Most Affordable Online Master’s in English Programs 2020

| Staff

Most Affordable Online Master’s in English Programs 2020
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An online master’s in English degree builds advanced knowledge of literature and the interpretation of literary texts, such as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Emphasizing research, writing, critical thinking, and communications skills, this versatile degree often prepares graduates for teaching careers. However, English students can also apply their skills in writing and editing careers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that high school teachers earned an annual median salary of $61,660 in 2019, with jobs projected to grow about as fast as average between 2019 and 2029. A master’s in English typically takes 2-3 years to complete, and most programs require applicants to hold at least some undergraduate credits in English.

This page offers an overview of online master’s in English programs, including common courses, career outcomes, and scholarships for English students.

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Accredited Online College Programs

What Are the Goals of English?



At its heart, English focuses on the close study of literary texts. Literary criticism has grown into a diverse and highly specialized field, encompassing a variety of critical approaches and methodologies. Graduate study explores these complex and often contradictory perspectives, encouraging students to critically examine texts while developing their own notions of literary interpretation.

A master’s in English builds on the knowledge gained in bachelor’s programs, developing more comprehensive knowledge of literary history and theories of interpretation. For students interested in teaching at the college level, a master’s degree is often the next step on the path toward a Ph.D., which is required for academic careers.

What Are the Benefits of a Degree in English?



An online master’s in English program offers notable professional and educational benefits for students, and candidates pursue the degree for many different reasons.

Preparation for Doctoral Study
A graduate English program fulfills many of the credit requirements for a Ph.D. in English, and candidates often choose to continue their studies at the doctoral level.

Preparation to Teach
English graduates can also pursue teaching careers at the middle or high school level. Many programs lead to teacher certification.

Increased Job Opportunities
In addition to education, English graduates can work in many fields, including technical writing and communications.

Increased Salary Potential
A graduate degree builds advanced knowledge and skills, which can help candidates command higher salaries.

Research Opportunities
Many graduate English programs emphasize academic research. Graduate students can perform original research in a supportive academic environment.

Accreditation for a Master’s in English



Whether researching a master’s in English online or on campus, students should look for schools with proper accreditation. The accreditation process regulates colleges and universities, ensuring that their programs meet designated academic standards and provide adequate professional preparation.

All reputable colleges hold either national or regional accreditation. In general, national accreditation regulates technical and vocational colleges that offer trade education programs, such as dental hygiene and auto repair. Regional accreditation regulates four-year colleges that offer traditional academic programs, including English degrees. Without exception, only regionally accredited colleges offer online master’s in English programs.

Unlike many disciplines, English programs typically lack specific programmatic accreditation. However, programs from regionally accredited colleges are generally reputable. Prospective learners can consult the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s list of the six recognized regional accrediting organizations for more information on regional accreditation.

FAQ

Question Answer
How long does it take to get a master’s degree in English? Completion time varies by program, but most graduate English degrees take 2-3 years to complete. Some programs offer accelerated completion options, enabling candidates to graduate faster.
How much does a master’s in English cost? Tuition rates for graduate English programs can vary widely. However, costs typically range from $30,000-$100,000.
What job can I get with a master’s in English? English graduates can pursue many careers in fields such as education, technical writing, editing, and communications. Graduates may also find work in the government and nonprofit sectors.
What skills do I gain with an MA in English? A master’s in English builds knowledge of literary genres and periods, along with advanced skills in research, writing, and literary criticism.

Courses in an English Master’s Program



An online master’s in English builds comprehensive skills in textual analysis and interpretation, research, and literary genres and periods. In general, students develop strong communication skills, learning to articulate and argue their ideas through writing. While most programs focus on the study of literature, others may emphasize rhetoric, linguistics, or professional writing. Candidates typically demonstrate their overall learning through a graduate thesis or other final project, which synthesizes major program principles.

The list below highlights five common courses in graduate English programs. Keep in mind that specific course titles and content may differ across programs.

Research Methods in Literature and Writing

Most graduate English programs emphasize scholarship and research, commonly featuring courses in research methods for literary scholars. This course introduces bibliography techniques and empirical methodologies for literature and the study of written documents. Learners study types of research, types of data (qualitative and quantitative), research design, formulation of hypotheses, and use of electronic and print resources. The course prepares students for advanced research, including the graduate thesis.

Literary Theory and Criticism

Literary theory marks one of the most significant developments in the study of English in the past century, and almost all graduate literature programs include a course dedicated to theory. This introductory course forms a foundation for further literary study, introducing the major methods of approaching texts, such as biographical, structural, poststructural, sociopolitical, and historical. The course may also track developments in literary theory throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, including its influence on English departments.

American Literature in the 20th Century

American literature forms a major component of most graduate English programs, and students may complete multiple courses focused on different periods of American fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. This course emphasizes developments in American literature during the 20th century, including modernism, postmodernism, and the increasing diversity of literary voices in the American canon. Most courses stress theoretical and critical approaches, and some may require candidates to research a specific American literary genre or author.

British Literature from the Romantics to Present

Along with American literature, students in graduate English programs often study British literature. Many programs offer multiple courses dedicated to specific periods of British literature. Courses often focus on the modern era of British literature, beginning with the Romantic poets, including Blake, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley, and Wordsworth. These courses may trace the development of British literature through the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.

World Literature

Often an elective, world literature focuses on literary voices outside the British and American tradition. These courses may highlight both Western and non-Western literature, exploring major works from antiquity to the present day. While European literature often figures into course content, many world literature courses feature voices from African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American literature, with many programs increasingly emphasizing indigenous literary voices.

How to Become an English Teacher



An online master’s in English often prepares graduates for careers in education. While K-12 teaching positions typically only require a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s can help teachers distinguish themselves when applying for jobs. Advanced credentials often result in higher salaries.

To pursue a teaching career, candidates need both a degree and teacher licensure or certification. Educators usually obtain a secondary education credential, which enables them to teach grades 7-12. Many graduate English programs offer preparation for language arts teaching certification as part of their curriculum.

Career and Salary Outlook for English Majors



English graduates can pursue careers in many different fields, including writing and editing, communications, and education. Many candidates work as teachers in middle school or high school, although some work at community colleges. See below for four of the most popular career paths for English graduates.

Instructional Coordinator
These professionals work with schools and school districts to develop and implement curriculums and teaching standards. They typically evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum models, review textbooks and other teaching materials, plan and conduct educator training, and assess and recommend new teaching techniques and strategies.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal
School principals oversee administrative and educational operations at K-12 schools. Responsible for a school’s overall administration, principals may manage staff members and activities; develop and assess curriculum standards; observe and evaluate teachers’ classroom performance; and meet with students, parents, and teachers.

Editor
Editors review and revise written content for various print and digital media. They may edit for both style and content, checking for grammatical and punctuation errors while also helping writers refine and more clearly express their ideas. Editors may also oversee broader administrative functions, determining the overall direction of publications and deciding what to publish.

Technical Writer
Technical writers translate complex ideas and instructions into clear writing for general audiences. They may write instructional manuals, guides, journals, and other supporting documents. These writers often work with technical staff to streamline and simplify specialized or complicated ideas.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Instructional Coordinator $66,290 6%
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal $96,400 4%
Editor $61,370 -7%
Technical Writer $72,850 7%

Source: BLS

Certifications and Licensure for English Majors



Along with a graduate degree, English students can pursue a variety of professional certifications, which build specialized knowledge and prepare recipients for more advanced positions. Most certifications in the English field focus on teaching and instruction in language arts, reading, and ESL. This list highlights three common English certifications:

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


This certification trains teachers to instruct speakers of other languages in basic English usage, preparing recipients for specialized positions as ESL teachers. Available to both bachelor’s and master’s degree-holders, the certification stresses topics including second language acquisition, learning theory, and ESL curriculum and materials design.

Reading Specialist


This certification trains teachers for literacy instruction, working with special needs students to improve basic reading and comprehension skills. The certification requires candidates to hold a master’s degree and a valid teaching certificate, along with supervised practicum experience in reading or literacy instruction.

Structured Literacy Classroom Teacher Knowledge Certificate


This certificate prepares recipients to serve as general classroom teachers or in support roles, providing reading and language arts instruction to students. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 45 teacher training hours.

How Can a Master's Student Pay for College?

Students enrolled in online master’s in English programs can apply for loans, grants, and private scholarships to fund their degree. Many scholarships specifically serve candidates pursuing master’s programs. Others serve English students at all levels. This list features five popular scholarships, along with general application requirements and award amounts.

Leo W. and Alberta V. Thomas Utz Scholarship
Who Can Apply: College students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate program in English may apply. The scholarship can be renewed for up to four years as long as recipients maintain a minimum 3.25 GPA.
Amount: $4,000

ChLA Hannah Beiter Graduate Student Research Grants
Who Can Apply: Graduate or doctoral candidates in English pursuing research related to children’s or young adult literature may apply. The grant funds research activities for a graduate thesis or Ph.D. dissertation.
Amount: $500-$1,500

American Copy Editors Society Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate or graduate students who plan to pursue a career in the editing of written material may apply. Applicants must submit a resume, references, and short essay responses to various prompts.
Amount: $1,500-$3,500

Bodie McDowell Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate or graduate students in English (or a related field) with an interest in the outdoors and nature writing may apply. The award committee considers academic achievement, work examples, and personal recommendations.
Amount: $1,000-$5,000

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Female students enrolled in or planning to enroll in an academic program focused on writing (including English programs) may apply. Applicants must demonstrate an interest in horror writing and provide samples of work in the genre (either fiction or criticism).
Amount: $2,500

Affordable Online Master’s in English Programs 2020



  1. The University of West Florida
    Location

    Pensacola, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A major public college based in Pensacola, UWF offers an online master's in English with specializations in literature and creative writing. Both tracks explore literature and print culture, building knowledge of literary periods, genres, and critical interpretation.

    The literature track emphasizes British and American literature, along with literary theory and criticism. The creative writing track features workshops in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. UWF's online English program uses a primarily synchronous format, with live lectures and class meetings that mimic the format of traditional courses.

    The college rarely admits online learners who live in close proximity to the UWF campus. However, the program may make exceptions under special circumstances. Applicants must hold at least 20 undergraduate English credits at the junior/senior level.

  2. Heritage University
    Location

    Toppenish, WA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located on the Yakima Indian Reservation in Toppenish, Washington, Heritage offers two master's in English online programs: a master of arts in multicultural English literature and language and a master of teaching in English/language arts. Both programs feature fully online courses, with evening and weekend campus sessions also available.

    The multicultural English literature and language degree emphasizes varied perspectives in British and American literature, including African American, Latino/a, and Native American. The program covers literature, linguistics, writing and composition, and research, with concentration options in multicultural literature and writing.

    The English/language arts teaching program includes a Washington residency teaching certificate, preparing graduates to teach English and language arts for grades 5-12. The curriculum includes both education and English coursework. The program also includes a co-teaching experience in a classroom setting.

  3. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A member of the University of Louisiana System, ULM offers one of the state's top online master's in English programs. Candidates can choose from concentrations in literary studies and creative writing, and the program offers both thesis and non-thesis options.

    Candidates on the literary studies track must complete a bibliography and literary research course. Creative writing candidates complete a course in forms and theories of creative writing, along with three workshop courses in either fiction or poetry.

    Applicants to the English program must possess at least 30 credits of upper-level undergraduate English courses with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants who fail to meet undergraduate GPA requirements can instead submit GRE scores, with a minimum score of 292 required. Applicants who fail to meet these requirements may receive conditional admission.

  4. Louisiana Tech University
    Location

    Ruston, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A member of the University of Louisiana System, Louisiana Tech serves around 12,000 students annually from its campus in Ruston and online. The school's master of arts in English offers concentrations in literature and technical writing, with both thesis and non-thesis options available.

    Regardless of their concentration or thesis track, all candidates complete a minimum of 33 credits and study British and American literature. All students also complete a course in literary research and bibliography.

    Applicants need a minimum of 24 undergraduate credits in English, including at least 12 upper-division credits. Applicants must also submit a 15-page writing sample and a one-page statement of purpose.

  5. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
    Location

    Natchitoches, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Natchitoches, NSU offers an online master's in English with five concentration options: writing and linguistics, literature, folklife/Southern culture, generalist, and teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). All courses for the TESOL program occur fully online, while other concentrations may only offer select electives online.

    All candidates complete 30 credits total, though course requirements vary depending on concentration. Students on the folklife/Southern literature track, for example, may complete courses such as literature of the Southern renaissance, contemporary Southern writers, and folk and fairy tales.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit a 15-page academic writing sample, a 500-word statement of purpose, and two letters of recommendation.

  6. Murray State University
    Location

    Murray, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public college based in Murray, Kentucky, Murray State offers an online master's in English literature that trains English teachers and candidates planning to pursue doctoral study. The program offers a standard concentration in literature along with cognate concentrations in philosophy and modern languages.

    The 30-credit program includes 12 credits divided evenly between British and American literature, three credits in research and bibliography, and 15 credits of English electives. These courses cover the major periods of literature, from pre-1500 to the present day.

    Near the end of the program, all degree candidates must pass comprehensive oral examinations. Literature exams cover all major periods of British and American literature. Philosophy and modern language exams cover four of six literary periods along with the student's concentration area. All candidates must also pass comprehensive written examinations.

  7. Tarleton State University
    Location

    Stephenville, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A member of the Texas A&M University System, Tarleton serves more than 13,000 students annually. The college offers an online master's in English with concentrations in literature and technical communication and rhetoric. Both concentrations offer thesis and non-thesis options. Candidates can also pursue an accelerated teacher certification pathway. The program prepares graduates for careers in education, academia, and technical writing.

    Technical communication and literature candidates complete 36 credits. Teaching certification candidates complete 39 credits. Literature candidates study British and American literature, and technical candidates complete courses in technical writing and editing.

    The teaching certification track draws content from both concentrations, with an additional course in the teaching of composition. Thesis candidates complete a six-credit research thesis, which takes the place of six course credits.

  8. The University of Texas at Tyler
    Location

    Tyler, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A member of the University of Texas System, UT Tyler operates a main campus in the East Texas city of Tyler, located about 100 miles east of Dallas. The school's online master's in English builds skills in textual interpretation, research, critical thinking, and analytical writing. The program offers thesis and non-thesis tracks, and students can choose from fully online and hybrid options.

    The 36-credit program includes courses on topics like early/early modern literature; later literature; and theory, rhetoric, and writing. Students can choose from a wide selection of courses to fulfill elective requirements, with course options including studies in neo-classical literature, studies in American literary realism, and the modern novel.

    Candidates can culminate the degree with a three-credit graduate thesis, which requires original research into a literary topic, or an additional three-credit elective course.

  9. Morehead State University
    Location

    Morehead, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A public college based in Morehead, Kentucky, MSU was the first college in the region to offer a master's in English online. The program offers comprehensive training in literary analysis, linguistics, creative writing, and technical writing.

    All students must pass multiple assessments throughout the program, including a research exam focusing on one major author, three exams in embedded course documents, and a comprehensive master of arts exit exam. Occurring at the program's conclusion, the exit exam covers a designated list of texts that span the major periods of British and American literature.

    Applicants to the fully online program must possess at least 12 upper-division undergraduate credits in English with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

  10. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of the largest colleges in the country, UCF serves more than 69,000 students annually from its campus in Orlando and online. The school offers an online master's in English with a specialization in technical communications, which trains students to translate complex ideas and technical instructions into clear language for general audiences. The program uses a 100% online format, and full-time students can graduate in two years.

    The 33-credit program includes 15 credits of required courses, 15 credits of technical communication electives, and a three-credit culminating experience. Students can culminate the degree with a graduate thesis or a directed research project.

    Unlike many graduate English programs, UCF's technical writing degree does not require applicants to hold an undergraduate degree in English. Graduates commonly pursue positions such as technical writer, publications specialist, communications professional, and user experience consultant.

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