The Master of Arts program in English introduces students to the professional study of literature.

The M.A. is appropriate for students who would like graduate training in English and who may have an undergraduate major in a different field or who may intend to earn a Ph.D. at another institution. Students interested in careers in any area of book studies (professional writing, editing, web design, or publishing) may wish to earn the M.A. as a terminal degree, as may teachers seeking to enhance their credentials or students pursuing intellectual growth unrelated to a specific career.

M.A. and Ph.D. students in English mix freely in graduate courses, share the same access to faculty, and meet the same standards of quality in their work.

Exam for the Master of Arts in Teaching

The department administers the English component of the exam for the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) in coordination with the College of Education. M.A.T. students should contact the Department of Teaching and Learning (College of Education) for information.

The Master of Arts program in English requires a minimum of 31 s.h. of graduate credit. The program's focus is literary studies. Students may receive credit for up to 6 s.h. of transfer courses toward the M.A. degree. They must maintain a cumulative University of Iowa g.p.a. of at least 3.00. Students who wish to transfer to Iowa's Ph.D. program must complete two semesters or 15 s.h. of coursework in literature (whichever is completed first) before applying for admission to the doctoral program.


Each student must take seven English courses numbered 5000 or above as indicated below. Applicable transfer courses must be approved by the director of graduate study in English.

All of these:
ENGL:5000Introduction to Graduate Study3
One course in criticism and theory numbered 5000 or above
Four readings or seminar courses numbered 5000 or above, chosen from the following five eras of British, American, and/or Anglophone literature and culture: pre-1500, 1500-1660, 1660-1800, 1800-1900, 20th and 21st centuries
One of these:
ENGL:5990M.A. Portfolio in Literary Studiesarr.
ENGL:5999M.A. Thesis in Literary Studiesarr.

Elective courses constitute less than half of the total credit for the degree and may be chosen from graduate courses both in and outside the English department. Students may wish to explore opportunities for interdisciplinary study, language study, experience in theory and practice of writing, or specialization in a field of literary scholarship.

Department of English graduate courses are repeatable with the written approval of the department's director of graduate studies.

Completion of the M.A. requires either a thesis or a portfolio. Students submit a written description of their choice to the director of the program before the semester in which they plan to graduate.

M.A. Thesis

Students who choose to write a thesis must submit a brief prospectus approved by a thesis director before they register for thesis credit and at least one semester before they submit the thesis. The thesis committee consists of the thesis director, the director of the M.A. program, and one other faculty member. The thesis is evaluated by the committee as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

A copy of the thesis must be presented to the Graduate College for approval. For detailed information about Graduate College deadlines and policies, see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website.


Near the end of their coursework, students who do not choose the thesis option must submit a portfolio of work to the M.A. examination committee, which consists of the director of the M.A. program and two other English faculty members. All three read the full portfolio. To pass, the candidate must have a majority vote of the committee members.

Students take the first step toward preparing to submit a portfolio by meeting with the director of the M.A. program to discuss the portfolio, early during the semester in which they plan to graduate. After fulfilling all distribution and eligibility requirements and clearing all incomplete grades, students present the director with a draft of the portfolio’s introductory statement. Students planning to graduate at the end of fall semester should present the statement by the first week of October; those who plan to graduate at the end of spring semester should present the statement by the first week of March. Once the director approves the statement, the student must submit three copies of the full portfolio; the submission deadline is November 1 for students planning to graduate at the end of fall semester and April 1 for those who will graduate at the end of spring semester.

The work in the portfolio should demonstrate the student’s knowledge of literature as a broad historical and theoretical inquiry. Students submit approximately 50 pages (12,500 words) of their best work, along with a self-reflective introductory statement of five to seven pages. The body of the portfolio should contain revised versions of papers originally produced for classes. The introduction should detail the student’s trajectory in the program and the literary-critical or methodological skills gained. It also should explain the contents of the portfolio, contextualize each paper, and give a brief overview of the writing. Students are expected to describe the research methods used in assembling their portfolios and the critical practices that ground their work.

Applications and all supporting documents for graduate admission must be submitted electronically by December 14. Applicants should submit their applications and supporting materials to the University of Iowa Office of Admissions website.

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website.

The Master of Arts in English degree helps prepare students for careers in professional writing, editing, web design, and publishing. It also is desirable for teachers seeking to enhance their credentials.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans represent one way to complete a program of study. Actual course selection and sequence will vary and should be discussed with an academic advisor. For additional sample plans, see MyUI.

English, M.A.

Plan of Study Grid (Manual)
Academic Career
Any SemesterHours
31 s.h. of graduate level coursework must be completed; up to 6 s.h. of graduate transfer credits allowed upon approval. More information is included in the General Catalog and on department website. a  
Maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.00.  
First Year
ENGL:5000 Introduction to Graduate Study 3
Criticism and Theory course b 3
Historical Period course c 3
Historical Period course c 3
Historical Period course c 3
Elective course d, e 3
Second Year
Historical Period course c 3
Elective course d, e 3
Elective course d, e 3
ENGL:5990 M.A. Portfolio in Literary Studies f 1 - 3
Elective course d, e 3
 Total Hours31-33