GraduateProgram Stages

Stage 1

Stage one begins with a focus on the coursework requirement, which consists of 14 letter-graded graduate seminars in English literature.  Of these 14, at least two must be in literature prior to the year 1800, two in literature after 1800, and two focused on theory, genre, or methods.  Students entering the program with a master’s degree may petition to apply up to four English literature courses from that program toward this requirement.  Also by petition, up to three UCLA courses in other disciplines may be applied, and up to two directed study courses.

Upon completion of the coursework requirement and the language requirement, students are eligible to take the first qualifying (“Part One”) exam, which focuses on literature from three distinct historical periods (or two historical periods and one genre).  Successful completion of the Part One exam advances the student to stage two. Students who do not already hold a master’s in English or its equivalent receive the UCLA M.A. at this point. However, we do not offer a stand-alone M.A. degree.

Career Development Expectations

During stage one, students will be learning, largely through observation, what it means to be a professional academic.  Students should take this time to identify their strengths and weaknesses and build a game plan for professional development.


  • To begin, we recommend all PhD students complete the Skills, Interests, and Values assessments in Imagine PhD, a free, confidential, online career planning tool, and that they revisit these assessments at least once per academic year.  Students should discuss their results with any or all of the following: the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies or Director of Professionalization in the English Department, their adviser, or a graduate counselor at the Career Center (we strongly recommend becoming familiar with and making use of the Career Center, especially their advising services and workshop offerings).
  • We recommend students use Imagine PhD’s “My Plan” feature to build a 5-7 year timeline that includes completion of their degree.  Plot degree milestones and, drawing from assessments, plot skill-building activities.
  • Build skills at this stage through coursework, teaching, volunteer opportunities (academic and non), and summer employment.
  • Stage one is an ideal time to build healthy habits that will ensure success in graduate school.  Students should make time to have fun, cultivate friendships, and attend to their physical and mental health.  UCLA is rich in such resources, and we recommend students explore offerings from UCLA Recreation, UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services, and the Graduate Student Resource Center.

Career Path Preparation

Stage 1 is the time to learn the contours of academia and lay the foundations for professional success.  We recommend students take the following steps before moving on to stage two.

  • Build an Online Presence – most students already have one, but the start of PhD work is a good time to ensure one is representing oneself professionally across platforms, and to build a presence on relevant academic platforms.  The Career Center holds regular workshops about this, and you may discuss online strategies individually with a Graduate Career Counselor.
  • Create both a cv and resumé, and be sure to understand the difference between the two.  See chapter five of the Career Preparation Toolkit for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars.  
  • Attend talks – this is an excellent way to be exposed to new ideas, to observe and absorb codes of professional, public academic behavior, and meet people.  Attending departmental events especially is a crucial aspect of collegial behavior.
  • Review academic and non-academic job ads – becoming familiar with how employers describe what they’re looking for in a future colleague is an excellent way for students to begin thinking about skill-building and self-presentation.  Links to various academic job sites can be found at the “Academic Job Search” age of the “Career Development” CCLE site; Imagine PhD pulls non-academic job listings in real time from  These may be found in the “Apply” section of each Job Family.

Communication Skills

  • Students should, in their first stage, continue to develop as writers through course work and publicly engaged writing and add any writing or publication goals to their timelines.
  • They should also gain familiarity with the major conferences and journals in their field.