergraduate English program include:

  • Creative writing
  • Technical writing
  • Introduction to Shakespeare
  • American literature
  • Prose

Find schools that offer these popular programs

Master's Degree in English

Prospective graduate students in English must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Desirable undergraduate majors for applicants include English, education, communications, creative writing or liberal studies.

A Master of Arts (M.A.) in English affords graduate students interested in writing, publishing or teaching the opportunity to take more tailored courses. Students can focus on fiction, poetry, screenwriting, technical writing or teaching literature and writing. Many universities also have courses dedicated to specific genres of literature or film. Some schools may also require students to complete a graduate-level internship. Coursework might include:

  • Literary theory
  • Literary criticism
  • Creative writing
  • Linguistics
  • Poetry

Ph.D. in English

Applicants to a Ph.D. program in English must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, with extensive coursework in English and writing. Most English Ph.D. programs also require a writing sample ranging from 10-30 pages, as well as multiple letters of recommendation. Earning a Ph.D. in English allows students to become experts in areas such as literary criticism, poetry or creative writing. This might be especially beneficial for those pursuing careers in teaching. A Ph.D. in English curriculum may include courses and seminars on the following:

  • Rhetoric
  • Critique
  • Religious literature
  • Classics in literature
  • Textual analysis

Popular Career Options

The majority of graduates with an associate's degree in English transfer to bachelor's degree programs. However, they also might find entry-level jobs such as the following:

  • Freelance writer
  • Proofreader
  • Research assistant

Career choices for graduates with a bachelor's degree in English might include:

  • Teacher
  • Advertising copywriter
  • Journalist

Job opportunities for master's degree graduates in English are varied and might include the following:

  • Professor
  • Public relations executive
  • Editor

Most Ph.D. in English graduates go on to careers as the following:

  • Professor
  • Publisher
  • Author

There are numerous career paths that English language degree graduates can take--from writer to teacher. Studying and earning an associate's, bachelor's, master's or doctorate will equip you with the knowledge you need to perform in your particular niche.


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