How do I get a Master's Degree in English?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2018
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The first step to a master’s degree in English is earning a bachelor’s degree. Since the expected level of writing competency at the master’s level is so high, English departments usually require a B.A. in English, though a few may not. Each school may have slightly different requirements for admission and also for graduation, but there are a few things most students can expect to encounter as they pursue this goal.

In places like the US, some colleges require students to take one or two standardized tests to be considered for placement in a master’s program. These are the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the GRE subject test in English. Students should plan taking these in their junior or senior years of bachelor’s degree studies. Not all schools have this requirement, but if people are planning to apply to a large number of programs, they’ll encounter it occasionally. Sometimes the GRE subject test becomes a requirement of graduation from the master’s degree in English program, instead of it needing to be taken prior to admission.

Another extremely important aspect of getting a master’s degree in English is having good grades. An overall strong grade point average is encouraged, but people judging applicants are probably more interested in performance in English classes than they are in unrelated general education courses. Most schools do set minimum grade point average requirements for applicants.


Along with good grades, students should also be prepared to provide sterling recommendations, and this means really working hard in a bachelor’s program to perform well in classes and to earn the respect of professors. Though this may sound a little calculating, it is not a bad idea to impress those professors who might be known by other teachers at other schools. Students are advised to make the most of opportunities to get to know their undergraduate teachers and volunteer for work like tutoring or teacher assisting to create the most positive impression. They should also make sure that they compose very strong written essays in application to all schools.

Once a person is accepted to a program, specific studies vary. Some programs have several options, and some students earn teaching credentials at the same time they earn master’s degrees. Alternately, they may focus on creative writing and get a master’s in fine arts degree, instead of a master’s degree in English. Completing a degree might lead to teaching jobs at community college levels, but people interested in teaching at four-year universities will need a doctorate, which they can earn instead of a master’s degree, or after one.

The average master’s degree in English program takes two years of full-time work and usually requires a thesis, though some programs have an oral or test option instead. Sometimes programs are part of doctoral studies, and students can either choose to exit the program at the M.A. level or continue studying for a doctorate. This may be a good option for those interested in being college professors.



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