The PhD in Writing and Rhetoric at Mason

George Mason's doctoral program in Writing and Rhetoric offers a curriculum that emphasizes theoretical, practical, and productive approaches to writing in organizations and in public spaces. Our program is built on the premise that writing and teaching in twenty-first century organizations requires the rigorous, integrated study of rhetoric, technology, culture, and research methodologies. Our courses prepare students for rhetorical and pedagogical work in

  • colleges and universities
  • public schools
  • government and nonprofit programs
  • corporate workplaces
  • the broad public spheres crafted via the Internet and mass media

Graduates will help meet the increasing national demand for faculty in rhetoric and composition to teach and lead programs in areas such as writing program administration, writing across the curriculum, technical communication, and media studies. Industry and government also need professionals to conduct research, manage development, and analyze policy in the use of new communication technologies. Our program will prepare students to write, research, and teach with a deeper understanding of the intellectual and administrative tools that can enhance the work they do within industry, government, nonprofit organizations, and public schools.

Admissions Info

Consider the following guidelines when preparing your application:

  • Keep in mind that the PhD is a research degree, and while you don't need to begin the program with a specific dissertation project in mind, you should have a sense of what area of writing studies research you want to contribute to. Be sure to articulate why this particular program is a good fit for your goals. Our PhD program does not include support for creative writing or literary studies, so if your primary interest is in one of those areas, you should apply to programs specifically in those fields.
  • The writing sample should be no longer than 20 pages and a brief (100-word) statement should provide information about the context and audience of the writing sample.

GRE scores are not required for application to the program, but you have the opportunity to include them if you wish to present them as part of your application package. GRE scores are required for certain fellowships and other opportunities within the University, so they are required to be considered for those opportunities.

Funding your Degree

Current cost of attendance information is available on the Student Accounts Office website. GMU current assesses a new graduate student fee of $60 — this is not the same as the application fee.

Financial Aid

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs)

Students with GRA appointments are expected to support faculty research. Full-time GRAs are expected to work 20 hours per week and can receive up to 12 credits of tuition waiver; half time GRAs, working 10 hours a week, receive up to 6 credits.

We will be working with several different units on campus to secure GRA positions applicable to the work of our program — more information about these opportunities will be disseminated to current students via the program listserv.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs)

The main form of support for our program for full time students comes through teaching assistantships. Students who are awarded a teaching assistantship will have the opportunity to teach ENGH 101 (Composition), ENGH 302 (Advanced Composition), and English 388 (Professional and Technical Writing, after completing ENGH 824: Teaching Technical Communication); other advanced writing courses may also be available.

Teaching assistantships are guaranteed for three years in duration and require a 1-2 teaching load in the first year and a 2-2 load in subsequent years. The current GTA stipend is $23,000 per academic year. The English Department does not provide summer teaching opportunities for GTAs.

Assistantships include a tuition waiver of 18 graduate credits per year. TAs must register for a minimum of six credit hours per semester.

Students wishing to qualify for a Teaching Assistantship who have not already completed a graduate course in composition pedagogy as part of their previous study will be required to complete the following course before the start date of their assistantship, and to meet all other university and SACS requirements for instructors of record. This course can count as an elective in the primary or secondary concentration.

  • 615 - Proseminar in Composition Instruction 3 credits


Fellowships are monetary awards made to the highest qualified students; a limited number of Presidential Fellowships are available for students in our program.  The Presidential fellowship requires awardees to take three courses per semester and students are not permitted to teach courses as part of the fellowship program.

Employment on Campus

Full-time and part-time employees at George Mason are eligible for partial tuition exemption as a benefit of employment (see below). Students are eligible to apply for wage positions at the university. These positions offer the benefit of allowing the student to work and pursue study at the same location, but do not carry tuition benefits. For more information, see to the Student Wage section of the Human Resources web site.

Sources of Funding for Graduate Study