Languages & Cultures 


Areas of Focus:

  • English: BA, MA, PhD
  • Creative Writing: MFA, Minor
  • Literature: Minor

Department Website

Degree Requirements

Four Year Plan

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The Department of English explores every major genre of English and American literature, as well as brand new fields of study. From Anglo-Saxon literature to digital media studies, from the earliest English novels to contemporary graphic novels, faculty and students work to advance an understanding of the English Language’s cultural and literary history. 

Studies in English cultivate humanistic and global empathy, and empower students to be engaged citizens and vital contributors to the advancement of the world’s societies and cultures.

A degree in English increases in value, commensurate with our experiences, as we age. Riches await those who read, reflect and write."

Art Kaufman (BA '76)

English is a relevant and powerful major because it teaches students how to navigate this complex world by offering an opportunity to travel in time and space through some of the greatest stories ever written and told. By learning how to read complicated texts, students can communicate more effectively, put the things they read into a variety of cultural contexts and learn how to interpret their unique world view with sophistication and depth.

Most fundamentally, English teaches students how the study of literature and the practice of writing are two mutually reinforcing pursuits that will prepare them not only for advanced graduate study, but for the numerous career paths that constitute today’s workforce.

In particular, students who major in English:

  • Improve their writing skills;
  • Deepen their ability to think critically and analytically;
  • Learn how to identify evidence; and
  • Develop their individual point of view and learn how to defend it within the context of a lively, engaging and supportive community of scholars.

And the Department of English at CU Boulder is among the best English departments in the country, with the graduate program ranking #35 in the most recent U.S. News & World Reports rankings.

Faculty in the Department of English are active researchers whose publications have appeared in the most prestigious outlets in the profession. They offer research and teaching in British and American Literatures, Poetic Aesthetics, Renaissance and Medieval Literature, Ethnic American Literature, Modern and Contemporary Literature, Popular Culture, Film and Digital Media, Cultural Studies, Creative Writing, Literary Theory, and Gender and Sexuality Studies.

With more than 80 books to its credit, the Department of English has a number of excellent and award-winning faculty, including four fulbright winners, a National Endowment for the Arts fellow, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, and a Professor of Distinction.

The English department also encourages interdisciplinary research and education for all students and faculty, and is home to faculty with affiliations across the college, such as Women & Gender Studies, Jewish Studies and Ethnic Studies, as well as the award-winning, innovative Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture (RAP Lab) and the Media Archaeology Lab.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in English, there are a number of opportunities beyond just class work:

  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.
  • English majors can apply to write a creative or critical honors thesis, the successful defense of which results in the designation of cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude at graduation. The Honors thesis is an independent project that the student designs by working one-on-one with a faculty director. Information on honors is available on the English department website, the Honors website, or by visiting the Student Services Office in Hellems.
  • The experience of studying abroad can prove invaluable for an English major. Your first-hand experience abroad can provide you with new insights into the study of English and American Literature. This is true whether you study in an English-speaking country or in a country where another language is predominant. The university offers more than 100 programs throughout the world—many for academic credit. You may spend a few weeks to a full academic year abroad, depending on the program you select. Prior language study or other prerequisites are necessary for some programs, so early planning for study abroad is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.

If you can articulate your ideas, you can succeed.  No matter what career challenges lie ahead of you, the skills provided by a degree in English—open-ended problem solving, rhetorical analysis and synthetic writing—are extremely powerful.  Ultimately, it is very difficult to learn these skills after graduation, and thus students who major in English are prepared to develop professional careers in law, publishing, communication, marketing, public relations, journalism, broadcasting, education, public administration, and business, as well as creative and technical writing. 

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

According to the 2017-18 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital:

  • the median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in English and 0-5 years of experience is $40,700
  • and $71,300 for 10-plus years of experience.

Estimated English Salary Info

At CU Boulder, English graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $82,819 based on a pool of 2317 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. This amount, however, is lower than the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during that same stretch.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 2016-2026 job growth for writing jobs will be 8 percent, same as the projected average job growth, and job growth for elementary-school teachers will be 7 percent, about the same as the projected average job growth for the period. Jobs in journalism are expected to decline by 10 percent, according to the bureau.

The English department has an extensive list of alumni that are either working or have worked in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Kathy Beeck ('86) is co-founder of the Boulder International Film Festival, now going into its 14th year.
  • Ashby Pate ('00) is a lawyer with the law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC and a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Palau.
  • Jack Williamson (PhD '64) was a successful science-fiction writer from 1928 to 2005. He was known as the "Dean of Science Fiction," and was named the second Grand Master of Science Fiction by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1976 and inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1996. He is credited with inventing the term “terraforming” in a 1942 short story.
  • Luis Alberto Urrea (MFA '97) is a Mexican-American novelist and professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois Chicago. His memoir, Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life, received the American Book Award in 1999 and his nonfiction book, The Devil’s Highway: A True Story, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
  • Sean Forman ('07) is a multi-Platinum recording artist and co-founder and member of the electronic pop duo 3OH!3.
  • Serena Chopra (MA '12) is a poet and Fulbright Fellow who teaches in the MFA Program at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.
  • Leather Storrs ('92) is a Portland, Oregon-based celebrity chef and co-owner of Portland’s Noble Rot restaurant.
  • Kate Grenville (MA '82) is an Australian author who has received the Commonwealth Writer's Prize and Orange Prize, and whose work has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.