MA/PhD Degree Requirements: Master's Degree

Students who enter the MA/PhD program without an MA in English or a related field are required to earn an MA in the first two years of the program. (Note that the UW Department of English does not admit students for a terminal MA degree.)

The degree requirements for the MA in English Language and Literature at the University of Washington are:

  • Language requirement: Evidence of ability to make scholarly use of at least one language other than modern English
  • Coursework: At least 40 graded credits of coursework
  • Master’s essay: Graduate students who intend to continue on to the fully-integrated PhD program must complete a Master's Essay (5-10 credits) as part of their coursework

The requirements are detailed below.

Language requirement

Students are required to demonstrate intermediate-level reading competency in a language other than modern or Middle English. This requirement can be fulfilled up to three years prior to entering graduate school at UW. Students completing their MA in English Language & Literature at UW must satisfy the language requirement prior to earning their MA.

Options for completing this requirement are:

  • A 3.0 or higher in the final course of a second-year college-level course sequence (or more advanced), taken within three years prior to entrance; or
  • A score on a UW language test that demonstrates competency at the level of the final course of a second-year college-level course sequence; or
  • Native-speaker ability in another language; or
  • Completion of Advanced Old English language and literature (Engl 513) with a grade of 3.0 or better

All credits earned in fulfilling the language requirement by coursework at the 100-400-level are in addition to the graduate credits required for the degree. 


At least forty (40) credit hours in graded graduate courses are required for the MA degree, including:

  • English 506: Introduction to Graduate Study in English (5 credits)
  • English 590: Master's Essay (5-10 credits)

Students who decide to leave the program with a terminal master's degree may substitute five (5) graduate seminar credits for the master's essay. If they subsequently decide to continue toward the PhD, they must complete the master's essay.

What counts for coursework:

  • 500- & 600-level graded English graduate courses
  • Credit for courses taken outside of the department require approval by the DGS
  • Students may petition the DGS to transfer up to five (5) credits taken as a graduate student at another institution

What does not count for coursework:

  • 100- through 400- level courses
  • Creative writing workshops
  • Internships

Master’s Essay

The master’s essay is a scholarly paper that allows students to demonstrate the research skills and knowledge they have gained throughout their master's studies. It often develops from a paper written for a course and follows the form of an article for a scholarly journal. The particulars of its argumentation and format will vary depending on a student's academic area(s) of specialization. The master’s essay is the final component of the MA degree.

The following three options are available for completion of the master’s essay:

  • One quarter, 10 credits;
  • Two quarters, 5 credits each. First quarter would culminate in the submission of an annotated bibliography and abstract (max. 500 words) OR an equivalent, approved by the master’s essay director;
  • One quarter, 5 credits. Student would select a particular paper from a seminar and develop and expand it to publishable length.

The master’s essay is not a thesis and is not submitted to the UW Graduate School to be filed in the library.


The master’s essay director is selected by the student and must be a member of the English graduate faculty. A second reader is selected in consultation with the master’s essay director. After securing the agreement of the director, the student registers for 5-10 credits of English 590.


The usual length of the master's essay is that of an article in a scholarly journal. It should be prepared according to the citation scheme appropriate for one's area of specialty, such as MLA, Chicago Manual, or APA.


Both the director and the second reader evaluate the essay and send copies of their evaluations to the student and to the English Graduate Advising Office. The grade for the essay (and for Engl 590) is assigned by the director.


The Director of Graduate Studies serves as advisor for all degree requirements. A student entering the program should meet as soon as possible with the Director of Graduate Studies. At this meeting the Director will review degree requirements, discuss coursework choices, and appoint a graduate faculty member who shares the student’s research interests to serve as entrance adviser to counsel the student on academic matters, including scholarship, course selection, and professional preparation. This role will continue until the student chooses a Master’s Essay Director who then assumes mentorship.

Applying for the Degree

Students wishing to graduate with the Master of Arts degree must submit an on-line application to the Graduate School. Students must be registered for a minimum of two credits during the quarter the degree is conferred. Note that the MA degree is a “non-thesis” degree option.