Earning a Master's in English Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in English Online?

If you love literature, writing, and critical thinking, earning your master's in English online offers significant appeal. Focusing on the sustained study of novels, short stories, poems, plays, and essays, this degree gives you in-depth knowledge of literary history and improves your skills in reading, writing, and critical analysis.

While generally perceived an as academic degree (i.e., for use in education-related fields), many employers value master's in English graduates for their analytical, communication, and problem-solving abilities. As a result, the degree remains applicable to fields as diverse as publishing, advertising, journalism, and business. If you're interested in teaching, the best English master's programs online prepare you to instruct at the K-12 and postsecondary levels.

Pursuing your master's in English online gives you the flexibility to complete your studies without interrupting your career, and many programs offer primarily asynchronous delivery formats that enable you to complete courses on your own schedule. Read on to learn more about the career outlook, curriculum format, and professional resources in this engaging field.

Employment Outlook for Master's in English Graduates

Master's in English Salary

Writing serves as one of the most common careers for English graduates. The tables below show salary data for the profession by location and experience level. Unsurprisingly, expensive locales like New York, California, and Washington, D.C. top the list of highest-paying states for writers, as Los Angeles and New York City in particular attract literary minds from around the world.

As with most professions, writers can expect to earn more as they advance in their career, and while average annual salary levels lag behind industries like finance or information technology, mid- to late-career writers can still expect to earn a respectable income doing what they love.

Top-Paying States for Writers or Authors

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
California 7,990 $96,120
District of Columbia 1,170 $95,190
New York 7,310 $85,640
Maryland 1,020 $79,460
Alaska 130 $75,410
United States (average) 45,300 $72,120

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pay by Experience Level for Writers

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $41,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $53,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $62,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $73,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in English Careers

Given the widely applicable nature of skills gained from a master's degree in English online, graduates may pursue various career paths. Some of the most common professional realms for graduates include education, writing, publishing, and editing. While these careers differ in their day-to-day duties, they all require strong critical thinking skills and excellent written and verbal communication abilities. Below, you'll find five of the most popular careers for English graduates, along with projected salaries and growth rates.

Writer or Author

Annual Median Salary: $61,820

Projected Growth Rate: 8%

Often self-employed, writers create content for all types of media, like novels, TV shows, advertisements, and websites. Writers typically perform extensive research on their subjects, creating engaging, original content that appeals to a wide audience. They often work alongside editors, particularly when writing for print publications.

Journalist

Annual Median Salary: $40,910

Projected Growth Rate: -9%

Journalists inform the public about current events and typically work for newspapers, magazines, television stations, radio stations, and websites. Like most other forms of writing, journalism requires extensive research, and journalists work to ensure their reporting remains factual and unbiased. They often work closely with sources to develop relationships that lead to news tips.

High School Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $59,170

Projected Growth Rate: 8%

High school teachers instruct students in specialized subject knowledge, helping them develop academic skills for higher education and future employment. Most English majors teach English, but they may teach other subjects depending on their knowledge and experience. Holding a master's degree typically offers a higher starting salary for teachers than a bachelor's alone.

Editor

Annual Median Salary: $58,770

Projected Growth Rate: -1%

Editors work with writers to prepare content for publication. While they may correct spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors, editors also help writers revise their work to ensure clarity and consistency. Editors work with all types of writing, such as literary fiction, nonfiction, magazine pieces, newspaper articles, and website copy.

Postsecondary Teacher (Community College)

Annual Median Salary: $64,000

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Postsecondary teachers work at colleges and universities, teaching specialized courses to students to build on their high school education. English graduates often teach courses in literature and writing at community colleges, either on campus or online. Tenured positions at four-year colleges and universities almost always require a terminal degree, such as a Ph.D. in English.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in English Program?

While curriculum details vary between schools, most of the top master's in English online programs focus on many of the same general topics in literature and literary criticism. The list below gives you an idea of what sort of courses you can expect to take while pursuing an online master's in English literature.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in English

American Literature Since 1945

The end of World War II marks a turning point for most world literature, and postwar American literature represents an evolution in both style and diversity of voices. This course examines major trends in American literature in the second half of the 20th century, including postmodernism and multiculturalism.

Literary Modernism

A major development in 20th-century literature, modernism serves as a common course topic in graduate studies. Many courses examine the origins and legacy of the movement from both cultural and aesthetic perspectives. Courses typically focus on major authors such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and William Faulkner.

World Literature

While British and American literature typically form the major modes of English literary study, many graduate programs increasingly focus on works from outside these countries. This course typically explores alternative literary traditions from other English-speaking countries and regions, such as Australia, India, South Africa, and the Caribbean.

Literary Theory

Theory has exerted a heavy influence on the academic study of literature since the middle of the 20th century. This course explores major schools of literary criticism, such as Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, and poststructuralism. Most courses typically examine major critical approaches and challenge students to apply these theories to their own criticism.

Composition Theory

Many English graduate students pursue careers in teaching, and this course focuses on strategies and best practices for instructing written composition. Most courses explore some combination of composition instruction and general pedagogy. Students examine various educational theories and develop their own teaching methods.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in English Prepares For

  • Primary or Secondary Education Certification: Teaching certification enables English graduates to work as English teachers in grade schools. While requirements vary between states, most certifications require at least a bachelor's degree and direct applicants to complete a subject-specific exam that assesses their readiness to instruct English courses.

  • Technical Writing Certification: This professionally focused certification applies English skills to technical writing endeavors, such as creating manuals and textbooks. Certification opportunities and requirements vary widely, but a technical writing certificate can serve as a useful credential for writers looking to enter the professional market.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Like experts in any other field, English graduates benefit from membership in professional organizations, which provide resources for career development. These groups typically require small fees for membership dues, but membership yields great rewards, including professional connections, access to jobs, career counseling, mentorship opportunities, and professional conferences. Given the assorted careers English graduates pursue, the organizations below represent a range of professional interests and fields.

  • National Education Association: With more than 3 million members, NEA ranks among the largest professional organizations for teachers in the country. NEA offers teaching resources, education news, grants and awards, and even discounted legal services.

  • American Federation of Teachers: Serving teachers at all levels from early childhood to higher education, the AFT advocates for educators and features member benefits like lesson plans and healthcare plans.

  • The Authors Guild: One of the country's largest professional organizations for published writers, the AG advocates for fair contracts and royalty rights, authors' rights, free speech, and copyright protections.

  • American Society of Journalists and Authors: Dedicated to freelance nonfiction writers, ASJA offers resources for independent writers that include education and training, professional advising, networking opportunities, and mentorships.

  • Society for Technical Communication: The country's oldest organization for technical communication, the STC serves technical writers, editors, and other professionals through member publications, job resources, and an annual international conference.

  • Poets & Writers: A major, nonprofit literary organization, Poets & Writers has earned acclaim for its eponymous bimonthly publication, which offers advice on a variety of things like literary contests and writing retreats.

  • Writer's Digest: Geared toward both published and unpublished writers, Writer's Digest offers craft tips as well as professional advice on issues like publication, writing conferences, and finding an agent.

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education: A trade publication for academics, the Chronicle offers the latest news on academia as well as job listings and other professional resources for those seeking employment.

  • Purdue Online Writing Lab: Purdue University's well-known OWL features resources for all types of academic writing that cover formatting, citations, research strategies, and more.

  • Grammar Girl: While it adopts a lighthearted, conversational tone, Grammar Girl maintains a serious attitude toward grammar, helping writers remember unusual rules and ensuring they never make embarrassing linguistic flubs.