Literature Degrees: Bachelors, Associates & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a literature associate's or bachelor's degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Literature: Degrees at a Glance

Literature students learn more than just how to properly read a text. They also learn how to think, analyze and write about a text. While associate's degree programs are generally geared towards those who intend to transfer to a 4-year program, bachelor's degree programs can prepare you for a variety of careers in writing and teaching.

If your desire is to become a writer, though, you may want to consider that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected jobs for writers to have slow or average growth (6% from 2010-2020) and writing jobs are very competitive. A bachelor's degree in literature can prepare you to become an English teacher, but you'll need to complete teacher licensure requirements in addition to your degree.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? This degree program is primarily for those who wish to transfer to a 4-year program in literature or English education Individuals who intend to teach or write
Common career paths (with approx. mean salary)* Many careers in writing and teaching require bachelor's degrees.
- Library technician or assistant ($32,000)*
- Teacher assistant ($25,000)*
- High school teacher ($57,000)*
- Middle school teacher ($56,000)*
- Adult literacy or GED teacher ($51,000)*
- Writer or author ($68,000)*
- Technical writer ($67,000)*
Time to completion two years, full time four years, full time
Common graduation requirements - Literature courses
- Writing courses
- General education classes
- Liberal arts foundation
- Core courses
- Selected electives
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- Interest in reading and literature
- High school diploma, GED or associate's degree
Online availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Literature

An associate's degree in literature typically prepares you to transfer to a 4-year baccalaureate degree program in English, literature, education or creative writing. These programs are meant to develop your reading, speaking and critical listening skills and improve your inquiry skills. Upon graduation, if you choose not to move on to a bachelor's degree program, you will be ready for entry-level jobs, such as teacher and library assistants. These jobs, according to the BLS, were predicted to increase at an average rate from 2010-2020.

Pros and Cons


  • An associate's degree program gives you the foundational knowledge you need to enter a bachelor's degree program
  • Elective courses allow you to tailor your education to meet your needs or interests
  • You will learn important skills, such as critical thinking and inquiry


  • Most of these degree programs are designed to transfer to 4-year schools and don't prepare you for a specific career
  • Job prospects are limited for those with an associate's degree in literature - a bachelor's degree is required for most jobs in the literature or writing fields
  • Some school districts and smaller libraries require only a high school diploma for entry-level positions

Courses and Requirements

General education courses such as math, composition and history are compulsory at most liberal arts colleges and universities. You will also be required to take both writing and literature courses. Many of these are considered introductory courses, which will be built upon in a 4-year program. Typical coursework may include:

  • Dramatic literature
  • Children's literature
  • Shakespeare
  • The short story
  • Introduction to poetry and poetry writing
  • British and American literature
  • Introduction to playwriting and screenwriting

Online Degree Options

Some colleges and universities offer online courses in literature. These can be used to supplement your education, to get a feel for the major or to be counted towards your associate's degree. Other colleges offer associate's degree program in literature entirely online, which is ideal for working professionals or stay-at-home parents.

Stand Out with This Degree

While you are pursuing your degree, you may want to choose elective courses related to computer science or teaching technology. Writers and authors should be familiar with changing technologies because more and more writing jobs are becoming available for online publications and social media. Potential library assistants and teaching assistants must also stay abreast of new technologies to keep up with the latest book cataloguing or multimedia teaching strategies.

Bachelor's Degree in Literature

If you have a talent for writing and an appreciation of classical and contemporary literature from around the world, a career in the literature, writing or teaching industries could be right for you. A bachelor's degree in literature program goes deeper than just reading Shakespeare and writing literary analyses. It requires intensive focus on the study of the human condition and the impact of creativity on society.

If you intend to become a teacher, it is important to enroll in your school's teacher education program as well as a literature degree program. Each state has different requirements for teachers, so be sure to research this before enrolling in a degree program. Additional certification may also be required.

Pros and Cons


  • You will be prepared to enter a variety of fields, such as writing, editing and teaching
  • Your college's teacher education program can help you become certified and licensed to teach in your state
  • Literature programs offer a wide assortment of genres and cultural literature classes


  • Additional certification or coursework may be required to become a teacher
  • The field of writing is difficult to break into, and there is strong competition
  • Slow job growth was projected for high school teachers (7% from 2010-2020)*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Liberal arts classes such as history, science and mathematics create the foundation of any bachelor's degree program. Students focus on literature and writing courses and are able to choose electives to supplement their education. Before becoming eligible for graduation, students must master certain skills that go beyond interpreting various forms of literature. Couse topics may include:

  • Chaucer
  • The American novel
  • Modernism
  • Medieval literature
  • Early American literature
  • Mythology

Online Degree Options

Some degree programs in English or English literature are offered entirely online. These bachelor's degree programs focus on honing the same skills and knowledge as on-campus programs. They typically require the same coursework. However, online programs in teaching literature are not available because most schools require that you student teach under supervision.

Stand Out with This Degree

Aspiring writers and authors should be up-to-date with any technological advances because more and more writing jobs are becoming available through the Internet or online publications. Employers of technical writers prefer those with Web design experience as a result of the growing use of online documentation, so taking computer science courses as an undergraduate could be helpful. Of course, an excellent command of the English language is also necessary for any potential job. Take advantage of opportunities to practice your writing while in school, like working for a school newspaper or writing your own blog.

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