masters in literature canada

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

One of the reasons people look down on literature is that they see no purpose in it. On the contrary, there is almost no discipline as purposeful as literature. It is a discipline that helps us remember the past, shape the present, and predict the future. Literature is so far-reaching that all areas of life need it for expression and growth.

So you see, you are ever important as a graduate with a literature degree, and who says the degree doesn’t pay? J.K Rowlings, the popular author of Harry Porter, earns $1 billion, and Stephen King, the writer of ‘IT,’ earns $400 million. You may have the talent to be better in your area of literature but you need to hone it.

It is for this reason that we bring you the best schools in the world to get a literature degree. You will find the best literature programs that suit you and the features of the school that will draw you to apply. But before we proceed, let’s share with you some information on literature.

What is Literature?

An attempt to get a correct definition of literature is a futile attempt, but we will try to give several definitions of literature. Firstly, you must understand that literature means different things to different people. Secondly, literature takes several forms and so refuses to agree with a definition. We will try several definitions, however.

According to Britannica, literature is simply a body of written works. Traditionally, though, literature applies to those imaginative works of poetry and prose that are distinguished by the intentions of their authors as well as how aesthetically excellent it is executed.

Wikipedia supports this when it describes literature generically as a body of written works that comes as art or that which has artistic value. Hence, the language you use in the literature differs from the ordinary usage of language.

Now, before the 18th century, Western Europe called all books and writing literature. But this was too broad and may not really capture what literature is in its real essence. Well, the value judgment definition defined literature to exclusively cover writings with high-quality distinction.

So, summarizing from the above, we find that we can describe literature to be anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific works. However, it is more related to the arts to refer to works of the creative imagination such as poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction.

Why Study Literature?

Since we understand what literature is, there then arises the question of why study literature in college? Anybody can sit at home and read a couple of finely written works and write a couple of those himself and tag himself a literary fellow, right?

But there’s more to literature than meets the eyes, which is why people attend colleges and universities to study it.

Now, when you study literature or English literature in colleges, the focus is mostly on analysis, debate, and critical theorizing about a large number of published works in the form of novels, plays, poems, and other literary works. In other words, you will read a lot of literary works and draw analysis from them. This is basically what studying literature entails. So, how does this help?

Here are the key reasons why you should consider studying literature in colleges and universities:

  • To Get Direction
  • To Secure a Job
  • Also, to Gain Mastery of Languages

To Get Direction

Literature like we already know is very broad. If you read any and everything you see, you may get lost in their depths. Studying literature at college helps you really understand what a literary work was about and the message the writer tried to convey. With this knowledge, you will be able to have a sense of where you’re going and what you want to talk about as you develop in the field. You will learn how you can build on the existing works of writers in a genre and theme of your choice to expand knowledge in that field or genre.

To Secure a Job

To start with, anyone who fancies literary works and wants a career in it without going to college can only think of emerging as a writer or poet. These job descriptions oftentimes require pure talent and experience – that is, consistent writing and expression in these lines. However, a degree in English and Literature is not restricted to just these. You can take a career as a journalist, you can teach literature in schools, you can become an editor, you can even become a better author… Becoming any of these and making a living from them would need you to be employed and you can’t get that employment if you don’t have a literature degree.

To Gain Mastery of Languages

You should know that literature is not just about English. You will learn literature by geographies such as African literature, Western literature, and South Asian Arts. Most times, to better appreciate literature in these geographical locations, you may have to treat literature by languages such as Arabic Literature, Celtic Literature, Latin Literature, and French Literature. By doing this, you may be compelled to learn these languages and gain mastery of them.

What is Comparative Literature and English?

We gave a hint of what comparative literature is in the last section when we said you study literature to gain a mastery of languages. Specifically, comparative literature deals with the study of literature and its cultural expression across linguistic, national, and disciplinary boundaries.

Comparative literature even bursts free from practicing works of different languages to works of the same language that originate from different nations or culture that speaks the same language. Studying comparative literature involves a social and cultural analysis of the economy, political dynamics, cultural movements, historical shifts, etc, through literature.

Hence, most Comparative Literature and English departments you find in colleges will equip you to become a critical and creative thinker. You will be able to analyze and interpret individual literary texts while making insightful connections with other works and disciplines. You will also develop an awareness of traditions and cultural variations that will help you express yourself professionally when writing within a cultural sphere.

If you’re specific about studying English alone, then also see these 13 Best Schools For English Majors In The World

What are the Educational Requirements for a Literature Career?

It may not be safe to say that the minimum requirement to get jobs in the literary field is a bachelor’s degree. This is because all levels of study in literature are important and your career ambition will decide the right degree for you. So, we will proceed to discuss the kinds of degree you need for a career in literature.

Bachelor’s Degree

You need a bachelor’s degree in literature if you wish to become a writer or editor. To qualify for a bachelor’s degree in college, you need to complete high school or an associate’s degree program, as the case may be. Now, the bachelor’s degree in literature will teach you how to read, write, and interpret short stories and other forms of literature. While you’ll also study world literature – American literature, Nordic literature – some schools will give you the opportunity to select a specialization in literature or writing.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree will also prepare you for a job as a writer or editor but on a higher level. Most school’s master’s program will take you on avant-garde literature, religious poetry, and children’s literature. You may also take topics in Greek Mythology and English Romanticism. Where final research is necessary, you need to defend the thesis relating to the literature topic you chose.

Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree in literature is for you if you are eyeing the position of a college professor. To get into college for a doctoral degree in literature you will either need a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in literature or English, depending on the school. For a doctoral degree, you may also need to be proficient in a foreign language as well as submit a writing sample to gain admission. Common doctoral courses for literature include Political Implications of Literature; Ancient Greece and Rome; Translating Literary Documents; and Worldwide Storytelling Techniques. Meanwhile, to graduate from the program, you’ll definitely need to write a dissertation.

Jobs You Can Get with a Literature Degree and Their Outlook

The major reason why people with a passion for reading different kinds of literature and writing don’t get to study it in college is that they don’t know what they would become. Even if they know, they feel it is not rewarding and worthy of the time and energy they would put in.

This is a traditional view that doesn’t hold true. With a literature degree, several job opportunities open up for you. You will get jobs in the media and publishing industry, marketing and advertising, and teaching.

Now, let’s consider the three major kinds of jobs you can get in the USA with your literature degree, their salaries and job outlook.

  • Writers and Authors
  • Editors
  • English Language and Literature Teachers – Postsecondary

Writers and Authors

These are professionals who develop written content for various kinds of media. They can work anywhere so long as they have access to a computer. Meanwhile, to start a career as a writer or author, you need a bachelor’s degree in English and Literature, Communications, or Journalism.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Writers and Authors earn a median annual salary of $62,170. In 2018, 123,200 jobs were available for these professionals and there will be little or no increase in this number in the coming years. This means that the job is not in high demand.


These are literary professionals who plan, review, and revise content for publication in any kind of media platform. Like writers, Editors also need a bachelor’s degree in English or Literature, Communications, or Journalism. Editors either work in the offices of their employers or from a remote location – usually their homes.

According to BLS, Editors’ average annual salary in the USA is $59,480. 118,300 jobs were available for editors in the USA in 2018 and with job growth of -3% from 2018 to 2028, the current jobs available for editors will decline by 3,400.

English Language and Literature Teachers – Postsecondary

These are professionals that teach courses in English language and literature as well as comparative literature. Because they teach at the postsecondary level, they need a master’s or even doctorate degree to get started in this career. Hence, professionals under this category involve both teachers primarily engaged in teaching and those who combine teaching and research.

According to BLS, the average annual salary for Postsecondary English and Literature Teachers is $78,150. In 2018, 68,360 jobs were available for these professionals but there is no information on the job outlook, sadly.

What are the Best Schools in the World for Literature?

Are you asking the school you should attend for literature already? There are over a thousand schools in the world offering one form of English and Literature degree program or the other but you want the best, right?

Here are the best schools in the world to study English and Literature.

  • University of Oxford
  • University of Cambridge
  • Harvard University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Yale University
  • Stanford University
  • Princeton University
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • Columbia University
  • University of Chicago

Ranking Factor

In ranking the best schools in the world for English and Literature, we used the following evaluation factors:

  • World Subject and Faculty Ranking: Our ranking compares the QS World University Ranking for English and Literature ranking and Times Higher Education World University Ranking for Arts & Humanities. So, we rank based on Literature schools’ subject and faculty reputation in the world.
  • Diversity of English and Literature Programs: We also rank the availability of English and Literature programs at all levels of education in these schools. We also check their program concentration and the availability of Comparative Literature at all levels of study.
  • The student to Faculty Ratio: Student to faculty ratio determines the students access to faculty members and the amount of personal attention they can get. So a smaller student to faculty ratio school will rank higher.

You can use these 25 Masters Degree Scholarships for Literature Students to study literature anywhere in the world.

#1. University of Cambridge – United Kingdom

Student to Faculty Ratio: 11:1

THE: 2

The University of Cambridge is the fourth-oldest university in the world and has a reputation as strong as it’s age. Together with Oxford University, the University of Cambridge provides one of the best academic programs in the UK and the world.

Through Cambridge’s Faculty of English and the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, Cambridge offers one of the best literature programs in the world. QS ranks Cambridge’s literature as the 2nd in the world and THE confirms that their Arts & Humanities faculty is the 2nd in the world.

Cambridge’s English Course (Bachelors) is a three-year program that combines English and Literature history with a chance to specialize in your own interest. It’s Graduate degree programs, on the other hand, include 6 MPhil Programs, a Ph.D. program you can take full or part-time, an MLitt and an MSt degree program in Creative Writing.

Cambridge also has an MPhil program in European, Latin American and Comparative Literature and Cultures by Advanced Study that you can complete in 9 months.EnglishComparative Literature

#2. Stanford University – United States

Student to Faculty Ratio: 5:1

THE: 1

Stanford University is one of the universities in the United States to mention in terms of academic excellence and wealth. Located in Stanford, California, it is close to Silicon Valley and hence one of the leading schools in the world for a STEM degree. Well, Stanford isn’t sticking to only STEM degrees.

At Stanford University, you can get one of the best English and Literature programs, not just in the USA but in the world. QS World University Ranking places Stanford University as the 6th in the world to study English and Literature. THE also confirms the strength of Stanford’s Art and Humanities programs by naming it 1st in the world.

When it comes to a variety of programs, Stanford is one of the schools to go to. Stanford offers Bachelor of Art degrees in English Major, English Minor, CS+English, Honors in English, and Creative Writing. For graduate programs, however, Stanford offers the Coterminal Master of Arts and the Ph.D. program.

Furthermore, you can take a comparative literature degree program at Stanford University if that’s your career choice. Stanford’s Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages offer both undergraduate and graduate comparative literature programs that are like none other.EnglishComparative Literature

#3. University of Oxford – United Kingdom

Student to Faculty Ratio: 11:1

THE: 3

The University of Oxford needs no introduction. It is the world’s second-oldest university and a very reputable one at that. Together with Cambridge, they form the popular ‘Oxbridge’ which has an exclusive academic system different from other universities in the UK. Being a notable university in the home of the English language, Oxford University stands as one of the best schools in the world for English and Literature.

The Faculty of English Language and Literature offers Oxford’s literature programs and the programs are one of the best in the world. This is partly the reason for the school’s ranking as number 1 in Qs for English & Literature and number 3 in THE for best Arts & Humanities Faculty in the world.

Oxford’s English Language and Literature Honors is a three-year program that takes you on Shakespeare and Earlier Literature & the History of English. The Graduate programs are the Master of Study (MSt) in Literature in English or MPhil in Medieval Literature and the MLitt/DPhill (Doctorate Program) in Literature. Oxford also offers an MSt in Comparative Literature and Critical Translation if that is your chosen specialty.EnglishComparative Literature

#4. Harvard University – United States

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1

THE: 5

Harvard University is one of the best universities in the USA and a regular face in global university rankings. Being one of the 8 Ivy League colleges and the oldest college in the USA, Harvard has crossed a long milestone that several other universities are yet to cross.

You can get one of the best English and Literature degree programs in the world at Harvard University. QS ranks Harvard’s Literature as 3rd in the world, while THE agrees that Harvard is the 5th school in the world for Arts & Humanities programs.

Harvard University Department of English offers the Harvard English Undergraduate Honors. This program is a three-year program that is for students who are interested in an ambitious scholarly, critical or creative work involving literature in English. The program allows you to combine a concentration in English with a concentration in another field with the supervision of one member of each department.

Harvard’s graduate program in English, on the other hand, is a Ph.D. program that takes any time from four to seven years to complete. Finally, Harvard University has a special Department of Comparative Literature that offers both graduate and undergraduate degree programs in Comparative Literature.EnglishComparative Literature

If you’ll be studying English and Literature at Harvard University, you definitely need this Harvard University Scholarships Opportunities

#5. University of California, Berkeley – United States

Student to Faculty Ratio: 20:1

THE: 10

The University of California, Berkeley, is the oldest of the University of California universities. It is a public university in Berkeley, California that offers some of the best degree programs in the USA and the world. Even with a large student population, UC Berkeley’s quality of education has no compromise.

UC Berkeley is one of the outstanding schools in the USA and the world to get an English and Literature degree. QS Top Universities mark UC Berkeley as the 4th school in the world to get a degree program in English and Literature.

UC Berkeley stands out in the variety of English and Literature programs that you can take. The Undergraduate section of Berkeley English allows you to choose from the English Major, English Minor, Creative Writing Minor, and the Honors Program. The Graduate section, on the other hand, offers only a Ph.D. program that takes six years to complete. it also avails you the opportunity to combine studies in other disciplines like Film Studies, Medieval Studies, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

Furthermore, UC Berkeley has a Department of Comparative Literature that offers an undergraduate and graduate degree in Comparative Literature.EnglishComparative Literature

#6. Princeton University – United States

Student to Faculty Ratio: 5:1

THE: 7

Princeton University is also a private ivy league university in the USA. So, you know, it is one of the universities in the USA you can confidently point to for a quality degree in any discipline at all, including English and Literature.

QS Top Universities rank Princeton University 7th in the world. THE supports this by ranking naming Princeton the 7th university in the world for Arts and Humanities. This means that Princeton has been influential globally in their research and publications in English and Literature.

Through Princeton’s Department of English, you can take both undergraduate and graduate programs in English. Princeton English’s undergraduate program is the Concentration in English. The program takes three years to complete and you must take a total of 10 courses, including the course in Literary and Cultural History. Meanwhile, Princeton’s graduate program is the Ph.D. program that you can complete in 5-6 years.

Additionally, Princeton has a dedicated department for Comparative Literature where you can take both undergraduate and graduate programs.EnglishComparative Literature

#7. Yale University – United States

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1

THE: 9

Of course, you’ve heard of Yale University more than once in your life. If you’ve not heard about this prestigious university, then you’ve not been considering attending one of the best universities in the world. Yale is the third-oldest higher education institution in the USA with a reputation as strong as it is old.

While Yale offers some of the best degrees in the sciences, it also offers one of the best English and Literature programs in the world. QS WUR ranks Yales English as the 5th best in the world, while THE places its Arts & Humanities programs as the 9th in the world.

Yale’s Undergraduate English Language and Literature program is an Undergraduate Introductory Course. The course treats Seminars, Styles of Academic and Professional Prose, Readings, and Epic in the European Literary Tradition. On the other hand, Yale’s graduate program is a Ph.D. program that takes 6 years to complete, of which the first two years will be spent completing your coursework.

Furthermore, Yale also has a Department of Comparative Literature that has been in existence for over 50 years. Here, you can get one of the best graduate and undergraduate comparative literature degree in the world.EnglishComparative Literature

#8. University of Chicago – United States

Student to Faculty Ratio: 5:1

THE: 8

The University of Chicago (UChicago) is a very influential university in the USA. Its scholars have played key roles in the development of academics like economics, law, literary criticism, mathematics, and religion. Through its influence, UChicago has campuses and centers in London, Paris, Beijing, Delhi, and Hong Kong.

UChicago’s reputation and quality cuts across several of its disciplines, including English and Literature. QS World University Ranking ranks UChicago’s English and Literature programs as the 9th in the world, tieing with Columbia University. THE, on the other hand, holds that UChicago’s Art and Humanities programs are the 8th in the world.

UChicago’s Department of English Language and Literature offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in the field. Its undergraduate programs are the English Major (BA) and the Minor in English and Creative Writing. On the other hand, UChicago’s graduate program is a Ph.D. program that prepares you for work as a teacher, scholar, and critic.

Furthermore, UChicago has a Division of the Humanities Comparative Literature that offers Comparative Literature programs for undergraduates and graduates.EnglishComparative Literature

#9. Columbia University – United States

Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1

THE: 12

Here’s another Ivy League college – Columbia University. Columbia University is not just popular for academic achievements and wealth but also for its history. It is the oldest university in New York and the fifth-oldest university in the USA. Columbia University consistently ranks among the top 10 universities in the world for its undergraduate and graduate programs.

It is no different for its English and Literature programs; they are one of the best in the world. According to QS Top Universities, Columbia University’s English and Literature ranks as the number 9 in the world. THE, in its own ranking for best Arts and Humanities program, ranks Columbia University as 12th in the world.

Columbia University’s English and Literature combines with its Comparative Literature to give the Department of English and Comparative Literature. This department offers an undergraduate major that requires you to complete 10 courses with a grade higher than a D. The department also an M.A program, a B.A/M.A Program, and a Ph.D. program in English and Comparative Literature.English

Columbia University students find this Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University, USA helpful. Try it!

#10. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) – United States

Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1

THE: 14

You already know the University of California, Los Angeles before we mention it. Yes, it is the popular UCLA that is like the ivy league university of public universities in the USA. UCLA is popular for its STEM degrees but it is also popular for its Arts and Humanities programs, especially their English and Literature programs.

In QS WUR ranking of the best universities in the world for English and Literature, UCLA takes the 8th spot. THE ranks UCLA’s Art and Humanities programs as 14th in the world, however. Nonetheless, these two rankings are marvelous as they are global rankings and not national or continental rankings.

UCLA’s Department of English is another department in the USA that is strong on program variety. For the Undergraduate level, UCLA English offers the English Major; American Literature & Culture Major; English Minor; Literature & the Environment Minor; Creative Writing Concentration; and the Honors Program. Additionally, UCLA has a department of Comparative Literature that provides you both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the field.

What are the Best Literature Schools Outside the USA?

From the above list of best schools and Universities in the world for literature, you will find that the USA dominates the list. What if you don’t wish to attend a USA school for English and Literature, what other best schools in the world are there as options for you?

Here are the top five schools outside the USA for Literature degree programs:

  • University of Cambridge – United Kingdom
  • University of Oxford – United Kingdom
  • The University of Edinburgh – United Kingdom
  • University of Toronto – Canada
  • University College London (UCL) – United Kingdom

What are the Best Graduate Schools for English Literature?

If your interest is a graduate program in the world that can comfortably stand as one of the best in the world, then here they are:

  • University of Cambridge – United Kingdom
  • Stanford University – United States
  • Columbia University – United States
  • University of Oxford – United Kingdom
  • Harvard University – United State

Here are Top 20 Ph.D. Degree Scholarships for Literature Students to study literature in graduate literature schools.

What are the Best Schools in the World to Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature?

The best bachelor’s degree schools for literature and English will usually offer more quality programs than others.

The best schools in the world to get a bachelor’s degree in literature is:

  • University of California, Los Angeles – United States
  • Stanford University – United States
  • The University of California, Berkeley – United States
  • University of Chicago – United States
  • Columbia University – United States

What are the Best Literature Schools in the USA?

Based on our ranking, the best universities in the USA for English and Literature are:

  • Stanford University
  • Harvard University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Princeton University
  • Yale University

What is the Cost of Getting a Literature Program?

The cost of getting a literature program will vary by your level of study – undergraduate or graduate- and the country you’re studying in. Our list of best literature school is dominated by USA and UK schools, so we will provide you sample cost of study based on these two locations.

The Cost of Studying English and Literature in the UK and the USA is:

  • Oxford – £9,250 for Home/EU students and £27,285 for overseas students for the Undergraduate English and Literature degree program for a year. The Master’s program cost £12,335 or UK/EU students and £26,405 per year, while the Ph.D. program costs £3,985 for Home/EU and £10,460 for overseas students per year.
  • UC Berkeley – The undergraduate English program at Yale costs $14,254while the graduate program costs $14,188.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Literature Degree?

Most bachelor’s degree programs take three years to complete, but it depends on the country you’re studying in. In the USA and the UK, it takes three years to complete a bachelor’s program in English and Literature. In some other countries of the world, it takes four years. So typically, it takes 3-4 years to complete a bachelor’s program in English Literature.

The master’s degree program in literature, however, takes one to two years to complete, while the doctoral programs take four to six years to complete.

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