The Value of a Master’s in English

Some debate the advantages of earning a master’s degree in a soft subject like English. The degree routinely lands on lists ranking the purported “worst master’s degrees,” usually based on salary and career data for those who hold the degree. Rankings that rely heavily on financial gains and jobs data fail to take into account the benefits that make an M.A. in English deeply worthwhile for the student passionate about literary studies, scholarly pursuits, or writing. A close look at the master’s in English reveals that, in addition to the intangible benefits of personal enrichment and educational accomplishment, the graduate degree can indeed help students further their career opportunities.

Checks Off Employers’ Wish Lists

Across the board, employers value communication skills, creative thinking, and adept writing. The M.A. in English develops each of these aptitudes, strengths that are highly sought after in virtually every career field. “In our world of rapid change, job-specific skills have an ever-shorter shelf life,” said David D. Esselstrom, Ph.D., chair and professor in APU’s Department of English. “What doesn’t become old or dated is the ability to face new challenges and analyze them, to respond thoughtfully, and finally to evaluate and skillfully articulate one’s findings.”

According to an analysis of job growth and education requirements by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, communication, decision-making, and analysis are among the most in-demand competencies across the job market. Students learn advanced skills in these areas in an M.A. in English program, enhancing their ability to think critically, write persuasively, and solve problems creatively. Notably, graduates with degrees in the liberal arts are a prized commodity, even in the ever-shifting science and tech fields, according to a 2015 Forbes report: “Throughout the major U.S. tech hubs … software companies are discovering that liberal arts thinking makes them stronger.”

Prepares for a Variety of Career Options

Rather than equipping students for a single job or career track, the M.A. in English serves as a strong foundation for a wide variety of careers, as demonstrated by graduates holding bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English. “We have alumni who are lawyers, teachers, professors, school administrators, web developers, editors, and authors,” said Esselstrom. “APU English alumni are represented in the film industry, publishing, insurance, public relations, business, and law enforcement. We also have graduates living in Indonesia, Japan, and other places around the world teaching English and working in government and business.”

Because graduates end up in such myriad fields, rankings that look at generic employment growth projections—from a limited range of closely associated jobs—often leave out English master’s degree holders who are thriving in other areas.

Advances Careers in Traditional Paths

An M.A. in English is a popular choice for those pursuing more traditional career paths in higher education or high-school teaching. The addition of a master’s in English may bring added responsibility or a promotion for an educator, and it can open the door to broader job opportunities that require a graduate-level degree. Earning a graduate English degree also represents a significant step toward further studies at the doctoral level, for those who plan to earn a Ph.D. and advance in academia. “Pursuing the English master’s degree can be a natural choice for teachers wishing to climb further up the salary scale through professional development, for scholars thinking of tackling the Ph.D., and for pastors wishing to broaden their outlooks and analytical skills,” explains Esselstrom.

Enhances Job Growth and Stability

Earning a master’s in English or another subject increases a graduate’s earning potential. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illuminates this point: Master’s degree holders make an average of $11,700 more each year than those with just a bachelor’s degree. And jobs requiring a master’s degree are expected to grow the fastest in the coming years, making graduate school a worthwhile investment for many.

Note: This information is current for the 2017-18 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.