English Literature

A degree program in English literature can prepare you for a career as a professional writer or educator, among other options. Continue reading to learn about more career opportunities, job outlooks and academic requirements.

Is English Literature for Me?

Field Overview

A degree program in English literature covers a wide variety of celebrated works written in the English language, from Shakespeare to contemporary American and British authors. Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in English literature are available, and enrollees study forms of writing as works of art while exploring the relationship between literature, history and society. These degree programs emphasize critical-thinking skills and superior writing ability.

Career Options

Common jobs you might consider after graduating with a degree in English literature include professional writer or English literature teacher, but you can also pursue positions in journalism, communications and business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), writers and editors must be able to express ideas clearly and be self-motivated and curious (www.bls.gov). With career experience, additional opportunities could be available, such as becoming a magazine or newspaper editor as well as a book or film critic. Your background in English literature may lead you to become a teacher at the secondary or postsecondary levels, depending on your degree level.

Job Outlook and Salary Statistics

The BLS projected that between 2012 and 2022, employment would decrease by 2% for editors. However, it was expected to increase by 3% for writers and authors, and 19% for university professors. As of May 2013, the median annual salary was $57,750 for writers and authors, $54,150 for editors and $60,920 for postsecondary English language and literature professors.

How Can I Work in English Literature?

Undergraduate Education

Through an undergraduate degree program in English literature, you might have the opportunity to select from such concentrations as literature or creative writing. English literature coursework includes information about literary genres, theories in literature, literary composition and literary history. You may read British and American texts, including poems, essays, short stories and novels.

Career Requirements

If you're considering becoming a writer, you'll probably need to earn a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS. Knowledge of English literature can familiarize you with writing styles and practical ways to apply them. Teachers working in public schools in the United States must have at least a bachelor's degree, student teaching experience and a teaching license.

Graduate Studies

With a master's degree, you can teach English literature at a community college. Teaching at a 4-year college or university requires a minimum of a doctorate in English literature. In some schools, doctoral candidates can be hired for teaching positions.

Master's degree programs in English literature or in English with a concentration in English literature include studies in literary criticism and poetic forms. They also cover medieval literature, texts from the Renaissance era, modern pieces, epic works and historical context. At the doctoral level, you can engage in literature courses that address the culture, theories and critique of texts. Research is another major component, and most programs require that you write a dissertation. Some schools also have teaching requirements.

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