College of Arts & Sciences English

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About the Degree

The master of arts (M.A.) degree in English at USD covers the major periods and concepts in American and British literature. Master's students design their own program of study which culminates in a substantial scholarly or creative project.

At the heart of the M.A. program are the graduate seminars: small, intensive courses which explore a wide range of subjects, from the eighteenth-century novel to contemporary Native American poetry, from Romantic-period women writers to twentieth-century magical realism, from literary theory to fiction writing.

There are three specializations within the M.A. program: 
  1. Literature (Plan A* or Plan B*)
    For students who select the Literature track, the thesis is a long scholarly paper on a literary topic.
  2. Creative Writing (Plan A* only)
    Students in the Creative Writing track produce a creative work in the genre of their choice.
  3. TESOL (Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages) (Plan B* only)
    Students may choose an emphasis in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

*Students who choose Plan A write a thesis as one of their degree requirements.

*Plan B provides an alternative for students who prefer to complete additional coursework instead of writing a thesis.

All master's students take written comprehensive exams and an oral exam near the end of their program.

Full-time, Part-time & Summer Study

Full-time students who are not teaching assistants can usually complete the M.A. program in a calendar year. Most teaching assistants finish the degree in two academic years. Full-time students pursuing an M.A. and teaching certification simultaneously can usually complete the program (including required student teaching) in two academic years.

The M.A .program is designed to accommodate part-time as well as full-time students. Graduate seminars meet once a week and are scheduled in the late afternoon or evening to allow students with work or family responsibilities to attend. Other graduate-level classes are offered earlier in the day. It is also possible to complete some of the requirements for the M.A. during the summer. 

Students may begin their studies in September, January, or any of the summer terms.

Helpful Links


See our Graduate School website for Requirements and Application information.  To receive all necessary application forms, please Request our Application Packet.


Applications for the M.A. program are accepted throughout the year. Applicants who wish to be considered for teaching assistantships, however, should submit applications by February 1 for the proceeding academic year.