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What can you do with an English degree?

Updated on April 25, 2016

Back when I was an overzealous freshman, I thought a degree in English would help me tremendously in law school. I needed to improve my writing skills and what better way to become a better writer than by practicing it extensively in college? I considered other majors but I realized early on that spending four years of my life intensely reading and analyzing books is something I wanted to do. I strongly believe that this is how you should feel about your education because if you aren't remotely interested in what you're learning, then you are going to have a hard time going to class. Since I didn’t actually go to law school yet, I can’t say that undergraduate degree helped, although I can say that it’s been incredibly valuable in my career search.

But a lot of people, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in English is risky. After all, there is no set career path for English majors. Engineering majors become engineers, accounting majors become accountants. But what about English majors? It's not like we can become Englishman. What is an Englishman anyway? I like to think it involves passing the afternoon by drinking tea and eating scones while having a sexy British accent.

Most people don’t think about majoring in English because of the crazy amount of opportunities or because they know they will receive a massive pay check after graduation like they would with a science or technology degree. I think everyone that chooses to major in English just harbors a secret desire to become a famous writer. With an English degree, you are reading and analyzing literature from every single time period. This may seem fun but there is also a realistic side of you probably thinking—but what can you exactly do with an English degree? Because let’s be honest, you can’t list “analyzing middle english in works of bewoulf as a skill” on your resume and no employer cares if you can whip out a ten page paper on postmodernism in Waiting for Godot in MLA format.

Which leads to my next point: there is no expected path for English majors.

So what type of job can you get with an English major, especially if you don't plan on going to grad school? Well,everyone that majors in English always get asked if they want to teach. But becoming a teacher as an English major actually requires more work because you need to go through an alternative certification that varies with each state. In fact, if you want to be a teacher, it’s probably easier to just major in education. An English degree could also help if you plan on going to graduate school like medical or law school. But what if you don’t want either of these things? What if you are just passionate about literature and can’t see yourself majoring in anything else? Well, worry not, fellow bookworms! If you are considering a major in English or you’ve already graduated, there are plenty of jobs that you qualify for! Here are nine specific jobs you can do with an English degree.

  1. Paralegal- A paralegal assists attorneys with legal work. The work ranges from researching cases and drafting memorandums to accompanying lawyers during a trial. It depends on what type of firm you work for. While a lot of places do require a paralegal certificate, there are firms out there that just want a bachelor’s degree and one of the best degrees you could have for becoming a paralegal is English. This is a great first job for someone who is considering law school.
  2. Copywriter- A copywriter creates sentences and phrases to help market and sell a product or service. This is for the creative types that see themselves working with advertisements or catchy slogans that persuade people to buy things like soda or a singing doll.
  3. Technical Writer- A technical writer If you are interested in technology or science, then technical writing may be an interesting job. You won't be writing flowery text, this is the type of writing you see in the manual for your toaster. For this job, you can major in English and take a few technology or engineering courses to have a little bit more background knowledge. If you really want to get your foot in the door, try writing your own manual for various products to build a portfolio.
  4. Curator- Do you like museums? Are you interested in working for one? The best way to become a curator is through experience. Intern and volunteer at as many museums as you can. With a B.A. in English, you can definitely have an advantage because you know how to communicate and with curator, it’s important to be able to talk to hosts and express yourself well.
  5. Speech Writer- A speechwriter writes speeches for other people to deliver. A speechwriter can be a rewarding position, especially if you work for the President! But not all speech writers have to work for politicians--many CEOs and government officials also need a good writer. If you are interested in this career, prepare to write speeches and build a portfolio. While writing, practice reading your work out loud. Public speaking is tough but being the writer for a speaker is 10 times as challenging but it can also be a very exciting career.
  6. Public Relations specialist- A public relations specialist promotes a company or organization through various uses of media and communication. This job helps make make a company look good in front of the public. When things are rough, you will be the one to inform the public of any changes and lessen the blow. For this job, it's best to intern with as many places as possible.
  7. Communications specialist- A communications specialist is similar to a public relations specialist but spends more time using the media as a mode of communication. I was a communications intern for an insurance company in college. During my time at Company X, I wrote out little safety blurbs to include on their webpage and thought of ideas for their social media pages. Going on social media and thinking of status updates sounds fun until you realize you’re trying to make car insurance seem interesting. But there are a lot of companies out there that will value English majors that can think of ideas for blogs or their webpage.
  8. Marketing Assistant- The great thing about Marketing is that you need to be creative. And while there are plenty of business marketing majors out there, english majors are lucky in the sense that their degree screams creativity and also good with words. Like a copy writer, you are automatically presumed to be a great writer. A marketing assistant has broader opportunities than someone working in communications and PR. But like both of those jobs, creativity is an essential skill and, along with writing, you need to sell a business using the best tactic.
  9. Ghost Writer- A ghost writer writes books about ghosts, think Henry James. I'm totally kidding. A ghost writer actually writes books for other people. This can also be an exciting job but you have to prepare yourself for having your words credited to another person. It can be tough writing an amazing book and attributing it to someone else. In fact, I encourage ghost writers to save their brilliant ideas for their own book.


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