English Professor: Education and Career Facts

Read on to learn what education is required for English professors, and explore the types of courses you'd take in a graduate English program. Weigh the differences between master's degree programs and doctoral programs in English. Review the advancement path for college professors. Schools offering Literacy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need To Know

The education level required to become an English professor depends on where you wish to work. For 2-year colleges, many professors only hold a Master of Arts (M.A.) in English; however, if you want to work in a 4-year college and become a tenured professor, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in English is necessary. M.A. programs require 1-2 years to complete. Alternatively, a Ph.D. program may take 4-7 years to complete, but in some cases, you may petition for a master's degree halfway through the program. English professors are expected to see faster than average job growth from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with strong prospects for those who can work part-time.

Degrees Master's degree required, with a doctoral degree preferred
Career Outlook 10% Growth between 2016-2026
Salary (2017) $64,910 (Median)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics'

What Are the Differences Between Master's and Doctorate Programs?

Master of Arts in English programs can prepare you for a doctorate program or be terminal, which means they will not lead to a doctorate program. While many schools offer M.A. programs online, doctoral programs in English are rare, and are usually hybrid programs, combining distance learning with on-campus attendance.

There are foreign language requirements in both programs; in a master's program, you will be required to become proficient in one language besides English, while many doctorate programs require candidates to become proficient in two languages, ranging from ancient to modern, such as one of the following:

  • Greek
  • Latin
  • French
  • German

Before graduating from a master's degree program, you can expect to complete a research paper. Similarly, to graduate from a doctorate program, you must write a dissertation in addition to taking qualifying examinations. Keep in mind that programs at both levels may have strict rules regarding grades; for example, you may have to earn grades above a B to graduate.

What Will I Study?

Beyond the core courses, you can gain a specialized education through elective courses. You may choose to focus your studies on certain authors in addition to conducting your independent research by collaborating with other departments. Course topics may include the following:

  • Studies in the work(s) of individual authors
  • 20th century authors
  • Gender roles in literature
  • Literary theory
  • Literary periods
  • Women's studies
  • Film studies

How Can I Advance My Career?

Keep in mind that education alone may not be enough to secure a position as a professor. Consider becoming a teaching assistant while in graduate school. You may teach undergraduate classes, grade papers and help undergraduate students develop their essays. Campus organizations for graduate students of English, typically with names like the Graduate English Association, may also provide professional development opportunities through networking and seminars.

What Other Career Options Do I Have?

Advancing from an associate professor to a tenured professor may take several years, but is definitely possible. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), colleges and universities consider an individual's research and teaching reviews before granting tenure. As a tenured professor, you will have the opportunity to conduct your own research while teaching courses. Alternatively, you may consider entering administrative positions within colleges or universities.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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    Popular programs at Strayer University:

    • Master

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