For Current Students

Basic information needed to satisfy the requirements for a Master’s or Doctoral Degree in English

Here you will find guidelines regarding distribution requirements and other issues related to course registration patterns; foreign language requirements; MA final exercise options; PhD oral exams; and doctoral dissertations. It is important that you peruse these guidelines thoroughly at the outset and refer to them as needed throughout your graduate career. It is also advisable to confer regularly about your progress toward the degree either with your assigned advisor or with a faculty member of your choice.

Course Requirements

MA Students:

Ten courses, including at least eight courses taken for letter grades at the 5000, 8000, or 9000 level (total of 24 credits of letter-graded courses required). These courses must be completed with a grade of B- or higher, while in residence at the University. MA students also take ENGL 8800, which is graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis. The only mandatory course for the regular MA, ENGL 8800, Introduction to Literary Research, is a practical introduction to the techniques and uses of literary scholarship, tied to the resources of the University library system. Concentrations within the MA program entail additional requirements; please see the descriptions of those programs for further detail. Courses taken for letter grades must satisfy the following distribution requirements:

  • two courses in two different periods of literature before 1800

  • one course in literary theory or the history of criticism, beyond ENGL 8800

The tenth course may be either another graded course or 3 credits of Non-topical Research, ENGL 8999, which allows for preliminary research towards the final exercise, or ENGL 8998, taken while writing the thesis. The Graduate School allows no transfer credit toward the MA. Students who receive two or more failing grades will not be permitted to remain in the program.

1st Year

Fall semester 4 courses (ENGL 8800 + 3 graded)   Spring semester at least 3 graded courses + either a fourth graded course or one 3-unit NTR ENGL 8999

2nd Year

At least 2 graded courses (see Enrollment Options; may include ENGL 8998, MA thesis)

PhD Students (72 hours: 14 graded courses plus 3 units of Non-Topical Research courses ENGL 9998 and 9999)

1st Year

Fall semester 4 courses (ENGL 8800 + 3 graded) Spring semester 3 graded courses + 1 3-unit NTR ENGL 9998

2nd Year

Fall semester 3 graded courses incl. Pedagogy Seminar (ENGL 8900) + 1 3-unit NTR ENGL 9998  Spring semester 3 graded courses + 1 3-unit NTR ENGL 9998

3rd Year

Fall semester -- 12 hours of NTR ENGL 9998 + Audit or sit-in on one graduate-level course (form provided).  Spring semester -- ENGL 9995 (Dissertation seminar) + 9 hours of NTR ENGL 9998 + Audit or sit-in on one graduate-level course (form provided).  Both official audits and authorized sit-ins require the instructor's permission; audits cannot be counted toward the 12-hour full-enrollment total, and the DGS needs to request the Grad School dean's pro-forma permission (cc'ing the grad registrar at gsasregistrar@virginia.edu) before you can officially sign on for an audit.

4th Year

Fall semester 12 hours of NTR ENGL 9998 Spring semester 12 hours of NTR ENGL 9999 ("Dissertation Research")

5th Year and Beyond*

Fall semester 12 hours of NTR ENGL 9999 Spring semester 12 hours of NTR ENGL 9999

   * Ideally the student's PhD dissertation will be completed and successfully defended by the end of the fifth or six year.  All official extensions of time to completion are at the   GSAS Dean's discretion.

MA transfer students should consult the DGS about their pattern of registration. In most cases, apart from taking ENGL 8800 as a fourth first-term course transfers follow the schedule of 2nd year PhD students as outlined above.


Additional forms you may need in the course of your studies are available on the GSAS website; for advanced-enrollment questions visit first Enrollment Options.

For questions concerning the logistics of enrollment, insurance, or other non-academic issues, contact the Graduate Administrator Randy Swift.  All academic questions should be addressed to the Director of Graduate Studies Victoria Olwell.