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The Compass: The Newsletter of the College of Humanities & Social Sciences
To download past issues of CHSS newsletters, please visit our publications section.

Graduate school

The M.A.
A master's degree in English is a useful professional qualification.

If you graduate from Rowan with a B.A. in English, a master's can enable you to teach courses at a community college or at a private middle or high school. (In some cases, if your academic record is strong enough, you can be hired by a private school with just a B.A., and some private schools are willing to pay for an M.A. for those they wish to retain. There are summer master's programs in English that cater specifically to private school teachers.) An M.A. can also prepare you for a Ph.D. program, if your ultimate goal is to teach at the college level.

If you graduate from Rowan with a degree in English and Education and pursue teaching in the public school system, a master's in English can also be a valuable asset—proof that you are "highly qualified" to teach British and American language and literature. Many public schools will pay for their teachers to pursue a master's degree. There are M.A. programs nearby at West Chester, Villanova, Rutgers at Camden, etc.

A master's degree in teaching can prepare you, after your B.A. in English, for certification and a career in teaching. Rowan has an M.S.T. program which runs for 14 months, starting immediately after graduation and finishing the following summer. Many state schools in New Jersey have similar programs. If you are an English major interested in such a degree, you should take all of the general education courses required of students pursuing teacher certification. You will need to take the appropriate Praxis exams as well.

A master's degree in writing can also be an asset for English/Ed majors who become public school teachers. Rowan's College of Communication offers such a degree, with graduate-level courses in writing offered late in the afternoon and in the evening to suit teachers' schedules. Schools will often pay for their teachers to pursue such a degree.

An M.F.A., a master's in fine arts, prepares you for a career in writing fiction, nonfiction prose, drama, and/or poetry. It can also prepare you for a career in teaching creative writing.

There are also excellent master's programs in related fields such as journalism, publishing, public relations, advertising, law, business, museum work, student services, and library science. If you are interested in any of these fields, plan ahead to create an appropriate minor or concentration of courses that will support your interests. If possible, arrange an internship in your area of interest.

If you plan to pursue a master's degree:

  • Talk to your academic advisor in the English department. Your faculty can offer advice about how to prepare for and apply to master's programs.
  • Plan ahead. As noted above, many master's programs require that you pursue specific undergraduate curricula as part of or in addition to the work in your major. If you plan to acquire a master's degree in a field other than English, you may also want to consider pursuing a minor, a concentration, and/or internships related to that field. Remember, too, that for admission to most master's programs, you will have to take the GRE exams. Our core courses do an excellent job of preparing you for the GRE, and especially for the subject matter test in literature. Review your notes from the British and U.S. literature surveys, the historical overview essays from your Norton Anthologies, and your material on literary criticism and theory from Literary Studies and Seminars.
  • Visit the C.A.P. center on campus. They have computer programs like "My Road" and "Discover" that can help you research graduate programs nationally and internationally. Think about what kinds of programs you're interested in—comparative literature? Journalism? African-American Studies? Women’s Studies? Native Studies? Environmental Studies? Then search schools by location, as well. Remember, if you are pursuing certification or licensing of any sort (as in Library Science, or a Master’s in Teaching), make sure that the school is properly accredited.
  • Cast a wide net. Apply to a wide range of schools to increase your chances of being offered a good financial package. As noted above, it is sometimes possible to secure funding to pursue a master's degree, but the qualification can also be expensive. Make sure that pursuing a master's is the right choice for you.

The Ed.D.
For teachers with classroom experience, a doctorate in education (or in educational leadership) can prepare you for a career in school administration—as a principal, for instance.

The Ph.D.
A Ph.D. in English prepares you to teach at the college level. If you are passionate about literature and want to become a professor, this is the qualification to pursue. If you are considering a Ph.D., however, it is crucial that you be aware of the state of the academic market. At Rowan, we currently receive more than 300 applicants for every new faculty position we post. The job market is tough even for qualified Ph.D.s from excellent, competitive schools, and many Ph.D.s have to retool their career goals upon completing the degree.

If you are considering applying to Ph.D. programs:

  • Talk to your advisors in the department. Each of the full-time faculty members in the department has a Ph.D. and can help you understand the nature of graduate study, its values, and its risks. We can also help you prepare for the application process and offer advice about the application, letters of recommendation, etc.
  • Cultivate your working relationships with faculty. For graduate study, you will need several letters of recommendation, and it is crucial that your letter-writers can speak directly to your qualifications and strengths. Talk to your professors about your plans to pursue graduate work, seek their advice, and ask for letters from those who know you and your work well.
  • Plan ahead. In consultation with your advisors, plan your undergraduate curriculum with the goal of a doctorate in mind. Most Ph.D. programs require knowledge of at least one (and usually two) foreign languages, for example. You will also want to identify an area of specialization for graduate school (a particular field—American and/or British literature—and period) and take courses in that area. Many students change their intended specialization in the course of graduate study, but all graduate admissions committees will expect an applicant to have a specialization in mind. Finally, study carefully for the GRE exams, both the general exam and the subject matter test in literature. Remember that our core courses do an excellent job of preparing you for the GRE. Review your notes from the British and U.S. literature surveys, the historical overview essays from your Norton Anthologies, and your material on literary criticism and theory from Literary Studies and Seminars.
  • Research specific graduate programs. In applying to graduate school, it is important to choose a program that can offer you excellent specialist training in the field of your choice. Some programs are stronger in certain fields (e.g. early modern literature, Victorian literature and culture) than others. It is also wise to apply to programs that can offer funding (in the form of fellowships and/or teaching assistantships). A Ph.D. in English typically requires a minimum of six years to complete, and often cannot guarantee subsequent employment. Avoid acquiring a qualification that will give you significant debts.
  • Cast a wide net. Avoid choosing a Ph.D. program according to location. There are some very good graduate programs in the area (University of Delaware, Penn State, Temple, Rutgers at New Brunswick, University of Pennsylvania, etc.); however, the Ph.D. is not a degree to pursue based on convenience. You should choose a program that can offer you the best training in your field and, ideally, an excellent funding package. Keep in mind, too, that most Ph.D.s must relocate after their degrees to assume a teaching position.