Will you pen the next great American novel? Or write a critically-acclaimed study of Danticat, Dante, or Hemingway? Or become a dedicated professor who inspires the next generation of college students?

Mercy College’s Master of Arts (MA) in English Literature program provides a strong foundation for students interested in these and other pursuits. Some of our MA graduates have gone on to Ph.D. programs, have continued into college teaching positions, or have gone on to earn advanced creative writing degrees. Numerous English teachers have earned the MA or graduate content credits through our program for purposes of (re)licensing, promotion, or simply to increase knowledge of their field.

Some of our MA students have no such professional goals or needs and simply love literature, and join our program to study and experience with others the tremendous power, mystery, and meaning that moves through and emerges from literature. Our program includes students of practically all ages located throughout the U.S. and across the globe.

Students in the program learn theory and advanced methodologies of literary criticism while engaging with British, American, and some world literature. Attention is paid both to traditional authors, genres, and eras, as well as to literature of diverse cultural and historic traditions.

Students will find courses ranging from standards in the field to courses unique to our program and designed by Mercy professors. All courses are taught by Mercy College faculty who are experts in their fields.

The MA degree can be earned fully online through Mercy College's virtual Blackboard environment. This allows students from across the country and the globe an accessible and convenient way to learn and to earn the MA degree from a fully accredited college.

English Literature Fast Facts

  • Enriches one's intellectual and creative life
  • Qualifies you to teach college-level English
  • Maybe a stepping stone to a PH.D
  • May provide content credits for teachers
  • May open doors to fields such as Publishing, Editing, Writing, Media, and Advertising

Program Outcomes

By the end of this program, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate critical thinking and interpretive skills reflecting knowledge and comprehension of important British literary texts
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and interpretive skills reflecting knowledge and comprehension of important American literary texts
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and interpretive skills reflecting an awareness of theoretical trends and criticism
  • Demonstrate knowledge of some of the literary traditions, and/or cultural situations, and /or historical eras from which the literature referenced in the above learning outcomes emerged
  • Create original research topics, research primary and secondary sources on those topics using digital databases, and produce writings on those topics which demonstrate clear grammatical prose and accurate style

Admission Requirements

A completed application, two letters of recommendation, transcripts and a writing sample are required. The writing sample can be either a scholarly paper written for a previous literature course or an essay on the topic of why you want to pursue graduate-level literature study. Applicants who are concerned about whether or not their academic preparation is adequate for the MA program are encouraged to submit both a sample term paper and a personal essay; however, only one or the other is required of any applicant. The GRE is not required. Contact the Program Head at any time to discuss these requirements further.

Course Requirements for the MA English Program

The degree requires 30 credits in the form of ten 3-credit courses, and is usually completed in anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 years depending on the amount of credits a student takes each semester, and on whether or not the student opts to take courses during the semester (Refer to the FAQ section for more information). The chart below shows the outline of the ten courses required for the degree.

Required Courses
ENGL 500 Theory/Pract of Lit Criticism
One course, Writing and Literacy Forms Group (ENGL 505 - 510, 517)
One course, Literature Group I (ENGL 521 - 540)
One course, Literature Group II (ENGL 541-560)
One additional course, Literature Group I or II (521 - 560)
Four elective courses, (ENGL 505 - 598)
Master's Thesis Tutorial (ENGL 599)

Transfer Credits

Graduate courses taken at other institutions prior to admission at Mercy College may, if pertinent to the plan of study, be credited to the graduate degree. Permission to transfer credits must be requested at the time of admission and official transcripts and course descriptions must be submitted to the program director for evaluation. Transfer credit is normally limited to six semester hours of credit for courses taken within the last five years in which the student has received a grade of B or better and is not recorded as part of the GPA.

Maintenance of Matriculation

Students in the program must maintain matriculation during fall and spring semesters by either registering for courses or, if not taking courses during a semester, paying the Maintenance of Matriculation fee of $100. Summer registration is optional.

Students who have not maintained matriculation and wish to return to their program within one year after their last course will be charged the Maintaining Matriculation fee of $100 for each missed session. Maintenance of matriculation without attending classes is limited to one year. Activated U.S. Military Reservists are not required to pay the Maintenance of Matriculation fee.

Maintenance of Good Academic Standing

The cumulative GPA for both good academic standing and degree conferral is a 3.0. A student admitted as a Special Matriculant is required to achieve a 3.0 average or better after completing a certain number of credits as stipulated by their respective program. Grades are subject to review by the faculty advisor and program director at the end of each term. If the academic average falls below 3.0 the students will be placed on academic probation.

Academic Probation

All students who have a cumulative GPA of below 3.0 will be placed on academic probation. If a student will not be able to achieve a cumulative GPA of 3.0 within a reasonable time, the student will be dismissed from the program. If a student receives a grade of F or FW in any course the student may be subject to dismissal from the college.

For all students on probation, future registrations must be reviewed and approved by the Director of the student's program as well as the school dean.

In all subsequent terms in which the student is on probation, the student is required to achieve a term GPA of 3.0 or better. If the 3.0 or higher is not achieved the student will be dismissed. Students who receive a grade of less than B may be required to repeat the course. Students will be allowed to repeat a course only once.

Time Limit

Students attending the program continuously from the date of their acceptance will be able to complete the degree requirements in two and a half years. Students will be required to complete their degree requirements within six years of entering the program. (Note: Students seeking permanent New York State Certification in Secondary Education will be under a time constraint to complete the program within five years or less).


Students requiring official full-time status must take nine credits (three courses) per semester. The MA program, however, recommends six credits (two courses) per semester as the preferred workload for most graduate students. Both of these credit loads qualify for financial aid. Students may also take one course per semester through this does not qualify for financial aid. Students must complete the degree within six years of beginning the program. The program offers courses in the fall, spring and summer.

The Comprehensive Exam

Between their penultimate and the ultimate semester in the program, students will be required to take a comprehensive written examination prepared and administered by the graduate faculty in English Literature. The examination will be based on the courses taken during each student's tenure in the program. The exam, like all elements of the Mercy MA degree, can be administered through distance learning.

The Final Thesis Paper

The MA degree requires a final thesis paper focused on original research from which a paper of approximately 25 pages in the MLA Style will be developed. Students write this thesis paper during the final required course in the program, ENGL 599 Master's Thesis Tutorial. Each student chooses a mentor from the graduate faculty to lead her or his 599 tutorial. The mentor guides the student during the development of the thesis topic, and through the process of researching and drafting the thesis paper over the course of the semester. Near the end of the semester, a polished draft of the paper is reviewed by a panel comprised of the mentor and a second faculty reader, either of whom can request or require further revision. In order for a student to successfully pass ENGL 599, both members of the panel must finally approve the thesis paper.

English Literature M.A. Curriculum

The MA degree requires thirty credits or 10 three-credit courses. All students must take the program's core theory course (ENGL 500) and the final thesis tutorial (ENGL 599). Beyond those two courses, students have a great deal of freedom to chart a personal path toward the MA degree.

Students must take at least one course from 505 - 510 or 517; one course from 521 - 540; one course from 541 - 560; another course from 521 - 560; and then four electives of any number from 505 - 598. Each of these number-groups tends toward a particular emphasis. Courses in the 505 - 510 range focus on a particular type of writing, a literary form. 517 is a creative writing course for those who wish to explore that option. The 521 - 540 courses have something of a British emphasis. The 541 - 560 have something of an American emphasis. And courses from 561 - 598 are those which aren't meaningfully grouped into the other fields. The program usually runs six courses each fall and spring semester, and between two and four courses during the summer.

A full list of our catalog courses can be found by accessing the Mercy College Graduate Catalog available here. We also have a number of newer "topic" courses running on a trial basis and which have not yet been added to the Graduate Catalog. Applicants interested in learning more about these topic courses can look through recent course schedules on the program blog and/or can contact the Program Head for more information.

Career Opportunities

Graduates are qualified to apply for most full-time community college English professorships and to teach composition and literature as an adjunct at most community and senior colleges. The MA may be the stepping stone to the PhD—some Mercy MA graduates have gone on to the Ph.D. The degree may also lead to non-academic careers in fields which require writing, critical thinking, and research skills, such as publishing, editing, advertising, technical writing, journalism, and other media. Secondary-school teachers can earn graduate English content credits for such things as (re)licensing, promotion, and retention.

Program taught in:
  • English

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Last updated August 7, 2019
This course is Online
Start Date
Sep 2020
2.5 - 6 years
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