Composition (M.A.)

As a graduate student in our program, you’ll join a vibrant intellectual community and work collaboratively with nationally recognized faculty and highly engaged fellow students. Together we explore both cutting-edge scholarship and well-grounded “best practices” for teaching reading and writing to diverse populations, with a goal of promoting academic excellence, educational equity, and social justice. Throughout the program, you’ll build lasting connections with current and future teachers; you’ll grow intellectually and professionally; and you’ll make your own contribution to our field.  

Dr. Mark Roberge, M.A. Coordinator

Spiral notebook, pen and phone on a table

Contact Information

Mark Roberge, Composition Coordinator
Office: Humanities Building, Room 467

Cynthia Losinsky, English Graduate Programs Coordinator
Phone: (415) 338-2660
Building: Humanities, Room 490

The M.A. in Composition provides solid grounding for students who plan to become reading and writing teachers, particularly at the postsecondary level. The MA  also provides valuable professional development for experienced educators seeking additional specialization. Our graduate seminars draw on faculty expertise in critical pedagogies; culturally informed pedagogies; teaching for racial justice; enhancing teaching and learning through technology; the changing nature of literacies; integration of reading and writing; academic acceleration; current curricular and pedagogical reforms in community colleges due to AB 705.

The M.A. degree consists of 30 units (10 courses total). Most students take two or three courses per semester and complete the degree in two years.

Graduate Alumni Trailblazers

Hear testimonials from our very own alumni of our composition master's and certificate programs to find out how this degree helped them get to where they are today.

What Makes Our Program Special?

  • Graduates receive not only an M.A. degree, but also a certificate in Teaching of Composition and an optional certificate in Teaching Postsecondary Reading
  • We emphasize teaching for social justice, particularly at open-access institutions such as California Community Colleges.
  • Our students come from rich and varied academic and professional backgrounds; previous coursework in English is not required.  
  • We offer opportunities to experience in the field. M.A. students may apply to teach a section of First Year Composition; to tutor in the writing center; to serve as an embedded tutor; or to take on other career-relevant jobs on campus.
  • We offer value: Tuition is low compared to private programs. Students may apply for financial aid, scholarships, and on-campus jobs. Out-of-state students may be eligible for in-state tuition. (see Western Regional States). 
  • We offer flexibility: Courses are offered during convenient late-afternoon hours to accommodate working graduate students. Students may take 1, 2 or 3 courses per semester.
  • The M.A. culminates in a professional teaching portfolio showcasing achievements to prospective employers.  Instead of a thesis, students write an article suitable for publication in a teaching journal and give a professional presentation.
  • We have a strong alumni presence in Community Colleges throughout the Bay Area.

Post Fall 2019 Requirements & Courses

  • Core Requirements (15 Units)

    • ENG 702 - Introduction to Graduate Study of Composition, Linguistics, and TESOL
    • ENG 707 - Topics in Language Analysis
    • ENG 728 - Topics in Sociolinguistics
    • ENG 733 - Seminar in Student Teaching
    • Culminating Experience (Choose one):
      • ENG 895 - Field Study or Applied Research  Project
      • ENG 898 - Master's Thesis
  • Concentration Requirements (15 Units)
    • ENG 700 - Introduction to Composition Theory (3 units)
    • ENG 709 - Seminar in Teaching Integrated Reading and Writing (3 units)
    • ENG 710 - Course Design in Composition and Post-Secondary Reading (3 units)
    • Electives selected with an advisor's approval (6 units)

Pre Fall 2019 Requirements

See the previous bulletin for more detailed information. 

Please review before applying:

The application process for the M.A. Composition program is as follows. If you have questions about the process, please contact:

  1. Complete the online application through Cal State ApplyCreate your account AND Complete your profile. 

    TIP: Students who will study on a F1/J1 visa must select Non-Resident for U.S. Citizenship Status under your Extended Profile.

    Please note: You will only see a list of programs that aligns with your academic degree objective.

  2. Submit the following online (A-C) by uploading on the Cal State Apply site’s “Program Materials” section:
    • A 1-2 page typed statement of purpose. Please write a statement of purpose in which you do the following:

      1. Explain your interest in pursuing the degree.
      2. Describe any previous experience that may contribute to your success in the program.
      3. Establish your readiness to do graduate-level coursework.
      4. Explain what you plan to do with the degree/certificate upon completion.
      5. In addition, be sure your statement of purpose demonstrates your ability to produce clear, cogent, and polished prose.
    • A recent writing sample (approximate length: between 7 and 10 pages). This writing should be analytic in nature. It may be from a previous course you have taken or it may be writing you undertook in your professional pursuit beyond the classroom. Please include a statement with your signature that certifies that the writing sample is your own.
    • Please upload legible unofficial copies of transcripts from each college or university attended. Including study abroad coursework, or community college coursework, even if this coursework appears as transfer credit appears on your degree transcript.  Full academic disclosure is required.  Photographs or screenshots of transcripts will be rejected. An incomplete academic history will significantly delay review of your application. The Division of Graduate Studies may request official transcripts from you at any point during the application review process.  
  3. If selected for admission, you will be required to submit official transcripts to the Division of Graduate Studies in order to secure your offer of admission. Please note: if you previously attended SF State, you do not need to submit a SF State transcript.
    If selected for admission, please mail official transcripts to:
    Graduate Admissions Office, ADM 250
    San Francisco State University
    1600 Holloway Ave.
    San Francisco, CA 94132
  4. International applicants who are non-native speakers of English must also have official TOEFL scores sent (institution code: 4683, department code:14). IELTS scores are also accepted.
    International applicants who are non-native speakers of English must also submit a certified financial statement.
  5. Two letters of recommendation that speak to your academic potential. Use the Evaluations tab to manage submission of letters of recommendation. Letter writer email addresses should be from professional or academic organizations (ex., or, not personal email addresses. Cal State Apply instructions on how to submit letters of recommendation.


Applications for Fall admission: Accepted starting October 1 – early deadline February 1, regular deadline April 1, and final deadline July 31.

Applications for Spring admission: Accepted starting August 1 – early deadline November 15, regular deadline December 1.

Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

International applicants should submit their materials by January 1 for fall admission or September 1 for spring admission. 


The documents on this website/webpage might not be fully accessible to persons with disabilities. We are working to fix these accessibility barriers by June 15, 2022. If you experience difficulty in accessing this content, please contact the Department of English by email at and we will provide you with accessible alternatives.

The M.A. in Composition prepares students for a variety of career pathways. Most graduates of our program obtain positions teaching college composition and reading particularly in the Bay Area and Northern California. Other graduates enter doctoral programs in areas such as Rhetoric, Composition, Writing Studies and Educational Administration. And some graduates use the M.A. degree to advance in other professional roles in college writing programs, campus writing centers and education-related organizations.

The Certificate in Teaching Composition is incorporated directly into the M.A. degree and is typically completed during the first year of graduate study; no additional coursework is necessary. 

The Certificate in Teaching Post-Secondary Reading may be obtained by selecting electives focused on reading theory and pedagogy (ENG 701, ENG 715). No additional coursework is necessary.

Students may also take additional courses to obtain the Certificate in Immigrant Literacies; the Certificate in Computational Linguistics; or the Certificate in TESOL (undergraduate).

Current Student Checklist

Obtaining Classified Status

Students admitted with Conditionally Classified status normally obtain Classified status after Graduate Division reviews and approves the Advancement To Candidacy (ATC). Under certain circumstances, you may wish to obtain Classified status before filing the ATC. If you have met the conditions outlined in your Notice of Admission, contact your department office about the procedure for changing your status from Conditionally Classified to Classified. If your program requires you to provide evidence that you have met these conditions, bring proof of completion (such as a transcript) to the department office and ask that it be added to your file.

Semester Before Taking English 895

Submit your Advancement To Candidacy (ATC)

  • Use this form to describe how you will fulfill the requirements of your degree.
  • The Graduate Coordinator of the M.A. Composition Program will guide you through the process of preparing and submitting your ATC. Prepare the ATC form online before printing. If necessary, print out a blank copy and type in the information. If the form is handwritten, it will be rejected by Graduate Division.
  • Submit your ATC to the department office.

Submit your Proposal for Culminating Experience (CE) and your Protocol Approval Form (PAF)

  • The Graduate Coordinator of the M.A. Composition Program will guide you through the process of preparing and submitting both your Proposal and the paperwork related to obtaining Protocol Approval for conducting research with human subjects.
  • You will use the Proposal form "895: Thesis with Human/Animal Subjects"; include the title of your thesis and a brief abstract, and list the members of your thesis committee, all of whom must sign the form. Your "committee chair" is your first reader.
  • Prepare your Proposal form online before printing. If necessary, print out a blank copy and type in the information. If your Proposal is handwritten, it will be rejected by Graduate Division.
  • Submit your Proposal and your Protocol Approval paperwork to the department office.

Do you have questions about the ATC, Proposal for Culminating Experience, or Protocol Approval Form? Ask in your department office, consult with your advisor, or visit the Graduate Division website. Note that we prefer that you submit your ATC and Proposal forms and your Protocol Approval paperwork to the department office at the same time.

Semester of Graduation

Enroll in ENG 895

  • Your ENG 895 instructor will give you a permit number to use for adding the class online.

Apply for graduation

Check your transcript

  • Complete any necessary paperwork to change Incomplete grades.

Submit your thesis to Graduate Division

  • The usual deadline is the last day of classes.
  • Check the requirements for thesis formatting and submission in advance on the Division of Graduate Studies website.

When Graduation Is Delayed

Re-apply for graduation

  • If you do not graduate during the semester in which you initially enrolled in 895, you must re-apply for graduation in the semester in which you will complete your requirements.

Maintain enrollment status

Students admitted before Fall 2008

  • If you do not submit your thesis by the deadline, your instructor will assign you a grade of ‘RP’ (report in progress).
  • You do not need to re-register for ENG 895 in subsequent semesters.
  • You do not need to pay fees for subsequent semesters.

Students admitted beginning Fall 2008

  • Graduate students who earn RP in ENG 895 have an additional “grace semester” after the posting of the RP grade to continue writing the thesis. To maintain current status during this grace semester, students do not have to pay fees or register for courses.
  • If students do not graduate at the end of the grace semester, they must enroll in a 0-unit Culminating Experience course via the College of Extended Learning for each subsequent semester.

Check your transcript

  • When you submit your thesis to your readers, you must also provide your 895 course instructor with a Petition for Grade Change.
  • Fill in your name, SF State ID#, and the semester of enrollment in ENG 895; your professor will note that the RP grade should be changed to CR and will submit the petition to the department.

Note your seven-year deadline.

If you do not graduate during the semester of your initial enrollment in your culminating experience course, we recommend that you remain mindful of your seven-year deadline. Your degree must be awarded within 7 years from the start of the term of the earliest course listed on your ATC. EXAMPLE: if the earliest course listed on your ATC was taken in the Spring 2008 semester, you must graduate no later than the January, 2015. Students whose deadline has expired must petition for an extension of the seven-year limit; such an extension may be granted only once.

For more information contact:
Department of English
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 338-2660

Inquiries concerning admission to the university, application forms, the university Bulletin, financial aid, etc. should be addressed to:
Graduate Studies Division, ADM 250
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, California 94132.

Graduate Division

(415) 338-2234


Bridget Gelms
Bridget Gelms (She/Her/Hers)
Associate Professor
(415) 338-3112
Sugie Goen-Salter
Sugie Goen-Salter (She/Her/Hers)
(415) 338-1586
Tara Lockhart
Tara Lockhart (She/Her/Hers)
(415) 338-7031
Mark photo
Mark Roberge (He/Him/His)
Composition Program Coordinator
(415) 338-7457
Virginia Schwarz
Virginia Schwarz (She/Her/Hers)
Assistant Professor
Composition Program Coordinator
Mary Soliday
Mary Soliday (She/Her/Hers)
(415) 338-1469
Jennifer photo
Jennifer Trainor (She/Her/Hers)
(415) 338-2264