The Department of English offers a Ph.D. in English (with specializations in composition and rhetoric, English language and linguistics, or literary studies); an MFA in creative writing; and a terminal M.A. in English with a specialization in applied English linguistics. Students enrolled in the literary studies Ph.D. specialization become eligible for an M.A. English degree in the literary studies area when they successfully complete the first-stage doctoral requirements. The literary studies specialization does not offer an M.A. apart from the doctoral program. Students enrolled in the composition and rhetoric track in English must have a master's degree in hand prior to matriculation in the doctoral program.

The M.A. program with a specialization in applied English linguistics provides broad training in applied English linguistics and second language acquisition (SLA). Students who graduate from this program will be well prepared to teach English as a second language, and those who do exceptionally well may apply for admission to the doctoral program in the English language and linguistics area.

Regarding catalog course listings: graduate seminars in English reflect the faculty's current areas of research and therefore change importantly from year to year. Please consult the department website for more detailed information.

Fall Deadline December 8
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/requirements/#english-proficiency).
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

The department requires an applicant to have a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited institution. Applicants for the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees typically demonstrate competence in the fields of English literature or language, American studies, or linguistics, but the department also welcomes applications from superior students who have not had the equivalent of an English major. Such students may be asked to supplement the normal program of study by completing a small number of coverage courses. Applicants for the MFA degree are expected to demonstrate competence and promise in the genre in which they are applying.  MFA students are not necessarily expected to be knowledgeable in the same areas specified for M.A. and Ph.D. applicants. Applicants for the Ph.D. specialization in composition & rhetoric may have bachelors and masters from a variety of fields beyond English but must complete a master's degree or equivalent before beginning the doctoral program.  All graduate degree programs in the department except the MFA normally require Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores no more than five years old. International students whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement M.A.–applied English linguistics track: 33 credits
M.A.–literary studies track: 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement M.A.–applied English linguistics track: 16 credits
M.A.–literary studies track: 18 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement M.A.–applied English linguistics track: All required courses in the MA track in applied English linguistics must be taken for graduate credit when available. At least 21 credits out of the required 33 taken in graduate level work.

M.A.–literary studies track: All coursework for this degree (30 credits) must be taken in graduate-level coursework.

Courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (https://registrar.wisc.edu/course-guide/).
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Contact the program for information on required assessments and examinations.
Language Requirements Contact the program for information on any language requirements.

Required COURSEs

All coursework for this degree (30 credits) must be completed in English courses numbered 700 or above (with the exception of ENGL/​MEDIEVAL  520 Old English and ENGL/​MEDIEVAL  521 Advanced Old English Literature).

Applied English Linguistics (Terminal MA) track:

Required Courses
ENGL 314 Structure of English3
ENGL 315 English Phonology3
ENGL 514 English Syntax3
ENGL 516 English Grammar in Use3
Electives 221
English Language Variation in the U.S.
Second Language Acquisition
English Words: Grammar, Culture, Mind
Global Spread of English
Introduction to TESOL Methods
English in Society
History of the English Language
Topics in English Language and Linguistics
Old English
Advanced English Syntax
Advanced English Phonology
Interaction Analysis: Talk as Social Organization
Research Methods in Applied Linguistics
Topics in Contemporary English Linguistics
Advanced Second Language Acquisition
Seminar-Topics in Applied English Linguistics
Seminar-The English Language
Total Credits33

Literary Studies Track

Students interested in the M.A. track should refer to the Ph.D. for more information on requirements.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

M.A.–applied English linguistics track: With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

M.A.–literary studies track: With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 (typically 3 to 6) credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

M.A.–applied English linguistics track: With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of relevant coursework from UW–Madison undergraduate coursework. coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

M.A.–literary studies track: No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 6 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.


12 credits

Time Constraints

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances.


Graduate programs in English are full-time programs. Students are expected to enroll full-time until required coursework is completed. Funding available for students pursuing the M.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Articulates research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within the field of study.
  2. Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study demonstrating breadth as well as depth.
  3. Conducts research according to recognized standards in the field and crafts persuasive and original arguments that make a substantive contribution to the field.
  4. Communicates complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner that advances and articulates the value of contributions of the field of study to society
  5. Demonstrates knowledge and practice of pedagogy consistent with discipline and with field of study
  6. Fosters ethical and professional conduct.

Faculty: Professors Castronovo (chair), Auerbach, Barry, Bearden, Begam, Bernard-Donals, Bow, Britland, Dharwadker, Foys, Friedman, Guyer, Hill, Johnson, Keller, Kercheval, Olaniyan, Ortiz-Robles, Purnell, Raimy, Sherrard-Johnson, Wanner, M. Young, R. Young, Zimmerman; Associate Professors Allewaert, Cooper, Fawaz, Olson, Samuels, Trotter, Vareschi, Yu, Zweck; Assistant Professors Amine, Calhoun, Cho, Druschke, Edoro, Fecu, Huang