2024 Best Online PhD in English Programs

By Joy Cromwelle
Updated on December 25, 2023
Ready to start your journey?
Explore the best online PhD in English programs for 2023. Discover accelerated classes and flexible online degrees with a focus on English language learning.

If you love words and communication, it may be your goal to earn an online PhD in English.

PhD in English Programs

Holding a doctoral degree is a common requirement for jobs in academia, such as being an English professor or a humanities researcher. Having a PhD isn’t just for working in a college, though.

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Whether you plan to be a professor or a practitioner, you can satisfy your desire to study language and writing by completing a distance learning PhD in English.

Online PhD in English Programs

Online PhD in English Programs

A doctorate in English is a terminal degree for people who are interested in various aspects of the English language, including literature and writing.

During your program, you may have the opportunity to spend several years engaged in serious study, so you’ll probably want to select a topic in the field that fascinates you. Some areas of study include medieval literature, gender studies, written discourse, modern grammar, or film criticism.

In a doctoral English program, you’ll typically complete a series of coursework toward the beginning of your studies. While a handful of your classes might be prescribed, you may be at liberty to select much of your own curriculum.

Topics you might study in online English PhD programs include:

  • Cultures and societies
  • Composition and rhetoric
  • Grammar and syntax
  • Literature from various time periods
  • Research methods
  • Teaching methods

Many students enter English PhD programs because they want to have careers in academia. In a linguistics department, you might teach courses and work on research projects. Taking classes on instructional methods during your program can help you prepare for that role.

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As a PhD candidate, you’ll typically need to undertake a major research project. Completing the research and the writing for your dissertation can take several years. Along the way, you’ll take classes to help you get started, and you’ll have the support of a faculty advisor.

After completing your doctoral program, you might look for a job at a university or another academic institution. You can also pursue research opportunities outside of college settings. Having a PhD in English might also enhance your career as a writer, an editor, or a journalist.

Your developed communication skills can also be useful in the fields of public relations or business administration. Some graduates become education administrators or K-12 teachers as well.

English Major Careers & Salaries

English Major Careers & Salaries

Many students who enroll in English doctoral programs want to become college professors. As a faculty member of a university’s English department, you might teach writing or literature. You may have opportunities to conduct research in the humanities as well.

Getting a faculty job can entail a lot of competition. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options you can pursue with a degree in English lit or language.

Being a professor isn’t the only option for working in education. With a teaching license, you can qualify to teach in a high school’s English education department. Those with a PhD may also pursue roles as college administrators.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are various career paths open for people with a Ph.D. in English.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $118,430
Top Executives $107,680
Postsecondary Education Administration $97,500
Technical Writers $74,650
Postsecondary English Language and Literature Teachers $69,000
Writers and Authors $67,120
Editors $63,400
High School Teachers $62,870
Middle School Teachers $60,810
Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts $49,300

The publishing industry especially relies on strong writing skills. Some graduates become authors or editors. The process of researching and writing a dissertation might prepare you for the role of a technical writer, relaying complicated information in understandable ways.

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In fact, nearly any job that depends on communication skills might benefit from your doctoral background. Public relations managers and administrative managers are two such positions that require solid communication skills.

Journalism and on-air reporting are other lines of work to consider. Audiences might appreciate your ability to explain complicated situations or to help them consider different perspectives.

English Doctorate Curriculum & Courses

English Doctorate Curriculum

As a doctoral student, you may have a good deal of flexibility to choose what courses you take as part of your program.

The English departments at many schools offer a vast lineup of courses. That might allow you to build a curriculum that supports your professional goals and research interests. Examples of courses that might be offered at your school include:

  • American Literature: You could study a particular period in American history, the social forces that shaped that era, and the works that came out of it.
  • British Literature: Writers you might study in a British lit class include Shakespeare, Chaucer, Marlowe, and Wordsworth.
  • Communicating Through Mixed Media: You can learn to deliver effective messages on digital platforms through a mix of words, images, and other elements.
  • Grammar of the English Language: You’ll study traditional and modern issues related to syntax and other aspects of grammar.
  • Humanities Research: This course will introduce you to graduate-level research practices for people who study English or other humanities subjects.
  • Key Questions for English Scholars: During this course, you may study literature theories, methods of analysis, and perspectives through which to view various works.
  • Medieval Literature: In this course, you might familiarize yourself with early forms of the English language or explore ways that medieval works have influenced modern writers.
  • Multicultural Language Studies: As you explore works from around the world, you may discuss the challenge of translating ideas from one culture to another.
  • Statistics for Linguistics: You’ll learn how to apply quantitative statistical methods when analyzing your research data.
  • Teaching Writing: Your time in this class can help you become a more effective educator who brings out the best in students’ composition skills.

Some of these classes may be designed to prepare you for a dissertation project. A significant portion of your doctoral program may be devoted to completing the dissertation.

Admissions Requirements

PhD in English Programs Admissions

English departments typically look for doctoral students with a solid academic background and impressive writing skills. To demonstrate that you’re the right candidate for a doctoral program, you may need to submit the following:

  • Application form and fee
  • College transcripts
  • GRE scores (if required)
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Writing sample

GRE scores are not a universal requirement for graduate admission, so your school may not request them or may grant waivers to qualified applicants.


PhD in English Programs Accreditation

A doctoral degree in English will require a lot of your time, attention, and effort. It’s strategic to make sure that you’re investing your resources wisely by choosing to study at a college that holds regional accreditation.

To become accredited, a school must take its educational mission seriously. It has to undergo an evaluation process in which it demonstrates honest practices and a commitment to academic excellence.

Accredited degrees garner greater respect from institutions and employers. When you’re looking for a job, holding a regionally accredited PhD may increase your chances of securing a desirable role.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in English Programs Financial Aid

As part of your preparation for graduate school, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

You may qualify for government student aid, and you might be able to take out state or federal loans with a lower interest rate than you’d get with private loans. You may also be eligible for a work-study program.

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Some colleges finance part or all of a PhD student’s education through teaching or research assistant programs. Your commitment to supporting the school’s English program may significantly reduce the price of your doctoral degree.

There’s also the possibility of earning scholarships or fellowships from private sources. These gifts may support you for one or more years of your program. If your studies will benefit your current employer, you can see if a workplace tuition program will cover part of your PhD costs.

Professional Organizations

PhD in English Programs Professionals

Joining a professional organization can help you sharpen your abilities as a wordsmith, an educator, or a leader in linguistics. Your group might offer resources like conferences, journals, job boards, and discussion forums.

Being a part of a professional organization can allow you to enhance your studies while in school. Your membership can continue to provide benefits after you complete your doctoral program.

Can You Get a PhD in English?

Doctor of Philosophy in English degree

Yes, there is a Doctor of Philosophy in English degree. There are programs focused on literary criticism and others dedicated to the study of writing and rhetoric. Both online and on-campus PhD programs are available.

Course topics you might take during an English PhD program include literature theories, history of the English language, and 19th century American literature. You may also take classes focused on research, technical writing, and teaching. This group of courses can prepare you for your dissertation project and a potential career in academia.

What Can You Do with a PhD in English?

Many people want to earn their PhDs because they have their sights set on academic careers. You might want to teach university English courses or also work on original research. Your degree in English literature or composition can be useful in other fields as well.

Having a doctoral degree might establish you as a top candidate for various jobs in which communication is an essential skill. Common communication careers include working in education, public relations, writing, editing, and broadcasting.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in English?

Get a PhD in English

How long it takes you to earn your English doctorate is largely up to you and your schedule.

A couple of years will probably be spent on required coursework. In accelerated English degree online programs with fast-track classes, you might be able to complete your classes in a shorter length of time. Most of your program, though, will be spent on the dissertation process. It may take you several years to complete the necessary research and write your document.

Students generally end up in a doctoral program for around 3 to 5 years. Others may spend longer on the process.

Is a PhD in English Worth It?

Yes, a PhD in English is worth it for many students. If you’re set on becoming an English professor, having this degree is typically a necessity.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teaching positions are growing at a 9% rate. Even still, some humanities departments are shrinking, so competition for English positions may be tight.

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Before committing, it’s worthwhile to consider other benefits—such as the opportunity to immerse yourself in in-depth studies. A doctorate can also be useful in writing, editing, or administrative careers.

Universities Offering Online PhD in English Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer English degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Concordia University – Chicago

Concordia University Chicago campus

Concordia University—Chicago offers an online program for a PhD in Leadership with a specialization in Reading, Language, and Literacy.

Students must complete 67 credits to graduate. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. They must also submit 2 letters of recommendation and a personal statement about their goals.

Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Murray State University

Murray State University campus

Murray State University offers an online Doctor of Arts in English Pedagogy program. The program offers four different specializations: Language, Literacy, Literature, and Writing.

Students who have a master’s degree only need to complete 48 credit hours of coursework. Applicants with a minimum GPA of 3.2 and 3 letters of recommendation can enroll at any point during the year.

Murray State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

National University

National University campus

National University offers an online program for a PhD in Education with an emphasis in English Language Learning.

To graduate, students must obtain 60 credit hours. The program can usually be completed in 37 months. Students can start the program at any time and can determine their own schedule with no preset lecture hours or due dates.

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University campus

Old Dominion University offers an online PhD in English program. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.5, a GRE score above the 70th percentile, and 3 letters of recommendation.

Students choose two emphases from Literary and Cultural Studies, Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Studies, Technology and Media Studies, or a student-designed emphasis. A total of 48 credits are needed to graduate.

Old Dominion University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Ohio University

Ohio University campus

Ohio University offers an online PhD in English program. Students can choose a concentration in one of three areas: Literary History, Creative Writing, or Rhetoric and Composition.

Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and 2 years of undergraduate coursework related to foreign languages and should submit GRE scores and 3 letters of recommendation.

Ohio University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Rowan University

Rowan University campus

Rowan University offers a PhD in Education with an option to add a Language and Literacy Concentration.

Students must complete 72 semester hours, with 15 hours dedicated to the specialization. A thesis or project is required to graduate. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 and 3 letters of recommendation.

Rowan University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

St. John’s University

St Johns University campus

St. John’s University offers an online PhD in Literacy program. To graduate, students must complete 42 credit hours and a dissertation project under the supervision of a faculty member. The program can typically be completed within 3 to 4 years. Applicants should have a GPA of 3.2 or higher, GRE scores, and 2 letters of recommendation.

St. John’s University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Texas A&M University

Texas A & M University - Commerce campus

Texas A&M University offers an online PhD in English program. Applicants must submit 4 letters of recommendation, transcripts, and GRE scores.

Students may choose to add a specialization to their degree with a concentration in Written Discourse, Theory and Practice, or Critical Literacy. The program is designed for those interested in teaching English and requires a teaching residency.

Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University campus

Texas Tech University offers an online program for a PhD in English with the option to take a concentration in Literature, Creative Writing, or Linguistics. At least 60 course hours and a qualifying exam are needed to graduate. Applicants must submit 3 letters of recommendation, a resume, and all transcripts.

Texas Tech University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Houston

University of Houston campus

The University of Houston offers an online program for a PhD in Professional Leadership with an emphasis in Literacy Education.

Students must complete 51 credit hours with a GPA of 3.0 to graduate. Courses last for 5 to 6 weeks. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and must submit 3 letters of recommendation, a resume, and transcripts.

The University of Houston is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your PhD in English Online

PhD in English Online

If you have a deep passion for words and the messages they carry, then you may consider earning a PhD in English. A PhD is especially necessary if your plans involve searching for a job as a college professor.

Through your studies, you can also refine your communication skills. Your writing and speaking prowess can be useful in sectors like publishing, media, and public relations. Just as there are online masters programs in English, for your English PhD studies, you can also attend classes online. Through distance learning, you can earn a doctorate in English according to your own schedule.

If you’re ready to take the next in your educational journey, you can start by exploring online English PhD programs from accredited colleges.

Ready to start your journey?
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy at Liberty University and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management from Amberton University, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Columbia College. With over 20 years of experience navigating online degrees and courses, Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.