Ah! Wind blows, water flows, fire burns, and your compound question grows deep in the recesses of my mind. Well, well, Lindsay, are you contemplating pursuing a PhD in English literature, else, Spanish Translation & Interpretation? Since you can't answer me, I'll assume that you are seriously considering entering such Masters and/or Doctoral programs. Didn't you have enough counseling in the particular programs offered to you at your university? I'm assuming you're going to remain at the school where you're studying for your bachelor's degree, and where you might earn either or both, your masters and doctoral degrees.
It appears that you're not well informed about your fields of academic pursuit, why? If you're going to pursue higher educational degrees, well, you should be busting down the pavement in the pursuit of local masters and doctoral candidates, asking them directly on the ins and outs of their individual programs at your university.
Anyhow, I may be able to help you, as I have been in several doctoral programs throughout the years. Indeed, after the great 1990 layoffs in engineering, due to the collapse Soviet Union, I entered a Physics PhD program at UTSI, Tullahoma TN.
At that time, I was financially broke and exhausted from the long unemployment period. I was spending lots of time, energy, and money, doing so big time, looking for work in areas where I was over qualified; else, no one wanted to hire a physics guy with experience in the Star Wars Program. What a funny predicament, after a decade of preparation!
But UTSI did offer a graduate research assistantship in the amount of $13,500 per academic year, with tuition waver; and yes, I took it. Why not? It was a good deal. But not everyone can obtain such graduate assistantships, it takes good grades, at least above A-. My physics masters degree left me with a grade point average of 3.85/4.00, but also broke; and because of good grades, I was pretty much in the PhD game for physics in the years 1994-95. Unfortunately, my stepfather died and I had to leave the program; however, I entered another doctoral program in Material Sciences at the University of Vermont.
Yet, two years into it, I left again due to another unforeseen obstacle, a liver disease needing interferon treatment. Again, after being treated for this nasty ailment, doing so in Canada, I entered the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University in Montreal, to pursue another graduate program, this time in film production. Here, I had to borrow monies through a graduate student loan, but the Quebec provincial government gave me free grants, which I didn't have to pay back, and this too was a good deal. And luckily, with hard work and perseverance, I got my MFA in film production (no PhD offered in film production, it's a terminal degree).
My personal experience in these matters, as described above, should be helpful to you, Lindsay; because I found that life isn't just about dragging yourself through these hermetic educational programs, other stuff comes around, and you need to deal with it.
Now, let's talk about the course loads in such programs. First, the masters is a quantum leap beyond the undergraduate program, and you got to rev yourself up for the very fast pace and highly competitive nature of such endeavors. If you're not prepared to work for 12-16 hours a day, well, it does not matter if it's physics, filmmaking, writing, or more to the point in your case, say, English literature, you're going to have a hard time in succeeding to a high level of competence, if not worse. Maybe you're a natural in this subject, so you may have extra room to move in and develop yourself through other important university or community activities; indeed, I'd go for it, for it's part of your overall education. Do you get my drift, Lindsay.
Finally, we get to the doctoral studies and here, you're competing against some of the top students from all over the world, as it was similarly in the masters program, but here the stakes are higher and the cost greater. Surely, if your grades are high enough, at least above A-, you'll be able to borrow the monies to live and pay your way through PhD school; yet, at some costly universities, you may not have enough cash to make it through the program, without additional funding. It is here, in fact, where you may have to teach others in the lower levels of your discipline, and I guarantee you that you will be teaching for, or assisting, some professor in his undergraduate course load or his own professional research. So be prepared, Lindsay, to work like a bat out of hell (excuse my wild simile). Good luck.