English PhD Programs: Prerequisites, Requirements and Career Info

A Ph.D. in English program allows students to choose a specific area of concentration, such as creative writing, composition, all periods of literature and teaching English as a second language. Programs require either a bachelor's or master's degree in a relevant field.

Essential Information

First-year courses in a Ph.D. in English program include history of the language and rhetoric. Research is a key component of an English Ph.D. program, which prepares applicants for careers as educators at any level. At many schools, students must take a first-year Ph.D. examination, demonstrate knowledge of two foreign languages with mastery in one. Prerequisites usually include a master's or bachelor's degree in a field related to English from an accredited college or university, specific grade point averages, transcripts, letters of recommendations, a statement of purpose and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Programs generally last five to six years.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in English

The coursework for a Ph.D. English degree program is research-based, culminating with a dissertation. The dissertation can make up one-third of a program's credit hours. Typical coursework for a Ph.D. program includes classes such as the following:

  • History of the English language
  • Language bias
  • American literature
  • Medieval literature
  • Native American literature
  • Rhetoric

Popular Career Options

Many graduates of a Ph.D. English program land careers as college professors or other types of educators. However, there are other employment opportunities available, such as becoming a novelist, technical writer or literary critic.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, postsecondary teachers held 1,313,000 jobs in 2015. During 2014-2024, employment for all postsecondary teachers is expected to increase 13%, which is faster than the national average. This is due in part to increases in college and university enrollment. As reported by the BLS, the median annual salary for postsecondary English language and literature teachers in May 2015 was $72,470.

A Ph.D. in English most often leads to a career as a postsecondary English professor. Students interested in this career trajectory can apply to English Ph.D. programs for intensive research in specific areas of English literature and language.

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