The Blogora: The Rhetoric Society of America


Ten Theses about the Profession for Discussion: The Terminal MA Program is the Future of Graduate Education

Submitted by syntaxfactory on August 3, 2015 - 8:56am

I grow so very tired of reports on the need for reform in graduate education.

"Too few jobs for too many graduates." Doctoral programs should, based on the current job crises in the humanities, shrink their admission pools or shutter altogether, it is said -- so that there are fewer underemployed doctoral-holders.

But wait, organizations like the MLA respond -- we can transform doctoral study. (See: The brief recommendations are here:

Pursue and maintain academic excellence.
Broaden career paths.
Focus on graduate students’ needs.
Redesign the doctoral program. ( Noncourse-based activities are essential in today’s career environment.)
Engage more deeply with technology.
Reduce time to degree.
Strengthen teaching preparation.
Expand professionalization opportunities.

And I look at this list and I see what my terminal MA in English (with an emphasis in Writing Studies; visit has done for years, because we know that at most 25% of incoming students will go on to doctoral study, at most a quarter will go on to teach as adjuncts, and the rest will seek nonacademic or alt/ac jobs.

Which, incidentally, mirrors pretty well what the PhD in English gets you, in terms of graduation stats.

I think all this talk about transforming the PhD is really about catching up with where the terminal MA has been for years, and I would love to see seminars at NCA, CCCC, and RSA about "what can the PhD learn from the well-oiled terminal MA."

Faculty at terminal MA programs aren't truncated versions of our doctoral colleagues or steroidal versions of our colleagues at undergraduate institutions. We are the future of professionalization in the discipline.

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