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 PhD program.

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.

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.

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 ENGL 8800, Introduction to Literary Research, as a fourth first-term course; otherwise, take three graded courses each semester. Some students choose to perform some light duty (about 100 hours per semester) in paid positions, either grading for a course or assisting a faculty member with research.

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. Take three graded courses in the fall, including the ENGL 8900: Pedagogy Seminar.  In the spring, take three graded courses.  Teach one section of the first-year writing course each semester.  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 the spring, attend ENGL 9995, a seminar for dissertation writers. Form a dissertation committee and prepare a dissertation prospectus to be approved by June 1. Supervised by a faculty member, teach discussion sections each semester for one of the big undergraduate surveys of English and American Literature, in Southern Literature, or in Shakespeare. Over the summer, begin writing the dissertation

Year 4:
Write more of the dissertation. (Target one or more chapters completed each semester). Teach two courses. Most students teach one writing course and one literature course. The literature course is either two discussion sections of a large class or one self-designed section of an introductory literature class. In the spring of this year or the fall of the next, give a talk to the department based on dissertation research.

Year 5:
Continue to write the dissertation, with the support of full fellowship funding. The fifth year is free of teaching obligations. If it has not be done yet, give a talk to the department based on dissertation research by the end of the fall semester. Students who are making sufficient progress begin to seek academic employment.

Years 6 and following:
Students continuing to write the dissertation receive support from dissertation fellowships and/or teaching. Those students whose fellowship applications are accepted by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences receive Sixth-Year Dissertation Fellowships, providing financial support, tuition, and fees. These fellowships require teaching the equivalent of one course per semester. Some students receive dissertation fellowships granted by institutions and foundations outside the University of Virginia. Other students teach two to four classes per year, paid by the course and providing tuition remission, fees, and single-person health insurance coverage.

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.

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 2018.

  • Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  • University of Alabama, Birmingham
  • University of Alabama, Mobile
  • Appalachian State University
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Arkansas
  • Auburn University
  • Ball State University
  • Bowdoin College (2)
  • Bowling Green State University (2)
  • Brigham Young University
  • Bronxville Community College
  • Bucknell University (2)
  • 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
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Clemson University (3)
  • Coe College
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins
  • University of Colorado
  • Connecticut College
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • University of Dayton, Ohio
  • Dickinson College
  • East Carolina University (2)
  • Erskine College (3)
  • Fisk University
  • University of Florida, Ft. Lauderdale
  • Florida State University, Tallahassee (2)
  • Fordham University
  • Franciscan University
  • University of Georgia, Athens
  • Harvard University (2)
  • Hillsdale College
  • University of Idaho
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Indiana University Northwest
  • 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
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Millsaps College
  • 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
  • Presbyterian College
  • Providence College (3)
  • Queens College, CUNY
  • University of Richmond (2)
  • Rutgers University, Camden
  • University of St. Francis
  • St. Lawrence University
  • St. Norbert's College (2)
  • Salisbury University
  • 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
  • SUNY New Paltz
  • 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 (3)
  • Virginia Military Institute
  • Wake Forest University
  • Wichita State University
  • Wheaton College
  • Wilkes University
  • Williams 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.

How much financial support does UVA provide?

As of fall 2019, PhD students entering the program will receive a financial package consisting of tuition, fees, one-person health-insurance coverage, and annual living support of $30,000. 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. Students in their sixth year and beyond, who continue to make good progress toward the degree, are eligible for a select number of sixth-year dissertation fellowships and for teaching when such assignments are available. 

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