PhD in English Literature: Online and Campus-Based Programs

Although some courses may be offered online, the majority of coursework in an English literature Ph.D. program must be completed on campus. Courses explore literary periods, literary criticism and influential authors. Read on for more information about what you'll learn in a degree program, how the program works and career prospects. Schools offering English Language & Literature degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Will I Learn in an English Literature Ph.D. Program?

You'll explore a variety of subjects related to the literature of the English language, including literary periods, genres and forms. You will study both well-known and lesser-known writers, as well as the cultural and historical influences that impacted their works. In addition to studying the evolution of the English language, you'll learn how to interpret classical texts and critique literature from multicultural and theoretical perspectives.

Most schools will expect you to work as a graduate teaching assistant in undergraduate English classes under the guidance of a full-time professor, so you may also participate in teaching workshops. Your functions as a teaching assistant might include grading papers, administering tests, delivering lectures and facilitating class discussions.

In order to receive a doctoral degree, you'll be required to write and present a dissertation on the research topic of your choice. In a typical English Ph.D. curriculum, you'll earn a master's degree as part of the program if you haven't earned one prior to starting the doctorate. The length of time to complete a Ph.D. varies according to your prior education and your program.

Degree Overview Subjects related to English literature, well-known and lesser known writers, interpreting classical texts, critiquing literature
Prerequisites Bachelor's or master's degree, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, personal essay, academic writing samples
Online Availability Online programs are available
Job Outlook 13% increase between 2014-2024 (for postsecondary teachers)*

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is Required for Admission?

You'll need at least a bachelor's degree for admission, although some programs require you to have a master's in English. Most programs prefer you to have a bachelor's in English, but may accept you if you completed several upper-division English courses. You may also be required to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language. To prepare for the Ph.D. in English Literature, you should take the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Some programs may also request scores from the GRE in literature.

You may be required to submit 2-3 letters of recommendation from teachers or employers, a personal essay and academic writing samples demonstrating your ability to analyze literary works. A resume or curriculum vitae may also be required. If admitted to a Ph.D. program, you could be awarded a teaching assistantship that includes a tuition waiver, health insurance and a stipend.

Are Programs Available Online?

Most English literature Ph.D. programs are campus-based. However, some schools may offer select courses online, though you'll still be required to attend occasional classroom sessions. Because these courses are delivered using streaming audio and video content, you'll need a computer with word processing software, Internet access and e-mail. Other equipment may be required, such as a webcam.

What Can I Do With a Ph.D. in English Literature?

As a Ph.D. graduate in English literature, you could find work as a college-level English instructor. Because the job market in this field is competitive, you may initially work as an adjunct or part-time instructor, or you could be hired full-time as an assistant professor and work toward tenure. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected employment growth of 13% for postsecondary teachers between 2014 and 2024 ( According to, assistant professors had an average annual salary range from $45,537 - $98,092 as reported in January, 2016, while professors made between $50,219 and $158,271.

According to the Modern Language Association, many English literature Ph.D. graduates seek jobs outside academia ( You could find work in publishing, writing, editing, higher education administration, non-profit organizations and government agencies.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Temple University

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
  • University of Louisiana

    Campus Locations:

    • Louisiana: Lafayette
  • University of North Texas

    Campus Locations:

    • Texas: Denton
  • Yale University

    Campus Locations:

    • Connecticut: New Haven
  • West Virginia University

    Campus Locations:

    • West Virginia: Morgantown
  • Washington University in St Louis

    Campus Locations:

    • Missouri: Saint Louis
  • University of Tulsa

    Campus Locations:

    • Oklahoma: Tulsa
  • University of Southern Mississippi

    Campus Locations:

    • Mississippi: Hattiesburg
  • University of Rochester

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: Rochester
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    Campus Locations:

    • North Carolina: Greensboro