Help us create the future of English studies in the cradle of great American literature.

Iowa City and the University of Iowa have been at the center of American letters for decades. The entire community is welcoming and committed to writing and the arts. What better place to make your academic home? As an Iowa English doctoral student, you'll prepare for a research and teaching career and start shaping the future of our discipline. Or you might engage in a nontraditional career path, bringing your expertise to the nonprofit sector or specializing in book studies. No matter your path, our nationally recognized faculty mentors and our Graduate College resources will help you refine your journey. 

The English PhD program is designed as preparation for the teaching, publishing, and administrative service required of a career in academia. Concentrations are offered in areas such as literary history and critical theory, as well as interdisciplinary areas such as cultural studies and the digital humanities. The department has also approved an exciting streamlined version of the PhD that incorporates Book Studies, including a Certificate from the University of Iowa Center for the Book and a dual degree program with the School of Library and Information Science that awards a PhD in English and MA in LIS

Program requirements

The PhD in English requires a minimum of 72 semester hours of graduate credit, a comprehensive examination, dissertation, and dissertation examination. With the exception of the Introduction to Graduate Study course for PhD students, no specific course or sequence of courses is required of students. Instead, all students are encouraged to design a program that combines the breadth they will need to teach survey courses with the focus that will enable them to make significant scholarly contributions to their areas of specialization even before they complete the degree.

In planning your course of study, it is important to remember that in the past decade economic constraints have led many colleges and universities to seek broadly trained, critically informed job candidates who are prepared to teach and publish in amply defined fields of study.  All doctoral candidates are strongly advised to gain teaching experience, preferably in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Rhetoric and in GE CLAS Core literature courses.


PhD Student Handbook

This handbook provides details about the various stages and requirements of the PhD program, including commencing study; distribution, seminar, and foreign language requirements; qualifications; the comprehensive exam; and the dissertation.

Career Guide

The English Department has created a Career Development Guide to help you understand how to pursue the many career paths that are open to English PhDs.


The Department offers financial support for PhD students through graduate assistantships and competitive fellowships.