Congratulations on your degree in English, your bold and determined study of the human world in written form -- also known as literature.
Your study of literature taught you about people and how they express their experience of the world. Your study of writing taught you how to inform, to persuade, to instruct, and to inspire others with words.
That's, you know, pretty good -- the better news is that hiring managers know that too: thirty percent of employers in a Millennial Branding survey said they were seeking liberal arts majors, just short of the 34 percent who said they wanted oft-touted engineering and computer information systems majors.
So now you've weathered the tempest that is pursuing a degree in English, dealing with the deluge of dense readings and inundation of barista-job comments.
Your cap is tossed, your diploma is in hand. And you realize that this was all the easy part, the calm before the storm that is the post-graduate job market.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a career map just for English Majorssuch as yourself -- to aid your navigation of the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who can't put a good book down, keep reading.
We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as English Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
And now to begin where many of the greatest stories do -- at the beginning.
1. Skills for English Majors
An English degree develops new perspectives for approaching the world, and equally important is the ability to articulate values and alternatives -- to persuade others to share a common vision.
In this interconnected world, being able to communicate ideas clearly and powerfully is vital to success.
Applying these skills to real world learning opportunities yields a more robust and balanced career. Here are some of the common skills that you should have when trying to get a job with English degree.
Critical thinking and analysis. Analyzing information, forming cogent arguments, and communicating them will never be obsolete. Everything about the English Major revolves around communicating ideas, and your conversational small classes provide you with an excellent baseline for how to portray yourself and your ideas in a way that others will be receptive to.
Understanding of mass media. Mass media has several different expressions and iterations, and understanding how mass media operates. There was literature before books, books before print, and print before online media -- understanding -- the written word is in flux, and as we find ourselves inundated with media, your ability to read will become all the more essential.
Interpersonal communication skills. A little different than outright public speaking, interpersonal skills combines an understanding of how you and the information you're expressing is being interpreted by those around you with a little thing called empathy.
Being intuitive about how another person is going to accept or interpret the things that you say to them is something that may come natural to many folks, but it's also a skill that can be learned through English courses.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting English Degree
The English Major's adaptability makes it suitable for almost every field, but it's up to you to narrow your focus.
And if you aren't fortunate enough to network your way into a position, it might be worth taking a look at what sort of internships you might be qualified for, even if you've already graduated.
A good internship can potentially lead directly to a position, and even if it doesn't it gives you an undeniable edge -- a Millennial Branding survey shows that 91% of employers think that students should have between one and two internships before graduating.
Here are some common types of internships for English Majors:
Before you settle on an internship, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
An internship will provide you with an understanding of the skills that a career in your field requires -- and with all of the options you have available, the opportunity to learn what it is that you don't want to do in your is invaluable.
3. Available Jobs For English Majors
The paradoxical challenge for English Majors, unlike technical skill-based majors, is that everyone wants your skills -- they just don't know it.
Remember that college isn't job training. You've learned to read, write, and analyze information more deeply than other students. Your abilities are applicable to most positions, and you need to narrow the focus.
Employ those skills to analyze their needs and present an argument why you are the best person for the job -- as an English major, it is your responsibility to sell yourself to a potential employer.
With our career map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.).
But here, we wanted to call out some of the common jobs for recent English major grads. Here are some of the most interesting entry-level jobs for recent English grads:
Marketing coordinators can have many different responsibilities, from maintaining marketing calendars or customer databases to developing ideas and engaging in research themselves.
In general, though, marketing coordinators tend to in some way be responsible for interpreting information or data for the benefit of other employees, so a firm grasp of the principles of communication are a must for this position.
Like the other items on this list, reporters are nominally responsible for interpreting information for the benefit of others -- however, they tend to do so for the public at large rather than their employers.
Reporters identify stories, track down information, and put it into an easily digestible format. The always-online trend of modern journalism means that many would-be reporters are now learning programming and multimedia web design in order to remain competitive in the job market.
Technical writers, also called technical communicators, prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents to communicate complex and technical information more easily.
They also develop, gather, and disseminate technical information through an organization's communications channels.
What's the deal with Technical Writers?
Technical writers create operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions, and "frequently asked questions" pages to help technical support staff, consumers, and other users within a company or an industry.
After a product is released, technical writers also may work with product liability specialists and customer-service managers to improve the end-user experience through product design changes.
It helps to have some technical background since you'll be working with engineers, scientists, computer support specialists, and software developers to manage the flow of information among project workgroups during development and testing.
To get a picture of what you'll be doing, try going to
/">GitHub. GitHub is filled with projects with "docs" that range between terrible and great.
It's a good jumping off point for building your portfolio because:
- You can show prospective employers a "before / after comparison"
- You may make an excellent impression on a potential startup
- You will learn about the popular version control tool today, Git.
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for English Majors
These are the most important words you're going to hear: never stop hustling.
Chase opportunities that excite you; follow what piques your curiosity. Give every writing gig a chance.The path from point A to point B will never be cut clearly for you -- but unlike the narrower majors, you can fit into anything if you just keep working.
Be creative with how you approach job listings
There are many more positions available that demand your writing abilities, but the ones that read "English Major Wanted" are limited -- so you have to be creative when applying your degree to them in interviews.
Think of it as a prescreening test. If you can convince potential employers to hire you even if you weren't initially what they had in mind, then you've already done an excellent job: show them that they want people who can communicate -- they just may not know it.
This is where your composition talents are not just a marketable job skill, but one that will help you land your cover letter and resume on the desk of the right person. Research the company and tailor your job seeking collateral materials for the application as if it was an assignment.
Network, network, and network
The best thing you can do to get a job in English is, plain and simple, to know somebody who knows somebody -- this can be from internships, courses, or a professional organization on campus.
Reach out to the people you know from college, students or not. If enough time has passed, that classmate you friended on Facebook for one group project three years ago might be your in for a job that just opened.
On a similar note, professors are not only good first references for your resume, but they've also been around students and the professional English world long enough that they might have some good recommendations for you as far as where to look.
Join a good professional organization like some of those listed at the end of this page and take advantage of every resource at their disposal. And wherever possible, just talk to people, and be friendly. You'd be surprised at how far a little communication goes -- or, given the field, maybe it's not such a shock.
Start a writing, like, now.
Yeah, we get it -- you're planning to start a blog. You'll totally do it eventually. Or maybe you've already started one, spent 40 minutes customizing the font and colors, and then wrote exactly one post, which you deleted after no one liked it.
We get it. Writing itself is already tough. Writing consistently every single day? Herculean. But it's a necessary step when it comes to writing jobs.
If you're on the job hunt and not getting a lot of bites just yet, the fact of the matter is that there's no hiring manager out there in this field that would be offended if you had a professional blog. And there's dozens of hiring managers that would be ecstatic. It's all a big part of showing that you understand media (social or not) and that you're capable of communicating effectively.
Prepare a portfolio
Lastly, having and maintaining a professional website and social media presence is also a bit of a must for those in the English field. As a journalist, it's the main way that you'll communicate with others in your field, and it will help spread your work too.
Back up your promise of writing talents with examples on a professional website. Just put up at least three samples -- that's what your job descriptions usually ask for -- of your best. Be discriminating in your judgement, and keep the site clutter-free and easy to navigate.
That way, you can easily share a link and put a short bio out there for potential employers. These websites allow you to market yourself and develop a bit of a web presence for free:
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in English
Unlike certain other fields, there's no real licensure you need in order to write or practice English in some other sense -- typically, experience and a portfolio of writing samples is all you need.
However, familiarizing yourself with tools will be exceptionally helpful for your resume. Lynda.com is great for learning tools such as Illustrator, Captivate, Photoshop, and other Adobe products as well as SEO and HTML basics.
Nothing beats experience and a portfolio, but for some fields a certification or advanced degree is necessary. My suggestion is to just begin building your portfolio.
Technical and Medical Writing
Although not mandatory, If you choose to pursue technical writing then certification can make candidates more attractive to employers. It can also increase a technical writer's opportunities for advancement, especially when you have limited experience.
Some associations, including the Society for Technical Communication, offer certification for technical writers.
In addition, the American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing. These certificates are available to professionals in the medical and allied scientific communication fields.
Pursuing an advanced degree
Having a Bachelor's degree in English is obviously a great first step regardless of what sort of career you might be considering, but once you've finished that, another question remains: should you go onto further studies?
We did a little research, and while the Master's might be useful to you, you'll want to think long and hard about whether a Ph.D is for you and your chosen career.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with English degree normally consider:
Master's in English
If you're looking to increase your knowledge in a particular aspect of English or improve your research skills (always a useful thing to have), then a Master's might be supremely useful to you.
If you're looking more to increase your earning potential, a Master's can help do that for you too, but you want to be aware of the hefty price tag that might be associated with it. Figure out how long you'll be willing to pay off the debt and compared to how much earnings you can anticipate from it first.
If you can get the Master's without breaking the bank, then go for it, but otherwise it might be worth it to focus on getting more job experience and building your portfolio.
PhD in English
This option is really only a good idea if you're interested in an academic career. Expect a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and not much recognition for how long and difficult your eventual book is to read.
6. External Resources
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
The most important national society of professional journalists to be aware of as a English Major. The Associated Press is huge resource of unbiased information and education for journalists, and the organization is also the governing body for AP Style, which is the accepted writing standard for professional journalism.
National Communication Association
A membership-based academic group based mainly in Washington, D.C., the NCA works to support those who study communications and attempts to engage the public on issues related to Communication.
Public Relations Society of America
A trade association for Public Relations-associated jobs that, among other things, offers an accreditation program for those practicing in the Public Relations field.
Enter "English" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to English majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.