English Literature Degrees

Your high school English class read Gulliver’s Travels, and you enjoyed deconstructing the text for elements of political satire. You can recite Shakespeare’s sonnets as readily as you can your phone number, and Jane Austen’s Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility is one of your favorite characters. In other words, if you enjoy reading and analyzing texts, consider pursuing a degree in English literature. As an English literature major, you will analyze and critique works from the British Isles and the British Commonwealth. You will read works by John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Anne Askew, and you will develop skills in critical thinking, writing, reading, and oral communication skills that apply to various careers.

Classes and Assignments of an English Literature Major

As an English literature major, you will read works from the Classical era, the Renaissance, the present day, and everything in between. Reading assignments will increase your familiarity with many different genres, including poetry, fiction, and drama. A single class may be devoted to the works of the Bronte sisters, while another may focus on contemporary British fiction. In addition, you will hone your analytical skills in classes that encourage literary critique, writing essays on various topics. Online literature degrees are also available. Because the majority of English literature course materials are generally readily available — after all, you’ll be reading classic texts such as novels most of the time — the degree is well-suited to the distance learning format.

Degree Levels for an English Literature Major

  • Associate. Online associate English literature degrees prepare students to pursue online bachelors English literature degrees, as well as areas such as comparative literature, world literature, and similar disciplines. Through their course work, students will develop their critical reading, writing, and thinking skills, and form an understanding of literary interpretation.
  • Bachelor’s. A bachelor’s degree in English literature allows students to delve deeper into works of various genres by different authors, as well as works from distinct time periods and literary movements. Colleges and universities may even offer English literature as a concentration within the wider English discipline. Based on the versatility of the reading, writing, and research skills earned from a bachelor’s degree in English literature, the completion of this program can lead to careers in fields like teaching, writing, publishing, journalism, public relations, and even business.
  • Master’s. Online masters English literature degrees allow students interested in the subject to study it further, extending their education and knowledge in the area. Students who might want to pursue a Ph.D. later on can also enroll in master’s programs because it will allow them to “test the waters” and determine if they are interested and motivated enough to devote the time that a Ph.D. inevitably requires. Students may also want to consider an online master’s degree in English literature because the online degree often offers greater flexibility. It may even be more affordable, as students save on living and transportation costs.
  • Doctoral. A doctoral degree in English literature specifically prepares students to pursue careers in academia as professors, scholars, and critics. They develop their abilities to propose, research, and investigate problems in the advanced study of English literature. While attaining a Ph.D., candidates will complete course work, take exams, and write a dissertation. Many students also serve as teacher’s assistants in undergraduate classes related to English literature.

A Future as an English Literature Major

A degree in English literature, like many other liberal arts degrees, can lead to opportunities in a vast number of professions. Many who study English literature as undergraduates go on to pursue professional degrees in areas such as law and business. Others continue on to graduate study in fields such as education, and still others enter the workforce in fields such as journalism, public relations, library science, and publishing.

One of the most popular fields that English literature majors pursue is teaching. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the median annual wages of secondary school teachers ranged from $47,100 to $51,180 in May 2008. In journalism, another popular field for English literature graduates, the median annual wages of reporters and correspondents were $34,850. However, keep in mind that your salary as an English literature graduate can vary depending on your employer, skills, experience, and location.