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The Department of English offers the following degrees and certificate:

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Master of Arts (MA)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Certificate in Composition, Literacy and Pedagogy

Contact Information

Director of Graduate Studies: Nancy Glazener
Main Office: 526 Cathedral of Learning
Fax: 412-624-6639

Additional information concerning the department’s graduate program may be obtained from the Graduate Administrator, Department of English, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA 15260. Phone: 412-624-6549. Fax: 412-624-6639. E-mail: Web site:


Applicants for admission must submit an online application, transcripts of all college-level work, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, a writing sample (which varies by degree—please consult the application requirements link above), and scores on the verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and writing assessment-analytical sections of the Graduate Record Examination. International applicants whose first language is not English are required to submit either the TOEFL administered by the Educational Testing Service with a minimum score of 90 (with a minimum of 22 in each section), or the IELTS administered by the University of Cambridge, Local Examinations Syndicate with a minimum score of 7.0 (taking the academic writing and reading modules). Applications will be accepted for fall term admission until December 10. The department admits students only for the fall term.

Applicants can apply online at the following site:

Financial Assistance

All PhD students are offered a non-teaching fellowship for their first year of study. Students making satisfactory progress are then ordinarily supported with renewable teaching assistantships and teaching fellowships for four more years, with the possibility of a fifth year depending on the availability of funding. The department does not usually offer support to MA students. A limited number of teaching assistantships are available for qualified MFA students, and these assistantships are renewable for two more years if the students are making satisfactory progress. A limited number of graduate student assistantships are available for qualified MFA and MA students.

Requirements for the MA

General Requirements. The MA requires the completion of nine courses (27 credit hours). three of these courses are a one-credit Introduction to Graduate Studies; a core course for one of the programs of the PhD (in Composition, Film, or Literature); and a course in the scholarship of pedagogy. MA students must complete a master’s research paper in an elective course of their choice (see below), and must fulfill a language requirement by demonstrating reading knowledge of a language other than English or take the appropriate coursework in the study of a language other than English.

Master’s Research Paper. All MA students must also complete a master’s research paper in an elective course of their choice. The master’s research paper should be of professional article length, defined by the Modern Language Association (MLA) as 6,000–8,000 words not including documentation. Students must engage in primary research beyond course readings and/or what is ordinarily required for a term paper, and the Master’s Research paper must reflect that research. Students must consult an instructor, and receive the instructor’s approval, no later than the end of the add/drop period if they wish to write their master’s research paper for that instructor’s seminar. The instructor of the seminar will be solely responsible for evaluating the paper. The master’s research paper must be completed no later than the last day of the spring term of a student’s second year, or fourth term in residence. In order for the master’s research paper to count toward earning the MA, a student must receive a grade of B or better on the paper and as a final grade for the course in which the paper was completed.

Requirements for the MFA

General Requirements. The MFA requires 36 credit hours with a minimum grade point average of 3.00, plus the completion of an acceptable final manuscript. Requirements vary according to the student’s area of major interest [comma removed] (fiction, nonfiction, or poetry), but the degree requires a combination of writing workshops, graduate-level readings courses, and English courses outside the Writing Program (in composition, literature, or film).  Further information about requirements for each MFA genre can be found in the English Department’s graduate handbook.  There are no language requirements for MFA students.


The Final Manuscript. The final manuscript is equivalent to the MA comprehensive examination. It consists of a book-length manuscript of the student’s best work in the area of major interest – 150 pages (typed, double-spaced, standard format) for fiction and nonfiction, and 50 pages for poetry. The manuscript shall be submitted to a committee of three English faculty members—two writing graduate faculty in the student’s area of major interest and one English graduate faculty member outside the writing program. The student may recommend committee members, but the writing program director has final approval.

Requirements for the PhD

General Requirements. The PhD requires 72 credit hours, 39 of which must be in courses at the 2000 or 3000 level, with a minimum grade point average of 3.00. Required courses are a one-credit Introduction to Graduate Study; Seminar in Pedagogy (3 credits); and ENGLIT 2993: Introduction to Graduate Study (1 credit). Additionally, two core courses in different programs of the department (Composition, Film, and Literature). The remaining credits are earned through elective seminars, independent studies in preparation of the PhD project and dissertation research credits. PhD candidates must fulfill a language requirement by demonstrating reading knowledge of a language other than English or by beginning or continuing their study of a language other than English through coursework.  PhD students must teach for at least two terms.

Earning the MA. PhD students may elect to earn an MA as they progress in the PhD program, although they are not required to do so. If they wish to earn the MA, they must successfully complete the two core courses listed above with a grade of B or better, and either complete the master’s research paper (outlined above under "Requirements for the MA Degree"), or successfully pass their PhD comprehensive (project) examinations. Application for the MA must be made before the end of the student's fourth year in the PhD program.

The PhD Project. The PhD project fulfills the University requirement for a comprehensive examination prior to admission to doctoral candidacy. It is a historical and theoretical investigation of a topic that can be demonstrated by the student to be of long-term significance for critical study. The project allows students to examine and synthesize a range of interests that ordinarily lead into the more detailed inquiry of a dissertation. While we no longer insist on comprehensive knowledge of all literature written in English, the project is meant to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge as well as the ability to work on a single problem. For more specific regulations governing the PhD project, please consult the PhD website listed above.

The Dissertation. After students have passed their project examinations, they will register for independent study credits in order to write a prospectus for the dissertation. The student should choose a dissertation director and a committee at this time. Once a dissertation committee has been formed, the student will submit a formal dissertation prospectus to them for approval. When the dissertation committee has approved the prospectus, the dissertation director will submit for the student an application for admission to doctoral candidacy. Once students have had their dissertation prospectus passed and have been admitted to doctoral candidacy, they should begin the work of researching and writing the dissertation. Normally students will complete the dissertation during the fifth and sixth years in the program, the fifth through the eighth terms as a teaching fellow, or the ninth through the 12th terms in residence. Once the dissertation is completed, students must successfully defend the dissertation in order to earn the PhD.

Certificate in Composition, Literacy and Pedagogy

This graduate certificate recognizes sustained, advanced study in composition, literacy, and pedagogy. It can be awarded to students who have earned the MA, MFA, or PhD degree in the department of English, and to those earning graduate degrees in other programs and departments.

To qualify for the certificate, students must successfully complete 12 to 18 credits (depending upon the level of the certificate being awarded). More information about the certificate is online at

Course Listing


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