Considering graduate study primarily for career reasons?
Will graduate school be a good career step for you? That depends on what you want to do.
If you're considering graduate school primarily for career or vocational
reasons, you should be aware that the job or career you're interested in may
not require an educational background beyond
your bachelor's degree. You should explore the career field you're interested
in thoroughly before making your decision. What you may find is that your bachelor's
degree is perfectly adequate for
securing you an entry-level job in the field of your choice. In many fields,
such as publishing, editing, advertising, business, public relations, government
and non profit administration, etc., your skills, abilities, talents, portfolio
(history of your experience, samples of the work you have done), and contacts
are much more important to employers
than an advanced degree. You may find that it will be more important for you
to focus on getting some
professional experience (through work, volunteer work, or an internship)
or some specialized training (technical or skills-based courses or programs)
and to pursue contacts through networking rather
pursue an advanced degree, which
may or may not be helpful to you in terms of career entry or advancement. (See Career Information for English Majors for
discussion of career issues.)
A graduate program in English requires a great deal of time, commitment,
and passion for English scholarship. Without a high
level of motivation to pursue graduate
study for academic or scholarly reasons, it doesn't make a lot of sense to seek
a graduate degree simply as a credential or for career enhancement outside
Certain careers, on the other hand, will require an advanced degree: if you
want to be a lawyer, a college professor/instructor, or a school librarian,
for example, then post baccalaureate
training will be necessary preparation for you. Before deciding on a graduate
program, you should investigate the career field thoroughly to make sure that
you have a good understanding of what
kind of graduate study will best prepare you for the specific work that you want
to do, and how you should prepare for that study. Talk with your professors,
with current graduate students in your chosen area, with professionals in your
chosen field, and with academic or career counselors about what kinds of graduate
programs may be
right for you. (If you're interested in a
K-12 teaching, please click here for information.)
If your goal is to teach English at the college level, you should be aware
that the job market is extremely competitive, and that many recent PhDs are
finding it difficult to secure full time and permanent academic
positions at both the junior college and college/university levels. Many of those
recent graduates (with MA, MFA, and PhD degrees) who have found teaching jobs
are working in a part-time or
temporary capacity teaching composition or beginning literature classes. In these
kinds of adjunct, non-tenure-track positions, there are few benefits, there
is very little job security from quarter to quarter, and in order to teach
in a full-time capacity, instructors may have to teach at more than one college
during the same
quarter, commuting back and forth from campus to campus. When permanent, full
time, "tenure track" positions become available, they attract dozens,
often hundreds, of well qualified applicants, depending on the area of specialization.
In some areas, such as Colonial American literature or composition and rhetoric,
jobs can be easier to secure, whereas competition is fierce in areas such as
modern/postmodern literature and theory. Those with PhDs obviously have an
advantage over those with master's-level degrees
is still extremely
vigorous. A number of recent PhDs in the humanities areas are finding
themselves seeking employment outside academia.
None of this information is intended to discourage you from pursuing graduate
education. If you have a passionate desire to continue your study in English
language or literature, you should
consider graduate school in English. If, on the other hand, you're considering
graduate school primarily for career interests outside academia, you may want
to investigate terminal master's
programs in other areas which are more directly related to the work you want
to do (e.g., MBA programs, master's degree programs in public affairs, social
work, museology, etc.). For a complete list of graduate
programs available at the University of Washington, click here.
Considering graduate study primarily for academic/scholarly reasons?
The most important reason for choosing to pursue graduate study in English
is because you are fascinated by or passionate about a specialized area of
study within English language, literature, creative
writing, critical theory, cultural or textual studies, etc., that you'd like
to explore in an academic setting where you can participate in the academic
discourse within a community of scholars, under the guidance of faculty mentors,
and be trained
to engage in scholarly research.
What Can You Expect? What Will These Degree Programs Train You to Do?
MA/PhD in English: If an institution offers an "MA/PhD"
in English, the MA program is often not designed as a terminal master's program,
though students who are
accepted to the MA/PhD program but decide not to complete the PhD can often earn
an MA by fulfilling specific requirements. Some schools do offer a terminal
MA program: these are typically schools that have dual-track graduate programs
(terminal MA and MA/PhD) or that do not offer a PhD program. You should investigate
each program carefully, bearing in mind that, in general, if a school offers
who apply for an MA only will likely not be as competitive. They will likely
also need to reapply to the program if they decide to go on to pursue the PhD
upon completion of the MA program.
An MA typically takes two years
or longer to complete on a
full-time basis. A PhD typically takes an additional three to five years (beyond
the master's level) to complete on a full-time basis (i.e., those who enter
an MA/PhD program after earning
their bachelor's degrees typically complete the program in five to eight years).
Most schools have specific course requirements along with essay/thesis/dissertation
requirements and (for some MA and for PhD
candidates) exams. Most graduate programs also have foreign language requirements,
which vary from school to school. Graduate study is built on mentorship;
graduate students locate faculty mentors
with compatible scholarly interests (usually in a committee format) and work
MA/PhD programs in English prepare students for scholarly pursuits and college-level teaching.
Those who've earned an MA/PhD are qualified to teach at the college level, though this field is
extremely competitive as there are far more qualified candidates than there are jobs. Those with a
PhD will obviously have an advantage over those with an MA only. In recent years, many graduates
from MA/PhD programs have had to seek careers outside academia.
MATESOL: The MATESOL is typically a terminal master's
program in teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. A MATESOL degree
typically takes two years to complete and usually
involves specific course work in TESOL, linguistics, English composition and
rhetoric, etc., along with a practicum (supervised teaching experience) and
foreign language proficiency.
MATESOL programs prepare students to teach English to speakers of other
languages at the secondary* or college level and to pursue
scholarly research in TESOL.
*Note that those who wish to teach ESL in a K-12 public
school format must also be certificated as teachers. If you are not a certificated
teacher already, click here for information about UW's College of Education
Teacher Education Program.
MFA: The Master in Fine Arts in English is a terminal master's
program in Creative Writing (usually in either fiction or verse, sometimes
in creative non fiction or other genres). A Creative Writing MFA or MA degree
typically takes two years to complete and usually involves graduate writing
critical theory, a creative thesis, and (often) a critical essay. Foreign language
proficiency is often required as
MFA/MA Creative Writing programs train writers and assist them in
developing their craft, and their primary mission is to offer a curriculum
devote a couple of years to an intensive, mentored writing experience.
Although it is possible for those holding an MFA to teach creative writing
at the college
extremely competitive, and hiring decisions are typically based on the candidate's
body of published work as opposed to his or her academic background. While
some who've earned an MFA may be
qualified to teach composition or literature at the college level, this field
is extremely competitive as there are far more qualified candidates than there
are jobs. Those with a PhD will obviously have an advantage over those with
an MFA/MA only.
The Association of Writers and Writing
Programs has a guide to studying
creative writing at the graduate level.
How can you decide if graduate study is the right choice for you?
Here are some suggestions:
Talk with English faculty.
be your most important resource in making this decision.
Talk with English graduate
You can connect with UW graduate students in English through the English Graduate
Student Organization (GSO). You can also review resources they've put together
on the PhD program at the ENGL
GSO wiki site.
with academic and pre-professional advisers. English
undergraduate advisers are located in A-2-B Padelford Hall. Pre-professional advisers (for pre-law,
pre-dental students) are available in 171
Mary Gates Hall.
Consider your career options. English Advising has a site for Career
Information for English majors; it's possible that you don't need a graduate degree as
a credential for the kind of work you want to do.
Attend faculty lectures and seminars on campus. The English Department maintains
a site for
lectures and events, as does the Simpson
Center for the Humanities.
You can also watch for posters and handbills on doorways and in elevators in
Padelford Hall. Some lectures and events are publicized by e-mail to undergraduates
through the englmajors
The UW also maintains a calendar
of events organized
by general categories.
Read scholarly publications. English Graduate Studies maintains a listed of resources
The UW Library System also maintains a web page of English
Consult the UW
Career Center's Graduate School pages.