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WHAT IS AN ONLINE ENGLISH DEGREE?

An online English degree is a focused degree that often studies U.S., British and world literature in depth with a strong focus on the English language, grammar and composition.


Some programs help educators learn the English language from the inside out. As such they’ll touch on lesson planning and teaching tactics. Others focus on clear writing, research and critical methods for skillful communication.

online english degree

Associate DEGREES

Associate of Arts in English


Programs offers a solid base in literature, poetry and critical theory principles. At the same time, it gets into writing skills for different uses. These span business, media, web, fiction and creative writing.


  • Advanced Reading
  • Critical Thinking
  • World Literature

BACHELOR’s DEGREES

Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English


This program focuses on reading, writing and critical thinking. It exposes students to theory, linguistics, and composition, in addition to surveys of literature.


  • Elements of Journalism
  • American Literature
  • Business and Professional Writing

MASTER’s DEGREES

Master of Arts (MA) in English


Many M.A. programs provides options for intensive study in critical theory, cultural theory, film theory, interdisciplinary methods, minority literature, and women’s studies. Traditional areas of study include Renaissance, eighteenth-century, nineteenth-century, modern, and contemporary literature, as well as rhetoric and composition.


  • British Literature
  • American Literature
  • Methods in Cinema and Media Studies

ENGLISH DEGREE ONLINE PROGRAMS

Most online English degree programs are 120 credits. Of these, over half may be general education courses. The others are set up around your major and electives. Take a look at 7 sample topics below.

  1. Intro to Literature
  2. American Literature
  3. Literary Theory
  4. Creative Writing
  5. Business and Professional Writing
  6. Meaning in Language
  7. Composition

To cap your studies, you may need to hand in a final project. Or put in some hours inside a classroom to practice teaching English – if that was your focus.

Many programs have book lists which may expose you to the basic elements of fiction, poetry, and drama. Common themes include the literary works of British and American authors.

Apart from reading English literature, you’ll often study the art of perception. You’ll usually look at literature within a context like gender, race, and religion. Then, apply these ideas to understand the author’s style, message, and techniques.

While you learn to read with a critical eye, you’ll likely also learn to write an effective narrative. Courses in this vein usually help you learn to persuade readers. This often means learning how to follow a line of thinking and edit your writing, so it is clear and concise.

If you’re very interested in writing, your study plan may allow you some choice in this area. This may be to develop skills for science writing or learn how to tell a story. A class (or 2) in English composition may help you in this area.

It’s usually about how to analyze, develop and organize your thoughts. Or adapt your style to different audiences. At the end of your studies, you may be able to use library resources to support your ideas.

Writing classes may ask you to take part in workshops with instructors and peers. They often help you learn the ins and outs of giving and receiving feedback.

Other English courses may deal with the language itself. These classes may cover form and function. Some topics may cover the theories of how we form language skills. Others may touch on the uses of language in a specific context like law, politics or propaganda.

WHAT WILL I STUDY?

There are several kinds of online English programs to look for. The one you choose should reflect your goals.

  • Do you want to teach English to young children?
  • Are you hoping to teach at the university level?
  • Would you like to prepare to teach English as a Second Language (ESL)?
  • Are you an aspiring author, journalist or editor?

We’ll walk you through 4 classes common to English programs as well as popular types of English programs. This may be useful as you frame your interests and objectives.

English Composition:This class looks at the skills that go into planning, writing and editing an essay. Some of the topics look at sentence structure and grammar. Others touch on how to backup your ideas with clear statements and conclusions

Intro to the English Language:This class studies the structure and history of the English language. Some topics may get into linguistic and comparative grammar. Others may look at how we use language in society.

Creative Writing: This class may help you stretch your wings as an author. You’ll often study and practice writing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. At the same time, you’ll often join workshops where you’ll learn how to critique creative works.

Principles in Journalism: This class provides an overview of Journalistic principles and ethical practices. The course also covers news reporting, feature writing, beat reporting and writing for the web.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO EARN AN ONLINE ENGLISH DEGREE?

If you’re a full-time student, pursuing an English degree online may take about 4 years. This is about the time it takes to complete a 120-credit bachelor’s degree.

Want to earn your English degree in less time? Find out whether your school accepts transfer credits. Many allow eligible students to transfer up to 90 credits which means you’ll need less time.

Graduate programs may take about 1 to 2 years (Master’s) and 4 to 6 years (Ph.D.).

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Bachelor’s ENGLISH DEGREE PROGRAMS THAT COULD BE COMPLETED IN 4 YEARS OR LESS

School# of Credits RequiredStart DatesMinimum Months to Complete
Regent University120+Multiple4 years or less
Ashford University12045+ starts/year4 years or less
Grand Canyon University120Multiple4 years or less

AVERAGE ENGLISH DEGREE COST

Reports show an average in-state cost for pursuing an English degree at a public institution is $6,991. The average out of state cost at a private institution is $32,540.

Since these are norms, you’ll find programs that are more expensive, and ones that may cost less. Also, if you are able to transfer credits into your program, you’ll have fewer to pay for.

The table below shows the cost per credit of several schools where you might pursue a Bachelor’s in English degree online.

SCHOOL# OF CREDITS REQUIREDCOST PER CREDITTOTAL TUITION COST
University of Massachusetts Online (UMass)BA in English120$380$45,600
Regent UniversityBA in English – History120$395$47,400
Liberty UniversityBS Teaching English as a Second Language120$390$46,800

TOP ENGLISH DEGREE PROGRAMS BY STATE

Last check, the largest share of institutions that offer General English Language & Literature degrees are Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above institutions. From those schools, there were 61,715 degrees awarded to students. The majority (78.6%) of these programs were bachelor’s degrees.

SCHOOL2017 GRADS TOTAL/DEGREES AWARDEDTUITION (OUT OF STATE)
Southern New Hampshire University797$30,756
Chattahoochee Technical College753$4,272
Florida State University529$19,084
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities485$22,210
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh474$28,828
George Mason University434$28,622
Texas State University398$16,820
University of California – Berkeley378$ 34,098
Columbia University, NY280$46,846

THE IMPORTANCE OF AN ACCREDITED ENGLISH DEGREE PROGRAM

As you decide on where to earn an online degree in English, it may be to your benefit to look at accredited schools. Accreditation is one way of saying ‘quality control.’ It shows that a college or university meets standards.

Attending an accredited school means you’ll be able to apply for financial aid. You’ll also be able to apply to grad school. These universities will check where you earned any prior degree(s).

Most schools with English degree programs are regionally accredited. There are six regional agencies in the U.S. each covering a specific region. They are in turn, given the ability to accredit schools by an agency. Two to know are the:

  • DOE U.S. Department of Education
  • CHEA Council for Higher Education Accreditation

Once accredited, a school must maintain its status. To do so, it must submit every few years (E.g. 7 to 10) to a peer review. It is simple to verify the status of a school offering an online English degree program. All you do is check the list of accredited schools on agency websites.

Do you plan to pursue any extra credentials, like a teaching certificate? If so, you’ll want to check that you enroll in a state-approved teacher education program.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH AN ENGLISH DEGREE?

The number of English graduates in the workforce is 1.45 Million and growing by 3.48%. Not surprising given the potential versatility of the degree.

The majority (225,850) work for Elementary and Secondary Schools. There are also high numbers of English grads in the following industries:

  • Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools including Junior Colleges (163, 627)
  • Legal Services (66,416)
  • Hospitals (42,449)
  • Insurance Carriers and Related Activities (39,107)

Most people in the workforce are 43.6 years old and have a Bachelor’s degree. They’re also more likely to be women.

TOP SALARIES BY STATE FOR ENGLISH DEGREE HOLDERS

The visual below shows the states where salaries for Technical Writers are highest.

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
California6,340$90,780
Massachusetts2,450$86,130
District of Columbia700$84,370
New Jersey1,980$83,240
Washington1,240$81,810

CAREERS AND POTENTIAL SALARIES FOR ENGLISH DEGREE MAJORS

Your salary as an English professional is largely decided by your specific job title, your level of education, your experience and your skill. Consider the following careers, with statistics compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016

WRITERS AND AUTHORS (I)

Writers and authors develop written content for various types of media, including advertisements; books; magazines; movie, play, and television scripts; and blogs.

Median Salary: $61,820 per year
Job growth through 2026: 8% (As fast as average)
Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor’s Degree


PUBLIC RELATIONS SPECIALISTS (II)

Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent. They craft media releases and develop social media programs to shape public perception of their organization and to increase awareness of its work and goals.

Median Salary: $59,300 per year
Job growth through 2026: 9% (As fast as average)
Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor’s Degree

TECHNICAL WRITERS (III)

Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily. They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization’s communications channels.

Median Salary: $70,930 per year
Job growth through 2026: 11% (Faster than average)
Typical Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree

(i) bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm
(ii) bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm
(iii) bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/technical-writers.htm

© Education Connection 2019. All Rights Reserved.

EducationDynamics maintains business relationships with the schools it features.

Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.