What Is English Composition?

English composition courses are designed to give students a firm foundation in basic writing skills. You'll probably take English composition during your first year in an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Schools offering English Reading & Writing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Subject Defined

As a college student and in your professional career, you'll likely need to be able to write succinctly, persuasively, and grammatically correct. An English composition course will introduce you to these skills through a variety of reading, journaling, and essay writing activities. You'll learn about the entire process of putting together a well-crafted essay, which includes researching your topic, revising your first draft, and polishing and presenting your final draft. Many courses also aim to expose you to various types of rhetorical situations, while advancing your audience awareness and literary knowledge.

Important Facts About English Composition Courses and Careers

Online Availability Various programs offer online courses
Degrees Undergraduate and graduate programs for English are available
Concentrations Linguistics, Creative Writing, Worldwide Literature
Possible Careers Jobs in media, writing, education, information/research, politics, and public service
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 8% growth (for writers and authors)
Median Salary (2018) $62,170 (for writers and authors)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Course Goals

While the exact assignments you'll receive in English composition courses may vary, the skills they're meant to teach are generally the same. These courses aim to equip you with the writing skills needed to brainstorm ideas, outline an essay, and form a clear thesis. You'll also learn to support a thesis with examples and facts derived from research and to properly cite and document sources. You may acquire basic proofreading skills, such as how to check spelling, punctuation, and grammar. To better understand the components of successful writing, you might also read and discuss example essays.

Help Resources

If you find yourself struggling in an English composition course, you may want to take advantage of the tutoring services that are offered by most schools. Usually housed in a writing center, tutors will help you think clearly about an assignment, make suggestions when you're stuck, and offer feedback on the writing you have produced.


To ensure that students get the most out of an English composition course, many schools require incoming freshmen to take a placement test to determine their skill level. After placement, you can expect to take one to two English composition courses at the appropriate levels. Some schools also require students to take a discipline-specific writing course, such as writing for business or science.

Earn Credit through Testing

If you feel you've already developed significant writing skills, you may be able to receive English composition credit by passing either an Advanced Placement (AP) or College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam. Both the AP and CLEP exams are overseen by the College Board and feature multiple-choice and essay components (www.collegeboard.com). The prerequisites for each test vary, as does the amount of credit you'll receive for taking them, which is determined by the individual school.

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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