Is a PhD in English the Next Chapter for You?
Obtaining a PhD in English can be key to advancing your career in both academic and non-academic fields. According to a 2012 study conducted by the Modern Language Association, 73 percent of those pursuing a PhD in English are seeking to become university professors. Most of the other 27 percent work in research and development positions or as lecturers, with some working in the nonprofit sector and as writers/researchers.
Requirements to Enter a PhD Program
Requirements to enter a PhD program vary widely among schools. At Cornell University (one of the top programs in the country), applicants need to have at least a B.A. or B.S. to apply. This is because Cornell has a M.F.A. / Ph.D. Program that makes the process faster and more effective. Other universities might require a Master’s degree before you can apply for a PhD. You will also need to present a writing sample of up to 12,000 words and letters of recommendation for your application to be considered.
Areas of Study and Degree Requirements
Again, what your PhD program includes depends on where you’re studying. For example, the Berkeley English Department at the University of California — considered the top English PhD program in the country — has a ten-course program, which includes literature of the 16th century, literature of the 17th century, a “Problems in the Study of Literature” course and a number of electives. At Berkeley, as is the case with other PhD programs, you need to show proficiency in at least one other language besides English to graduate.
Cost of a PhD in English
How much your PhD will cost you depends largely on where you decide to study. Many PhD candidates obtain funding, grants or scholarships based on their previous work, so they don’t have to pay anything for their studies. A standard English PhD program has a requirement of anywhere between 6 and 9 courses, with costs starting at about $1,200 per course. This is for state universities with reduced rates. Other PhD programs cost upwards of $30,000.
The benefits of a PhD in English are relative. The Modern Language Association survey shows that only 53 percent of the PhD professors have obtained tenure, so a PhD is certainly not a guarantee for job security. In the academic world, salaries are not highly affected by the type of title you hold. However, a PhD can increase your pay-grade status and may lead to more opportunities.
Other Points to Consider
According to the Modern Language Association survey, 51 percent of people taking a PhD in English took nine years or longer to complete it. Only 5 percent of students were able to finish in the expected time frame of five years or less. This is because many people pursuing a PhD in English are working full-time while pursuing their studies.