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.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

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) Not 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

 Applicants interested in the Literary Studies MA will apply directly to our English PhD program.

The department requires an MA applicant to have a bachelor'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. 

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

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 24 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement M.A.–applied English linguistics pathway: All required courses in the MA pathway in applied English linguistics must be taken for graduate credit when available. At least 21 credits out of the required 30 must be taken in graduate work.

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

Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement Policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1244
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required. This program follows the Graduate School's policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1203.
Other Grade Requirements n/a
Assessments and Examinations Contact the program for information on required assessments and examinations.
Language Requirements Demonstrate competence in one foreign language. MA/PhD students in Literary Studies will complete an additional language requirement.

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) pathway:

Required Courses
ENGL 314 Structure of English3
ENGL 315 English Phonology3
ENGL 514 English Syntax3
ENGL 516 English Grammar in Use3
Electives 218
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 Credits30

These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.


Of the 18 elective credits, at least six credits must be numbered 700-799 and at least three credits in coursework numbered 900-999.

Literary Studies Pathway

Students interested in the M.A. pathway should refer to the Ph.D. for more information on requirements.  For the M.A. degree en route to the Ph.D. degree, students take a total of ten courses (for a total of 30 credits) in the Department of English and demonstrate competence in one foreign language. To ensure breadth of knowledge, the course requirements call for intensive study in different chronological and geographical areas. There is room too for electives within this stage of the program. These requirements must be completed before the beginning of the fifth semester. When the first stage requirements are completed, provided the student meets the program standards for satisfactory progress, he or she will be entitled to move into the second stage of the program.


These pathways are internal to the program and represent different curricular paths a student can follow to earn this degree. Pathway names do not appear in the Graduate School admissions application, and they will not appear on the transcript.

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

With program approval, students are allowed to count up to 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.

UW–Madison Undergraduate                                                                                                              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 up to 6 credits of relevant graduate level coursework, numbered 700 or above or designated with the 50% graduate course attribute, 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. 


This program follows the Graduate School's Probation policy.


This program follows the Graduate School's Advisor policy and the Graduate School's Committees policy.


12 credits

Time Limits

This program follows the Graduate School's Time Limits policy.

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. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


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. Demonstrates a broad understanding of key traditions, emerging trends, and important problems in the field of study.
  2. Capacity to identify evidence pertinent to field of study, to analyze evidence using methodologies and practices appropriate to field of study, and to evaluate and synthesize information.
  3. Communicates research findings in a clear manner that indicates the value of research to the field of study.

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