English Majors: Selecting a Graduate School or Program

An advanced degree in English — a PhD or MFA (master of fine arts) — is required if you want to teach English at the university level. If you're in college right now, you're likely already familiar with the steps on how to research a school. You follow the same basic procedure when looking into a graduate program that you used when looking into your undergraduate school.

Consider these strategies for finding information about the many available graduate programs for English majors:

  • Check out the school's Web site to see what the graduate program offers. Does it meet your needs? Does it have enough diversity or options? What if you change your focus? Is the program flexible?

  • Look into the faculty at the college. Does the school include any key faculty? For example, if you're interested in a particular type of writing (nonfiction, creative, medical, journalism, for example), does the school have any experts in that field?

  • Look at the activities of the faculty. What percentage of faculty are publishing? Are the programs that interest you actively pursuing new information? You don't want to choose a program that is stagnant within that department.

  • Ask your department head, a professor you admire at your undergraduate college, any alumni, and all other networking connections for recommendations. For example, ask where your favorite professor pursued his graduate degree(s)? Ask what those schools were like.

  • If possible, make a personal visit to the graduate schools that interest you. Also, talk to students in each school's graduate program.

  • Look into mentoring and career advising resources. Will you be able to find a mentor? An internship? Career advice? See what resources both the career center and the English department offer.

  • Determine what activities and opportunities are available for graduate students. Does the campus have publishing opportunities, such as a creative magazine, newsletters, journals, newspaper, student Web site, or other publishing venues? What other graduate English activities are Visit Web sites dedicated to reviewing or discussing graduate schools; for example, www.gradschool.com or www.graduateguide.com.

  • Make sure your graduate program and school are accredited.