Best Ways to Use an English Degree

The options of English grads are varied, and depend on a student's career goals. Find unusual career paths for English majors.

October 27, 2021

Best Ways to Use an English Degree

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Careers and Salary Potential

What types of jobs are English degree earners prepared for upon graduation? The options are varied, and depend greatly on an individual’s preparation, career goals, ambition and timing. Students who wish to teach in PreK–12, for example, can earn a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in education. Prospective college professors will likely need to earn their PhD before qualifying for an assistant professorship. If writing is more up a student’s alley, consider subjects that are of interest. These may include technology, which could translate to a technical writing position; film, which could lead to screenwriting; or advertising, which could give rise to copywriting.

All in all, the earlier a student decides the direction they’d like their career to lead, the earlier they can pick a concentration and figure out which level of degree is best suited to their choice. English graduates of any degree level will be proficient in writing, editing, communication and research, which are essential skills in a broad range of fields. Below are some typical concentrations, careers at each level of education and unusual jobs that most people do not typically think of when considering the English major.

Concentrations Available for English Majors

English majors offer a plethora of study focuses, ranging from well-known concentrations like education to lesser-known ones like film studies. A student’s ability to hone in on their interests within the English major will open them up to a number of careers within each specialized subject area. Beyond the concentrations listed here, English students can find ones in literary and cultural studies, creative writing, composition and rhetoric, place studies and scientific and technical communication, with the availability of these varying greatly by higher education institution.

Mean Annual Salary by Concentration
English Teacher, Post-secondary $77,660
Advertising copywriter $77,580
Screenwriter $98,960
Literary Agent $74,040
Translator $47,190

Source: BLS.gov

What Can You Do with an English Degree?

Bachelor’s Degree in English

A graduate of a bachelor’s degree in English program from an accredited college or university will be prepared for a variety of careers. Picking a concentration can boost job prospects even further by providing a more in-depth focus and a career track. For example, a four-year English student with a focus on education will be prepared for a teaching position immediately upon graduation, as some programs even offer teaching certification within the graduation requirements.

English majors learn oral and communication skills. Their background in writing, editing, literature and language studies can be applied to jobs like editor, technical writer and high school teacher, to name a few.

Source: PayScale

Master’s Degree in English

Earning a master’s degree in English sets students up for success in more specific careers with upward mobility. Those with an English master’s degree can typically move straight into management-type positions better than someone with a four-year degree in the same subject. With high-ranking positions comes more responsibility, as with an academic director and project manager, who both must interact with staff, students or the general public while working on program or project development and execution. More behind-the-scenes, independent roles such as medical writer benefit from better pay associated with a master’s but may also deal with more complicated, intensive subjects.

Source: PayScale

PhD in English

A doctorate in English primarily prepares students for a career in higher education instruction or management. While other non-academic job avenues are available for those with a PhD in English, many graduates of the program head straight into assistant professor roles. A major part of the curriculum in the English doctorate program is experience in instruction as a teaching assistant; other parts consist of high-level literary criticism and theory, graduate research and a lengthy dissertation process. The PhD process usually takes five to six years and is perfect for students who wish to teach or develop academic programs in higher education environments.

Source: PayScale

Unexpected Careers for English Majors

The English degree gets a bad rap sometimes, but the skills learned through English programs can result in a variety of in-demand or lucrative careers. Job-seekers who don’t want to work in an educational setting should focus on their skillset and think outside the box. In fact, a surprising number of jobs require and benefit from English degree education components, such as research, writing, editing, communication and SEO writing. This opens up career opportunities in law, PR, advertising and marketing, video game story development and much more. In addition, English degree-holders are valuable in almost any workplace because of their spelling and grammar skills, ability to communicate, and thinking skills, which help an employee accurately relay information and formulate detailed plans of action. More advanced careers for which English degree earners would qualify require strategic brainstorming, planning and execution of projects; organizational skills (such as outlines), and analytical skills.

Source: PayScale

Professional Resources for English Majors

Many professional associations have student chapters or discounts for student members, and members can access resources like field research, job listings, publications and educational events.

The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) is a union that represents writers in specific industries such as TV shows, film, news programs, animation and video games. WGAW offers several tiers of paid memberships, encompassing thousands of writers who then receive union benefits of medical and dental, a credit union and discounts on events and services. Educators at levels from PreK to college can benefit from this literacy education organization, which provides lesson plans, webinars, a digital journal archive, a members-only magazine, discounts on conventions and learning materials and online professional connections. Members have the opportunities to volunteer, write for the NCTE and join the National Day on Writing and political advocacy groups. Students and professional writers alike can take advantage of AWP’s resources, including career opportunities, mentorships, contests, publications, The Writer’s Calendar and writing program advice and materials. More than 50,000 writers, 550 college creative writing programs and 150 writers’ conferences and centers take part in AWP, which aims to advance writing as it relates to a solid education, promote literary success, and support teachers, students and all writers. Students receive a discounted membership. The LSA’s member benefits extend to students—at a discounted price—and professional linguists alike. Members have access to field research, publications, a professional connection service, meetings and institutes and can dip their hands in issues related to the linguistics field. The Jobs Center provides an in-depth career resource based on position, specialty and language. The RSA is a professional organization in the field of rhetoric that caters to students, teachers and scholars. Students can join at a discounted rate. Members receive access to scholarly materials, are eligible to enter for a variety of awards, and can attend conferences and other events, among other benefits. RSA also has student chapters.

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