6 Best English Lit Graduate Programs

Carolina Jacobs

Apr 19, 2023
Woman researches the best English Lit graduate programs.

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Are you looking to take your knowledge of English literature, language and writing to the next level? English lit graduate programs may be right for you. After excelling in your English Bachelor’s program, it may feel natural to move into the next stage of education with a Master’s degree. However, there is a lot to consider before jumping in. 

For example, you’ll want to choose a school with programs that allow a breadth and depth of your desired topics, as well as teaching abilities, accreditation, funding, resources and post-graduate earnings. In the United States, student debt is another vital factor. 

This list explores schools that excel in these areas, from the Ivy Leagues to online programs. Whatever your needs and situation, there are amazing English lit graduate programs out there for you. 

What Does an English Lit Graduate Program Look Like?

You’re familiar with the courses and requirements for an English or creative writing degree in your undergraduate program, but how do graduate programs function? Typically, coursework will outline:

  • Classic and contemporary literature
  • Historical context and impact of literature and films on society
  • Major authors, poets and filmmakers
  • Storytelling techniques and theory
  • Teaching strategies.

Classes may begin with foundational studies in literary criticism and research methods. With this baseline of knowledge, students delve into a specialization. This may be fiction, film or poetry and is in conversation with pedagogy or teaching techniques. Finally, the dissertation and final focus will surround deep dives into one author, theme or literary period. This is your chance to explore your wildest dreams, like a study of gothic heroines or Kurt Vonnegut’s entire body of work. 

Financially-speaking, you must seek funding or scholarships to save money. Many graduate programs are funded by students teaching undergraduate classes or assisting in their professor’s research. In fact, during the 2020-2021 year, graduate schools awarded $8,860 in scholarships and grants. 

What Can You Do With a Degree?

What will you do with your degree after you graduate? Master’s programs typically take 2-4 years to complete, but they could be even shorter in certain programs. 

An applicant may pursue this program to:

  • Prepare for a doctoral program. Most professors need a Doctorate in their field. 
  • Teach at the college level. Degree requirements often allow students to teach during their education, but you can also gain positions in community and trade schools.
  • Garner experience in publishing, communications, technical writing and journalism fields.
  • Expand accreditation and knowledge as a K-12 teacher. Each state has its own requirements for teachers here, so make sure you know your unique needs. 

1. Yale University – Connecticut 

Yale is a famous and accredited university that provides an in-depth dive into English literature to around 33 students each year. Studies commune with topics in African American, early modern, film, art history and gender departments to give a wide breadth of stories, storytellers and the history or culture that shaped them. 

There is a language requirement and oral exam at Yale. Like many other degree programs, they also require a dissertation reviewed by a board. The average tuition is $44,500. 

2. University of California – Berkeley

The University of California Berkeley centers around historical and cultural context. Their core classes zero in on British and American literature and the historical weight behind it from the medieval period to the 21st century. 

You may also explore specialization in everything from the Renaissance, Medieval studies, folklore, Jewish literature and Indigenous language revitalization. 

Funding packages include a full fellowship package for the first two years and a dissertation. Teaching opportunities are also available to a wide range of students. 

3. Georgetown University – Washington, D.C.

Georgetown University offers opportunities for student connection and career development. They may work with and coach undergrads in the writing center, or work as an intern at the Center for Social Justice Research. A student-run English graduate student association links resources and student connections across campus. 

Interdisciplinary studies are also key here. Explore everything from romanticism to transatlantic literature.

4. National University – Online

National University is entirely online and a great option for professionals who are working full-time or rooted in one region. Year-round enrollment and aid for military members ensure that everyone has an opportunity to learn. 

Customize your schedule and your studies as well. Dive into one literary period like gothic literature or themes like the evolution of vampires. Better yet, the four-week courses are as speedy as they are fascinating. 

5. Northeastern Illinois University – Chicago

Northeastern Illinois University prepares students for careers in publishing, advertising, law and marketing fields. Their focus on critical theory and race and gender studies ensures that students explore how stories reflect and shape the world. Unlike some other programs, this option offers workshops for creative writing as well.

For the students teaching or working, classes are held in the late afternoons and evenings. 

6. Western Governors University – Online

Western Governors University is another entirely online program. The focus here is teaching degrees, from elementary education to educational leadership and English language learning. Studies dive into emotional, social and diversity theories, as well as innovative technology such as augmented reality. 

This university is one of the cheaper offerings as well, with a one-and-a-half-year program sitting at just over $12,200. 

Explore the Best English Lit Grad Programs

English Lit graduate programs help you explore vast stories and the incredible world of communication across time and culture. If you’re still in an undergraduate program, seek input from your advisor as they may have inroads and experience to guide your decision. No matter your choice, the education of these rich stories will shape you forever. 

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