Our two-year Master of Arts degree is based on a commitment to ground the study of texts and discourses in a serious engagement with the theoretical and critical debates of our time. We encourage students to think across and beyond disciplinary and programmatic boundaries and to engage with issues in cultural history, knowledge formation, creative intellectual practice, media studies, and critical pedagogy.

Although the MA is a terminal degree, all students take courses offered in conjunction with our PhD program in Cultural and Critical Studies. Students can elect to concentrate their elective work broadly across English studies, or they can focus their coursework in the programmatic areas of the department: composition, film studies, and literature (with focal areas such as Children's Literatre and Childhood Studies; Genealogies of Modernity: Medieval and Early Modern; Media and Material Practices; and Race, Poetics, and Empire).

Students enter our MA program for a variety of reasons, though all are interested in gaining more advanced work in English before moving on to a PhD program or to careers in the public or private sector.


The number of students entering the MA program varies each year. Our students come from colleges and universities from all over the United States and the world. (Generally, students who apply from foreign institutions should have a BA or its equivalent before they can be admitted. For more information, please consult the Web site of Pitt's Office of International Services.) For more information on admissions requirements and access to admissions forms, please follow the Apply link in the footer of this page.

Financial Assistance

Ordinarily we cannot extend departmental forms of financial assistance to MA students, although students can apply for other forms of financial assistance through the University. For information on University forms of financial assistance, please go to the Web site for the Financial Aid Office.

Certificate Programs and Specialized Study.

Students interested in emphasizing film studies can enroll in the Film Studies Master's Certificate.

Those interested in emphasizing composition studies can work toward the Graduate Certificate in Composition, Literacy, Pedagogy, and Rhetoric.

Graduate students who are interested in children's literature can consult the relevant page on the Children's Literature Program site to learn how they can focus their scholarly work.


The requirements for the Master of Arts include coursework, a research paper, and proficiency in a foreign language.


For the degree of Master of Arts, students must complete 27 credits of course work (or 9 seminars), which includes two core courses: History of Criticism and a seminar in the scholarship of pedagogy. The remaining credits are earned through electives. In their final term, MA students are asked to designate three of their elective courses as comprising a Teaching and Research Field.

Master's Research Paper

MA students must successfully complete a Master's Research Paper in the context of one of their elective courses. The following constitute the procedures and minimal criteria for the Master's Research Paper:

  1. The Master's Research Paper should be of professional article length, defined by the MLA as 6,000-8,000 words.
  2. 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. In addition, students must use professionally accepted bibliographic conventions.
  3. The Master's Research Paper must be prepared in the context of a particular graduate seminar. Students must consult an instructor, and receive the instructor's approval, no later than the end of Add/Drop 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.
  4. In addition to the specific requirements a seminar instructor may establish for Master's Research Papers undertaken in his or her seminar, the primary criteria for evaluating the Master's Research Paper include coherent textual analysis, historical contextualization (where appropriate), and the incorporation of primary research into a cogent scholarly argument.
  5. 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.

Language Requirement

MA candidates must demonstrate significant acquaintance with one or more languages other than English.

Normally this requirement is fulfilled through reading knowledge of two languages, undertaking further study of one language, or by beginning a new language.