English Literature Degrees by Degree Program Level

English literature degree programs are offered at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Learn more about program concentrations and admission requirements, as well as post-graduation career options.

Essential Information

Students in two-year associate's degree programs in English literature learn to improve their writing skills through coursework in critical analysis, rhetoric, and literature. Four-year bachelor's degree programs sometimes focus on a specific genre of literature, such as novels, poetry, or drama. Enrollment prerequisites for both associate's and bachelor's degree programs typically include a high school diploma and SAT or ACT test scores.

Students in a two-year master's degree program in English literature focus on literary analysis and criticism, often in a specific genre. In addition to completing advanced literature coursework, students write a thesis. Doctoral programs in English literature focus on the advanced critical analysis of literature and require a dissertation. Comprehensive examinations may also be required in higher-level programs.

Associate's Degree in English Literature

Associate's degree programs in English literature typically include about 60 credit hours of classes. Graduates of associate's degree programs in English literature often choose to continue their education to earn a higher degree.

Associate's degree programs in English literature offered through community colleges don't usually have competitive admissions, meaning that all applicants who meet the requirements are admitted. Most programs suggest that that students complete courses in the following subjects:

  • Rhetoric and writing
  • Critical analysis
  • English literature
  • American literature
  • World literature

Bachelor's Degree in English Literature

Students in bachelor's degree programs in English literature sometimes take specialized courses that discuss literature from particular genres and may cover different periods of literature, such as romantic or Elizabethan. Admission into a bachelor's degree program in English literature may be competitive, and not all qualified applicants are admitted. Subjects commonly taught in English literature bachelor's degree programs are:

  • Modern fiction
  • Writing short stories
  • Shakespearean drama
  • Analyzing literature
  • World literature

Master's Degree in English Literature

The curricula for English literature master's degree programs help students further improve their abilities to analyze and evaluate literature. Students enrolled in these programs are often allowed to choose a particular area of specialization.

Most schools require students to hold a bachelor's degree in English literature or a related field before enrolling in an English literature master's degree program. Students sometimes have to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to show academic aptitude. Courses usually offered in English literature master's degree programs include:

  • Critical theory and practice
  • American literature before 1800
  • American literature after 1800
  • The works of William Shakespeare
  • The works of John Milton

Doctorate in English Literature

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the most advanced degree available in English literature. These programs often require a comprehensive study of English literature and specialization in a topic of the student's choosing, typically in a certain period or genre.

Those admitted to an English literature Ph.D. program must hold a master's degree in the subject. Students must show a great deal of intellectual and academic ability to earn admittance to a Ph.D. in English literature program. Subjects often emphasized in these programs include:

  • Literature criticism and analysis
  • Genre studies
  • Critical methodologies
  • Advanced rhetoric
  • Dissertation research

Popular Career Options

Graduates of associate's degree programs in English literature are qualified for entry-level jobs in fields such as publishing, writing, sales and business. Some common jobs for people who hold an associate's degree in English literature are:

  • Copywriter
  • Publishing assistant
  • Sales associate
  • Technical writer
  • Office administrator

Employers in many different fields value the skills of critical thinking and analysis that students learn in English literature bachelor's degree programs. People who earn a bachelor's degree in English literature often enter careers in the following fields:

  • Educator
  • Author
  • Nonfiction writer
  • Advertising executive
  • Business administrator
  • Editor

Graduates of master's degree programs in English literature often qualify for jobs in education, publishing, public relations or writing. Some common careers in those fields are:

  • Elementary school educator
  • Middle school educator
  • High school educator
  • Public relations director
  • Novelist

Many people who hold a Ph.D. in choose to teach at the college level. Others work in business, publishing or writing. Some careers for which English literature Ph.D. graduates qualify are:

  • Tenure-track professor
  • Non tenure-track professor
  • Author
  • Publishing professional

English literature degrees are offered from the associate's to the doctoral level. Coursework often includes the study of specific genres and time periods, and the programs will prepare students for careers in fields such as writing, teaching, and publishing.

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