Best Online Master's in English Degree Programs

Learn about the top master's degree programs in English, including information about coursework, concentration areas, and other degree requirements. Then, learn how to choose the right English program for you and explore possible career paths. Schools offering English Language & Literature degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Best Online Master's Programs in English

To create our list of the top schools with master's degree programs in English, we considered a range of factors, including program affordability, flexibility, and focus. The schools below offer the best English master's degrees online.

1. Northern Arizona University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Flagstaff, AZ $10,593

Northern Arizona University's online Master of Arts in English - Literature degree program requires 36 total credits and has an optional thesis. This is a flexible program that allows students to pursue a course of study in their preferred genre, literary time period, or literary topic. Required courses have a deep focus on literary research methods, literary theory, and rhetoric and composition theory. Then, students can choose from a range of electives such as:

  • Chaucer, Shakespeare, or classical literature
  • 20th Century British literature
  • African American literature
  • Indigenous literature
  • Women writers

Students are also afforded the opportunity to collaborate with their professors on their own projects, such as essays for literary journals and literary conference presentations. For the spring 2020 semester, the price per credit for online graduate students was $575.

2. University of Nebraska at Kearney

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Kearney, NE $7,187

The University of Nebraska at Kearney offers an online Master of Arts in English degree program with a writing emphasis. This program is designed for teachers and educational professionals who want to improve their writing expertise and knowledge as well as their instructional skills. Along with courses on literary criticism and literature, students can also take classes in:

  • Fiction, poetry, nonfiction or drama writing
  • Composition in secondary schools
  • Descriptive linguistics

In total, students must earn 36 credits. While there is no thesis requirement, students must take an exit exam at the end of the program. During the 2019-2020 school year, online, in-state graduate students paid $309 per credit, while out-of-state graduate students paid $494.

3. East Carolina University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Greenville, NC $7,485

East Carolina University's Master of Arts in English degree program allows students to complete the following two concentrations in an online format:

  • Technical and Professional Communication
  • Multicultural and Transnational Literatures

Each concentration area requires students to earn 33 credits, and there is a thesis and non-thesis degree option. The thesis is a research-driven project on a topic related to the student's concentration area, and the non-thesis option consists of a Comprehensive Assessment Project (CAP) and additional English coursework. The Technical and Professional Communication includes coursework on technical editing, copyediting, and public service writing. The Multicultural and Transnational Literatures concentration features coursework in a range of literature subjects, such as Middle Eastern, Asian American, and African literature. In-state graduate students paid $249.26 per semester hour for the 2019-2020 year, while out-of-state graduate students paid $893.82.

4. Ohio University-Main Campus

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Athens, OH $9,720

Ohio University-Main Campus has an online Master of Arts in English degree program that requires 32 credits and can be completed in only 16 months. This online program also features short 7-8 week-long classes and is designed for working professionals or secondary teachers, especially Ohio teachers who have the goal of teaching dual enrollment high/school college courses. Along with taking a required introductory course to English studies, students can choose from the following courses:

  • Medieval English Literature
  • 19th Century Prose
  • Digital Literacies
  • Creative Writing Workshop

Students must also complete a final master's essay course, which consists of the creation of a research-based, publishable piece of work focusing on the subject of teaching grades 7-12. Ohio resident students paid $512 per credit hour in this program, while non-residents paid $531.

5. Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Slippery Rock. PA $16,387

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania offers an online Master of Arts in English degree program that can be completed in only 15 months, requires 30 total credits and boasts a special focus on interdisciplinary writing. In this program, students take classes on subjects like:

  • Digital publishing and writing
  • Rhetoric and theory
  • Literary studies
  • Writing in different disciplines

Students must also complete a final capstone course that consists of a real-world professional experience that focuses on interdisciplinary writing or instruction. For the 2019-2020 academic year, in-state, online graduate students paid $516 while their out-of-state peers paid $526.

Rank School Name Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
6 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA $12,552
7 Murray State University Murray, KY $9,114
8 Emporia State University Emporia, KS $8,464
9 University of Memphis Memphis, TN $10,697
10Harding University Searcy, AR $18,260
11 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX $8,015
12 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, LA $8,909
13 Sul Ross State University Alpine, TX $2,850
14 Morehead State University Morehead, KY $10,512
15 The University of Texas at TylerTyler,TX $7,126
16 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL $8,872
17 Louisiana Tech University Ruston, LA $9,603
18 McNeese State University Lake Charles, LA $7,955
19 University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, LA $9,068
20 Arizona State University Phoenix, AZ $12,134
21 Mercy College Dobbs Ferry, NY $16,338
22 Minnesota State University-Mankato Mankato, MN $8,156
23 Wayland Baptist University Plainview, TX $12,730
24 Valdosta State University Valdosta, GA $6,628
25 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH $18,810
26 Ohio Dominican University Columbus, OH $11,250
27 Tarleton State University Stephenville, TX $7,024
28 Clarks Summit University South Abington Township, PA $7,800
29 The University of West FloridaPensacola, FL $9,062

All statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Master's Degree Programs in English

Online master's programs in English prepare students for a range of careers in education, marketing, professional and technical writing, and publishing. Most online English master's programs can be completed in a 100% online format with no real-world requirements.

Credits and Length

Typically, online master's programs in English require about 30 to 36 total credits. Depending on the program and its requirements, it could take anywhere from 15 months to 2 years to earn this degree.

Concentrations

Many online English master's degree programs have a special focus on one area of English or offer students the opportunity to choose a specific concentration area.

Below are examples of focus areas found in online master's programs in English:

  • Technical and Professional Writing - Focuses on developing writing skills for business and technical fields. Prepares students for careers as technical writers, web and digital writers, or as editors.
  • Multicultural and Transnational Literature - Centers on the study of world literature and U.S. ethnic literature.
  • Creative Writing - Focuses on the genres of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or screenwriting; students study the craft and develop their skills as writers.
  • Rhetoric and Composition - This is the study of the history and theories of written communications. Prepares students for careers as writing instructors at the college level or for a role within a writing center.
  • Literature - Centers on the study of different literary time periods, authors, and genres as well as literary theory.

Courses

Although the exact coursework requirements for online English master's degrees varies by program and area of focus, below are some common types of classes that students usually take.

  • Literary Theory - Students learn about the major theories and schools of thoughts related to the study of literature. Examples of specific topics students may study include feminism theory, structuralism, and psychoanalytic criticism.
  • Literary Research and Bibliography - This is a course that introduces students to the methods and techniques of literary research. Students learn how to find and analyze source materials for research. They also learn how to create analytical bibliographies and enumerative bibliographies.
  • Rhetoric - Courses on rhetoric focus on the history, study, and theories of written language.
  • Creative Writing - Creative writing courses can center on fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or other genres. These are usually workshop-focused classes that allow students to write original works and receive constructive criticism from peers and their professors.
  • British Literature - Students can take several courses that center on British literature, including classes on major authors such as Shakespeare and Chaucer, and courses on specific time periods, such as the restoration era, the Middle ages, or 17th-century British literature.
  • American Literature - Students study literature starting from the country's colonial times and moving into modern American literature. Other areas of study include American literary naturalism and 20th-century American literature.
  • Multicultural Literature - Courses in this area center on the study of literature movements outside of major British and American literature. Examples of class subjects include African literature, world indigenous literature, Caribbean literature, and multi-ethnic literature.

Thesis and Other Degree Requirements

Thesis requirements for online English master's degrees vary by program, with some programs making it optional, others not requiring one, and some making it mandatory. Typically, a thesis consists of an original, research-based essay on a subject related to English.

Some programs have other degree requirements in addition to or supplementing a thesis. These requirements could include an exit exam, comprehensive exams, or a capstone course.

How to Choose an Online Master's Program in English

When deciding what English master's degree program is the right one for you, there are several factors you should seriously consider, such as total cost, the type of university, program focus, and accreditation.

Cost

The total cost of an online English master's degree depends on several factors, including the price per credit, the number of credits required to earn your degree, residency status, and additional fees.

Tuition

The tuition of online English master's degree programs is usually based on a per-credit price structure. For example, a 33-credit program that charges $249 per credit would have the total tuition price of $8,217, while a 33-credit program that charges $893 per credit would have the total tuition price of $29,469.

Residency

Some universities charge out-of-state students more on a per-credit basis than they charge in-state students. Even out-of-state students attending an online program will sometimes have to pay more than their in-state peers. Often, it is cheaper to attend a college located in the state where you live; however, some universities offer the same price for all students.

Fees

Universities often charge additional fees on top of the tuition price. These fees can range as low as $5 to upwards of $150. Specific examples include distance education fees, library fees, and technology fees.

Private vs Public

Another consideration is whether you want to attend a private or public university. Both types of schools have their benefits. Private schools are usually smaller, which means there may be fewer students in your English graduate program and you can get more personalized attention. However, public universities are typically larger and can have a more diverse student body and more access to resources.

Program Focus

As the focus of English master's degree programs varies greatly, it's important that you choose a program that matches your interests and career goals. For example, if you want to primarily study literature and you eventually want to teach it, then choose a program that includes some emphasis on that. But if you want to have more options, study English and writing more broadly by choosing a program that covers more ground.

Accreditation

Only students who attend an accredited university or college can receive federal financial aid. Look to attend a school that is regionally accredited. We will dive into this topic in more detail below.

Financial Aid for Master's Degree Programs in English

To afford your master's degree in English, you can apply for federal financial aid and scholarships.

Federal Aid

To discover the types and amount of federal financial aid you qualify for, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Below are the types of aid you may be able to access as a graduate student.

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans - For undergraduate, graduate, and professional students; not based on financial need.
  • Direct PLUS Loans - For graduate and professional students to help them pay for expenses not paid for by other types of aid.
  • Direct Consolidation Loans - Helps students combine all their federal loans into a single loan.
  • Federal Work-Study - A program that allows students to work part-time, sometimes in a job related to their field of study; helps them pay for their school expenses.

Scholarships

You can also apply for scholarships that are administered by private or non-profit organizations or from your university. Below, you can find scholarships that are specifically for English graduate students.

  • Bill Walsh scholarship - From the American Copy Editors Society, this is a $3,500 scholarship plus financial aid to attend the ACES national conference for a student who plans to become a news copy editor.
  • ACES Education Fund Scholarship - Also from the American Copy Editors Society, this fund offers one $2,500 scholarship and four $1,500 scholarships for those who will pursue a career in editing.
  • The Stephanie G. Hoffman Scholarship - From the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, these are scholarships that range from $1,000 to $5,000 for students majoring in literature or library science.
  • Bodie McDowell Scholarship - From the Outdoor Writers Association of America, this scholarship of $1,000 to $5,000 is for students in the outdoor communications fields.

Career Options with a Master's Degree in English

After you earn your master's degree in English, you might be able to pursue a career in teaching, editing, or writing.

Professors

Professors, or postsecondary teachers, teach at the college level, and with a master's degree in English, you may be able to teach in the fields of literature, writing, and English. Professors must interact with students, create lesson plans and syllabuses, conduct classes and grade assignments and exams. Professors also conduct their own research, keep up with their field of study, and work to design and improve curriculum and degree programs.

Editor

Editors make sure that written works are error- and grammar-free, easy to read, and factually correct. There are several types of editors, including copy editors who specialize in proofreading different kinds of materials, publication assistants who work in book or magazine publishing where they proofread and edit manuscripts or articles, and managing editors who oversee the operations of publications.

Copywriter

Copywriters focus on creating different kinds of written materials for marketing or promotional purposes. Copywriters can work on a freelance basis or for a company or organization.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Postsecondary Teacher (English Language and Literature) $66,590 4%
Editors $59,480 -3%
Writers and Authors $62,170 0%

Salary information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Professional Organizations for English

Several organizations advocate for and promote the study of English, writing, and related fields. Here are a couple of the most prominent.

College English Association (CEA)

CEA has been operating since 1938 and is an organization made up of English scholars and teachers who specialize in the fields of composition, literature, creative writing, and women's studies. CEA holds an annual conference, produces publications, and offers paid memberships.

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP)

AWP is the leading organization for the advancement of writing and writing education. Along with an annual conference, AWP also has paid memberships that grant members access to a job board, information about writing programs and degrees, and access to articles from The Writer's Chronicle.

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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