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The 20 Best Online English Master’s Degree Programs

Despite the remarkable changes at work in the 21st century, the fundamental aspects of being a human — language, for instance — remain largely the same.

Still, challenges exist. In a fast-paced digital world, how do we write clearly and succinctly? How do we read critically and interpret the information that surrounds us? How do we honor the past and its cultural contributions, while also critiquing past mistakes and planning for the future? These are some of the most pressing issues of the present-day.

Students pursuing a Master’s in English tackle all these, and more. In addition to in-depth coursework in literary criticism and theory, English students read American, British, and World Literature; develop and hone critical, professional, and creative writing skills; and learn how to teach all of the above to secondary school and community college students. Of course, every master’s varies, and some specialize in particular fields. Below, we’ve ranked the twenty best online master’s degrees in English, which cover a wide range of curriculum models and concentration options. Still, most include common features and develop similar skills — namely, the ability to read and write at an advanced level, things that are deceptively hard in our digitalized modern world.

Keep reading to find the best online master’s in English for your needs!

1) Ohio University

Founded in 1804, Ohio University is the ninth oldest college in the county. With a total enrollment of 40,000, BusinessWeek, America’s 100 Best College Buys, Fortune, The Princeton Review, and Peterson’s Guide to Competitive Colleges all rank Ohio among the top universities in the country. U.S. News ranks Ohio on best-of lists for public schools and a half dozen online programs. The 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes a vibrant, collaborative atmosphere, and 30% of classes have fewer than 20 students. OU has been recognized by The Chronicle of Higher Education and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for its number of Marshall, Mitchell, Truman, Udall, Goldwater, Hollings, and Fulbright scholars.

Ohio’s online MA in English is designed for secondary school teachers and consists of 36 credits. The customizable curriculum includes courses such as Introduction to English Studies, Multi-ethnic/Cross Cultural Literature, Literature of the Romantic Period, Renaissance Drama excluding Shakespeare, and American Literature 1865-1918, among others. All master’s students complete a “culminating essay” to graduate, and accelerated seven-week course blocks allow students to complete the degree in as little as 16 months on a full-time schedule (a three-year schedule is also available). Through the Blackboard learning platform, students have access to course material 24/7 as well as group discussion boards, live chatrooms, web conferencing, tech support, and more. Up to 8 credit hours may be transferred into the program.

2) Bowling Green State University

Founded in 1910, Bowling Green has a total enrollment of 17,000, including students from all 50 states and 70 countries around the world. US News ranks it among the best universities in the country, as has Washington Monthly, Forbes, and several other publications. With an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Bowling Green fosters a tight-knit learning community that balances collaborative educational opportunities with personalized instruction. Over 40% of classes have fewer than 20 students and less than 10% have 50 or more.

Bowling Green offers three online master’s tracks in English, including an English Teaching specialization, a Professional Writing and Rhetoric specialization, and a student-organized degree designed as a general master’s. Example courses include Graduate Writing, Theory/Methods of Literary Criticism, Introduction to Linguistics, Postcolonial Literature & Film, Modernism: Joyce, Woolf, and Forster, Teaching of Writing, and more. Students may also choose to pursue one of a variety of graduate certificates available online, such College Writing and Technical Writing. Asynchronous delivery allows students to complete coursework as their schedule allows, and accelerated options are available. Each specialization culminates in a unique master’s capstone portfolio.

3) Louisiana Tech University

Founded in 1894, Louisiana Tech is a public institution with a total enrollment of about 12,700, most of which is undergraduate. US News ranks LA Tech among the best public schools in the country, and places several of its online programs on lists, as well. With a 26:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the university is known for offering a “private-college atmosphere at a public university,” including a tight-knit learning community and tailored instruction. Nearly half of classes have fewer than 20 students.

Louisiana Tech offers an online master’s in English designed to prepare students for a variety of careers, from teaching to publishing, technical writing, and journalism. The curriculum is customizable, including emphases in American and English literature, as well as an online graduate certificate in Technical Writing. Example courses include Teaching College Composition, Technical Writing for Publication, Shakespeare Seminar, Lit Research and Bibliography, and Specification, Bid, Grant, and Proposal Writing. Thesis and non-thesis tracks are offered for maximum flexibility, and LA Tech allows up to 6 transfer credits to be applied to the degree. All students complete a comprehensive exam covering their specialization in order to graduate.

4) Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University, founded in 1899, has a total enrollment of about 20,000, with an additional 7,000 online students. As a global leader in online education innovation, NAU has over twenty years of experience in the field, and today offers nearly 100 degrees across a variety of disciplines. Northern Arizona was also the first public university to offer competency-based credits, awarding academic credits for relevant life and work experience, which earned the school a $1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With a 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio, NAU combines the resources of a research institution with the intimate setting of a liberal arts school.

Northern Arizona offers an online MA in English with multiple emphases: Literature, Professional Writing, and Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies. Each track consists of 36 credits, and thesis and research options give students to build a professional portfolio and gain hands-on experience. Example courses include Literary Criticism and Theory, Introduction to Research in Literary Studies, Topics in Narrative Studies and Creative Rhetorics, Topics in Public and Disciplinary Writing, and numerous electives in English, American, and World Literature (Chaucer, 19th Century British Lit, Colonial and Postcolonial Lit, Shakespeare, etc.). All coursework is designed for maximum flexibility, and students have access to a wide range of support services, including academic advising.

5) National University

National University, founded in 1971, is the second-largest private, nonprofit school in California and a leader in online education, with over twenty years of experience and five online programs ranked among the best in the country by US News. NU is a Yellow Ribbon school founded by veterans and offers the post 9/11 GI Bill. Students come from all 50 states and 65 countries worldwide.

National’s online MA in English consists of 45 quarter hours (10 courses), designed for teachers at secondary schools, community colleges, and those interested in pursuing doctoral studies. A customizable curriculum includes courses such as Grad English Studies, Seminar in Literary Theory, Multicultural Literature, Film Theory, Comparative Literary Studies, and “major author” courses, e.g., Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Steinbeck, Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Hemingway, and James Baldwin. (For those interested, National also offers specializations in Gothic Studies and Rhetoric.) A capstone project adds a hands-on component to the program, and electives are available to help individualize studies.

6) Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Founded in 1884, Northwestern State University of Louisiana is located in Natchitoche with a total enrollment just below 10,000. US News ranks NSUL among the best Tier 2 schools in the country, and at least three online programs are listed, as well. With a 20:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the university emphasizes a student-oriented approach that provides individualized instruction in a vibrant, collaborative setting. Half of classes have fewer than 20 students.

Northwestern State’s online MA is a 30 hour program with five available specializations: Writing and Linguistics, Literature, Folklife/Southern Culture, Generalist, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Sample coursework includes Young Adult Fiction, Renaissance Literature, Advanced Technical Writing and Editing, Folklore and Film, American Literature, Bibliography and Literary Research, Contemporary Southern Writers, Grant Writing, and more. (In short, course offerings are wide and diverse.) All students also either write a thesis or complete two research papers as capstone project. Accelerated 8-week course blocks are available, and NSUL has a generous transfer policy for students with previous graduate-level credits. Support services and learning tools include Moodle, IT assistance, advising, and counseling.

7) University of Nebraska at Kearney

Founded in 1905, The University of Nebraska at Kearney is a public institution with a total enrollment of approximately 7,000 students. In addition to an extensive traditional on-campus network, Kearney has over 100 online programs in a wide range of fields, including bachelors, masters, doctorates, certificates, and endorsements. The 14:1 student-to-faculty promotes tailored instruction, collaborative learning, and an intimate educational setting. Half of all classes have fewer than 20 students.

Nebraska Kearney offers an online MA in English that consists of 30-36 credit hours. Required coursework includes Principles of Literary Criticism or History of Literary Criticism, 6 credit hours in American Literature, 6 credit hours in British or World Literature, and The Teaching of Composition. From there, students can choose a thesis track (30 hours) or pursue the Literature emphasis, which prepares students for a number of publishing, technical writing, and journalism careers. Built in electives ensure an individualized curriculum, and the program is designed for maximum flexibility. In addition to library services, IT support, and advising, students have access to the Canvas learning platform, which features discussion boards, 24/7 access to course material, live chat rooms, and video conferencing.

8) Clarks Summit University

Founded in 1932, Clarks Summit University is a private Christian institution with a total enrollment of about 1,220 and accredited by The Commissions on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and The Association of Biblical Higher Education. The 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio is among the best on our rankings, ensuring individualized attention from instructors as well as collaborative learning opportunities and a tight-knit community.

Clarks Summit offers an online MA in Literature that consists of 33 credits. With accelerated 8-week course blocks, students can complete the degree in two years or less, and asynchronous coursework allow for maximum flexibility. Upon graduation, you will be prepared to: communicate clearly and effectively about worldviews through literary analysis; read and interpret literature through multiple perspectives; demonstrate critical thinking skills to recognize and evaluate literature; and use information literacy skills to develop a thesis. In particular, CSU’s program is designed for ministers and individuals who want to hone skills in Biblical interpretation and hermeneutics, but anyone is welcome to apply.

9) East Carolina University

Founded in 1907, East Carolina University is a public research institution with a total enrollment of about 29,000. Among many accolades, Washington Monthly has ranked ECU as the #1 “Bang for your Buck” university in the country; Princeton Review and Forbes place it highly overall; and US News ranks East Carolina on top lists for public schools, veteran support services, and online programs. With an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio, ECU balances the resouces of a research institution with the intimate environment of a private liberal arts school. A third of classes have fewer than 20 students.

East Carolina’s online MA in English consists of 33 hours as well as a comprehensive exam or project. Course requirements include a Research credit — Research Methods in Language Study, Bibliography and Methods, Research Design in Rhetoric and Composition, etc. — followed by concentration coursework in either Multicultural and Transnational Literatures or Technical and Professional Communication. The program is primarily designed for teachers, and graduates have gone on to positions at community colleges, colleges, and universities teaching writing and introduction to literature courses. Other graduates of the program pursue MFA or PhD programs, or work in fields like public relations, marketing, and communications. All ECU master’s students have the opportunity to hold teaching assistantships, providing valuable hands-on experience and networking.

10) Wayland Baptist University

Founded in 1908, Wayland Baptist University is a private Christian institution in Plainview, Texas, founded in 1908 and divided into eight different colleges. US News ranks WBU among the best colleges in the region, and the school’s online programs are among the fastest growing in the country. Wayland’s 8:1 student-to-faculty is the best on our list, promoting a dynamic, intimate learning environment that offers personal attention from instructors and collaborative learning opportunities. Nearly 85% of classes have fewer than 20 students.

Wayland Baptist offers a 37-hour online MA in English. Core curriculum requirements include Literary Theory, Advanced Literary Research, and Comprehensive Exam. From there, students can choose from a wide variety of electives to tailor the degree to areas of personal and professional interests, including: Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry, Sociolinguistics and Discourse Studies, Young Adult Literature, Modern American Literature, Usage and Style, Advanced Creative Writing, and Teaching College Composition, among others. Students then choose between a thesis option (with oral defense) or 6 additional credit hours. Up to 12 hours can be transferred into the program, and applicants should have earned at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA in undergraduate English courses.

11) Ohio Dominican University

Founded in 1911, Ohio Dominican University is a private Catholic institution with a total enrollment of about 2,400. US News ranks the university among the best in the Midwest, and several online programs are highly rated, as well. The 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio encourages a vibrant, collaborative atmosphere in addition to tailored instruction. Over 60% of classes have fewer than 20 students and less than 1% have 50 or more.

Ohio Dominican’s online MA in English is aimed at secondary school teachers, who can earn qualifications to teach English courses for college credit/Dual Enrollment. The 33-credit curriculum requires a foundational course in Graduate Writing & Research plus 8-9 courses at the 500 level, depending on a thesis or non-thesis track. Elective courses are available in British Literature to 1800, American Literature, Modernism/Contemporary Literature, World Literature, Drama, Fiction, and more. All courses are designed to accommodate junior and high school academic calendars, and there are three entry dates per year for maximum flexibility. With accelerated options, the master’s can be completed in as little as 18-24 months. Ideal applicants will have earned at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

12) University of Central Florida

Founded in 1963, the University of Central Florida is a public research institution with a total enrollment of over 60,000 students from all 50 states and 140 countries around the world, making it the second-largest university in the country. Kiplinger’s, Bloomberg BusinessweekForbes, US News, and USA Today have recognized UCF for its academic excellence, affordability, innovation in education (including online programs), and value. The 30:1 student-to-faculty ratio creates a dynamic, collaborative environment, but classes are not unanimously large: over a quarter have fewer than 20 students.

UCF offers an online MA in English with a concentration in Technical Communication, designed to improve students’ skills in multiple communication areas: from technical writing and visual design, to usability, ethics, style, computer documentation, international communication, and the rhetoric of science. While many students in the program have an undergraduate degree in English, the master’s caters to students across the spectrum, including Psychology and even Computer Science, and the curriculum reflects that diversity. Graduates have gone on to careers as technical writers, editors, corporate trainers, information designers, web designers, consultants, information developers, educators, and documentation specialists. Online support services include career services, advising, a writing center, and more.

13) The University of West Florida

Founded in 1963, University of West Florida is a public institution with a total enrollment of 13,000. Forbes has placed West Florida on lists for “America’s Best Colleges” and “Best Buy Colleges,” and Princeton Review and US News each rank UWF among the best schools in the South. With a 22:1 student-to-faculty ratio, students benefit from a vibrant atmosphere while still having personal access to instructors. Over a third of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 11% have 50.

West Florida offers an online Master’s in English, including specializations in Literature and Creative Writing. Sample coursework includes Introduction to Advanced Literary Study, History of Literary Theory, British Literature to the Romantics, American Literature, Topics in World Literature, Workshop in Fiction, and Workshop in Teaching Creative Writing. From there, students complete a 25-30 page thesis on a subject of their choice. All online courses are synchronous to simulate a traditional classroom experience, but the program is designed for maximum scheduling flexibility. Applicants should have complete at least 20 hours of upper division undergraduate coursework in English, and GRE scores should be at least 153 on Verbal and 4.5 on Analytical Writing.

14) Mercy College

Mercy College, founded in 1905, is a private school with a total enrollment of about 10,100. Mercy’s unique Personalized Achievement Contract is a nationally recognized program that matches students with professional mentors, who offer academic, career, and personal support services. Hands-on experiential education, including internship opportunities, is another point of focus. With a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Mercy emphasizes intimate, tailored instruction combined with a vibrant and collaborative educational setting. Over half of classes have fewer than 20 students.

Mercy’s online MA in English requires 30 credits, or 10 courses, including requirements in literary theory and a final research thesis. Beyond those two, the Mercy master’s is highly customizable to suit students personal interests and career goals. Sample courses include Narrative Strategies in the Novel, History of Drama in English, Humanism in Renaissance Texts, Reason and Imagination, The Victorian Age in Literature, Modernism, Classics of African American Literature, and more. Graduates of the program are qualified to apply for most full-time community college English professorships, and to teach composition and literature as an adjunct at most community and senior colleges. Alternatively, you may pursue doctorate studies, teach at a secondary school (teachers may earn graduate English content credits), or go on to careers in fields like advertising, communications, technical writing, and publishing.

15) Southern New Hampshire University

Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a global leader in online education, with 70,000 online students and 200 online programs. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Fast Company, and New Hampshire Business Review have all recognized the university’s cutting-edge educational model, and US News has ranked SNHU #1 in the country for innovation several years in a row. The 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio is excellent for a school of its size, and over 60% of classes have fewer than 20 students.

Southern New Hampshire offers an online MA in English covering subjects from American and British Literature to Composition Theory, Teaching Writing, Global Literature, and more. The highly customizable curriculum features built in electives throughout the program, and a final master’s capstone gives students the opportunity to submit a portfolio of critical work on an area of emphasis. With accelerated 10-week course blocks, students can complete the degree in as little as 15 months, and courses are asynchronous for maximum flexibility. No GRE scores are necessary for admission. Student support services include an online writing center, tutoring, career services, academic advising, and tech support.

16) Indiana University – East

Indiana University East, founded in 1971, is a public institution in Richmond with a total enrollment of about 4,500, including an increasingly large online population. The 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio keeps classes small, intimate, and open to collaboration, and two-thirds have fewer than 20 students, ensuring personal attention from instructors. Online students monitor their progress through the Canvas educational platform, which features a range of learning tools, from discussion boards to web conferencing. Up to 64 credits can be transferred into any program from a 2-year community college.

Indiana East offers an online MA in English that consists of 36 quarter credits, including 8 required credits for the Introduction to Methods of Criticism and Research and an Independent Writing Project (either a capstone project or portfolio). The list of electives covers a massive span of literature and theory: History of the English Language, English Literature 1660-1790, Readings in Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, American Literature and Culture 1900-1945, Topics in Children’s Literature, Writing and Literary Studies, and Teaching Composition: Theories and Application, among others. The program is specifically aimed at current teachers, and full- and part-time programs are offered to accommodate students’ busy schedules. That said, plenty of graduates pursue careers outside of academia in areas from writing and editing to technology and management.

17) Minnesota State University – Mankato

Founded in 1868, Minnesota State University – Mankato is a public institution with a total enrollment of about 15,200, including students from over 80 countries, and 100,000 alumni worldwide. US News ranks MSUM among the best schools in the Midwest and in the region’s top 30 public schools. With a 23:1 student-to-faculty ratio, MSUM combines the resources of a research institution with the intimate atmosphere of a liberal arts school. Over 30% of classes have fewer than 20 students.

MSUM offers an online Master’s in Literature & English Studies that requires 34 credits. Core courses include Bibliography and Research, Composition Theory, and Literary Theory and Criticism. From there, students build a personalized curriculum around the program’s range of elective seminar options: Shakespeare, British Literature to 1800, American Literature to 1865, Gender in Literature, and Multicultural American Literature, among others. Multiple internships are available for students (for instance, acting as an undergraduate English teaching assistant), and students can complete a capstone project in the form of an expanded seminar paper, secondary research paper, or teaching portfolio. Support services include academic advising, career development, and transfer assistance.

18) Arizona State University

Arizona State University, founded in 1885, has a total enrollment of about 52,000, including 10,000 graduate students. US News ranks Arizona State as one of the most innovative school in the nation, and ASU’s online programs hold five Top 15 rankings. Money, The Daily Beast,Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal all rank ASU on best-of lists, too. With a 23:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Arizona State supports a vibrant atmosphere that features world-renowned faculty, individualized instruction, and collaborative learning opportunities. Over 40% of classes have fewer than 20 students, and less than one in five have 50.

Arizona State offers an online MA in English that consists of 30 credit hours, or 10 courses. Core requirements include Approaches to Research, a foreign language requirement, and courses in linguistics, literature, English education, and writing, rhetoric, and literacies. Students then have the opportunity to tailor the degree to areas of personal and professional interest through 12 free elective credits, and thesis option provides a hands-on component to the program. Multiple start dates per year mean students can begin on their own schedule, and ASU’s extensive support services include academic advising, career services, online tutoring, library services, and a success center.

19) Texas Tech University

Founded in 1923, Texas Tech University is a public institution with a total enrollment of about 36,000.

  • US News
  • ranks Texas Tech alongside the best public schools in the country, and its graduate programs have particularly high marks: The Wall Street Journal has ranked TTU 18th in the country for graduate desirability among job recruiters. The 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio is excellent for a school of its size and supports a vibrant, collaborative environment. Nearly 30% of classes have fewer than 20 students.

    Texas Tech’s online MA in English can be completed in as little as two years. Sample coursework includes Medieval English, Shakespeare Studies, Studies in Restoration & Eighteenth-Century British Literature, Advanced Problems in Literary Studies, History of the English Language, and Comparative Literature Methods, among others. All courses are designed for maximum flexibility, encouraging students to complete credits according to their schedules, and the Blackboard learning platform supports a dynamic learning experience, with easy access to instructors, group discussion boards, live chat rooms, video conferencing, and more. TTU guarantees 24/7 tech support, and a dedicated Instructional Design team ensures that all content delivers smoothly.

    20) Central Washington University

    Founded in 1891, Central Washington University is a public institution with a total enrollment of about 12,000 and more than 135 available programs. US News ranks Central Washington on lists for best public schools (#10 in the region) and best value (#51 in the region), and CWU’s 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes a tight-knit learning community: over a third of classes have fewer than 20 students.

    Central Washington offers an online MA in Professional and Creative Writing that combines flexible scheduling with a highly customizable curriculum plan. Example coursework includes Advanced Creative Nonfiction Writing, Advanced Technical Writing, Studies in Fiction, Workplace Writing Research Methods, and Publishing Strategies and Practice for Writers, among others. On completion of credit requirements, students submit a portfolio for review. Accelerated 10-week course blocks allow students to complete the master’s in as little as 4 quarters, and graduates have gone on to pursue further studies or begin careers in publishing, communications, and other writing-intensive fields. Support services include academic advising, career services, tutoring, and a writing center.