1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I apply to the MA or the PhD program?

2. Is it possible to transfer from the MA to the PhD program?

3. How big is the graduate program?

4. What does a PhD candidate do each year? 

5. How long does it take to get a doctoral degree?

6. Where do UVa graduates find jobs?

7. How much financial support does UVA provide?


1. Should I apply to the MA or the PhD program?

If you wish to earn a PhD eventually, you should probably apply to the PhD program. Here are some reasons to apply to the MA program instead:

  • You want only an MA

  • You want a PhD but you intend to earn it elsewhere.

  • You have reason to doubt that your record will earn you admission to the PhD program. An MA program can be a good place to strengthen an academic record with a view to gaining admission to a Ph.D. program.

2. Is it possible to transfer from the MA to the PhD program?

It is very difficult. MA students who wish to enter the PhD program must apply on the same basis as students holding the MA from other universities. Since our PhD program is small (see next item), this process is very competitive.

3. How big is the graduate program?

We currently admit twelve PhD students each year. We also have a terminal MA program which varies in size, but in general about doubles the overall size of the graduate program in literature.

4. What does a PhD candidate do each year?

The following summary omits many details. For a complete explanation of degree requirements, visit Current Students. Students who already hold an MA will usually begin in "Year 2," though the details of each student's program must be worked out with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Year 1:
Take ENCR 8100, Introduction to Literary Research, as a fourth first-term course; otherwise, take three graded courses each semester. Most students will perform some light duty (about 100 hours per semester), either grading for a course or assisting a faculty member with research. In the spring, take ENPG 8800, described in our literature as "a low-requirement class that introduces students to the classes they will teach in year two, including observing and critiquing class meetings."

Year 2:
Take three graded courses each semester. Complete the foreign language requirement ("mastery" of one language or "proficiency" in two) by the end of this year or the beginning of the next. Teach one section each semester in supervised classes: leading a discussion section in one of the big undergraduate surveys of English and American Literature or in Shakespeare, or teaching a section of a "writing studio" course for advanced undergraduates. In the spring, students prepare to teach their own writing courses. Plan for PhD oral exams.

Year 3:
Audit one course each semester. Take the PhD oral exam, ordinarily by the end of fall term. In spring, attend ENGL 9995 a seminar for dissertation writers. Form a dissertation committee and begin to prepare a dissertation prospectus (approval ideally by late May or June). Teach one section each semester of one of the writing classes for first-year undergraduates. Graduate students are responsible for planning and teaching their own sections of these courses under the supervision of the Director of Writing Programs.

Year 4:
Get prospectus approval by Oct 1 at latest; the writing begins (target one or more chapters completed each year). Teach two courses. Most students teach one writing course and one literature course: either a section of a large class or an introductory literature class. Students may teach two courses in fall so as to have the spring semester free for writing.

Year 5:
Continue to write dissertation. Give a talk to the department based on dissertation research. Some students win dissertation fellowships funded by UVa and other agencies; others teach one course each semester or two in the spring (the choices of course are the same as in the fourth year). Students who are making sufficient progress begin to seek academic employment.

Years 6 and following:
Students who are continuing to write the dissertation generally teach two to four classes but do not receive fellowship support.

5. How long does it take to get a doctoral degree?

A recent MLA survey found that the average time to degree in U.S. PhD programs in English is 8.2 years. At UVa, students typically finish their doctoral requirements in 7 years or less. We are hoping to boost dissertation-year funding for a still quicker path to strong doctorates.

6. Where do UVa graduates find jobs?

Following is a complete list of institutions where holders of the PhD from our department found assistant professorships from 2000 to spring 2013.

  • Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  • University of Alabama, Birmingham
  • University of Alabama, Mobile
  • Appalachian State University
  • University of Arkansas
  • Auburn University
  • Ball State University
  • Bowdoin College
  • Bowling Green State University (2)
  • Brigham Young University
  • Bronxville Community College
  • Bucknell University
  • Butler University
  • University of California, Berkeley (2)
  • California State University, Long Beach
  • California State University, Los Angeles
  • Calvin College
  • Central Michigan State University
  • Centre College, Danville, Kentucky
  • Chapman University, California
  • Clemson University (2)
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • University of Dayton, Ohio
  • East Carolina University (2)
  • Erskine College (3)
  • University of Florida, Ft. Lauderdale
  • Florida State University, Tallahassee (2)
  • Fordham University
  • University of Georgia, Athens
  • Harvard University (2)
  • Hillsdale College
  • University of Idaho
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Ithaca College
  • Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama
  • Kent State University
  • University of Kentucky (2)
  • Kings College, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
  • University of Louisiana, Lafayette
  • University of Maine, Farmington
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • McGill University
  • Mount St. Mary’s University
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of Nevada, Reno
  • National Taipei University of Technology
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of North Carolina, Charlotte
  • University of North Carolina, Pembroke
  • University of North Carolina at Wilmington
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh (6)
  • Northeastern University
  • University of North Florida
  • University of North Texas
  • Ohio University, Athens (2)
  • Ohio State University, Columbus and Newark
  • Ohio Wesleyan College
  • Oregon State University
  • Penn State University, Erie
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Providence College (3)
  • Queens College, CUNY
  • University of Richmond (2)
  • Rutgers University, Camden
  • St. Lawrence University
  • St. Norbert's College (2)
  • Sarah Lawrence College (2)
  • University of South Carolina, Columbia
  • University of the South, Sewanee
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama
  • State University of New York, Geneseo
  • State University of New York, Stony Brook
  • Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University
  • Stonehill College
  • Swarthmore College
  • Sweet Briar College
  • Syracuse University
  • University of Tennessee
  • Towson State University
  • Tufts University
  • United States Naval Academy (2)
  • Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas
  • United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs
  • University of Utrecht, Belgium
  • Villanova University (2)
  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia Commonwealth University (2)
  • Wake Forest University
  • Wichita State University
  • Wheaton College
  • Worcester Polytechnic University
  • Yale University
  • Yeshiva University

In addition, a number of our students have found full-time visiting and post-doctoral positions at similarly distinguished institutions, including Princeton University, Harvard University, the University of Arizona, Franklin Marshall College, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the University of Virginia, Alma College, College of the Holy Cross, the College of William and Mary, Hampshire College, American University, Rollins College, Brown University, Macalester College, the University of Notre Dame, and others.

7. How much financial support does UVA provide?

All PhD students entering the program in fall 2016 will receive a financial package consisting of tuition, fees, one-person health-insurance coverage, and at least $26,000 living support, including $20,000 during the 2016-2017 academic year and $6,000 during the summer of 2017. This award, made up of fellowships and teaching-assistantships, will be maintained up to a total of five years contingent on satisfactory academic performance. Standard teaching responsibilities for a doctoral student in English involve teaching two courses per year across years 2-4 of the program (with no teaching in years 1 and 5); fellowship funds beyond teaching wages complete the support we are presently offering for years 1-5, with some annual funding for conference travel and additional dissertation-year funding awarded if and as our resources permit.

A few merit fellowships are available on a competitive basis: all applicants to the PhD program are automatically considered for these.