An English degree could be your ticket to a career as an educator, writer, editor, journalist or any number of exciting occupations that rely on your use of the written and spoken word. In fact, English degree jobs can cover a lot of ground. The skills you’ll gain may apply in a wide range of education, business, and professional settings. Whether you’re seeking a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree or even a Ph.D.; whether you’ll be studying on campus or earning an online English degree, you’ll have a lot of options. So, what can you do with an English degree? Read on to find out!
An English degree will typically focus on the study and analysis of literature, both classical and contemporary, and may also include writing, composition, and public speaking components. If you love the written word, are curious about humanity’s vast potential for literary expression, and you wish to deepen your own understanding of the English language, this is the degree program for you. The English degree is among the most popular and well–established pathways through higher education. Simply, stated, this is a classic among degrees.
English is a popular degree program, but what can you do with an English degree? Naturally, English is a reading–intensive program, but it also includes the study of composition, and a chance to refine your operational, grammatical and organizational skills. Because of the essential role this language has also played in both catalyzing and conveying events throughout human history, the study of English can be your portal to a body of knowledge and understanding that reaches across infinite academic disciplines, from history and anthropology to psychology and education.
Education is one of many popular English degree career options. An English degree can prepare you to enter a classroom and teach the literary classics or instruct in composition. But this degree path can also provide you with the practical skills to become a technical writer, journalist, or public relations specialist. As with the language itself, it’s up to you how you choose to use your English degree.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.
For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?
- What is Regional Accreditation?
- Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
- The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies
- Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
- The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
- What Is National Accreditation?
- National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.
To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.
For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.
- What is Programmatic Accreditation?
- Programmatic accreditation certifies that an institution’s program, department, or college has met the standards of the programmatic accrediting agency. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, programmatic accreditation is not institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation often coexists with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
While your career prospects as an English teacher, writer or marketing professional may not demand a program–specific accreditation, there is a Department of Education–recognized English program accrediting group.
The Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) ensures that recognized programs are maintaining accepted standards and are pursuing continuous improvement. This stamp of approval may be an indication of your program’s quality, credibility, and reputation. That said, it isn’t mandatory that your program be recognized by the CEA. If your college or university is recognized by a regional accrediting group, you can proceed with peace of mind.
The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice, or visit the website for any of the above accreditation agencies. Each provides a searchable database of accredited institutions and degree programs. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.
Or, to learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
What Kinds of English Degrees Are There?
Associate Degree in English
An associate degree in English can provide you with an introductory look at the subject, with a focus on literary classics, basic compositional writing, and writing in communication. You may also have a chance to take public speaking, creative writing, and contemporary literary classes. This two–year, 60–degree course of study will teach you how to conduct meaningful literary analysis, understand basic principles of communication, and express yourself through an array of written and spoken outlets. An associate degree can provide a pathway to entry–level work as a copywriter, copy–editor, or proofreader. However, even entry level work can be competitive in the writing field, and many of your fellow applicants will have bachelor’s degrees. Fortunately, your associate degree will give you a head start on the way to a four–year English degree.
What Courses Will I Take in an Associate English Program?
- Advanced Reading
- Expository Writing
- Introduction to Technical Writing
- World Classics
- Contemporary Fiction
- Poetry and Prose
Bachelor of English
The bachelor’s degree in English remains among the most popular and reliable of majors. This is because the subject is inherently multidisciplinary in nature. Your study of literature will naturally be a bridge into subjects like history, philosophy, psychology, ethics, world culture, and religion. You’ll also refine your practical skills through advanced literary analysis, compositional writing, and creative writing. This will also be a chance to refine your focus. Over the course of this 120–credit program — typically completed in a minimum of four years — you’ll have a chance to find a concentration in an area like journalism, public relations, marketing, or education. Bear in mind, if you do choose the education route, you will likely need to continue into a Master’s degree program. Otherwise, a bachelor’s degree in English can be a great path to launching a career as a newspaper or online journalist, an advertising or marketing specialist, an author or an editor. With that said, writing and media jobs tend to be competitive. Your appeal to an employer, as well as your shot at upward mobility, could both be improved by continuing to a master’s degree program.
What Courses Will I Take in an English Bachelor’s Program?
- Advanced Literary Analysis
- Applied Linguistics
- Principles in Journalism
- Editing and the Publishing Industry
- English Composition
- Studies in Rhetoric
- Principles of Communication
Master of English
The master’s degree in English is a popular advanced degree, both because it can improve your appeal to employers in competitive fields like marketing, publishing, and editing, and because the literary and publishing worlds are, to an extent, still connected to the idea of academic prestige. Indeed, this is a popular one– to two–year degree for many who are already working in fields like writing, editing and publishing, and can help advance ambitions toward managing editor status or improve the academic authority you’ll need to publish on certain topics. And if you plan on teaching English at the public school level, your master’s degree is mandatory. You might consider, at this point, pursuing a master’s degree in Education with a concentration in English.
What Courses Will I Take in an English Master’s Program?
- Writing, Rhetoric and Literacy
- Educational Instruction in English
- Intro to English Research Methodologies
- Literature and Cross–cultural Analysis
- Literary Criticism
Ph.D. of English
If you plan to teach English at the university level — whether on literature, composition, journalism, etc. — you will need to earn your Ph.D. This can take anywhere between five and seven years and will require you to complete a dissertation on a research subject of your design. Many Ph.D. candidates will complete their studies while working in the field. In some instances, your program may also carry some on–campus teaching requirements. A Ph.D. in English will qualify you to instruct and publish at the university level as well as conduct scholarly research in your area of concentration.
What Kind of Licensing or Certification Do I Need?
If you plan on becoming an English teacher in a public school setting, you must earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree, as well as complete a teaching certification program. In many cases, your undergraduate program will include the courses required to earn your teaching certification. If that is not the case — or if you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in an alternate field like English — you can enter a standalone teaching certification program. This will provide you with the coursework and experience needed to earn licensure in your state. (Bear in mind that some states require you to have a Master’s Degree in education before you can enter your certification program. Contact the Department of Education in your state to learn more). Depending on the amount of coursework you’ve completed up to this point, your certification program could take between one and two years to complete.
Once this is complete, you will qualify to sit for the licensing exam in your state. Some states use a national exam like PRAXIS, while others employ their own licensing examination.
Once again, we would advise visiting the Department of Education for your state to find out more.
What Can You Do With an English Degree?
You may be asking yourself, "What can I do with an English degree?" Fortunately, your English degree can be the key to an array of challenging and exciting careers in Media and Education. For more detail, check out a few of these top English degree jobs:
- Interpreters and Translators
- Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts
- Technical Writers
- Writers and Authors
- Adult Literacy and GED Teachers
- High School Teachers
- Instructional Coordinators
- Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
- Library Technicians and Assistants
- Middle School Teachers
- Post–Secondary Education Administrators
- Postsecondary Teachers
What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With an English Degree?
Your English degree could open the door to a career in writing, education or an array of media and communication jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides basic salary information, including median annual pay as of 2018, for some of the top English degree jobs:
|English Language/Lit. Teachers||$66,590|
|Interpreters and Translators||$49,930|
|Public Relations Specialists||$60,000|
|Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts||$43,490|
|Writers and Authors||$62,170|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Are There Professional English Associations or Societies I Should Join?
Professional Associations are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for English associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.
- National Writers Association (NWA)
- Author’s Guild
- College English Association (CEA)
- National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)