Comparative Literature

A degree program in comparative literature can prepare you for a variety of career fields, including teaching, writing and research. Read on to learn if this is the educational path for you.

Is Comparative Literature For Me?

Career Overview

Comparative literature is the study of written works across different regions, cultures and languages. It involves the critical examination of various genres, artistic movements, influences and individual authors, as well as the translation of literary works from one language to another. Programs in this field are often international in scope and include the study of classic and contemporary literature from around the world.

Comparative literature is an interdisciplinary subject that can also cover topics in history, language, art, religion, politics and economics. Comparative literature classes can help you sharpen your research, critical analysis and language skills, which can be useful in a variety of careers. With a degree in this field, you might find work in publishing, editing, journalism or translation. Many comparative lit majors become elementary or high school English teachers. A graduate degree in comparative literature might enable you to enter postsecondary teaching and research. You might also use this broad liberal arts education to prepare for medical, business or law school.

Employment Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted an average employment growth of 12% for postsecondary English language and literature teachers, as well as for elementary and middle school teachers in general, from 2012-2022 ( High school teaching positions were expected to increase at a slower pace of 6% from 2012-2022.

Postsecondary English language and literature teachers earned a median annual wage of $60,040 as of May 2012. Elementary school teachers made a median wage of $53,400 as of May 2012, and middle school teachers made 53,430, while secondary school teachers earned a median salary of $55,050. A passion for the written word and good communication skills are usually necessary to enter the teaching world.

How Can I Work in the Field of Comparative Literature?

Undergraduate Education and Licensing

Many colleges and universities offer comparative literature degree programs at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. A Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Comparative Literature program prepares you for entry-level careers in a variety of fields, such as publishing and translation. Some bachelor's degree programs allow you to specialize in film or cinema studies, which could lead to additional career possibilities as a film writer or producer. Combined with the appropriate teaching license, a bachelor's degree can also qualify you to teach elementary or high school English classes.

Graduate Education

If you want to teach at a college or university, you typically need a master's degree at minimum, although most postsecondary teaching and research positions require applicants to hold a doctoral degree. Graduate programs in this field often lead to a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Literature or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Literature. A doctoral program typically lasts at least three years, but its length often depends on how long you take to complete the program's requirements, which might include writing a dissertation and developing fluency in multiple languages.

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