Online Ph.D. English

By Nikita Nath

Updated March 15, 2024

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online

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A Ph.D. in English is a comprehensive and interdisciplinary doctoral program that includes research, mentorship, writing, editing, and more. An online Ph.D. English is suitable for students with a background in research and an interest in the distribution, production, and reception of texts, as well as the literary structures and functions of such texts. English Ph.D. programs online prepare students for a career in research, writing, higher education, college teaching, and other humanities-related occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment in training, education, and library occupations is projected to grow 7% between 2021 and 2031.


Best Online Ph.D. English

Several colleges offer Ph.D. in English programs across the United States, making choosing the right one difficult for students. When choosing the best online Ph.D. program, students should keep several factors in mind, like the selection of coursework, approaches to research, seminars conducted, theory subjects offered, research and electives provided, and dissertation requirements. With these and other critical aspects in mind, here are some of the best online Ph.D. English programs available in the U.S.: *

Old Dominion University (ODU or Old Dominion) is a public research university founded in 1930 in Norfolk, Virginia. Classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”, the university offers 70+ bachelor’s degrees in various fields and about 60 master’s and 35 doctoral degrees to over 24,000 students.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
Old Dominion University 5115 Hampton Blvd, Norfolk, Virginia 23529 $10,207 49%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from Online Ph.D.
English Programs

The Ph.D. in English program emphasizes studying literary texts in historical and cultural contexts. Most programs have strong interdisciplinary ties, and faculties have contacts with research centers to facilitate the stronger delivery of program objectives to students. The program would require about 42 to 72 hours of coursework and research, including about 12 hours of dissertation (depending on the college requirement). In all, students typically require 70 to 85 credits to complete a doctorate in English online program, taking about 5 to 6 years. The program would include one or more courses oriented toward approaches to research and seminars, and students will utilize research hours to consult with their advisors.

The English Ph.D. provides students with the opportunity for extensive and frequent writing and developing skills to produce publishable work in different forms and lengths. Students are introduced to the practice and theory of writing and teaching at various levels. They can also offer to practice teaching within their specific concentrations and shape their individual pedagogy development. The program prepares students to enter the job market and obtain faculty positions, service, teaching, or other professions. Students develop knowledge of literature, language, reading, and writing and acquire critical thinking skills.

Some of the basic components one might find common to most online Ph.D. programs English curriculum would be:

(a) Coursework

The coursework would include subject areas like theories around rhetoric, writing, and historical literature. Students cover courses within their specialization and focus on the dissertation objectives they will pursue.

(b) Teaching

Teaching is an option available to students in some colleges. Although not a compulsory requirement, one can gain some teaching experience if one has not opted for a graduate assistantship. Students who want to work in colleges can also pursue this option.

(c) Doctoral Candidacy Exams

After the student has completed their classroom and research requirements, they will take exams explicitly tailored for the chosen field and projects they want to pursue. Students should pass these exams to be allowed to submit a research proposal.

(d) Dissertation

Every Ph.D. program in English will have specific dissertation courses that prepare students to initially research, develop, organize a topic, refine their thesis, and prepare a defense. Faculty members or panels of members oversee such research and the construction of a bibliography.

The English Ph.D. program also requires students to concentrate on their specialization and explore other areas that can help them learn in an integrated way. The program will include general and specific requirements within each concentration, culminating in a dissertation. Some examples of research topics Ph.D. in English online students have taken up include:

  • English Literature of Renaissance
  • American Literature from 1865 to 1945
  • British Literature of the Nineteenth Century
  • English Literature of the Restoration and Eighteenth Century
  • Folklore Studies
  • Narrative Film
  • Rhetoric and Composition Studies
  • Southern Literary Studies
  • Speculative Fiction
  • Feminist Theory and Criticism
  • Linguistics
  • Drama
  • Creative Writing Studies

Areas of Specialization in Online Ph.D.
English Programs

Online English Ph.D. programs offer various specializations prospective doctoral candidates can choose to further their academic and career interests. It is also possible to choose a concentration that aligns with one’s dissertation topic, which can greatly help research work. Some common specializations of the English Ph.D. program are:

Area of SpecializationDescriptionCareer Options
African Literature and CultureIn this concentration, students learn how to study the different African and Afro-Asiatic languages and their oral and written literature. They also work and analyze the works of African authors in various European languages.Magazine journalists, writers, authors, and more.
Gender and SexualityIn this concentration, students will explore different understandings and concepts of gender roles, gender expression, gender identity, and so on. They develop a spectrum of identities that will help them work within the framework of gender and sexuality.Careers in education, law, advocacy work, arts, and more.
Poetry and PoeticsIn this concentration, students learn the language of poetry and how to learn and analyze different influential works. They also study different historical contexts of poetry and poetic theory.Poets, literary scholars, translators, etc.
Rhetoric, Writing, and CultureIn this concentration, students focus on writing novels, film scripts, and other individual or organization-based writing. They learn various concepts of cultural studies, linguistics, and rhetoric. They also analyze different components of languages systematically.Web authoring, copywriting, speech writing, technical writing, and more
Medieval/RenaissanceIn this concentration, students learn to understand the different concepts of literature of European and Arab-Islamic worlds, artistic traditions, and more.Writers, poets, teachers, content writers, and more.
Theory and Cultural StudiesIn this concentration, students examine interdisciplinary fields that explore the dynamics of different historical foundations and contemporary cultures.Writers, political writers, authors, etc.
Creative WritingIn this concentration, students learn how to use concepts of literature to develop into an expressive form orally or verbally. They will learn to use their imagination, creativity, and skills to portray their ideas in a way that is imaginative and unique.Copywriters, grant writers, technical writers, etc.

Why should I do an Online
Ph.D. English?

An online Ph.D. English program helps students develop their research skills and collaborate with academicians and experts in the field. The commitment of time and effort that students will put towards earning an online English Ph.D. is equivalent to earning the degree on campus or in hybrid learning modes. Toward the end of the program, students will culminate their research in the areas of study they choose in English. After completing the degree, students can pursue careers in academia, business, advertising, law, history, and so on.

The Ph.D. program is ideal and worth it for students who want to develop skills in oral communication, public speaking, report writing, written communication, public engagement, data collection, and more. Some of the skills they can develop include the ability to:

  • cultivate ideas and understand essential sources of research material in the particular field and exemplify expertise in real-world application;
  • display skills in learning, writing, and reading in different areas of English;
  • demonstrate understanding of different theories, dialects and sects, and different forms of the English language;
  • demonstrates skills desirable for diverse employers;
  • display transferable skills, including problem-solving, time management, independence and responsibility, adaptability, interpersonal skills, work ethic, and writing of reports;
  • showcase professionalism to potential employers by identifying crucial aspects expected out of the field;
  • showcase excellent communication skills to be able to communicate ideas using complex and detailed theories;
  • work in a team efficiently and use critical thinking skills to solve problems in the field;
  • use solutions and creative thinking to develop better narratives and critically analyze previous texts, documents, and books by eminent authors.

Free Courses for Online Ph.D.
English Students

Although not accredited or recognized by many, free courses are an excellent way to increase one’s knowledge and help with one’s research in English. It is also possible to develop transferable skills through these free courses that one can use to refine one’s dissertation. Examples of some of these free online Ph.D. English courses are:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
English Composition IThis course teaches students how to summarize, question, evaluate, and analyze visual and written texts. The students are also taught to recognize different stages of writing processes and identify the features of effective prose and other disciplinary expectations. Students learn about how to support and argue a position.Coursera
The English LessonsThe Learn English Network is a platform that allows students to improve their workplace communication skills and enhance their career development. The courses can help them improve their English writing, speaking, and reading skills.The Learn English Network
ProofreadingIn this course, students learn the implications of not proofreading efficiently. It helps students understand how they can proofread their texts and why doing so is important. It also provides them with proofreading tools and highlights five proofreading methods. Students develop transferable skills in writing that they can use in their Ph.D. programs.Alison

How to get into the Online Ph.D.
English Program?

Each university has distinct requirements for enrolling in an online Ph.D. English program. Getting into a Ph.D. program is competitive, and students must highlight their expertise and prior experience in the study area to be accepted into the program. Some of the common online Ph.D. English admission requirements are:

  • Completed application form and application fee
  • A Statement of Purpose highlighting reasons for applying to the program, specific research and study interests, future career plans, and other information highlighting background.
  • At least 2 or 3 Letters of Recommendation – by professionals qualified to evaluate teaching potential and academic work.
  • Academic transcripts from previous colleges attended and degrees conferred
  • One or more writing samples
  • GRE scores (required by some colleges)

Online Ph.D. English No
GRE Programs

Some colleges require the Graduate Record Exam or GRE scores to enroll in a Ph.D. program. However, many colleges across the country have done away with this requirement or have waived it for a year or two following the Covid-19 pandemic. Consequently, more students have shown interest and applied to doctoral programs. However, it is worth noting that colleges may have other requirements like essays, additional letters of recommendation, a higher GPA, or work experience instead of GRE scores. At some colleges, students can submit GRE scores voluntarily rather than as a compulsory requirement. Examples of universities offering online Ph.D. English no GRE programs are the Texas Tech University and Murray State University.

How Long does it take to complete an
Online Ph.D. English?

The average time it would take for students to finish a Ph.D. in English online is 5 to 6 years. While some students with fewer commitments take 4 years to finish, others who study part-time may require over 7 years. Here is a quick overview of the timeline for English Ph.D. programs:

  • Minimum time required for full-time Ph.D. in English: about 4 years.
  • Maximum time required for Ph.D. in English: about 7 years
  • Typical time frame to complete a Ph.D. in English: about 5 to 6 years on average.

Accelerated Online Ph.D. English

Accelerated Ph.D. programs are an option to fast-track the program for advanced students who want to earn their doctoral programs in four years or less. These programs could typically require the student to take fewer courses, shorter dissertations, and less research time than traditional doctoral programs. Through accelerated online Ph.D. English programs, students can earn complete their doctoral and research coursework in about 4 years or less. Some students might need an additional year to complete their dissertation. It is also not uncommon for students to fast-track their doctoral research if they begin it during their master’s program or extend their master’s thesis work to the Ph.D. program. The number of credits students complete during their master’s degree program could also determine the program’s length and how soon they will complete their doctoral degree.

Accreditations for Online Ph.D.
English Programs

Accreditation is a process that assures that colleges maintain the expected quality of their programs. Universities are evaluated by non-governmental accrediting agencies that continuously check whether or not standards are being met and maintained. It is always advisable for prospective students to opt for accredited Ph.D. English colleges because accreditation indicates to potential employers that the education one has received is of high quality. Six regional bodies frequently accredit universities:

The Commission on the English Language is one of the specialized national bodies in the United States that accredits English programs and maintains the quality of curriculum and teaching offered to students. One can check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website or the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs for an institution’s accreditation status.

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Read the Accreditation Guide for detailed information on accreditation and its importance.

How to Pay for an Online Ph.D.
English Program?

With the rising cost of education, students often find it difficult to tap into their savings or earned income or depend on their family’s money to pay for their degrees. Fortunately, governmental and state agencies, community organizations, non-profit foundations, and individuals provide various financial aid that students pursuing an online English Ph.D. could consider. Here are a few such funding options:


Scholarships are provided based on merit and academic standing. While most scholarships are broad-based, some cater exclusively to minorities, women, and other specific demographics.


Grants are provided to students based on their financial needs rather than merit alone. They are also frequently given out for specific purposes or research work.

Graduate assistantships

Graduate assistantships are available for students willing to assist professors in the classroom or with academic-related activities. While teaching assistantships are more classroom-oriented, research assistantships lean towards lab work and research. In exchange for their assistance, students are paid a stipend or given a fee waiver.

Student Loans

Student loans can be classified as Federal Direct Loans and private student loans. Federal loans are low-interest loans funded by the government. Since the government funds these loans, students find them more affordable than private student loans, which banks and financial institutions give.


The Free Application for Federal Student Aid helps students determine their eligibility for financial aid from the federal government and some universities. More information is available in the FAFSA Student Aid Guide.

Fully Funded Online Ph.D.
English Programs

A fully funded Ph.D. program is sometimes available to full-time students and could include full remission of tuition, an annual stipend for the duration of the doctoral studies, and more. Sometimes, additional funding is offered for graduate research work and teaching, which complement one’s Ph.D. studies. Here are a few fully funded online Ph.D. English programs to explore:

University/College Description
Syracuse UniversitySyracuse University, New York, offers a fully funded Ph.D. in English. It provides students with teaching assistantships, including a tuition scholarship for about nine credits per semester. Ph.D. students also receive fellowships that cover their tuition fees and provide them with a stipend ranging from $19,500 to $25,290.
University of ChicagoThe University of Chicago, Illinois, offers a fully funded Ph.D. in English. All newly enrolled doctoral students receive a comprehensive funding package that supports them during their pedagogical training. The funding includes a stipend, teaching remuneration, full tuition aid, and premium aid for health insurance.
Boston CollegeBoston College, Massachusetts, offers a fully funded Ph.D. in English. Candidates receive stipends of up to $25,500. The stipend and scholarships are provided through research assistantships, teaching assistantships, tuition scholarships, and university fellowships.

FAQs Related to the Online Ph.D.
English Program

Is an online Ph.D. in English worth it?

The Ph.D. in English program helps students get in-depth knowledge and develop skills and research that could help them pursue careers in academia and fields like law, advertising, and more. Doctoral degrees usually lead to high-paying jobs, making the Ph.D. in English worth it.

What are the core principles learned through online English Ph.D. programs?

How long does an online Ph.D. in English take?

What is a fully funded Ph.D. program?

Is taking an online Ph.D. in English the same as taking an offline Ph.D. in English?

What kind of careers can a Ph.D. in English pursue?

What is a doctoral candidacy exam?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after an
Online Ph.D. English

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 64% of professionals worked in occupational groups with English degrees. English Ph.D. holders work in various occupations like management, educational instruction and library, business and financial operations, and more. Here are some diverse careers English Ph.D. programs online could lead to (the median salaries mentioned are often for bachelor’s and master’s degree holders; Ph.D. holders typically earn substantially more):

OccupationJob DescriptionSkills RequiredMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth (up to 2030)
Technical WritersTechnical writers concentrate on the management and computer, technical, and scientific industries. They prepare instruction manuals, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex ideas.Writing skills, verbal skills, organizational skills$78,0606% (as fast as average)
Writers and AuthorsAn author expresses their writing skills in their dominant field. Writers take up writing in their professional and personal capacities. Both use writing skills to portray ideas, pictures, and events through the usage of words.Writing skills, verbal skills, organizational skills$69,5104% (as fast as average)
EditorsEditors usually research their subject matter and revise, edit, or rewrite scripts or articles. They offer suggestions and comments to improve written works before publication.Problem-solving, decision-making, creative thinking skills$63,350-5% (decline)
Instructional CoordinatorsInstructional coordinators analyze students’ test data. They assess and discuss the curriculum standards with school staff and recommend novel and unique teaching techniques.Planning skills, organizational skills, analytical skills$63,7407% (as fast as average)
Elementary, Middle, and High School PrincipalsElementary, middle, and high school principals oversee different functions and manage the school’s daily activities. They are responsible for the welfare of students and teachers alike.Leadership skills, analytical skills, communicational skills$98,4105% (as fast as average)
News Analysts, Reporters, and JournalistsNews analysts, reporters, and journalists work on news and current events and communicate to the public in different formats, such as verbal, written, or other communication mediums.Creative writing skills, communication skills$48,370-9% (decline)

Certifications and Licensing for Online Ph.D.
English Students

Professional certifications in the English language are helpful to students in terms of personal and professional preparation. They are a mark of one’s abilities and expertise in a specific study area, indicating to employers and the public that one is knowledgeable and an expert in that area. Although English Ph.D. students can take up certifications through The Test of English as a Foreign Language, The International English Language Testing System, The Test of English for International Communication, or the ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages, they will find that the doctoral degree is sufficient for most requirements.

Additional Resources for Online Ph.D.
English Students

Students pursuing English Ph.D. programs online can further develop their skills and knowledge by tapping into resources offered by various professional organizations. Membership in one or more of these organizations could provide resources, including journals, publications, news, seminars, webinars, networking opportunities, career advice, and more. Here are a few key professional organizations related to English studies:

National Council of Teachers of EnglishThe National Council of Teachers of English, or NCTE, is devoted to improving the quality of learning and teaching English and language arts at different levels of education. They promote the development of literacy and use language to participate in society.
American EnglishThe Office of English Language Programs in Washington, D.C., created the American English website as a resource center for teaching and learning about American English and American culture.
Modern Language AssociationThe Modern Language Association has more than 50 committees of membership that oversee different association publications and activities. They showcase leadership in the community of national education. They have more than 156 forums for teaching, scholarly, and professional interests of individuals.
Shakespeare Association of AmericaThe Shakespeare Association of America is a non-profit organization for professionals that holds annual conferences in different locations. They facilitate theatrical performances, teaching workshops, film screenings, panel presentations, and more.
Linguistic Society of AmericaThe Linguistic Society of America provides individuals with many resources to advance their careers, such as advocacy, publications, meetings, and public education. They also raise awareness of issues related to linguistics through their policy debates.

Author Bio:

Nikita Nath

Nikita is a psychologist working primarily with children using a child rights-based approach. She also writes content for various websites and blogs on diverse topics, focusing primarily on academia. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and discovering different coffee-making techniques.


Bachelors in English, Journalism, and Psychology; Masters in psychology with clinical specialization

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

  • 2 years of experience working as a content writer with various start-ups
  • 1 year of experience working as a child psychologist with Insight
  • Working on various projects of inclusion for neurodivergent children
  • 2+ years of experience teaching psychology online


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