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Department of English Language and Literature

MA in English - English & American Literature

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. (Note: Applicants for admission to the MA program in literature must also submit GRE subject test scores to the Graduate School.)

Applicants should follow the procedures noted on the Graduate Applicant 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.

Program Details

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.

The minimum course requirements include 30 semester hours, not more than six of which may be taken in Thesis Preparation (ENGL 799). Candidates must complete at least half of their credit requirements in courses numbered 700 or above, exclusive of thesis credit. The remaining credit hours may include courses numbered 500 to 699 taken for graduate credit. Enrollment in these courses requires the approval of the Graduate Director. Students need a grade point average of B or better (3.0) to graduate.

  • One course in American Literature, one in English Literature before 1660, one in English literature after 1660, and one additional course in the thesis area.
  • Five electives (one of which may, with justification and the approval of the Graduate Director, be taken outside the Department). English 700 and 732 are recommended. The 3-hour ENGL 691-692 sequence may count as an elective.
  • Three hours of thesis writing (ENGL 799). Your thesis director will supervise this course.
  • Reading knowledge of one foreign language
  • Thesis (see description below)

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 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 signature form 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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