>The subject line refers to a question a prospective MA student asked me yesterday, completely sincerely.
My response? “That’s a very good question!”
I did have some answers for him, including:
- public high school teachers in our state are required to get one within 5 years of being hired full-time
- it’s possible, though these days not as likely as it used to be, to get a stable job teaching in a community college with an MA (for more information see this thread on my blog, and this one over at Dean Dad’s place)
- it might increase your marketability for jobs in publishing (though it’s certainly not necessary)
- it might increase your marketability for in-house editing and writing jobs
- it’s a way to test the academic waters before committing yourself to a PhD program (and without the hassle of the intense application process)
- those students who come from teeny, tiny schools and don’t quite have the breadth or depth of study to make them competitive in PhD admissions, might do better with an MA
- those students who are changing careers or disciplines and weren’t English majors might have a chance of getting into PhD programs with an MA
Note all the “possibles” and “mights” in those phrases. Frankly, I don’t know if anyone is more certain about those outcomes — or if there’s data out there — but I’m definitely uncertain. I can say that some of our students have gotten into PhD programs and they say they wouldn’t have been prepared for them had they gotten in straight out of their small BA programs. But since I’ve been here, there have only been a two or three who went on to the PhD. And I ran into one of our former students at *$$, where she was working as a barista, and who grumbled, “Look how far my MA got me.”
So I turn the question over to you, oh wise peoples of the InterTubes. What *is* an MA for anyway? — that is, if you’re not a high school teacher, which seems to be about the only category where it’s the terminal and required degreee.