English Literature Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue with a major in English literature. Read on to learn more about career options along with employment outlook and salary information. Schools offering English Language & Literature degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do English Literature Majors Do?

Students who major in English literature learn how to read and produce to a wide variety of texts and prose, ranging from poetry and fiction to technical writing and advertisements. These programs teach students how to read analytically and critically, which can help students develop a talent for creative problem-solving. The skills gained throughout an English literature degree are applicable to a great number of careers that require strong abilities in writing, editing and analysis.

See the table below for information about specific jobs such as teacher, writer and editor.

English Teacher Editor Writer
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Licensing/Certification State teaching license required No No
Key Responsibilities Provide instruction in analysis of literature and other documents; evaluate student writing; create curricula; administer and grade tests Evaluate documents' structure; research accuracy of content; correct grammar and typographical mistakes; work with writers Create content for printed and/or electronic materials; research relevant topics
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all elementary, middle, and high school teachers)* -5%* 2%*
Median Salary (2015) $54,890 (for all elementary school teachers)*
$55,860 (for all middle school teachers)*
$57,200 (for all high school teachers)*
$56,010* $60,250

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Career Options Will I Have with a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature?

An English literature degree can qualify you for numerous career paths. For example, you might pursue a career as a high school English teacher by obtaining a teaching license. However, as an English literature major, you could also find work in any field that has a need for individuals with good writing, editing and analytical skills.

With your degree, you might work in an advertising agency, library, publishing firm, museum, market research company, telecommunications firm or government agency. A few positions you may qualify for include journalist, screenwriter, librarian or media analyst. You could choose to earn a master's or doctoral English degree to work as a professor at a college or university. An English literature degree program can also prepare you for study in another field, such as law, business or film.

Will I Need Anything in Addition to My Degree?

To become an English teacher in a public school, you'll need to obtain a teaching license by fulfilling all of the licensure requirements of your state. You can enroll in a teacher education program during or after completing your bachelor's degree program in English literature. All states require you to participate in a certain number of hours of supervised teaching practice, which can be satisfied through student teaching internships. You might also be required to pass a basic competency skills exam and an English subject exam, though exact conditions for licensure are determined by each state.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

As an English literature major, you can pursue various occupations with different job duties that may or may not relate to your degree. Writers are generally responsible for creating original written material such as scripts, advertisements and articles for a company or organization. Report and technical writing are common in certain areas of business and government. If you work as an editor, you could be responsible for revising texts to improve them in terms of style, grammar and overall effect for publication. You might also be in charge of the layout of a newspaper, magazine or Web page.

You could become an English teacher and teach students about works of literature. Your duties would consist of instructing students and evaluating their analytical, reading and writing skills. You'd also need to grade assignments and tests, plan lessons and meet with parents and faculty on a regular basis.

What Can I Expect to Earn?

Your earnings potential will depend on the particular career path you pursue with your degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers from kindergarten through secondary school had a median annual salary range of about $54,000-$57,500 in May 2014 (www.bls.gov). Editors earned a median income of $56,010 and worked primarily for newspapers and book publishers. Writers and authors made a slightly higher median wage of $60,250.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Due to the highly adaptable nature of an English literature degree, there are few restrictions on what students may choose as their career path. Some may choose to work in advertising or in similar industries such as personal relations or marketing, due to the high standard of written communication required in these fields. There are many different careers that English literature graduates may consider in media-related professions, such as scriptwriting, editing, or working as a researcher. As well as teaching within colleges and schools, students who study English literature may also qualify to become ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers, giving them the opportunity to work abroad and travel.

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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