Posts filed under Graduate School Resources

How M.A. Classes Differ From B.A. Classes

Towards the end of their undergraduate career, many people turn their sights towards higher education and consider getting an M.A. – I know, I was one of those people! 

While getting a master’s degree seems like a logical step to take after graduating with a B.A., there are some major differences between graduate and undergraduate classes that all students should reflect on before making any commitments. I hadn’t really considered these differences until after I joined an M.A. English program, and was in for a big shock when I realized how different M.A. classes can be!

While each program will vary between schools, here are a few general things you can keep in mind when considering another degree:

1. M.A. classes will tend to be smaller and more discussion-based.

Many of the undergraduate classes I had often filled each classroom with English students, but most of the graduate classes I took had fewer than ten students, and it was usually considered unusual for any class to have more than that amount. Due to the size and the nature of the degree it’s expected for graduate students to talk during class, so it follows that graduate-level classes require students to be able to carry very in-depth conversations about writing and literature without a professor’s help. 

Smaller class sizes can be a great thing: I ended up making friends with my classmates since we’d take the same classes, I got to know my professors better and on a more personal level, and I was forced to learn how to articulate and share my ideas in class – all good things! M.A. classes will definitely demand more participation than undergraduate classes, so be sure to consider your comfort with small groups and class discussions before entering a program.

2. M.A. classes are usually longer.

While there are exceptions to the rule, most of the classes in the program I took were about three hours long (or, to be more specific, 2 hours and 45 minutes). It doesn’t seem like a long time, but keep in mind that we discussed literature for almost three hours straight! Many of my professors did give us breaks at the half-way point, but at the end of the day the classes still demand more than twice the amount of discussion and lecture than undergraduate level classes. 

Since most of these long classes are based on discussion, it’s up to you to make those three hours interesting – and again, this brings up the importance of participation in M.A. classes. Also, keep in mind that three hours of class time is a significant amount of your day, meaning that if you have a job or take other classes, you’ll have to work around those three-hour chunks (and that’s not even counting transportation time!).

If you love English and love talking about it then you’ll probably do well in an M.A. class, but be sure to consider the time commitment it can take before making any final decisions.

3. M.A. classes require more work.

It’s no surprise that getting an M.A. will be harder than getting a B.A. – it really is a step forward into even higher upper-division classes. M.A. classes often demand much longer papers (mine were anywhere from 10-20 pages) that are obviously graded at a higher standard than those in B.A. classes. In addition, M.A. professors rarely give out straightforward prompts, so students are left to discover a thesis for themselves. This method is scary, but rewarding, as it teaches you to think creatively, without the help of a prompt.

M.A. programs usually also require a final project like a thesis, which will really test your ability to analyze, research, write, and edit without the structure of a class. I found that the thesis I wrote demanded much more depth and detail than my B.A. thesis, and required much more work than I originally expected; though there was no formal thesis class I definitely spent a lot of time and effort on it that I didn’t plan for before beginning the project. 

The effort you put into an M.A. thesis will definitely give you a lot of knowledge and experience, but make sure that you consider how the possible workload stacks up to what you’re comfortable with.

4. M.A. classes are intense.

Many of your classmates might not have come straight from their Bachelor’s degrees: students, for example, can come into an M.A. program with years of experience teaching, writing, and working with English in ways that B.A. students haven’t been able to know. Often I’d find myself sitting in class beside people who were much older than me, and who already had much more experience in the working world and the academic world than I did!

The difficulty of an M.A. program, however, isn’t to scare you away; it’s simply to teach you the intricacies of English in an even deeper way than a B.A. program. Though the small class sizes, rigorous discussion, high expectations, and experienced classmates might be intimidating, it may be that those aspects of M.A. programs appeal to you and are useful to your career.

Before making any final decisions, however, I’d continue to research what M.A. programs are like and what you might use them for. At the end of the day, M.A. programs are unique, fun, and can help you develop as a writer, reader, and a human being – but they’re certainly not the only option out there for ambitious English majors.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tami Orendain has a B.A. in English, an M.A. English, and pretty much just really likes English. A reader from an early age, she chose English on a whim on her college applications, and discovered that what was just a quick checkmark on a list of majors soon became a lifelong passion. With an interest in helping others discover the joys of reading and writing, Tami has worked as both a teacher and a tutor, and currently heads content for the online magazine DisneyExaminer to help others realize how important English is in modern culture. Her literary interests range from 18th century British literature to modern YA lit and beyond, and when not reading or writing she can often be found serving at her local church, exploring libraries, or watching cartoons (current favorite: Avatar: The Last Airbender). Feel free to feel free to view her portfolio and contact her at emtami.wordpress.com


READ MORE:

5 Alternatives to Grad School Programs for English Majors

People pursuing graduate degrees have varying reasons for doing so. For most, an MFA or PhD is the only track for tenured professorship. But what about those writers who are looking to create more job opportunities for themselves or just get writing training from career professionals to help them get published? Is the only way to find success by getting a grad degree?

“...Sometimes I wish I would have known about the credentials and alternatives available to writing students that aren’t grad degree programs.”

A couple years back, I got my MA in Writing and Publishing. I met some amazing people, read a lot of great books, and produced a lot of my best creative writing to date. It’s also pretty cool to say, “I have a master’s degree,” so I have no regrets, but sometimes I wish I would have known about the credentials and alternatives available to writing students that aren't grad degree programs.

Graduate school can be time consuming (most programs take 2-4 years to complete) and expensive (though lots of schools offer limited assistantships or scholarships), but the hardest part is that having an advanced degree doesn’t guarantee a job. Over the past few years, I’ve researched several different ways that aspiring writers can gain more experience and new marketable skills outside of a grad program.

1. Reading the books on MA/PhD syllabi without attending the classes.

This probably sounds like cheating. It’s not. It’s also obviously not the full graduate class experience—you won’t have an instructor guiding you through the material, asking questions, or requiring you to respond in a thoughtful way to the information. But books on writing are the raw tools of any writing or English graduate degree and the lists are easy enough to find.

If you already have a grad school-bound friend or colleague, ask them to keep a list of books that show up on their syllabi. College book stores will also have lists of required reading for classes, and you can find what classes are being taught each semester by browsing an online course catalog. Plenty of professors are also active writers and bloggers who regularly share their class reading lists with their online audience, and at the very least, a Google search for “most taught books on writing” will definitely give you a strong start.

2. Starting or joining a writing group online or in person.

If your desire to get a graduate education is steeped in a desire to become a published author, you’re not alone. One of the best things about going to graduate school is the opportunity to write extensively and workshop your pieces, letting others weigh in on your drafts. This is a hugely important step in becoming a published writer. But luckily, grad school isn’t the only way to achieve writing and revision.

If you know other people who are looking to improve their writing game—maybe from college or from work—you can easily suggest starting a writing group. It doesn’t have to take place in a classroom; the only rules for a writing group are to write, read respectfully, and revise. You can also use online forums or sites like MeetUp to find like-minded people to start a writing group with or even join an existing one. Libraries and community centers also often offer small, volunteer-facilitated groups or spaces for patrons to start their own.

3. Taking standalone classes or workshops online.

If you’re craving the advice and instruction of a seasoned writer or veteran professor but don’t want to commit to a whole program, you can find courses online that specialize in teaching just about anything. Looking to brush up on the art of revision? Want to dive into fiction or horror writing or the short story? Want to learn about how to network with publishing or submit manuscripts? There are courses covering all of that and more at your fingertips.

For instance, LitReactor is an incredible resource for both aspiring and longtime writers. They not only write regular articles on books, writing and publishing and host a helpful podcast, they also offer very reasonably priced online writing courses. A 2-week online workshop class taught by Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk was featured once and writers paid $250 for coaching and instruction; they also have classes on writing and selling YA novels, writing mysteries, and tons more.

There are also plenty of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) available to students. MOOCs are defined as “a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people.” Lots of prestigious universities (like Stanford, Princeton, MIT, UCLA, etc.) as well as smaller institutions offer classes conducted in this open resource platform.

No matter what kind of class you take, however, make sure you can find information and review on the instructor or course by other students to make sure it will be a worthwhile and helpful experience.

4. Attending a certificate program.

Certificate programs are great for professional development and staying up to date on industry trends. Some of them function as condensed grad school programs—they’re the same classes that graduate students are taking, but certificate seekers take fewer of them and pay less.

Community colleges also often offer certificate programs that are designed for students who aren’t seeking a degree but are interested in updating skills or continue education in a specific field. Some English majors go on to earn Technical Writing certificates to help them get jobs in textbook or manual publishing. Whether you take the post-baccalaureate certificate route or decide to go for a continuing education certificate, certificates are a great way to add to your skill set and qualifications or help you prep for graduate studies down the line.

5. Attending professional conferences.

Writing conferences and conventions usually do two things. They connect readers and writers with publishers and books at trade shows and book fairs, and they also present on literature and discuss writing. Conferences are a prime destination for connecting with authors and agents, learning about the state of publishing, or workshopping in a genre.

There is no shortage of professional conferences for writers. For example, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs has an annual conference that features over 2,000 presenters and 500 readings, panels, and lectures. BookCon takes place annually and features tons of authors, book signings, and publisher appearances and panels. There are also plenty of smaller conferences held at libraries and community centers and genre-specific conferences!

The whole world is an educational experience waiting to happen, and you don’t have to limit your learning to the classroom. If you’re not sure about making the graduate school plunge or just want to sharpen a few skills, try some of these alternatives to grow your abilities as a writer, help you earn a promotion, or put you on the path to publishing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marianne has an MA in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University and currently works as a Content Developer. After getting her master’s degree, she decided to dedicate her life to being a huge nerd and semi-professional animal rescuer. She spends most of her time reading and watching science fiction, eating Greek food, listening to music that was popular in 2003, and thinking fondly about the time that she hugged John Barrowman. If the writing gig hadn’t worked out, she probably would have taken up race car driving or roller derby.

 


Want to Apply to Grad School? Here’s What English Majors Need to Know ASAP

Ah, the life of an English major. The endless hours spent hunched over one of the twelve books you have to read by the end of the week, as well as the ten page papers all due at once… the sweet life. The smell of old books and the sound the leather bound covers make as you slowly open them to bask in their knowledge... it is the most delicious part.

But the one thing that I cannot stand, the constant question that I get from everyone:

What are you going to do with an English degree?

I have heard that specific question so many times it has driven me to start making up my major. Sometimes I pretend to be a psychology major, or a biology major, just to get people to stop asking that question, because it is always followed by: So what grade level are you going to teach?

“I just stare at them blankly and say, “I want to do research.” That astounds them, you can research literature?”

That really gets my goat. I just stare at them blankly and say, “I want to do research.” That astounds them, you can research literature? Yeah, you can. It’s called going forth and getting this thing called a Master’s degree, or even a PhD. Say what?! That’s right, graduate school. The scariest step you will ever take in your academic career.

You might think you are insane, but after a nice long ponder with a warm cup of tea, you come to realize, that is exactly what you want to do. It is not some lackadaisical decision made on some sunny afternoon on a whim, and it is not a last resort. It is something that you have seriously thought about, like I have. You have come to love what you have been doing for the past four years so much, that you want to get down to the nitty gritty.

You have become passionate about what you want to do, and there is no shame in that. You might think that you have lost your marbles, as you start filling out the applications and you realize how long you are going to have to wait before you get the results, and you will go crazy. From the time you apply in December/January, to the time you hear back in mid-March, you will have gone through so many different levels of freaking out, you’ll feel like Jack Torrance.

But I warn you, think about this decision. I deliberated this decision for almost two years before finally sticking to my gut and going for it. I am here to help with this heart wrenching process. If you are considering applying to grad school, there is a list of things you should do long before the application due date:

1. Stop and think.

Is grad school really what you want to do for the next x amount of years? Do you want to be going to seminars and writing papers, where the length requirement will terrify the freshman in you? Are you willing to set yourself down for hours on end each night and roll up your sleeves to really dig down into the topic of your dreams?

If so, great! If your heart is in the right place and you know that you can do it, than by all means go for it—but start as soon as possible. Once you have made the decision, do whatever extra work you can and prepare for the most emotional, exacerbating, exhausting trip of your lifetime.

2. Consult your professors.

After all of that hard and long decision making on whether or not you should go, if any uncertainties still lie within that big juicy brain of yours, ask a professor. Your professors are there to help and guide you—they are such a valuable source of information. They have been through the same process as you, and know what you should be doing to get into the best graduate school, but most importantly, the right graduate school for you.

They will tell you what you need to hear to get on the right track, and they will give you fantastic advice. I absolutely adore my professors. They were phenomenal when I asked them what I should start with and where to go. Their advice is golden. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

“Get all of the scholarships done as soon as possible. I waited too long and most of the scholarships I qualified for were already closed for submissions.”

3. Begin researching scholarships immediately.

Once the decision has been made, the planning begins. Get all of the scholarships done as soon as possible. I waited too long and most of the scholarships I qualified for were already closed for submissions. The Fulbright Scholarship, for example, has a deadline in October. I was looking for scholarships in November. Do not wait for them!

4. Start studying for the GREs sooner than later.

Those bad boys will kick you where the sun does not shine if you do not study. Their website is helpful and you can get a lot of good material off of it for free. There are also the subject tests, and many colleges want the English subject test taken to help further separate you from the others. I recommend taking the GREs and the subject tests more than once. They are meant to screw with you! They are difficult, do not be fooled. The summer of your junior year going into your senior year is the best time to take them, but taking them earlier would be better. That way you have a chance to get the results by October, and they are the results that you want to send out, not the ones you have to send out.

5. Make sure you have the necessary academic experience (this includes writing samples!).

While you are scholarship hunting and studying for the GREs, you are also going to want to start doing any extra work that you can. If you have great grades and can do any sort of Honors work, do it. Your school has an Honors Thesis program, so write one. Get involved with academia as much as you can.

Also, get started on what you will be using as your writing sample. The average length that graduate schools want for English/Comparative Literature majors is 20 pages. Some may want more, others may want less, but if you have a good enough sample there is nothing to worry about, especially if you have been doing well with your academics. You can even use your Honors Thesis that you worked so hard on for the writing sample.

Graduate schools want to see your best work to see how far you have come and if you have what it takes to go even further. All aspects of the application process are there to help you to stand out from other applicants. Your resume will help and you want to beef up your resume in your remaining years in undergrad.

6. Get your recommendation letters ASAP.

This is also something you do not want to wait to get done. Your professors, as great and as valuable as they are to you, also have jobs to do. They do not sleep in their offices like vampires and wait for your shining face to enter through their door. They have papers to grade and classes to prepare. They have meetings and who knows what else on their plate. They are not at your beck and call.

If you want a letter of recommendation, ask them early and give them a due date, before the semester even begins. The longer you take to ask, the longer you will be waiting to get them. If they do not have it done by the time an application is due… well, it is not good. The school you are applying to will try to work with you, but only so far.

You also want to make sure you are asking the right professors for those letters. You want to go to the office hours as much as possible; hang out with your professors, see them outside of the classroom and try to play nice. Once you get to know them, they are pretty cool people. I mean, you will still have that one professor who will not stop quoting Shakespeare every five minutes, but it is endearing and amazing that they can pull out a quote from one of his many plays and put it in context with the conversation.

They have stories from their times in school as well, and they love to tell them. Your professors will not bite! They love to talk about their research, you get them going on that, nothing will stop them. I mean nothing. Befriend your professors, stop by to say “hi.” They are amazing people and are there to help. I cannot stress that enough!

7. Carefully write your statement of purpose.

Your statement of purpose is the most important part of your application. They may give you a maximum word count, so you have to say as much as you can, as briefly as you can. Let the graduate school know why you want to research your topic, the topic you want to research, and the people you want to work with within the departments. It shows that you have dedicated yourself to the application.

And for the love of all that is vocabulary, do not reuse your statement of purpose. Do not take the names and change them around. You are not getting away with anything, because if you mess up and forget to switch a name, there goes that school. So please, please, please, rewrite the statement of purpose for each program you are applying to. Each program is unique and is looking for students who want to work hard, there is no cheating on applications. You will only be cheating yourself of a great opportunity.

8. Consider early submissions.

If you can, submit your applications early—the earlier the better! Submitting applications early means that you have been planning for this and spending valuable time working on the recommendation letters, the statement of purpose, your resume/CV, and all of the other odds and ends like TA applications. You want to get them done, and get them done right.

9. Breathe.

That’s right. Your head is going to be swimming as you apply to schools. You are going to be working on all of this while school is going on.

Your senior year is going to be stressful. I graduated a semester early and I am sweating bullets waiting to hear back from graduate schools. You are going to go through twelve stages of stress and then back again with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s on your lap. You will try to read and take your mind off of it, or maybe class work will make it go by faster… it will not. It is going to be absolute torture.

Then, when you hear back, you may even get a letter of rejection, and it is okay; repeat that to yourself about seven times and breathe while doing so. That school, that one school out of the six or so you applied to, found other candidates. Trust me, you will survive. Have a backup plan just in case—you may not ever need it, but it is there. This is something you want, and you have worked hard for it. It may be something that you have been dreaming about for the past few months, and you may get kicked in the shins once or twice, but you have to let your work speak for itself.

Do not be afraid of your writing sample, if you did the smart thing and started early and have worked on it diligently, then it will show. You have to have faith in your abilities!

* * *

So, my fellow English majors, this process may take you through some interesting times in your life. Don’t be afraid of taking that leap. You may think you are going insane, wondering why you wanted to do this from the beginning, but just reread the papers you loved writing the most. I do all the time. It brings back the passion that I have for this great literary world. It reminds me of the classes I wrote them for, and the professors I got to know and befriend.

English majors, Mr. Darcy was turned down by Elizabeth on his first try—we all know why. The second go, he received the acceptance he had wanted, and we all should learn from that. If at first you do not succeed, try again. Keep working hard and it will pay off—maybe not at first, but you will see a light at the end of that long tunnel. I wish you luck in your endeavors and hope that you remember to simply breathe, and that everything will work out as it should.


About the Author

Brittany Eldridge has a BA in English (Albright College) and is currently waiting to hear back from a few graduate schools, biting her nails every waking moment she can. It’s a stressful time, but she still keeps on writing and reading as much as she can. She even continues her research in her spare time. Brittany is an easily spotted bibliophile, as she always has her nose in a book. She wants others to know that they are not alone in such a crucial time in their life and to keep following their passions.


READ MORE:

Posted on March 18, 2016 and filed under Articles, Featured Articles, Graduate School Resources.

Should You Go To Grad School? 35 English Majors Share Their Advice

To grad school, or not to grad school? Just about every English major has struggled with this question. Who better to answer it than grad school graduates?

We reached out to our wonderful (and well-educated) readers to find out what going to grad school really means – financially, mentally, and emotionally – and the results are in!

Before you take your next step, read what our 35 experts had to say about what a graduate degree is really worth.


Mary O'Brien - BA in English (Modern British Literature) - MA in English (Professional Writing and Rhetoric)

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To refine my natural writings talents into something that could get me a good job.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I was able to get hired only 5 months after graduation thank God. I believe the graduate degree helped with that.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Make sure to evaluate whether you can afford it, as well if it is necessary for the field you are interested in working in.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

My program was about $50,000 I guess. I wish I had tried to see about more summer classes to expedite my degree progress.


Anonymous - BA in English (Literature) - MA in English (Literature)

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I wasn't sure what else to do. I knew I didn't want to teach in public school and had a vague idea of teaching college English.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I was able to adjunct at a local college and was eventually hired as an advisor at a university because of my writing/communication skills and experience with students. It also played a significant role in my being accepted into a doctoral program in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in educational technology.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

While you study, take advantage of any and all opportunities to expand your experience – tutor, offer to teach workshops, volunteer to help with freshman orientation.


Crystal Kamm - BA in English (Literature) - MA in English

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

The school offered me the option of teaching classes for a significantly reduced tuition.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I feel that it has made it more difficult to find appropriate employment.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

I would recommend working in many areas to decide what route is preferred before pigeonholing yourself.


Ashley Moutinho - BA English - MS Education

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To teach.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I was able to apply to teaching jobs.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

If you can afford it, do it. I learned a lot. I have since decided that I do not want to pursue teaching, but I gained insight into myself and the workings of a school system.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I found a program that was (mostly) free. I interned for a school district (acted as a sub) and that district paid for my courses. I only had to pay for my student teaching semester.


Rory Griffiths - BA in English (Language, Literature, Linguistics and Communications) - MA in English

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To learn more, teach more and become more employable.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

Theoretically it has helped, but I've spent 8 months job searching and applying with no success

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Make sure it's your passion and something that will fulfill you.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I was able to a graduate debt free (and made money) by applying for scholarships, working a part time job while studying and teaching undergraduate classes.


Ethan Bishop - BA in English - MA in English (Specialization in Children's Literature)

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I enjoyed my undergraduate experience, so I wanted to take my education a step further.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

My current position, Dean of General Education at Coleman University, requires a Master's degree.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Be certain you have chosen the right program.


Stephanie Lieberman - BA in English (Literature) - MA in British Literature

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

Additional education, and I wasn’t ready to enter the job market.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I think it has positively enhanced them. Not only did I have a few years to hone my craft, but pursuit of a graduate degree shows dedication and commitment.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Do it!

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I received a full tuition waiver and a small stipend. While may assistantships are classroom-based (teaching), I was able to work in a number of areas on campus and develop marketable skills.


Kelley Sullivan - BA in English (Language & Literature) - M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction for Secondary English Education

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To earn more money as a public educator for high school English and to stand out among fellow teachers.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I earn more money and have more upward mobility with a Master’s degree.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Work on time management and general writing! Time management and good fundamental writing skills will save you as you head into a graduate degree.


Kathleen Denison - BA in English - MA in English

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

Because I ultimately plan to obtain a Ph.D. but I knew I wasn't ready for that much of a commitment. So, I opted for the MA to get me a step closer and give me some extra time to figure out where I wanted to go next.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

Honestly, it hasn't made much difference. I get paid maybe $1,500 a year more for having it, but that's about it. The job I have I still could have acquired with just my BA.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

If you can, find a program that offers GA positions. Make sure to find a program that will help cover the costs. I wouldn't take my experience back for anything, but I wish I wouldn't have rushed the decision. Also, study for the GRE. It is only one component but it matters. If you aren't 100% ready or certain, then don't do it, because grad school is going to take your all.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I paid for my program with student loans, because I was told MA students weren't eligible to becomes GTAs, which wasn't true. If I had to do it over again I would do more research rather than just trusting the word of others, even others who are supposed to be knowledgeable.


Susan Mace - BA in English - MA in Secondary Education

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I decided to teach high school.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

It qualified me to teach in public school.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Money spent on education is never wasted. Also, getting the MA allows you to focus on an area since an English degree can be used for so many different career paths.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

My tuition was free and I got a small stipend for working as a graduate teaching assistant.


James Russell - BA in English (Language Arts with Emphasis in Secondary Education) - MA in 19th Century British Literature

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To open up more job opportunities.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

Thanks to the rough market for adjunct faculty at most universities, I am no longer using my degree.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Make sure that you have the financing lined up well and a solid plan for what you intend to do after you graduate.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

Don't get an out-of-state Master's degree unless you have full tuition waivers lined up before you start.


Jennifer Kelly - BA in English and French - MA in English

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I was planning on going for a Ph.D. teaching college for the rest of my life.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I was able to teach for more than 10 years, but adjunct work didn't cut it in terms of financial stability. I haven't tried to get any other private sector jobs because I have young children.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

What would I do differently? I would think about going into a different field, though what that would be is still unknown. Anything to avoid feeling like a failure, which I already do. More than a decade of teaching and nothing to show for it. I'm almost forty.


Randi Ruela - BA in English (Literature) - Doctor of Chiropractic and Master Acupuncture Oriental Medicine

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

It was the plan all along.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

It’s increased job opportunities and earning potential.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Do it, it is worth it but be wary of student loans.


Amy Hendrix - BA in English - MA in English (Literature)

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I wanted to continue school, but also I felt like a graduate degree would help me stand out for potential employers.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I am still having problems finding a different job. Other than teaching there is nothing degree-specific that I can do.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Honestly? If you live in Oklahoma don't get a graduate degree in English unless you plan to move out of state to teach.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I love my degrees and what they taught me. It would be nice if I could actually get a decent paying job with them.


Rebecca Janes - BA in English and Art - MS in Expressive Therapies

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To earn a living post-divorce.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I’ve gone on to become a licensed mental health counselor, and eventually into private practice.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

A liberal arts English degree gives the depth needed to be a good counselor, and feel good about making a decent living.


Ebony Murphy-Root - BA in English and African American Studies - M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To increase my career opportunities, for the sake of rigor in my field.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

Most positions I have applied for have been impressed by the specificity and rigor of my advanced degree and offered me a pay bump.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Make sure you are studying something you have a real interested in, pursue grants and fellowships, and limit your loans, especially if you have debt from your undergrad degree.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

Mine was a one-year summer to summer program, paid for with a combo of loans and a fellowship.


Jamie Cyphers - BA in English - MS in Instructional Technology

Did you complete your graduate degree?

I will graduate in May 2016.

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

In the hopes of landing a better job; preferably in higher education.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

It's made me more aware of my skillset and where that skillset could be put to good use.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Make sure you research career options and decide if you're willing to relocate BEFORE starting the program.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I would have preferred to complete my degree on campus.


Carlene Harwood - BA in English, minor in Education - MA in English

Did you complete your graduate degree?

I completed my MA. I’m working on Ed.D. now in reading education and adult education, to be completed next year.

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

More career opportunities.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

It allows me to teach college, but hasn't provided much advancement yet. Hoping my Ed.D. will.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Enjoy it and save your money now so you can pay for it without taking out loans. Look for financial aid.


Lisa Gray - BA in English - MA in English - JD

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I had advanced as far as I could without one, and layoffs in the computer industry meant too much competition for jobs.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Get an employer to fund it instead of going into debt.


Raquel Krantz - BA in English (Literature) - MA in Education

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I wanted to teach, but also be eligible for flexibility to be hired in other roles in a competitive job market.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

It backfires sometimes. People assume that because you have a Master’s degree, you're not going to stick around.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Be very specific and research the position you want. You want to make sure the degree is relevant.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

If I could do it all over again, I would not have gotten my Master’s degree. It cost way more than what I'm getting paid.


Jillian Grindstaff-Swathwood - BA in English (Literature) - MA in English (Literature; Rhetoric and Composition)

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I initially wanted to pursue a doctorate.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I have gotten a lot of "You're overqualified for this position" after interviews, but it has assisted me in getting a slightly higher starting salary at a couple of jobs.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Carefully consider how your graduate degree may or may not help you in your career. Think of the money it will cost and do a cost-benefit analysis, keeping in mind that employers want more work and more experience than before. Also, are you willing to relocate for your degree? Are you willing to relocate after your degree for better job prospects? There are a lot of things to consider, so make sure you understand how it will impact your entire life.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

My program is not very well known, but many of my professors were great teachers and I appreciate what I learned from them. However, the money I spent (approximately $1,400 per class after fees), was not worth taking out the loans needed to pay for it. While I have significantly less in the amount of student loans as compared to my friends in the U.S., it's money that I could be using for other things now. If I had the choice, I would have waited another year or two and reapplied to schools to get into a more well known school. Or I may have not gone altogether.


Kelsey Hixson-Bowles - BA in English (Creative Writing) - MA in English (Composition and Rhetoric) - Ph.D. in Composition - TESOL (in progress)

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I chose to complete my Master’s in order to explore Composition and Rhetoric before committing to a Ph.D. program. I chose to pursue and Ph.D. because I am passionate about teaching and tutoring writing and felt that a Ph.D. best set me up for a successful future of teaching/tutoring.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I am still in graduate school, but I believe my Masters made me a more desirable applicant for Ph.D. programs.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Don't go into debt for graduate school.


Katie Fiorella - BFA in Creative Writing - MFA in Fiction Writing

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To pursue a career as a college professor.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

It allows me to apply for professor teaching positions.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Work at your pace. Don't rush to the end. Don't feel obligated to get it if it's not required for the job you want, but don't pass up the opportunity either if you are serious about writing. Grad programs are usually more focused on what you want to learn. You won't be required to take a math or science class. All your courses can and will be writing based so you will get a lot more out of it. If you want to write and publish, you will have a chance to do this or at least practice. You will gain valuable experience and critiques through workshops, which tend to be overlooked in undergrad programs. It's important to learn how to put your work out there and take criticism if you want to move forward in that career. Plus, you get to see all kinds of other writing styles which may influence you to try something different or strive to be as good as someone else in class that you look up to. You won't get these things anywhere else.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

If you can, do it online. Take one class a term and work your butt off in school and in a job to help pay off any loans. You may find it to be a little cheaper which will help, but it’s still a big expense. Do your research and pick the school you think will be best for you. Look at the classes they offer before you apply and read the descriptions to see what interests you and talk to others who have gone to that school and program for their opinions and suggestions.


Jennifer Iley - BA in English (Literature) - MA in Library and Information Science

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

It is the minimum requirement to be a librarian.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

Increased opportunities.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Find a way to pay for it that doesn't include student loans.


Matthew Stumpf - BA in English Literature - MA in Literature and Criticism

Did you complete your graduate degree?

I have completed my masters and am currently working on a Ph.D.

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To be frank, I pursued my Master’s because I didn't want to be done with college yet. I then fell in love with the intellectual community that is fostered within English graduate programs and realized that was where I belong.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

With my Ph.D. I hope to find a career in teaching at a university. The academic job market is tough right now, but ever since my first day of undergrad I have wanted to be a professor.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Start reading yesterday, don't get too caught up in your own head, make friends, enjoy a cocktail here and there, and most importantly have fun with it.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

My Ph.D. is fully funded and I was awarded an assistantship that gives me a bi-weekly stipend. A Doctoral Fellowship award has also helped me financially. My Master’s on the other hand almost doubled my student loan debt, and set me back about 20k/year for the two years I was there. It is for that reason that I chose a Ph.D. program that offered full funding to its students.


K. Ruggles - BA in English - MA in English

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

My familial background was not one that lent itself to the pursuit of education. I knew that to overcome the history of my past, I had to go far above and beyond what the expectations of me were.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I always told people that I wouldn't mind teaching, but I would never teach at the public school level. Now that I have my graduate degree, I get to do what I love (teach) but at the university level.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Do it. There is absolutely nothing bad about having a graduate degree in the long run. If you apply for a job and they tell you that you are over-qualified because of your degree...you were never really going to see opportunities for promotion anyway.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

The one thing I would do differently is more research. I did not know how to go about doing what I wanted to do, so I didn't know how to get grants and scholarships. So I am up to my eyeballs in debt. I also would have taken the thesis track in my Master’s program rather than the capstone track. It's harder, but I would feel more accomplished and worthy of my degree if I had written a thesis.


Blair Romain - BA in English - MS in Professional and Technical Communications

Did you complete your graduate degree?

Not yet, but I will be graduating after this semester (Spring 2016).

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I wanted to be more specialized than simply having an English degree and I certainly didn't want to teach (which we all know is what people expect we will do when we say what our major is). I started in a graduate program in Composition and Rhetoric where I took a course in technical writing. It immediately clicked with me and I left the program to pursue a degree that focused on technical communication.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

So far it hasn't as I currently am working at a job where I'm not utilizing my writing skills. But, once I graduate, I hope to officially begin my career in something I'm passionate about with a stellar portfolio that I have built up during my program.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Getting a graduate degree is a major expense, but can be worth it depending on your career path. Unlike your undergrad degree, everyone in your grad program has similar interests to your own and you can form an invaluable network of peers upon completion of your program.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

If possible, I would approach your employer and see if they offer to compensate you for taking classes. This is an option that I wish my employer offered. I also completed my graduate degree entirely online, which I highly recommend. It allowed me to complete coursework at times ideal to my crazy schedule and gave me the option to apply to schools I may not have considered otherwise.


Julia McCrossin - BA in English - M.Phil. in English

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I was interested in the subject and thought I wanted to teach.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

It hasn't at all.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Do it for the passion, not for career prospects.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

Student loans are not “good debt.”


Shannon McGinley - BA in Communications - MA in TESOL

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I wanted a career change.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

More job offers, increased salary.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Explore all options for funding (assistantships, etc.).


Shanee Campbell - BA in English - MA in English (Composition and Rhetoric)


Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

To broaden my understanding of the topics I was interested in: writing, deconstruction and derrida, why we make errors in writing, etc.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

Mostly not at all. I'm working a job in which anyone with an Bachelor's can work. However, it did pretty much solidify the company's choice to hire me. I was hired within 3 hours of my first interview.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Graduate degrees should be for yourself, not for money. There is rarely any advancement in pay with an MA so your choice to do it would be entirely either because you wish to get a doctorate and teach, or because you simply want to understand/learn more about a particular subject. Choose a university based on this. I went to a university that had a Master's concentration in Rhetoric and Composition for this reason.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I went to a "budget" university for my graduate degree, paid entirely out of pocket. I had a great experience, and I was allowed to pursue my own interests (or incorporate my interests) in any classroom. A Master's degree will NOT get you much more in terms of money, so really pay attention to your interests and understand that you're doing this for – self-improvement over all other reasons.


Rick Middleton - BA in English - MA in English (Composition and Communication)

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

Intense interest in the subject matter, career advancement potential, and the classes were free since I work at a university.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I still have the same job (university grant writer) as before, but I'm also pursuing doing part-time community college teaching now that I have an MA. I also consult, and having an MA builds credibility.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Try to look at many career paths (3 or 4 of them), since "being a professor" is one of the hardest to follow. There are many fulfilling writing and communications jobs for smart English majors outside of academia.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I was fortunate to get my degree for free, since I work at the school.


Brandon Hines - BA in English (minor in Education) - MA in English - MA in Education

Did you complete your graduate degree?

No, still in progress.

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

In California, teaching credentials must be obtained through graduate school. A year-and-a-half program with a Master’s folded in made sense. Saves time and earns more money.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

I will make more as a teacher, and can be pickier about job offers.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Make sure you feel it's worth it. School has never been harder and the cost is pretty draining. More than just financially.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

As an in state student, UC tuition isn't much more than when I was an undergrad, but not being able to work makes it so much harder.


Lisa Taylor - BS in Speech Pathology - MA in Literary Studies

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I was pulled to the liberal arts and thought it was a way to get a job.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

Not at all, sadly.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Make sure you know your desired end result and be specific. Pick a program that panders to that specifically. Do not stray.


Elizabeth Gassel Perkins - BA in English - MA in English - Ed.D. in Leadership/Higher Ed.

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

I worked in my campus's writing center as an undergrad and loved helping people (as much as I loved editing). I wanted to do that forever!

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

For my job, it's required. I got a FT tenure-track teaching job at a two-year college and am now the dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. My credentials got me my first job, but my writing abilities (learned in my MA program) are really what helped me advance in my career to leadership positions.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Take advantage of every opportunity you get! Can you work as a TA? Can you tutor in the writing center (even as a volunteer)? Can you get leadership experience by joining Sigma Tau Delta? Can you apply for conference stipends? Do it all!

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

I loved my program and my professors. I completed it in 10 months while working full-time hours (no online courses, either). I used loans and my own money and finished quickly, so that I could get a job. Grad school doesn't have to be a black hole if you are very motivated!


Kim Buelow - Middle School Education - MA in English

Why did you choose to obtain a graduate degree?

Loved school.

How has your graduate degree affected your career prospects and advancement?

Gave me more opportunities to work in different arenas.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree?

Know your strengths and weaknesses and have an open mind about what the degree can bring you.


Posted on January 30, 2016 and filed under Articles, Featured Articles, Graduate School Resources.