What Can You Do With an English Degree?

by Doug Wintemute
• 5 min read
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An English degree teaches you to craft compelling arguments, write creative prose, and critically analyze texts, all skills that prepare you for a career in publishing, education, or marketing.

English graduates help people, organizations, and communities understand and preserve the arts, learn from history, and tell stories. Yet many people still wonder: What can you do with an English degree?

A degree in English provides students with marketable soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Learners also acquire the hard skills necessary for many types of employment, such as writing, editing, and research.

English majors study academic writing and literature in addition to general humanities. These programs often intersect with other disciplines, including social sciences, history, and communications. English graduates' diverse skill set and strong professional foundation help them start careers in many industries.

English Degree Career Paths

English graduates can use their writing, research, and problem-solving skills in many fields, particularly education, publishing, media, and communications. These majors can also land jobs in tech, such as copywriter, SEO specialist, or social media manager.

To improve their qualifications in a specialized field, students can take targeted electives and find related internships or work. Getting an internship can show students how to apply their skills to their chosen field and highlight what additional qualifications they need to become more competitive in the job market.

Education

Career Examples

  • ESL teacher
  • Special education teacher
  • Postsecondary teacher

Relevant Courses

  • Language and literacy
  • Social studies

Publishing

Career Examples

  • Editor
  • Marketing manager
  • Writer or author

Relevant Courses

  • Literary studies
  • Creative writing

Writing

Career Examples

  • Author
  • Copywriter
  • Technical writer

Relevant Courses

  • Academic writing
  • Editing

Journalism and Communications

Career Examples

  • Journalist
  • Broadcast news analyst
  • Editor

Relevant Courses

  • Writing for the media
  • Visual and written rhetoric

Marketing and Advertising

Career Examples

  • Marketing manager
  • Market research analyst
  • Advertising sales agent

Relevant Courses

  • Business communications
  • Modern advertising

Public Relations

Career Examples

  • Public relations specialist
  • Public relations manager
  • Fundraiser

Relevant Courses

  • Rhetoric theory
  • Professional writing

Media and Entertainment

Career Examples

  • Editor
  • Reporter and correspondent
  • Public relations manager

Relevant Courses

  • Literature and visual arts
  • Digital media studies

Law

Career Examples

  • Paralegal
  • Court reporter
  • Arbitrator

Relevant Courses

  • Legal writing
  • Literature and the law

Fundraising and Nonprofits

Career Examples

  • Community service manager
  • Marketing manager
  • Public relations specialist

Relevant Courses

  • Professional writing
  • Gender and representation

Ask an Expert

Sarah Eilefson received her Ph.D. from Loyola University Chicago and teaches composition at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Her scholarly articles have appeared in Text & Presentation and Scholarly Editing, and she has contributed to a number of publications in the fields of healthcare and law enforcement.

How Is an English Degree Helpful in Getting a Job?

Everyone's career trajectory is unique, but an English degree can help candidates stand out in a variety of roles, including competitive and high-paying jobs.

Not only does an English degree teach graduates excellent written and verbal communication skills, but it also teaches critical reading and thinking and introduces students to a variety of modes of creative expression.

An English major can be an advantage when applying for jobs. The field's emphasis on writing and attention to detail lends itself well to preparing a resume and drafting a cover letter, and the experience of seminar-style classrooms often helps prepare students for interviews and salary negotiations.

In the workplace, an English major can lean on their experience reading for detail, their logic and organization, and their openness to creative problem-solving. Many English majors find [that] their degree is key to success in workplaces that value troubleshooting, written and verbal communication, and leadership skills.

What Kinds of English Degrees Are There?

When choosing an English degree, students should first check that their chosen program is regionally accredited. While programmatic accreditation is not mandatory, the American Academy for Liberal Education accredits liberal arts programs that meet the highest standards.

Many schools offer English degrees with different emphases and levels of study, so students should think about their educational interests and career goals before settling on a program. The next sections detail the most common types of English degrees and what learners can expect to gain from them.


Associate Degree in English

Many of the country's best community colleges offer associate degrees in English that help students build an educational and professional foundation in the field. These degrees typically take two years to complete.

While associate degree graduates can pursue entry-level careers in various fields, many choose to continue their studies with a bachelor's degree to expand their employment options. Those looking to enter the workforce directly can pursue careers in writing or preschool teaching.


Bachelor of English Degree

A bachelor's degree in English typically takes four years to complete, though some schools offer accelerated and part-time study options. Some of the best online bachelor's in English degrees offer concentrations targeted toward a specific career path.

Specializations such as digital humanities and creative and professional writing can lead to careers as authors, technical writers, and public relations specialists. Students can also specialize in a field by choosing the right electives and internships.


Master's Degree in English

A master's degree in English usually takes 1-2 years and teaches advanced writing and research skills. This level of education often appeals to degree-seekers who want to specialize in an advanced subdiscipline or continue on to a doctoral program.

Students can specialize in an array of fields, such as rhetoric, business communications, or human services. These concentrations can lead to careers such as public relations managers, advertising managers, and postsecondary education administrators. Master's degree-holders can also pursue management and leadership careers.


Doctoral Degree in English

A doctoral degree in English provides the most advanced training available in the field and takes 4-7 years to complete. Students use this time to delve into extensive research assignments and hone their professional and creative writing skills. Most doctoral graduates pursue careers in research and academia.

Depending on their training and specialization, doctoral graduates can work in management, publishing, writing, or community service. Many of these graduates also go on to become postsecondary teachers and school principals.

English Professional Organizations

BWC supports Black writers by providing them with resources, a professional network, and career opportunities. Members can also attend events and join a mentorship program. AAP advocates for publishing professionals and the publishing field as a whole. The association strives to improve publishing laws and increase access to content and learning programs. NAIWE helps professional writers and editors develop their careers by giving them access to resources, networking opportunities, benefits, and support programs. NCTE aims to improve English teaching and learning by advocating for educators, connecting them to a supportive network, and giving them access to publications and professional development resources. The MLA develops language and literature standards for educators, students, and professionals. Members can access publications, networking events, and educational and professional development programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

true What High-Paying Jobs Can You Get With an English Degree?

English graduates with experience or specialized training in business communications can pursue marketing manager positions with earn median annual salaries of $141,490.

true Should I Major in Creative Writing or English?

Creative writing and English studies often overlap, but students who wish to become authors or brand content creators may wish to pursue a creative writing specialization for more focused training.

true What Are the Advantages of an English Major?

English majors receive a well-rounded humanities education where they acquire useful writing, editing, communication, and critical thinking skills.

Doug Wintemute is a Toronto-based freelance writer with professional writing interests in higher learning and entertainment. He completed his BA and MA in English at York University, graduating summa cum laude and earning academic merit, research, and writing awards at both levels. Since 2014, he has contributed content and editorial work for award-winning digital trade publications, global SEO copywriting projects, and hugely popular online brands. He can be contacted through LinkedIn.

Header Image Credit: PeopleImages | Getty Images

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