Earn a Master's in English Online
- $627/credit (36 credits)
- Choose from a wide range of literary periods
- Complete in as few as 15 months, or at your own pace
- Culminates in a capstone course
- Includes teaching writing course
- 24/7 online access – attend class at your convenience
Online Master's in English Program Overview
Some people are born to play with code and go on to earn advanced IT degrees. Others love playing with words and feeding their endless appetite for learning. If you fall into the second category and see a master’s in your future, SNHU’s online Master of Arts (MA) in English may be your degree.
Aside from the personal goals a master’s in English might fulfill, its focus on enduring skills will appeal to potential employers. The degree expands analytical, creative thinking and communication skills, all highly valued and highly versatile in the workplace. The same skill set, for example, can be applied to complicated administrative or operational challenges.
It comes down to those analytical and communication skills, as they immediately translate in an employer's mind to transferable, applicable skills, according to author and Forbes contributor Martin John Yate.1
A groundbreaking 2019 study by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work backs this up.2 The study notes that “human skills are in high demand across many industries.” What are human skills and which matter most? The Strada report lists the top skills, in this order2:
- Creativity and critical thinking
- Emotional intelligence
- Cognitive flexibility
Human skills are “the very capabilities that define us as human beings,” the Strada report goes on to explain.2 They’re also those least likely to become automated by robots – vital human skills that this master’s in English only enhances.
A master’s in English builds on the very skills a bachelor’s introduces. “A master's provides the same transferable core skills of critical thinking, research, analysis, reading comprehension, empathy and others,” said SNHU Associate Dean of Liberal Arts Dr. Christopher Lee.
Graduate students learn those skills at a “higher level of qualification for higher-level positions," said Lee.
Whether you work or aspire to work, in education, marketing, human resources, public policy or any number of other fields where problem-solving skills are in high demand, an MA in English goes well beyond reading the works of famous authors and analyzing layers of meaning. It can help you master critical thinking, enrich your subject matter expertise and multiply your earning potential.
Learn how to:
- Use theoretical arguments in original interpretation of literary texts
- Demonstrate expertise in a literary subject
- Draw connections between literature and social/cultural history
- Compose essays of depth that contribute to the field of study
- Produce scholarship that promotes an appreciation for literature
The online master’s in English expands your career possibilities in a number of writing-related fields, including:
- Advertising, marketing and promotions
- Public relations
- Nonprofit administration
- Technical writing
Median annual wages for writers and authors remain higher than the median wage for all occupations at $67,120 as of May 2020.3
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, earning a master's degree could open the door to a higher salary and lower odds of unemployment.3 In 2020, master's degree holders reportedly earned $1,545 each week – nearly 20% higher than those with the highest educational attainment of a bachelor's degree.3 Unemployment rates for master's degree holders were also lower than their bachelor's-holding counterparts (4.1% versus 5.5%, respectively).3
The master’s degree in English also provides a valuable credential if your career path is teaching. The program’s curriculum includes coursework in the teaching of writing, as well as the option of a 3-credit internship. Though you will need additional certification or licensure to teach at the primary or secondary level, you’ll be prepared to start teaching for most community colleges or online courses at the undergraduate level.
Danielle Kaheaku '17 planned to teach when she applied to SNHU to earn her master's in English and creative writing. “I chose to go back to school after a decade of working in entertainment because I want the opportunity to work with future generations of writers, editors and teachers in an instructional capacity," she said.
The program’s Teaching of Writing course gave Kaheaku the essential foundation she needed. “The course gave deeper insight into teaching a multitude of learning styles within a classroom,” she said.
Carolyn Jameson '21 also saw her MA in English as an opportunity to advance her career as a teacher.
"My employer requested that I work on my master’s degree to take over the dual credit courses in our district," she said. "Seeing the opportunity for an increase in pay and the potential to branch out into teaching at the community college level, I embraced the request."
Her degree, she said, allowed her "to teach at a community college or as adjunct faculty at a college or university," which ultimately paved the way for "additional means of income."
And those weren't the only doors it opened. "Beyond teaching, I am also more marketable in the world of publishing, content writing, technical writing, editing, etc.," Jameson said.
Your online master’s in English can prepare you for a variety of roles, including:
- Editor: While the job market for editors is competitive, you can improve your odds with the advanced skills earned through a master's. Opportunities range from helping aspiring authors write bestsellers to editing stories for online newspapers, magazines and other publications.
- Survey researcher/analyst: The analytical skills you’ll develop in a graduate-level English program transfer well to survey research. Demand for this area of expertise remains steady in higher education and nonprofits as well as with the military or federal government, according to the BLS.3
- Copywriter or content writer: Copywriters and content writers often work for advertising or marketing firms but can also work as freelance writers. Copywriters develop a craft driven by ideas or concepts. They specialize in writing short copy, such as digital ads, email marketing campaigns and social media marketing. Content writers often write longer pieces such as blog posts, ebooks and white papers.
It’s also worth keeping in mind one of the key findings of the Strada Institute for the Future of Work report: “There is a discernible labor market demand for agile and resilient thinkers who have a handle on digital literacies – basic technical skills like data analysis and digital fluency.”1
That bodes particularly well for those with a master’s degree in English and a strong fluency in social media marketing, digital advertising or blogging.
Start Your Journey Toward an Online English Degree
Why SNHU for Your Master's in English
With no set class meeting times, you can learn on your schedule and access online course materials 24/7.
As part of our mission to make higher education more accessible, we’re committed to keeping our tuition rates low. In fact, we haven’t raised our online tuition rates, some of the lowest in the nation, since 2012.
Prior coursework and work experience could also help you save time and money. SNHU’s transfer policy allows you to transfer up to 12 credits from your previous institution. You could also earn college credit for previous work experience.
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution with over 150,000 graduates across the country. SNHU is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), a regional accreditor, which advocates for institutional improvement and public assurance of quality.
Recently, SNHU has been nationally recognized for leading the way toward more innovative, affordable and achievable education:
- “Most Innovative” regional university honors from U.S. News & World Report each year since 2015
- A $1 million grant from Google.org to explore soft skills assessments for high-need youth
- Recognition as a 2017 Digital Learning Innovator by the Online Learning Consortium
At Southern New Hampshire University, you'll have access to a powerful network of more than 300,000 students, alumni and staff that can help support you long after graduation. Our instructors offer relevant, real-world expertise to help you understand and navigate the field. Plus, with our growing, nationwide alumni network, you'll have the potential to tap into a number of internship and career opportunities.
93.9% of online students would recommend SNHU (according to a 2021 survey of 14,700+ respondents). Discover why SNHU may be right for you.
Expanding access to quality higher education means removing the barriers that may stand between you and your degree. That’s why you can apply at any time and get a decision within days of submitting all required materials:
- Completed free application
- Undergraduate transcripts, which we can retrieve for you by submitting a transcript request form
Acceptance decisions are made on a rolling basis throughout the year for our 5 graduate terms.
Master's degree candidates must also submit a personal statement. Students with an undergraduate GPA below 2.75 are eligible for provisional acceptance.
Courses & Curriculum
The online master’s in English curriculum is designed to strengthen your skills in the critical analysis of literature and provide a broad understanding of literary traditions. Our courses are taught by highly credentialed and accomplished instructors with deep insights into the field and a passion for literary pursuits.
The program provides a strong, in-depth foundation in British and American literary works. Traditional and nontraditional course topics include:
- Graduate Studies in Victorian Literature: Nineteenth-century Britain brought industrialization, empire-building, new discoveries and social revolution. This course explores the social, political and intellectual changes reflected in the literature of the Victorian period. Featured authors include Tennyson, the Brownings, Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Wilde.
- Graduate Studies in Shakespeare: Study selected Shakespearian comedies, tragedies and history plays, as well as the Elizabethan era in which Shakespeare lived.
- Graduate Studies in the American Renaissance: Examine literature from the early 1800s to the end of the Civil War in 1865. During this period, American literature developed a home-grown Romanticism influenced by European intellectual and aesthetic movements. Featured authors include Irving, Poe, Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Douglass, Dickinson and Whitman.
- American Modernism: Explore important aspects of literary modernism in the context of American historical, social, technological, intellectual and political experience from the end of World War I to the 1950s. Study fiction, poetry and critical essays by major American authors and poets of the period.
- Graduate Studies in Postcolonial Encounters: This course focuses on the interdisciplinary aspects of literature silenced by the colonial powers, voices known as “subaltern.” Students delve into notions of power and powerlessness, margin and periphery, first and third world, nationality, race, identity and globalization.
- The Black Literary Tradition: An overview of African-American literature, with glimpses into African and Caribbean literature. Literary genres include slave narratives, poetry, short stories, novels and plays. Featured authors may include Booker T. Washington, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison.
Yvonne Pierre ’17 said the knowledge gained from her MA in English courses has been invaluable to her. “I'm not only stronger as a storyteller; I know who I am as a writer,” she said. “I couldn't define that before I started.”
Danielle Kaheaku '17 credits her education at SNHU with giving her a new set of tools to pass on to her own students. It also made her more aware of “the nuances of thematic elements and devices in literature.”
Literary Theory was both Kaheaku’s favorite and most challenging course. “I realized that some of the theories were methods I was already using in my writing but had never before put labels on to organize my writing process, and then everything fell into place,” she said.
Your online master’s degree in English culminates in a capstone course. Students satisfy this requirement by completing a thesis, submitting a portfolio or passing an examination on English and American Literature.
"By far the best experience I had at SNHU was in my MA in English capstone course," said Carolyn Jameson '21. "My professor was amazing, informative and made the entire process of completing my graduate thesis less intimidating by breaking it down into smaller, achievable steps."
Beyond her instructor, Jameson leaned on the support of peers and mentors.
"I was grouped with classmates writing about a topic similar enough to mine that we were able to bounce ideas off one another, provide very valuable feedback, and encourage one another in the process," she said. "There were mentors available to us, as well; these were former students of my professor, and they were such an incredible resource in the writing process."
With a network behind her, Jameson felt empowered to reach the finish line.
"I felt completely supported in this journey, and not once did I feel as though I was unsure of what needed to be done. It was hands down the greatest experience I have had as a student," she said.
|View Full Curriculum in the Catalog|
|MA in English|
|Courses May Include|
|MA in English Online|
|ENG 550||Graduate Studies in English Language||This course is an introduction to the following topics in English linguistics: history of English, etymology, vocabulary 'morphology', phonology, dictionaries, syntax, semantics, dialects, discourse analysis, and child language acquisition. The course is designed for students who want to learn about the English language as preparation for teaching, or becoming better writers, or for studying literature. Students will have the opportunity to research, write about, and present on a linguistic topic of individual interest, such as the language of advertising or propaganda.|
|ENG 555||Composition Theory & Teaching of Writing||Students in this course will study key histories, theories, and technologies on which we ground composition pedagogies. They will research, discuss, and write about how theoretical concepts impact the teaching of writing; they will reflect on, develop, and share their own pedagogical practices.|
|LIT 500||Graduate Studies in Literary Theory||This course is an introduction to the major schools of contemporary literary theory, and an examination of principal exponents of these theories. The student will become familiar with the most important features of psychoanalytic criticism, Marxism and feminism and examine the meaning of structuralism and post-structuralism. In addition, the course affords an opportunity to practice applying the theories to specific literary texts.|
|LIT 502||Topics in American Literature||This course traces the development of American literature from the nation's founding to the late Twentieth Century. Readings may include classics by Bradford, Bradstreet, Wheatly, Crevecoeur, Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville, Douglass, James, Crane, Chopin, Gilman, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hurston, O'Connor, Pynchon, Major, Morrison, Cisneros, and Alexie among others. Different authors are highlighted in each term, and all readings are situated within specific historical, cultural, philosophical, political, and literary contexts.|
|LIT 503||Topics in British Literature||This course examines major prose and poetry of English writers from the Anglo-Saxon period to the late Twentieth Century. Readings may include classics by Chaucer, Spencer, Milton, Shakespeare, Wollstonecraft, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Eliot, Bronte, Browning, Hardy, Woolf, Barnes, Barry, and Mieville among others. Different authors are highlighted in each term, and all readings are situated within specific historical, cultural, philosophical, political, and literary contexts.|
|LIT 652||Graduate Seminar in Global Literature||This course uses a thematic approach to the works from many literary traditions outside British and American. Specific selections and authors vary each term according to the theme. This is an upper-level course involving close reading, analysis and writing in seminar format.|
|LIT 690||Master of Arts in English Capstone||Students register for this course in their final term, as a culmination of their work in the program. They satisfy the requirement by completing a thesis, submitting a portfolio of their literary-critical writing along with a retrospective evaluative essay, or passing an examination on English and American Literature.|
|Total Credits: 36|
Minimum Hardware Requirements
PC (Windows OS)
Apple (Mac OS)
Currently supported operating system from Microsoft.
Currently supported operating system from Apple.
8GB or higher
8GB or higher
100GB or higher
100GB or higher
Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.
Required for campus students. Strongly recommended for online students.
SNHU Purchase Programs
5 Mbps Download, 1 Mbps Upload and less than 100 ms Latency
5 Mbps Download, 1 Mbps Upload and less than 100 ms Latency
- Laptop or desktop? Whichever you choose depends on your personal preference and work style, though laptops tend to offer more flexibility.
- Note: Chromebooks (Chrome OS) and iPads (iOS) do not meet the minimum requirements for coursework at SNHU. These offer limited functionality and do not work with some course technologies. They are not acceptable as the only device you use for coursework. While these devices are convenient and may be used for some course functions, they cannot be your primary device. SNHU does, however, have an affordable laptop option that it recommends: Dell Latitude 3301 with Windows 10.
- Office 365 Pro Plus is available free of charge to all SNHU students and faculty. The Office suite will remain free while you are a student at SNHU. Upon graduation you may convert to a paid subscription if you wish. Terms subject to change at Microsoft's discretion. Review system requirements for Microsoft 365 plans for business, education and government.
- Antivirus software: Check with your ISP as they may offer antivirus software free of charge to subscribers.
Tuition & Fees
Tuition rates for SNHU's online degree programs are among the lowest in the nation. We offer a 25% tuition discount for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.
|Online Graduate Programs||Per Course||Per Credit Hour||Annual Cost for 15 credits|
(U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty)*
Tuition rates are subject to change and are reviewed annually.
*Note: students receiving this rate are not eligible for additional discounts.
$150 Graduation Fee, Course Materials ($ varies by course)
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with a master's degree in English?
According to a recent study by Burning Glass Technologies, skilled writers are in high demand across nearly every field.4
Today, most English majors go into advertising, marketing and public relations, fields where a demonstrated proficiency in organization, communication and writing are critical. But many master’s in English graduates go into teaching, where subject matter expertise can increase their odds of a salary bump.
Still, others find their skills translate equally well to educational product design, human resources, nonprofit administration or sales.3 Solid writing skills are particularly prized in sales, where closing deals depends on strong proposals and compelling pitches.
Dr. Christopher Lee, an associate dean of liberal arts at Southern New Hampshire University, sums it up this way. “A master's provides the same transferable core skills of critical thinking, research, analysis, reading comprehension, empathy and others ... but at a higher level of qualification for higher-level positions,” he said.
Is a master's degree in English worth it?
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers and authors held about 143,200 jobs in 2020, meaning it's a competitive field with the opportunity to expand. Within that population, 68% are self-employed workers, giving you the flexibility to work nearly anywhere that you have access to a computer. As of May 2020, writers and authors earned a median annual wage of $67,120, with the highest 10% earning more than $133,460. Public relations specialists and technical writers earned median annual wages of $62,810 and $74,650, respectively.3
Furthermore, earning a master's degree could open the door to a higher salary and lower odds of unemployment.3 In 2020, master's degree holders reportedly earned $1,545 each week – nearly 20% higher than those with the highest educational attainment of a bachelor's.3 Unemployment rates for master's degree holders were also lower than their bachelor's-holding counterparts (4.1% versus 5.5%, respectively).3
A master's in English can also help you build the skills and gain the confidence you need to pursue your goals.
"I believe one of the greatest takeaways I have gained from SNHU is the confidence I carry in my writing ability and research skills," said Carolyn Jameson '21. "These were both developed through my graduate work at SNHU, and I am confident that I will be an asset to whichever career I pursue on this new path."
Should I earn my master's degree in English online?
A respected, accredited online master's degree in English could be a perfect gateway to help advance your career.
As a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), Southern New Hampshire University is committed to offering affordable, high-quality education pathways that meet students where they are.
"I chose SNHU because it allowed me to complete my entire master’s degree online," said Carolyn Jameson '21. "As a full-time high school teacher and full-time parent, I knew that an online program was the only way I could possibly complete my coursework without having to sacrifice time with my children."
Knowing that each course followed a similar cadence meant that Jameson could also plan her time ahead.
"It helped that the courses follow the same format and have similar expectations," she said. "And while each of the professors brought their own touch to the course, I was quickly able to understand how to prioritize my study time and understood the deadlines. While I had taken an online course or two in my undergraduate studies, I appreciated the uniformity of expectations at SNHU."
With clear expectations set, Jameson felt empowered to keep going – even when she faced unexpected challenges.
"The [online MA in English] allowed me to keep working, keep momming and helped me complete my master’s degree at my own pace," Jameson said. "There were a few instances when 'life happened' – a death in the family, an unforeseen career chance and move, health issues – and not only was my advisor beyond helpful, my professors were very understanding and willing to work with me when needed."
How long does it take to get a master's degree in English?
Generally speaking, it takes 2 years to complete an MA in English. But the answer to this question often comes down to the individual, plus three common factors in everyone's life: time, cost and work/family obligations.
At SNHU, most graduate students complete the 36-credit program in two years, although it’s not unusual to find students who finish in 18 or even 15 months by taking two courses per 10-week term.
"I absolutely appreciated the 10 week, 5 terms a year format," said Carolyn Jameson '21. "I felt like I was able to see the end in sight, and when you are as busy as I was, that was very encouraging!"
How much does a master's in English cost?
The price tag can vary dramatically depending on the institution and whether you complete your degree online or on campus.
With one of the lowest graduate online tuition rates in the country, Southern New Hampshire University offers an affordable way to advance your career. At just $627 per credit, the 36-credit online master’s in English is only $22,572.
We also have a generous transfer policy, accepting up to 12 credits from your previous institutions – or a third of your 36-credit program. By transferring 4 classes, you could save over $7,000 on your MA in English.
Can you get a master's in English without a bachelor's in English?
Yes! While a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution is a prerequisite for most graduate programs, your bachelor’s does not have to be directly related to your master’s. In other words, you don't need an undergraduate online English degree to earn a master's in English.
At SNHU, accessibility to education is at the core of the university’s mission. In creating high-quality, affordable and innovative pathways to educational success, we remove many barriers. The university has a generous transfer policy and offers credit for professional experience.
For graduate admission, a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 is required for full acceptance to the online master’s in English program. We also waive the requirement for GRE or GMAT test scores.
What's the difference between an MA in English and an MFA?
An MA in English differs from an MFA in several ways. First is the time consideration. The MA typically requires fewer credits than the MFA.
Academically, MA in English courses are focused on studying literature and literary theory. Along with honing your writing abilities, you'll have the opportunity to develop your analytical skills while you study the various lenses through which you can view a work of literature. You'll also study how sentences are structured and how words in the English language have changed over time.
Most MA in English majors choose a professional path in advertising, marketing, public relations or teaching, fields where demonstrated proficiency in organization, communication and writing are critical.
The MFA degree path, on the other hand, is for creative writers focused on honing their craft with the purpose of becoming a professional writer or novelist. By the end of your MFA program, you should have completed a polished manuscript.
MFA programs, whether taken in a traditional campus setting or through an online MFA, can take anywhere from a year to four years to finish. Many MFA programs, such as the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA, require a residency, which is a period of study with other students either on campus or at a specific site. Residencies can take place over a weekend or last several weeks.
Some MFA programs require students on a full scholarship to teach undergraduate classes. Others offer students the opportunity to teach in exchange for a discounted tuition rate. For those who plan on teaching at the university level after graduating, a program with a teaching component can provide valuable experience.
Read more about MA vs MFA.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) as well as several other accrediting bodies.
Sources & Citations (1, 2, 3, 4)
1Forbes, “The 7 Transferable Skills To Help You Change Careers,” on the internet, at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2018/02/09/the-7-transferable-skills-to-help-you-change-careers/#24abf00e4c04 (viewed Nov. 4, 2021).
3Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, on the internet, at:
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm (viewed Nov. 4, 2021).
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm (viewed Nov. 4, 2021).
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm (viewed Nov. 4, 2021).
- https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm (viewed Nov. 4, 2021).
- https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/survey-researchers.htm (viewed Nov. 4, 2021).
Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.
4Burning Glass Technologies, “The Human Factor: The Hard Time Employers Have Finding Soft Skills,” on the internet, at: https://www.burning-glass.com/wp-content/uploads/Human_Factor_Baseline_Skills_FINAL.pdf (viewed Nov. 4, 2021).