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Is An English Degree Worth Getting?

Updated on December 28, 2016

Is An English Degree Worth Getting?

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Many college degrees have come and gone over the years, as technological changes have caused some degrees to lose their viability, while other degrees have been created to serve new niches. One constant in the world of college degrees for centuries has been a degree in the English language. Since an English degree is viewed as such a broad and common degree, many students preparing for or attending college ask: Is an English degree worth getting? It is not unusual for students to wonder what they can actually do with an English degree in the real world, upon graduating college.


Jobs That Are Available To Those With An English Degree

While some jobs have been eliminated by the incredible power that computers possess, writing jobs are not among them. Computers can do a lot of things, but they cannot write creatively or interact with people on the level needed by most employers to produce high quality written materials that humans like to read. Having a degree in English opens up a whole slew of writing-related job opportunities, including but not limited to: copy writing, proposal writing, technical writing, online content writing, journalism, authoring articles and books, and editing. While it may be possible to land a job in some of these fields without an English degree, having an English degree is a requirement with some employers looking to fill writing and editing positions, and having an English degree provides one the command of the English language that is necessary to succeed and excel in the fields of writing and editing.

Other job opportunities for those with an English degree include a variety of teaching positions. Teaching English in middle and high (secondary) school requires at least a bachelor’s degree in English. Having a master’s degree in English can lead to higher pay levels for English teachers and open up the door to teaching English at community and junior colleges. A doctorate (Ph.D.) degree in English is often a requirement to pursue a career teaching English at four year colleges and universities. Master’s and doctorate degrees in English can also be useful if one wants to pursue a career as a professional editor, since having an advanced degree will not only open up job opportunities, but can also help accelerate the rate of advancement in an editing career.

While a college degree is not always needed to teach English as a second language, having an English degree can help if one wants to live abroad in a non-English speaking country, since there is often a robust market for people trying to learn English as a second language. Having the strong command of the English language that an English degree provides can make one a confident English teacher to those learning the language for the first time.

Possessing a bachelor’s degree in English can also help one to excel in their career, even if their career is not directly related to writing, editing, or teaching English. While people bring many skills to their workplace, writing and editing skills are often lacking in those possessing degrees other than English. Well written communication and editing skills can help one stand out and make a positive impression at the workplace.

Why An English Degree Is Worth Getting

For those who grew up in English speaking countries, contemplating earning an English degree in college may cause them to think back to their days in middle and high (secondary) school, when their English teacher drove home the mechanics of the English language via countless exercises and tests. For many students, English was not their favorite subject. Between the endless rules, exceptions, and nuances of the English language, and the differences of opinion amongst English teachers regarding the proper use of the English language, learning proper English can be a downright frustrating experience since proper written English does not always jibe with the spoken English that people learned organically while growing up.

When considering whether an English degree is worth earning while attending college, a student needs to set aside their pre-conceived notations of what English classes were like, and consider the benefits that such a broad degree can have for their career, once they are done with college. The fact of the matter is, while not the sexist college degree, an English degree has a lot of practical uses in the job market, and for that reason an English degree is worth getting. Not only can an English degree open up many job opportunities, it can also advance one’s career ambitions, if one decides to pursue job opportunities not directly related to their formal education in English.

A Broad English Degree May Give One An Edge In The Fast Changing Job Market

There is nothing scarier to an aging worker than the realization that the career that they studied in college and spent their adult life cultivating is becoming irrelevant. Like the English language, the job market is not static; it is constantly changing, with demand for some professions decreasing over time due to technological changes and changes in the overall economy. That is the danger associated with earning a specialized degree in college and pursuing a narrow career path based on a specific field of interest. 

So, is an English degree worth getting? Yes, an English degree is a broad degree that will be relevant and marketable in the job market as long as the English language continues to be written and spoken. The biggest technological change in a generation, the advent of the Internet, has made possessing an English degree more relevant than ever, as the explosion of online writing content has increased demand for people with good English writing and editing skills.

"What is English?" Video - Arizona State University Department of English

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    • Rock_nj profile image
      Author

      John Coviello 3 years ago from New Jersey

      Wow Nicole! I'm honored that my Hub helped sway your decision to continue college and pursue a degree in English. I wish I had earned an English degree myself since I have made my living as a writer for years. It would be helpful to have the degree. Good luck! HubPages is certainly a good place to hone your writing skills.

    • Nicole Locey profile image

      Nicole Locey 3 years ago from Cisne, Illinois

      Very informative Hub. It swayed my decision towards continuing with a degree in English, after finishing my Associates in Arts and Science. I have thought about which degree to pursue and could not find anything that interested me enough, or was useful in my rural area. I'm intrigued by the idea of writing as a second career. As a non-native I have no illusions of it being easy, but it's something I feel passionate about. Thanks for sharing.

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 4 years ago from California

      I've known people who got degrees in English and they went into fields like Marketing and TV. Some employers don't care what you have a degree in as long as you have one.

    • Rock_nj profile image
      Author

      John Coviello 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks everyone for your comments about this hub. I just added a number of links to related hubs about job opportunities for people with English degrees.

    • profile image

      ElleBee 4 years ago

      I describe my english degree as something I can simultaneously do "Everything and nothing" with. That is there's no specific career one with an English degree goes into as there is with Engineering, Medicine etc. and yet all professions require us to read and speak coherently, so an English degree can really translate into valuable job skills in nearly every field. I have the book "I'm An English Major, Now What?" and I'd definitely put in aplug for it! Happy to see it on your recommended reading list.

    • Anju Arya profile image

      Anju Arya 5 years ago from India

      You have given useful information about English degree. Thanks.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Excellently approached topic and so agree with you

    • najordan89 profile image

      najordan89 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      This is great! I graduated in December 2011 with a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. I haven't managed to find a job yet, but I definitely want to go into teaching! I know that may seem like the default, but I think it's a perfect way for me to also focus on my writing career!

    • UnsungRhapsody profile image

      UnsungRhapsody 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      As someone who is getting his English degree right now, this is encouraging Rock. My case isn't quite the same since I go to a liberal arts university where "English" is more the study of literature, but classic works still give students examples of good grammar.

      fpher . . . your rant sounds like an echo from a conversation I had with a friend earlier this semester. We have friends who say "regardless," not caring that it's not a word! :P

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      I love when people debate this topic. Many students assume that the only thing one can do with an English degree is become a teacher, and I find that unfortunate. I have a B.A. and M.A. in English, and I did become a teacher, but not because of the degree.

      An English degree is like a law degree. Even if you do not practice with it, it is still useful in everything you do. And English degree enhances any pursuit one may have. I know right now as I delve deeper into my Ph.D. program, my professors tell me that the writing portion will not be an issue for me with my background. That is comforting.

      Now as I build my business, I find people coming to me for help with odds and ends. "Can you help my daughter with an essay for a scholarship?" "Can you help me with my resume?" "Can you help me with my cover letter?" There is great variety in what an English degree can help with.

    • cprice75 profile image

      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      I taught history in high school for five years. I always told students that English was the most important subject they would study. They thought it weird that the history nerd would say that and asked why. I noted that just about any job will require some level of communication skills, and studies in English provide this ability that is very desirable.

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      I have always loved words and the many ways in which they can be combined to produce ideas. I never really thought about a degree in English, but perhaps I should have. Great topic and well written, I gave it a vote up and useful.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      This was a great topic. I am afraid as we become so high tech that certain aspects of our language will deteriorate. I think a degree in English will be one that may sort of fade but never die...after all, English is definitely the dominating language of the world~

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      I enjoyed reading this hub very much. Very relevant and informative and good for prospective students to read. You pretty much cover the English degree job market. I can't think of anything to add.

      I was an English/Spanish major in college soooooo long ago. But, it has stood me well over time. With an English degree you have the foundation for any job in communications which is a big, big field to choose from and prepare for. I would always recommend an English degree to any student who is good in this area but doesn't exactly know what they want to do yet in life. This prepares one for anything - the student can then choose specifically when they decided what they want to do. To be able to communicate effectively in reading, writing, listening and speaking is a priceless skill to have.

      Again, great hub and I highly recommend this to anyone in the job market to read! Voted up and interesting and informative!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Good information to know. :) I majored in Spanish and Anthropology, but in many ways I could ask (and answer) many of the questions you pose here in your hub. Great writing!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Excellent Hub full of lots of important information. A frequent complaint by business owners over the past 15 years, they want to hire people who can think critically, organize and summarize information, who write extremely well, and who are both analytical and articulate.

      They appreciate people with English and History degrees; those are strong degrees right now and a business or communications minor is even better.

      Technology and business are changing so rapidly that a narrowly focused business degree often means your skills are out of date in less than two years. Today employees need to continuously train and update their skill set within their companies. But for getting hired to begin with, English and History are solid and desirable degrees.

      P.S. The English and History majors at the university where I work have no problem getting good jobs - the only thing that has slowed them down is the recession and that has meant fewer jobs for everyone.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Rock nj.....I know that realistically, this is ridiculous, but just to make a point of something I firmly believe..(with valid reason!) I think every person who wants to attend college and choose ANY major....should be mandated to get an ENGLISH DEGREE first.

      Quite obviously, 80% of students leaving High School are shamefully illiterate. Just read online for any length of time.

      For me, it's worse than finger nails on a chalk board!!

      There are atrocities! People can't spell, don't know the meanings of words, punctuation is non-existent, grammar is so poor, you want to believe the writer has only been in America for a year and is struggling through English class!

      Well, thank you. I've had my RANT for today. I appreciate the opportunity to vent!

      Needless to say, this is a fantastic hub!! UP+++

    • golfcart34 profile image

      Amanda Tallman 5 years ago from Vermont

      Great hub! See, I never understood the stigma that goes along with getting a degree in English because there will always be a need for people who know the subject matter out there. I have a degree in business but there are times when I wished I had gone for English with a minor in business. I'm working on my masters in organizational leadership right now and I may pursue a masters in English as well in order to broaden my marketability (unfortunately the school I go to won't let you do both at the same time).

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