Teaching Assistantships



The Master of Arts in English program, a 36 credit-hour degree with concentrations in either literature or composition, furthers the education and advances the professional skills of teachers in high schools and middle schools in the St. Louis area; it prepares students for PhD programs in English studies, American studies, and composition; it prepares students for employment in community colleges as teachers of composition; and it provides opportunities for members of the St. Louis community to broaden their understanding of literature. The program contributes in substantial and measurable ways to the development and enhancement of the region's humanities workforce.     

The department also offers a Master of Fine Arts degree. For information, see The MFA in Creative Writing.

Questions about the Master of Arts in English program should be directed to:

Benjamin Torbert
Graduate Program Director 
420 Lucas Hall 
University of Missouri-St. Louis
One University Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63121 


To enter the graduate program in English, a candidate must satisfy the requirements both of the Graduate School and of the Department of English. The Department requires that a candidate have a bachelor's degree, with at least 18 hours in English above the freshman level, 12 of which must be in literature. Normally only students with a grade point average of at least 3.25 in undergraduate English courses and an overall undergraduate average of 2.75 will be considered. 

The Graduate Admissions Office (314-516-5458; gradadm@umsl.edu) can provide information about admission. To apply online for admission, click here.

Applications to the Master of Arts in English are considered at all times. However, because spaces in graduate courses are limited, prospective students are strongly advised to submit their applications well before the semester begins in order to successfully enroll in appropriate classes (typically July 1 for the Fall Semester, December 1 for the Spring, and May 1 for the Summer).


All students are responsible for meeting the requirements of the Graduate School as listed in the Graduate Bulletin and the following requirements of the English Department:

Hours Required for Graduation

Students must complete a minimum of 36 graduate hours in English, of which no more than 12 may be at the 4000 level. Because 4000- level undergraduate courses can carry graduate credit only if students submit additional work, students must inform the instructor of their graduate status and arrange for such work at the beginning of the semester.

Required Course

During the first year of graduate study, all students must take English 5000, Introduction to Graduate Study in English.

Emphasis Areas

Emphasis in Literature In addition to English 5000, students who choose this emphasis must take at least one course in each of the following six areas:

Area 1: British Literature before 1660

Satisfied by English 5250, English 5300;  English 4200- and 4300-range courses; English 493;  English 4939.

Area 2: British Literature between 1660 and 1900

Satisfied by English 5400, English 5500; some English 5920 and English 5950 sections; English 4400- and 4500-range courses; English 4932; English 4934.

Area 3: Twentieth-Century Literature (British, American, post-colonial, or in translation)

Satisfied by English 5700; some English 5920 and English 5950 sections; English 4650, 4740, 4750, 4770, 4937, 4938;  some 4950 sections.

Area 4: American Literature

Satisfied by English 5600, English 5700; some English 5920 and English 5950 sections; English 4600-range courses; some 4937, 4938, 4950 sections.

Area 5: Theories of writing, criticism, language, and/or culture

Satisfied by English 5800-range courses; some 5950 sections; English 4800-range courses (except 4880/4885/4888/4890/4892, which may not be taken for MA credit); English 6880 (Summer Gateway Writing Institute).       

Area 6: Literature in translation, study of a paticular literarary genre, or a course in another relevant discipline.

Satisfied by some English 5920 and English 5950 sections; some English 4950 sections; TchEd 6890 (Writing Certificate capstone); relevant courses outside the department.

Students who choose this area of specialization may offer no more than nine of the 36 credit hours in courses other than literature (English 5000 is excluded from these nine hours). Students electing to write a thesis will take 30 hours of regular coursework and six hours of English 6000: Thesis.

Emphasis in Composition In addition to English 5000 (which is counted as a literature course), students must also take English  5840, Theories of Writing. English graduate courses that may count toward this emphasis are:

  •  5800 Sociolinguistics         
  •  5840 Theories of Writing (required)         
  •  5850 Studies in Composition         
  •  5860 Writing/Reading Theory         
  •  5870 Composition Research         
  •  5890 Teaching College Writing       
  •  6880 Gateway Project Invitational Institute (Same as TchEd 6880)         
  •  5950 Seminar in Special Topics (when topic is appropriate)                     
Students who choose this area of specialization must offer 18 hours in literature and 18 hours in composition. Students choosing to write a thesis will take 15 hours in literature, 15 hours in writing, and 6 hours of English 6000: Thesis.

Grade Requirement

To receive the Master of Arts in English degree, a student must have a grade-point average of 3.0 or better at the completion of course work. If at any time a student's GPA should fall below 3.0, the student may be placed on probation by the Graduate School. (Any student with a GPA below 2.0 will be dismissed from the Graduate School.) At the end of each semester, the Graduate Committee will review the work of each student who is on probation or on restricted status. Students failing to make reasonable progress will be dismissed from the Master of Arts in English program. Reviews of the work of all students in the program will be made at least once a year.

Time Limitation

Graduate School rules state that students must complete all degree requirements within six years after initial enrollment. Students not registering for two consecutive semesters must reapply for admission to the program unless they have been granted an authorized leave of absence by the Graduate Dean.



 Before registering for the first semester of course work, students should contact the Graduate Program Director to plan a course of study. Thereafter, students will consult with the Director, who serves as adviser to all Master of Arts in English candidates, during each registration period and as the need for advising arises.

Course Load

The minimum course load for a full-time graduate student is nine hours for a regular semester and five hours for the summer term. Graduate students holding departmental assistantships may register for a maximum of nine hours each semester. To register for an overload, a student must have a GPA of at least 3.5 and obtain the written permission of the Graduate Program Director and the Graduate Dean. Forms for requesting permission to register for an overload may be obtained from the Program Director. Such permission will be given only in exceptional circumstances.

Delayed Grades

A graduate student is expected to complete all course assignments by the end of the term in which a course is taken. On occasion, a student may request a delayed grade, but it is left to the discretion of the instructor whether or not to grant the delay. The Graduate School stipulates that delayed grades must be removed within two regular semesters after the time recorded or they automatically become failing grades. However, the English Department encourages the expeditious removal of such grades. Multiple delayed grades may affect the number of courses a student is permitted to enroll for in subsequent semesters and may also lead to academic probation.

Other Credit Options

Transfer Credit

Subject to the approval of the Graduate Committee of the English Department and the Graduate Dean, a student may transfer a maximum of twelve hours of graduate course work from other universities. This may include credit earned prior to or subsequent to enrollment at UMSL. Petitions should be submitted to the Graduate Program Director, who will convey the Committee's recommendations to the Graduate Dean for final action. The University does not accept graduate credit for courses from institutes unless the institutes were conducted by UMSL. A candidate working toward an UMSL degree must confer with the Graduate Program Director before enrolling in any course offered by another institution for which graduate credit is anticipated.

Inter-University Graduate Exchange Program

Under the Inter-University Graduate Exchange Program offered by UMSL, Washington University, and Saint Louis University, a student working towards the Master of Arts in English degree at UMSL may take up to 6 hours of graduate credit at Washington University or at Saint Louis University. Credit hours and grade points obtained through the program are automatically counted toward the UMSL degree, and tuition fees are assessed at the UMSL rate. To register for a course offered through the Exchange Program, a student must secure the permission of the off-campus instructor and the Graduate Program Director, and submit the requisite form, which must be obtained in person from the Registrar.

Independent Reading

English 5970, Independent Reading, is primarily designed to allow a Master's candidate to do intensive work in an area of study that has not been or is not likely to become the subject of a regular course or seminar during the student's time in the program. A student who desires to undertake independent study must justify the project to the prospective supervising professor and to the Graduate Program Director. Normally permission to take English 5970 will be granted only once in a student's course of study, and only after the student has completed at least 15 hours of graduate work in English. Moreover, the course may not be used to satisfy program distribution requirements.

Any graduate student who desires to pursue a course of independent reading must confer with the faculty member with whom he or she wishes to work prior to the start of the term in which such a course of study is contemplated. Once the instructor's consent has been received and a schedule of work established, the student should obtain a copy of the Independent Reading Petition from the Graduate Program Director. This form requires a description of the project and the signature of the supervising Graduate Faculty member. It must then be submitted to the Program Director for endorsement; the Program Director will then issue a consent number for the appropriate section of English 5970.

Master's Thesis

A student seeking a Master of Arts in English degree may elect to write a Master's Thesis, which grants six hours of credit over two semesters. The thesis should demonstrate original thought and substantial research and may be a critical study of literary works, a theoretical exploration of issues related to literature or writing, or a descriptive assessment of fieldwork related to writing and pedagogy. The thesis must be approved and assigned a grade by a thesis committee. See separate description, Master's Thesis in English, for further details.

The Master of Arts in English Essay Prize

Each Spring, the Master of Arts in English Prize Essay will be selected by a departmental committee from among those papers submitted to it by Graduate Faculty during the preceding academic year. The author may revise the paper prior to submission. All papers must be received by the Department Chair by February 1; the award will be presented to the winner at a departmental colloquium in the Spring.

Teaching Assistantships

The major source of financial aid for Master of Arts in English candidates is departmental assistantships.

Teaching Assistants receive a stipend each semester, along with 100% remission of their tuition, and pay in-state fees. During their first term, Teaching Assistants tutor in the Writing Center, serve as apprentice teachers in English1100: First-Year Writing, and participate in other professional development activities; they typically teach two sections of English 1100 in the following terms. Positions are renewable for up to four semesters, contingent on satisfactory performance. Some Summer teaching opportunities, which carry tuition remission and a per-course stipend, have traditionally been available.

Tutoring Assistants receive a stipend each semester, along with 100% remission of their tuition, and pay in-state fees. Tutors typically work a total of 20 hours per week. 

Applications for admission to the MA Program must be submitted prior to applications for Assistantships (form G-2), which are due by February 15 each year. Also required are two letters of recommendation, a sample of critical writing, and a teaching statement.

Assistantships are usually awarded in early April, and Assistants normally begin their appointments in the Fall term. The Graduate School requires that TAs enroll in at least six hours each term. However, because assistantships only provide four semesters of funding, students may wish to enroll in more than six hours after their first semester in order to accumulate the hours necessary for the degree in a timely fashion. Teaching Assistants and Tutors are required to take English 5890, Teaching College Writing, typically during their first semester in the program.