CliffsNotes for English Post Grad Degrees

Of course this will be your first experience with CliffsNotes, being the literature connoisseur that you are, always delving into the story, never dreaming of skimping through on notes. No one considering this degree would have ever done such a thing. Alas, read on to discover the possibilities that lie ahead in the post graduate world of English.

Main Characters:

Word nerd. Grammar guru. Lit buff. And, the classic, bookworm. If these labels have ever been stuck on you, furthering your education in English is probably a good fit. If lengthy writing assignments, heavy reading, and exploring all genres of literature sound appealing, you will do well pursuing a post grad degree. If you don’t mind spending a weekend surrounded by novels, poetry, and a 20-page paper assignment instead of playing video games or cliff diving, you will be satisfied as you pursue your degree. You’ll make a good protagonist for this story.


A post grad degree in English can prepare you for a position as:

  • College Professor
  • High School Teacher
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Instructor
  • Writer
  • Editor
  • Journalist
  • Librarian
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Business Communications Director

Plot Summary:


Chapter 1: Prerequisites

  • Undergraduate degree – Depending on the school, this may be an English major, minor, or the completion of specific English courses
  • Writing submission – Many programs include this as part of the application process.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) – Submission of scores is often required for entry.


Chapter 2: Courses

Be ready to swim into the deep waters of literature. That means all categories. By the time you complete your bachelor’s and are ready for this level, you will have dabbled in everything. If this subject is not your passion, you will not enjoy this plunge. Brad Clark, who earned his Bachelor’s in English and Education, points out of his college experience, “You can escape a lot of math, but not poetry.”

Now is the time to dive even deeper.

Classes typically include:

  • Writing Courses
  • Linguistics Courses
  • Literature Courses
  • English Electives
  • Coursework in Related Fields (optional)
  • Oral and written exams
  • Thesis (Master’s)
  • Scholarly Dissertation (Ph.D.)

Be prepared for a time-consuming course load. If you have already completed a bachelor’s in English, you will have an idea of what lies ahead. If you are just starting on this path, be ready. Clark, now a high school English teacher, recalls his work load, “I may have been assigned a 300-page novel on Friday and was expected to be ready to discuss it on Monday or Tuesday. It was not uncommon for me to complete a 20-page paper, two 10-page papers, and another 5-page paper in the same week. Fellow students in other majors simply weren’t producing like I was. The curriculum is much more time consuming.” Of one master’s level course, he comments “I was hanging on for dear life.”

While more challenging, continuing your studies in English offers the chance you’ve been waiting for to really dig into an area of interest. If you have a passion for a particular author, region, or time period of literature, you can enroll in courses focused specifically on that topic. Become an expert on Chaucer, or compose poetry to your heart’s content. “You get a whole semester with a professor who is extremely knowledgeable about the subject,” Clark recalls of his studies. As one clearly passionate about the subject, he summarizes his education simply, “It was a blast.”

Chapter 3: Time Commitment

You are looking at 32-40 credits to complete a master’s degree in English. How long this takes is mostly dependent on you. Typically, this is roughly a two-year process. A Ph.D. will be an additional 5-8 years, involving seminars, research and a doctoral dissertation.

Chapter 4: The Money


Major Conflict:

To be or not to be…an English Grad Major

To Be:

More education usually means more opportunities.

    • A post grad degree will qualify you for college-level teaching. It will also mean a higher salary for teaching at the middle or high school level.
    • Your resume will be more impressive to editors and publishers, making you a desirable candidate for opportunities in writing and journalism.
    • Businesses are more likely to recruit you for leading up their communications if you have that additional degree on your wall.

Without it, there are not a lot of opportunities. Clark says of his Bachelor of Science in English & Education degree, “You need to prepare yourself more than it prepares you for. Unless you get a second major, master’s degree, or Ph.D.,” Clark admits, “I unfortunately cannot recommend getting a bachelor’s in English.”

Not To Be:

You’re too expensive – While the additional degree can bump you up the teaching salary schedule, this can actually backfire. Teaching positions are becoming few and far between. Without tenure, you can actually price yourself out of a job at a master’s level salary.

It’s too expensive – An additional 2-10 years of schooling can really add up. Make sure your goals are worth it. If you have a specific career in mind, research the educational requirements to ensure the extra degree will help. If not, or, if you are unsure what direction you are heading, keep your checkbook in your pocket until your path is more clear. Why spend all that time and money only to discover your bachelor’s degree would have been more than enough for your dream job writing for Yahoo?

You want a different path – “A bachelor’s degree in English is also good preparation for a career in law,” Clark notes. In his case, he admits a better plan would have been to continue on to a law degree right away. If the world of criminal justice is appealing, law school may be a better direction than continuing your education in English.

You don’t need it – Perhaps your desire is simply a four-year degree to qualify for positions requiring a college education. Clark points out, “My degree has made me a stronger communicator, both in writing and speaking, which helps in all areas.” Possibly your bachelor’s will be sufficient.

Movie Version:

See Dead Poets Society

Study Help:

Have you skimmed enough to pass the test? Find out today:

Graduate Programs
Further Reading
What Can You Do With A Major In English?

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