If you love the written word, are curious about the vast potential for human expression both spoken and literary, and desire to deepen your own aptitude for comprehension and use of the English language, this is the degree program for you. The English degree is at once among the most popular and long-standing of educational paths. Simply stated, this is a classic among degrees.
What makes the English degree so powerful is the world that it opens for the beholder. Of course, English is the study of composition, a reading-intensive program, and a chance to refine your operational, grammatical and organizational skills. But because of the essential role this language has also played in both catalyzing and conveying events throughout human history, it can be your portal to a body of knowledge and understanding that reaches across infinite academic disciplines, from history and anthropology to psychology and education.
On the subject of education, this a popular career option for many English degree holders. An English degree can prepare you to enter into a classroom and teach the literary classics or instruct in composition. But this degree path can also provide you with the practical skills to become a technical writer, journalist, or public relations specialist. As with the language itself, it’s really up to you how you choose to use your degree.
If you already know what you’re looking for, go ahead and jump to our ranking of The 20 Best Online Bachelor in English Degree Programs.
You might also be interested in taking a look at the 10 Best Creative Writing Programs here!
If you need a little more information, continue on.
Covered in this article:
- What do I need to know about accreditation?
- What kinds of English Degrees Are There?
- What Kind of Licensing or Certification Do I Need?
- What can I do with an English Degree?
- How much can I make with an English Degree?
- What Professional English Associations or Societies should I join?
Let’s start with the one thing you absolutely must be sure of before you proceed: accreditation.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
The last thing you want to do is waste time and money on a degree that won’t be taken seriously by future employers. That’s why it is absolutely imperative that you make sure your school has the proper accreditation before you proceed.
As with most other higher education disciplines, accreditation is of critical importance in determining where to obtain an English degree. Only colleges or universities that are accredited by Department of Education-recognized accrediting groups are eligible for financial aid. Accreditation also typically indicates that an institution is not only maintaining its standards but that it continues to advance and remain current within its field. As you proceed in your search, you’ll find both institutional accreditation and program accreditation. The former refers to school wide accreditation and the latter refers to the accreditation conferred upon your specific discipline and degree program.
Regional Accrediting Agencies
The institutional accrediting sector is divided into regional and national accrediting agencies. Generally, regional accrediting agencies confer greater credibility and merit. When you’re investigating a college or university, you’ll want to look for the “stamp of approval” from one of the following regional accrediting agencies:
- The Higher Learning Commission
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
When it comes to national accrediting agencies, reputations may vary. In some cases, program specific accrediting agencies may hold a great deal of importance. Some professions and places of employment will require that your degree has been conferred by a course of study with program specific national accreditation. While you’re career prospects as an English teacher, writer or marketing professional may not demand a program-specific accreditation, there is a Department of Education-recognized English program accrediting group.
The Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) ensures that recognized programs are maintaining accepted standards and are pursuing continuous improvement. This stamp of approval may be an indication of your program’s quality, credibility and reputation. That said, as long as your college or university is recognized by a regional accrediting group, you can proceed with peace of mind.
The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice. You can also take a look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.
To learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
Now that you get the idea, let’s take a look at some of your degree options.
What Kinds of English Degrees Are There?
Associate Degree in English
An associate’s degree in English can provide you with an introductory look at the subject, with a focus on literary classics, basic compositional writing, and writing in communication. You may also have a chance to take public speaking, creative writing, and contemporary literary classes. This two-year, 60-degree course of study will teach you how to conduct meaningful literary analysis, understand basic principles of communication, and express yourself through an array of written and spoken outlets. An associate’s degree can provide a pathway to entry-level work as a copywriter, copy-editor, or proofreader. However, even entry level work can be competitive in the writing field, and many of your fellow applicants will have bachelor’s degrees. Fortunately, your associate’s degree can be a great way to get a head start on the way to a four-year English degree.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Advanced Reading
- Expository Writing
- Introduction to Technical Writing
- World Classics
- Contemporary Fiction
- Poetry and Prose
Bachelor of English
The bachelor’s degree in English remains among the most popular and reliable of majors. This is because the subject is inherently multidisciplinary in nature. Your study of literature will naturally be a bridge into subjects like history, philosophy, psychology, ethics, world culture, and religion. You’ll also refine your practical skills through advanced literary analysis, compositional writing, and creative writing. This will also be a chance to refine your focus. Over the course of this 120-credit program — typically completed in a minimum of four years — you’ll have a chance to find a concentration in an area like journalism, public relations, marketing, or education. Bear in mind, if you do choose the education route, you will likely need to continue into a Master’s degree program. Otherwise, a bachelor’s degree in English can be a great path to launching a career as a newspaper or online journalist, an advertising or marketing specialist, an author or an editor. With that said, writing and media jobs tend to be fairly competitive. Your appeal to an employer, as well as your shot at upward mobility, could both be improved by continuing on to a master’s degree program.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Advanced Literary Analysis
- Applied Linguistics
- Principles in Journalism
- Editing and the Publishing Industry
- English Composition
- Studies in Rhetoric
- Principles of Communication
Now that you know a bit more, check out The 20 Best Online Bachelor in English Degree Programs.
You might also be interested in taking a look at the 10 Best Creative Writing Programs here!
Master of English
The master’s degree in English is a popular advanced degree, both because it can improve your appeal to employers in competitive fields like marketing, publishing, and editing, and because the literary and publishing worlds are, to an extent, still connected to the idea of academic prestige. Indeed, this is a popular one- to two-year degree for many who are already working in fields like writing, editing and publishing, and can help advance ambitions toward managing editor status or improve the academic authority you’ll need to publish on certain topics. And if you plan on teaching English at the public school level, your master’s degree is actually mandatory. You might consider, at this point, pursuing a master’s degree in Education with a concentration in English.
What Courses Will Will I Take?
- Writing, Rhetoric and Literacy
- Educational Instruction in English
- Intro to English Research Methodologies
- Literature and Cross-cultural Analysis
- Literary Criticism
Now that you know a bit more, check out The 20 Best Online Master of Education Degree Programs.
You might also be interested in the The 30 Best Online Master’s in Reading Programs.
PhD of English
If you plan to teach English at the university level — whether on literature, composition, journalism, etc. — you will need to earn your PhD. This can take anywhere between five and seven years and will require you to complete a dissertation on a research subject of your design. Many PhD candidates will complete their studies while working in the field. In some instance, your program may also carry some on-campus teaching requirements. A PhD in English will qualify you to instruct and publish at the university level as well as conduct scholarly research in your area of concentration.
What Kind of Licensing or Certification Do I Need?
As noted in the Master’s Degree section above, if you plan on becoming an English teacher in a public school setting, you must earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree, as well as complete a teaching certification program. In many cases, your undergraduate program will include the courses required to earn your teaching certification. If that is not the case — or if you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in an alternate field like English — you can enter into a standalone teaching certification program. This will provide you with the coursework and experience needed to earn licensure in your state. (Bear in mind that some states actually require you to have a Master’s Degree in education before you can enter your certification program. Contact the Department of Education in your state to learn more). Depending on the amount of coursework you’ve completed up to this point, your certification program could take between 1 and 2 years to complete.
Once this is complete, you will qualify to sit for the licensing exam in your state. Some states use a national exam like PRAXIS, while others employ their own licensing examination.
Once again, we would advise visiting the Department of Education for your state to find out more.
What can I do with an English degree?
What kind of salary can I earn with an English degree?
Your degree in English could open the door to a career in writing, education or an array of media and communication jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides basic salary information for some of the top jobs in your field:
- Announcers: Median Pay, 2016 — $30,830
- Editors: Median Pay, 2016 — $57,210
- English Language/Lit. Teachers: Median Pay, 2016 — $76,140
- Interpreters and Translators: Median Pay, 2016 — $46,120
- Public Relations Specialists: Media Pay, 2016 — $58,020
- Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts: Median Pay, 2016 — $38,870
- Technical Writers: Median Pay, 2016 — $69,850
- Writers and Authors: Median Pay, 2016 — $61,240
Are There Professional English Associations or Societies I should join?
Professional Associations are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for English associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.
- National Writers Association (NWA)
- Author’s Guild
- College English Association (CEA)
- National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
Now that you know a bit more, check out The 20 Best Online Bachelor in English Degree Programs or The 10 Best Creative Writing Programs and find the best school school for you!