Careers for English Majors

While it may seem that what students do in a literature classroom has little relation to the “real world,” an English major helps students develop a number of skills essential to success in a wide variety of careers. Those skills include:

  • Critical thinking: In English classes, paying close attention to details and being able to use those details to understand the bigger picture are essential.
  • Writing, editing, and communication: English majors write much more than students in many other programs, and good writing skills--not just what you say, but how well you say it--is an important criteria in grading the work of an English major. And many English classes are, relatively speaking, small, which means that English majors get accustomed to speaking in front of a group and debating ideas with others.
  • Conducting research: Assignment in English classes often include a research component. Not only do you have to find sources, you are also tasked with evaluative them and incorporating what you’ve learned from them into your own work.
  • Working independently: the long-term nature of many essay assignments given in English classes necessitates that majors learn how to work on their own, dividing larger projects into a series of manageable tasks and planning their time accordingly. Cramming might help you on a test, but it’s not going to cut it on a 10-page research essay. Many employers want to see that their new hires can take responsibility for their assignments without hand-holding.
  • Managing Information and understanding multiple points of view: English majors are required to make sense of complex, challenging texts and approach ideas with a great amount of depth.

Throughout your college career, keep track of the skills you develop in English and other classes and think about ways that you can translate them into a career once you graduate. As you prepare job application materials, be sure to highlight what your major has taught you to do and how it can help you succeed in the jobs for which you are applying.

Possible career paths for English majors include (but are not limited to): advertising, publicity, public relations, corporate communications, editing, law, marketing communications, business or technical writing, non-profit work, education, grant writing, media relations, journalism, website management.

Print sources:

  • Careers for Bookworms & Other Literary Types, 4th ed., by Marjorie Eberts (McGraw-Hill, 2008)
  • Great Jobs for English Majors, 3rd ed., by Julie DeGalan & Stephen Lambert (McGraw-Hill 2006)
  • I'm an English Major: Now What, by Timothy Lemire (Writers Digest Books, 2006)
  • Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career, by Sheila J. Curran & Suzanne Greenwald (Ten Speed Press, 2006)

Information provided by Dr. Jean Griffith, for more information please contact Dr. Fran Connor.