Online Master’s Degree in Literature

An online masters degree in literature is designed to teach students strong analytical and critical thinking skills through the examination of historical and modern texts. At the graduate level, students can expect to dig deeper into the cultural, political, and historical significance of both poetry and prose, typically choosing an area of specialization. Students who complete an online masters degree program in literature will frequently go on to teach at secondary schools and junior colleges. Those interested in teaching at the college or university level will be required to complete a Ph.D. program following their master’s.

In most cases, students can earn this type of degree in two to three years of full-time study. Many accredited online masters programs will also give students the option to take classes on a part-time basis. This, of course, combined with any breaks a student may take from the program, can extend the estimated time to completion. Those planning on continuing on to a doctoral program should plan for an addition five to six years of study after earning their masters degree in literature.

Classes for an Online Masters Degree in Literature

At the master’s level, literature students should expect a curriculum based on seminar and research classes. Much of the course work will be focused in the student’s chosen area of specialization, which may pertain to a specific time period, style, or culture group. Courses covering literary theory, research methods, and pedagogy are also common foundational classes. Some specific examples of possible requirements are listed below:

  • Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism
  • Topics in American Literature
  • Topics in British Literature After 1700
  • World Literature
  • Thesis Seminar and Guided Research

In order to complete the masters degree program, students will be required to propose, research, write, and present a thesis in their chosen area of specialization. This will typically be completed during the final semester of study, but the development and research involved in this process may start sooner. The thesis will primarily depend on independent study, but students will also have the guidance of an approved faculty member and may discuss their work with their peers in a graduate seminar setting.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Masters Degree in Literature

Individuals who complete an online masters degree in literature may continue on to a Ph.D. program with the ultimate goal of teaching at a college or university. Others may opt to fill teaching positions in secondary schools or community and junior colleges. According to figures published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for postsecondary teachers is expected to grow by 17% from 2010 to 2020. The mean annual wage for English language and literature teachers at the postsecondary level was $68,760 in 2011. Expected growth in the demand for high school teachers is estimated at 7% for the projection period. The median annual salary for these teachers was $53,230 in 2011. However, actual starting salaries are influenced by a number of factors such as geographical location, level of experience, education, and the specific position and employer.


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