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Department of English Language and Literature

MA in English - Composition & Rhetoric

Applicants for admission to the MA program must have completed a minimum of 24 semester hours of upper-division undergraduate courses in English or an appropriate related discipline, with grades indicating ability for successful graduate work. 


The English Department no longer requires GRE scores.

Successful applicants to the MA program typically have GRE verbal scores at or above the 75th percentile and an undergraduate GPA of 3.00 or better.

Applicants should follow the procedures noted on the Admissions page.

  • a sample of academic writing (approximately 8-10 pages) and
  • a statement of purpose.

Your application is not complete until all materials are received by The Graduate School. Admission decisions are based on all parts of an application, with especially close attention given to writing samples.

Application deadlines are January 1 for those wishing to be considered for fellowships or assistantships and April 15 for all others.

Prior to registering for classes each semester, you should make an appointment to talk with an advisor. New MA students may rely on the graduate student coordinator, or the director of graduate studies, for advisement. Within the first semester, however, students should identify an advisor among faculty members in their major field.

Specific Requirements

  • 6 hours (ENGL 790 and 791)

  • 6 hours from the following courses: ENGL 690* (see workshop restrictions below), 792, 793, 794, 795, 890

  • 6 hours of English and/or American literature, 700-800* level

  • 9 hours of electives (must be approved by the student’s advisor and may include the ENGL 691-692 3-hour sequence)

  • 3 hours of ENGL 799, thesis writing

  • Reading knowledge of one foreign language

  • Thesis (see description below)

* No more than one workshop course can be counted in the 30 hours of classroom credits; students wishing to emphasize technical writing should consult the graduate director about special conditions.

You must submit a Master’s Degree Program of Study Form (signed by your advisor and the Graduate Director) to the Dean of the Graduate School, outlining your entire degree program. This form could be completed and filed by the end of the first semester and must be filed no later than the end of your second semester of graduate study.

The M.A. thesis is expected to make a defensible contribution to scholarship on a figure, text, movement, problem, or current questions in Composition and Rhetoric. The thesis should be a 30- to 35-page paper (approximately 10,000 words) that may be based on a seminar paper but, if so, significantly revises and extends that paper.  In certain fields, the director and second reader may determine the length and format of the thesis requirement. The MA thesis should be aimed at publication and, upon completion, be ready for submission in a venue appropriate to the candidate’s specific field. The signatures of the director and second reader on the title page signal that the student has fulfilled the requirement.

Thesis formatting and organization guidelines are available on the Graduate School website. By the final-submission deadline, you will need to submit the thesis electronically to the Graduate School along with a signed “Thesis Signature and Approval” form available via the “Forms Library” on the Graduate School webpage.

Applicants who apply by the first deadline (January 1) and are admitted to this Master’s program will be considered for a Graduate Instructional Assistantship ('GIA') in the first year that provides in-state tuition status, a tuition supplement, and a stipend (currently $8,125). In the first year the student should complete the 18 hours of graduate English course work required to hold a Graduate Teaching Assistantship ('GTA') during the second year of study for this two-year degree.

Students awarded an assistantship by the Department of English are expected to

  • carry no incompletes;

  • earn no more than one grade below B during their academic career;

  • perform assigned duties in a satisfactory manner;

  • maintain a GPA of 3.5; and

  • make steady progress toward the degree.

Graduates with this MA degree have found satisfying careers as teachers or writing center administrators in community colleges, as grant writers or technical writers, as editors or corporate communication managers in business and industry, and as communication specialists in or consultants for government agencies and nonprofit organizations. For help with career options you should use take advantage of resources on campus provided through the Career Center.

Many graduates apply for admission to PhD programs at this or other major research universities. Although admission to one of USC's doctoral programs in English is not guaranteed after earning the MA, some students continue graduate work here.


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