Careers for English Majors

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue with an English degree. Read on to learn more about career options in writing, advertising, education and government work, along with skills you can acquire and potential earnings. Schools offering English Language & Literature degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an English Major Do?

English majors learn about many different aspects of English literature and language, studying a variety of writing techniques, literary forms, and how to construct their own writing effectively. This prepares them for a wide range of career paths following graduation, as the skills gained through an English degree program are highly adaptable for a number of different professional roles.

As will be expanded upon below, one option for English majors is to become a writer and to create your own original content, which needs to be informative and entertaining. You could also become an editor and be in charge of choosing and commissioning content from others. Translation is another option, although this will require students to have a professional level of fluency in a language other than English.

In general, many English majors graduate with a broad-based skill set that allows them to enter a variety of careers. The following chart gives an overview of four popular career choices.

High School Teacher Writer Editor Translator
Degree Required Bachelor's Bachelor's Bachelor's Bachelor's
Key Responsibilities Plan and teach lessons, evaluate student progress, grade papers Research, write, work with clients or editors Correct writing errors, check facts, work with writers Translate written work from one language to another, maintain meaning and style of original
Licensure/Certification Required Optional Not applicable Optional
Job Growth (2014-24) 6% (fast as average)* 2% (slower than average)* -5% (decline)* 29% (much faster than average)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $57,200* $60,250* $56,010* $44,190* (translators and interpreters)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Kinds of Careers Are Available For English Majors?

You may think that majoring in English is synonymous with becoming a teacher, but there are a wide variety of career options available for English majors. This is because English majors must possess good writing, communication and analytical skills, which translates to many other jobs. For example, upon earning your degree in English, you could obtain work in the fields of sales, public relations, government or management, as well as many others. Specific jobs can include marketing specialist, administrator, literary agent or interpreter.

The career you select will depend largely on where your interests lie. If you're interested in entering the field of law, you should know that many law students obtained their bachelor's degrees in English before entering law school. Alternatively, you could pursue paralegal training after graduating from a university.

If you're interested in a career in the publishing industry, consider writing for book publishers or magazines in their promotion or marketing departments. You can even become a freelance writer, taking on projects on a full-time basis or writing part-time while working for a major corporation. You will find that your English degree can open many career doors.

What Job Skills Will I Utilize?

As an English major, no matter what career field you enter, you will most likely acquire and use a number of skills. These include creative writing and independent thinking, as well as the ability to compose and edit documents, proofread, manage projects, prioritize and meet deadlines. You will also develop the expertise to comprehend and solve complex problems.

How Much Could I Expect to Earn?

There is a vast array of areas in which English majors can work, so salaries can vary greatly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school teachers earned a median salary of $57,200 in May 2015, writers earned $60,250 and editors earned $56,010. At the same point in time, the combined group of translators and interpreters earned $44,190. While lower-paying, the field of translating is expected to have significant growth by 2024, with demand expected to remain strong in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Russian translating, and to increase in Middle Eastern and Asian languages.

Where Can I Work?

Just as there are many jobs you can perform with an English degree, there are also many potential places of employment. These include health care facilities, theaters, radio stations, museums, arts organizations, libraries and educational organizations. Social service agencies and technology firms are other options.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many different career options for English majors, some of which have been covered in detail above. Another possibility for students who studied English is to go into advertising and marketing, utilizing their communication skills to plan and carry out effective promotional campaigns for services and products. English majors often study persuasive writing over the course of their degree program, which can be very beneficial in this industry. You may also choose to expand your field of knowledge in order to gain a position as a technical, medical or legal writer, copywriting and content specialist positions that require a high level of technical knowledge as well as good writing proficiency. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for some teaching positions, but students who want to go on to become teachers at postsecondary institutions should consider studying English at the graduate level.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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