Which Program Should I Choose?

You should consider both your personal interests and professional goals when deciding whether to begin work on a Master’s degree and which particular program to select.

While the basic M.A. program is suitable for anyone who wants to pursue the study of English and American literature in depth, it also yields a credential that can help you advance in a variety of careers, including secondary school and community college teaching, technical writing, editing, public relations, journalism, and just about any other field that requires good reasoning and communication skills.

You should be aware, however, that most openings for literature professors at four-year colleges require a PhD degree and that for the past couple of decades, even those with doctorates have found it difficult to obtain such employment. (Accordingly, PhD programs in literary study have themselves become smaller and more competitive.) On the other hand, openings in the field of rhetoric and composition—generally involving writing instruction—have expanded in recent years. An M.A. in English (with or without a thesis) often opens doors to community college teaching, although most of our students begin as adjuncts, meaning they are working part-time while seeking full-time status at various area community colleges or private high schools.

In the basic M.A. program, the next choice would be whether to do a thesis or not. In most cases, you can make that decision after a semester or two in the program (or change your mind!). In professional terms, there is no difference between the two options in terms of the nature of the degree or the career opportunities it provides. You may want to read about the two options—thesis or capstone project—in reaching a decision.

Other programs within our M.A. offer more specific paths to employment; we offer an avenue into teaching at the secondary level (6th through 12th grade) for those who did not pursue it as an undergraduate, and our ESL certificate offers additional areas of teaching expertise for practicing teachers. Because K-12 teaching is governed by state law, either program has fairly extensive prerequisites that you will want to consider before moving forward. See the specific programs listed on the Graduate Programs page for more detail.

Our M.A. + TESOL option permits students to prepare to teach English to adults for whom it is not a native language, or to work in professional and nonprofit environments where speakers of other languages may require writing assistance. Finally, our technical writing program leads to many possible careers in technical communication. The term itself, "technical communication," may cover a wide variety of career paths. For more information about careers in technical writing, see the jobs site. Either of these M.A. + certificate programs may also open different doors for doctoral programs or college-level instruction.

If you are motivated to pursue the M.A. primarily as a career move and still have questions, we urge you to seek advice from our faculty concerning employment opportunities. If you initially applied for our standard M.A. program but later decide to pursue one of the certificate options, you will need to contact our Graduate Advisor to be sure your registration status with Graduate School is changed appropriately.