Deciding to pursue a masters degree in English can be one of the most challenging decisions an undergraduate English major can make. With the huge number of programs available throughout the United States (and abroad,) it can sometimes seem impossible to make an educated decision, and the fact that so much hinges on such a decision certainly does not make it easier. Here are a few tips to make the selection process a little easier and less stressful.
First of all, consider the location that you would like for an English masters program. If you want to stay closer to home, then it might be best to look at smaller state and local schools that offer a masters degree in English study. However, if you are comfortable with the idea of traveling far from home, this opens up a number of opportunities, as many larger state institutions (and a smaller number of private universities) offer well-funded and often quite prestigious masters programs.
However, it is also important to consider what you want to study in the masters program. In recent years, many English masters programs have been designed for those who do not necessarily want to pursue English studies at the Ph.D. level, but instead want to use the English masters program to either strengthen their literary background of prepare themselves for the workplace. However, there are also many English masters programs that are specifically designed for those who want to pursue a Ph.D. in the field, so it is always best to check the program description when making a decision.
Funding is, of course, one of the paramount considerations to take into account when deciding upon an English graduate program. Although many English departments offer terminal masters degrees, a far smaller number offer funding, and an even smaller number offer full funding. There are programs (such as that offered by Syracuse University, for example,) that offer generous funding for their master’s students. Thus, if you are planning on pursuing a master’s degree in English, it is best to plan ahead and choose a program that is going to fund your study adequately. Otherwise, you run the risk of putting yourself in debt for a profession that is not especially well-known for its lucrative pay scale.
Finally, consider the classes and faculty offered by the programs you are looking at. Do they offer classes that fit with your own academic interests? Do they have faculty that you would like to work with on an extended level? Masters programs typically have different foci, depending upon the strengths of the individual department, so consider the kinds of work being done in the department and whether your own academic interests would be supported. If possible, e-mail the director of graduate studies and inquire, as this will give you a good sense of what kinds of work they support.
If you follow these guidelines, you should be able to make an educated decision about pursuing a masters degree in English. Although it can be challenging, the rewards will, in the end, make it well worth the extra effort.