What Can You Do With an English Major?

by
CollegeXpress Student Writer

Long story short: you can do way more with an English major than you think. Keep reading for lots of examples.

These days it seems like every job is looking for someone with a science, math, or technology degree. If you’re like me and greatly prefer writing or reading to using the quadratic formula, you might find yourself wondering, “What can I do with an English major?”

If you have ever wondered that, I am pleased to inform you that there is plenty you can do with a degree in English. In an article published by Stanford University, “Careers After an English Major,” it says, “Critical thinking. Creativity. Interpretation. Studying English prepares you for a diverse range of professional fields, including teaching, journalism, law, publishing, medicine, and the fine arts.” You can also get jobs in the entertainment, public relations, nonprofit, and even technology fields. Not too shabby, right?

In fact, there is actually a vast number of careers you can get with an English major! Good communications skills are incredibly important to employers, and learning how to communicate well is a huge part of majoring in English. You also learn how to research, think critically, and use your creativity—all super employable skills too.

Here’s a look at some of the more common career paths for people who major in English in college. Just remember: like so much of the writing you do as an English major, you’re only limited by your imagination!

Related: Colleges for the Student Who Wants to Major in English

Writing and publishing

Some of the more obvious career fields for English majors are in publishing as a writer and/or editor. A survey conducted by Harvard University revealed that 7% of their English students go into publishing. For those of you interested in publishing, you might want to look into working for magazines, newspaper, and/or book publishers, as well as online-only “magazines” and journals. (Plus, most print publications now encompass online publishing duties too!)

Of course, you may be wondering where to apply for said careers. Lucky for you the English Department for Brigham Young University in Idaho released a list of jobs you could apply for depending on what you’re interested in. If you’re interested in writing and editing, you might get a job at a newspaper or magazine, in the TV and movie industry, or with other publications (trade, professional, or consumer). Or you might work as a freelance writer and/or editor.

Education

Who wouldn’t want to use their love for English language and learning to shape young minds and prepare them for the future as a teacher!

That same Harvard survey revealed that 17% of the school’s English majors go into careers in education. Careers available in the education field include, of course, working at public and private schools, colleges and universities, libraries, and even private learning centers.

Public relations and advertising

If you’re more interested in public relations or/and advertising, then you just might end up being a part of the large percentage of English majors (21% at Harvard) who choose those career pathways.

If you absolutely love both of those things, then you’ll be ecstatic to hear they usually go hand in hand. For both careers BYU suggests looking into advertising agencies or perhaps in-house advertising departments at larger companies.

If you’re looking for jobs more on the public relations side of things, don’t worry. Some careers for you include working at public relation firms, trade associations, college and university marketing and PR departments, and public service agencies.

You could also apply these same skills to marketing and communications roles, which are often very similar in nature.

Law

Law is another field many English majors go into (about 16% of those Harvard students I keep referencing!).

If you are interested in a career in law, hopefully you know already you will also have to go to law school! After that you can look for jobs at law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies, and public service agencies.

Business

For all of you English majors with a passion for business, your degree could be a great help at virtually any company, such as banks, real estate agencies, and insurance firms.

Again, employers need people who can communicate well, and corporations large and small hire lots of English majors! Also keep in mind that you could potentially get a second major or graduate degree in business as well to help you on your career path.

Related: The Power of a Business Minor

Medicine

Think medicine and English don’t work together? Think again! Plenty of English majors go into careers in medicine and technology (they make up 9% of careers for those Harvard English majors). In fact, if you’re thinking about becoming a doctor, an undergraduate degree in English might be a surprisingly perfect start.

For those of you interested in these careers, you’ll almost certainly need to get a medical or tech degree of some kind as well. But not only will a English undergraduate degree enhance your medical school application, it will teach you skills that come in handy if you choose to be a physician, hospital administrator, or researcher.

Being an English major can also help you get jobs in the computer, IT, and even engineering fields. Though you may need to double-major or go to graduate school for these specialized tech careers, you’ll have a great foundation as an English major, learning how to share your ideas, conduct research, ask important questions, and much more. 

The major you love and the jobs you want

I hope all you (potential) English majors now know that you can get the degree you want and actually get a job in the real world! Plus, you don't have to give up one degree for another. You can double-major or minor in English and business and benefit from both. You can be a neurosurgeon with a passion for literature. Or you can major in English and go on to teach English or be a writer. There’s no wrong answer!

So don't give up on being an English major. This degree will help you with pretty much any job you want. And you can still do what you love.

Are you thinking about majoring in English—and wondering what you can do with your degree? Leave your questions in the comments, or just share your story, and we’ll get back to you!

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