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2023 Best Master's in English Online Programs

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 12/23/2022
2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in English Badge

An online master's degree in English typically contains advanced coursework on literary analysis, research, and writing. Students practice their critical-thinking skills as they closely read texts, interpret their meaning, and defend their interpretations. Most programs allow for some amount of specialization, whether through optional curriculum concentrations or by letting students select an original thesis topic to write on. Common concentrations include rhetoric, fiction, poetry, or technical communication. Graduates of these master's degree programs may find careers as teachers at the junior high through community college levels, writers, editors, marketing professionals, or public relations specialists.

You might be interested in other online humanities degrees that develop some of the same skills.

View our methodology for more details about our list or learn more about OnlineU.

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Online English Master's Degrees You May Be Interested In


2023 Best Master's in English Online Programs

RankSchool Salary Score Median Starting Salary
# 1 #1 National University 99 99 $61,524
# 2 #2 Rutgers University - Camden 81 $50,060
# 3 #3 University of Northern Iowa 78 $49,319
# 4 #4 Arizona State University 65 $46,764
# 5 #5 University of Central Florida 57 $45,304
# 6 #6 Mercy College 56 $45,154
# 7 #7 Ohio University - Main Campus 55 $44,965

2023 Online Colleges Offering Master's Degrees

Ranking Details

#1 National University

  • Salary Score: 99
  • Median Starting Salary: $61,524
  • Locations: La Jolla (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The private National University offers an online Master of Arts in English degree with two possible concentrations. This degree contains 54 quarter credits offered in four-week courses of 4.5 credits each. The available specializations are Gothic studies and rhetoric.

National uses the Brightspace digital learning platform to deliver mainly asynchronous online courses. The English master's degree faculty aim to create thoughtful communicators who think critically about each text they encounter. Some required classes are Seminar in Literary Theory, a two-course Major Author Seminar sequence, and the English Capstone Course that requires students to use all of their learned skills. National has a wide-ranging choice of electives, including Modern Rhetoric and Comparative Literary Studies.

#2 Rutgers University - Camden

  • Salary Score: 81
  • Median Starting Salary: $50,060
  • Locations: Camden (NJ)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Rutgers University - Camden is a public school featuring an online Master of Arts (MA) in Liberal Studies degree with a concentration in Creative Arts and Literature. This graduate degree contains 30 credit hours, including 15 in the concentration, and often takes full-time students two years to finish.

Rutgers uses the Canvas learning management system to host its online, asynchronous classes. This MA features a foundational core that begins with Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies. Enrollees then focus on the concentration, choosing electives such as Love Story in Contemporary Literature and An Immersion into Experience: Writing from Life. They also take a capstone course in the concentration, which requires a research project to pass.

#3 University of Northern Iowa

  • Salary Score: 78
  • Median Starting Salary: $49,319
  • Locations: Cedar Falls (IA)
  • Accreditation: HLC

University of Northern Iowa (UNI), a public institution, offers a Master of Arts in Teaching English in Secondary Schools degree. This focused program is intended for aspiring middle and high school English teachers, especially those in Iowa, because it leads to licensure in that state. It has 30 credit hours of required coursework and is designed to take two-and-a-half years with a full-time courseload.

UNI's online learners sign in to Blackboard to access course materials and complete assignments. The curriculum focuses on pedagogical methods for teaching students ages 12-18, and it includes a period of student teaching to gain experience in a real classroom.

#4 Arizona State University

  • Salary Score: 65
  • Median Starting Salary: $46,764
  • Locations: Tempe (AZ) (and 4 others)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Arizona State University (ASU), a public school, offers an online Master of Arts in English degree with 30 credit hours of coursework. This degree may take two years of full-time study to complete.

The university delivers online courses using the Canvas learning management platform. ASU students learn a general English curriculum that emphasizes research, writing, studies in literary genres, and rhetoric. Enrollees can choose electives to help tailor their studies to some degree, including classes such as Teaching Young Adult Literature, Magical Realism as a Global Genre, and Technologies of Writing.

#5 University of Central Florida

  • Salary Score: 57
  • Median Starting Salary: $45,304
  • Locations: Orlando (FL) (and 7 others)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is a public institution that offers an online, 33-credit Master's in English - Technical Communication. This specialized program is for candidates who want to learn advanced technical writing and editing skills. It can take two years to complete with a full-time course schedule.

UCF uses Canvas as its digital learning platform to deliver online course modules and assignments. Professors in this program seek to improve students' ability to distill complex ideas into understandable prose from which readers can take directions. Some of the core required classes include Proposal Writing, International Technical Communication, and Writing and Designing Online Help Systems. Students opt to complete either a research project or a written thesis as a final requirement.

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Master’s in English Degree Overview

An online master’s degree program in English provides prospective students with a broad base of knowledge in the areas of literature, writing, and rhetoric. Graduates develop advanced skills in critical analysis, research methods, textual interpretation, and analytical writing that apply to various career fields, including teaching, government, writing, and editing.

Program Requirements

The majority of master’s programs in English require that applicants have a cumulative 3.0 GPA of upper-division undergraduate coursework. Other application requirements can include official transcripts, GRE test scores, letters of recommendation, writing samples, and a letter of intent. To graduate from a master’s in English program, students must complete 30-36 credits of graduate coursework with a cumulative GPA of 3.0.

Curriculum

Online master’s degree programs in English include a variety of courses, including writing, rhetoric, literary theory, linguistics, research methods, and early and modern American and British literature. Specialized courses are available in technical communications, linguistics, teaching, and other interdisciplinary literary studies. Students may be required to complete a thesis, capstone course, or final examination to graduate. Full-time students can complete a master’s degree in two years, while part-time students may need additional time.

Choosing a Program

Before selecting a master’s in English program, students should evaluate the program and school accreditation, faculty credentials, and cost. Students should also consider class flexibility, noting whether coursework follows an asynchronous or synchronous format, and the support and resources available to online students. Additionally, students should select a master’s in English program that offers several courses or a specialization track in their area of interest.

Financing a Master's Degree in English

Students in an online master’s degree in English program can apply for financial aid by filling out a FAFSA annually to receive federal loans or grants. Prospective students should also check what graduate scholarships their university or specific program offer to enrolled students. State programs and professional organizations may also offer scholarships and grants.

The TEACH grant is a federally-funded program through the U.S. Department of Education that provides $4,000 a year to students who take coursework to begin a career in teaching. Upon graduation, recipients must agree to teach in a high-need field and work in a school that serves a lower-income community for four years.

Is Accreditation Important for Online Master's Degrees in English?

Accreditation is an important factor to consider when deciding to enroll in a postsecondary institution. It is a voluntary process that ensures that universities, colleges, or individual programs meet the minimum standards of educational quality and academic rigor. Accrediting agencies are usually private educational organizations that conduct peer evaluations to determine whether universities or colleges meet an established set of criteria. Postsecondary institutions and programs can become either regionally or nationally accredited.

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) periodically reviews accrediting agencies to ensure they are effectively enforcing their standards. The USDE also provides an online database of legitimate accrediting agencies in the United States. Enrolling in an accredited institution or program can assure students that they will qualify for federal financial aid, transfer credits to another university, and be eligible for employment in their chosen field after graduation.

What Specializations are Available for Online Master's Programs in English?

A master’s program in English with a general focus will require students to take courses in a broad range of topics within the discipline. Completing a specialization or concentration will allow students to take additional courses in an area of interest. Not all of the master’s in English online degree programs may offer all of the following specializations.

Literature: With this specialization, students take courses in literature from a particular time and place, such as early or modern English and British literature, Victorian literature, American literary realism, or world literature. Students will also learn literary theory and study and analyze major works of literature by applying methodologies in literary criticism. Graduates are prepared to pursue doctoral work in literature, teach at the junior college level, or take on writing or editing careers.

Professional Writing/Technical Writing: Students in this specialization will learn theoretical and applied skills in written and technical communications. Students who choose this specialization will take courses on writing for specific audiences and objectives, produce different types of documents and reports, apply research methods, and format text and graphics within a document. Students who complete this specialization are prepared to begin careers in various fields, including government and business, or take on any communication-related job.

Rhetoric and Composition: In this specialization, students will learn about the theory and history of rhetoric and writing. Students will study different rhetoricians and analyze texts from the classical ages to the present. Other courses include methods in teaching composition. Graduates can continue their education by pursuing a Ph.D. in the fields of rhetoric or composition, which will make them eligible to teach writing at the college level.

English as a Second Language (ESL): Students who undertake the ESL specialization are prepared to teach English to non-English speakers in the United States or abroad. Graduates are qualified to apply for a state teaching certification to work in public schools as an ESL instructor. Students take courses in second language learning and acquisition, assessing language ability, language structure, theory and practice of language, and language instruction methodologies.

Linguistics: Students electing to take a linguistics specialization will learn about theoretical and applied linguistics, including psycholinguistics and sociolinguistics. Many of the required courses may overlap with an ESL concentration. In general, students pursuing linguistics will take courses in semantics, syntax, phonology, morphology, pragmatics, and language instruction. Students can go on to perform doctoral work in this field or teach English to nonnative speakers.

What Kind of Certification is Available for Graduate Students Studying English?

Graduates of a master’s program in English can work in a wide variety of careers involving writing, editing, communications, or teaching. Additional certifications are only required if graduates plan to work as teachers in the public school system. If graduates choose to teach in community colleges, certification is optional.

Teaching Certification: State certification is required to work as a teacher in a primary or secondary public school institution. Certification requirements vary by state, so prospective teachers should determine the specific requirements for the state in which they plan to teach.

The U.S. Department of Education provides a directory of state education departments and agencies by state. States may offer both traditional and alternative pathways to become certified. Prospective teachers may need to complete an approved teacher preparation program and earn endorsements in the subject matter they plan to teach, such as ESL or English.

Graduate Teaching Certification: While community college teachers are not required to have any teaching credential, many graduate certificate programs provide teaching preparation for those without a teaching background. Students take courses in adult learning, instructional methods, and course design for adult learners. Some programs may require an internship in a community college.

Frequently Asked Questions for Online Master's in English Degrees

What can you do with a master’s in English?

Graduates of a master’s program in English are qualified to work in various careers involving writing, editing, communications, research, or teaching. Graduates go on to work in government agencies or many industries, such as business, journalism, law, or education.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school teachers can expect a median pay of $62,870 per year and jobs in this field are expected to grow at a rate of 8%. Postsecondary teachers earn $80,560 per year in median pay. Projected job growth in this field is 12%, which is faster than average. Writers and authors can earn $67,120 per year as a median salary. Job growth in writing is projected to stay the same or show little change because of popularity and strong competition in this field. The median annual wage for editors is $63,400 and the number of jobs is expected to increase by 5%, which is slower than the national average. While employment in online editing is rising, the decrease of traditional print publications might affect job growth rate.

What are the best online master’s degree programs in English?

We have ranked the top online master’s degree programs in English in terms of affordability and value. In general, students should look for these factors when choosing a master’s program: accreditation, tuition cost, faculty reputation, and graduation rates.

Is an online master’s in English the same as an on-campus degree?

Yes, unless otherwise noted, an online degree program is taught by the same faculty and follows the same curriculum as classes on campus. A diploma will reflect the institution’s name but will not indicate that the recipient completed the degree online.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.

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