A degree in English is versatile and prepares students for a variety of career paths. Study after study shows that employers seek workers with strong oral and written communication skills as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills. An English degree helps a student develop these skills. There are several common career paths that English majors take:
English majors who earn a bachelor's degree and certification in secondary education are usually eligible to be high school English teachers. With a master's degree, English majors are eligible to teach in a two-year college. These levels usually emphasize the teaching of writing. With a doctorate, English majors are eligible to teach in a four year college or university. College professors may choose an area of specialization, which is usually related to their doctoral studies; they are usually expected to do research.
Scholarly research in English is usually combined with teaching. Most English scholars research literary theory, authors, genres, or periods; rhetorical theory; or composition theory. Anyone who anticipates a career in research should enjoy reading, writing, and working alone.
Editors usually work for book, magazine, or newspaper publishers. They may have education in journalism as well as English. They are sensitive readers with an excellent command of the language. They develop manuscripts from submission to publication. Most book and magazine editors work in New York City, though some positions do exist in smaller areas.
Technical writers write documents for business and industry, such as instruction books, training manuals, and reports. Most of them have graduated from programs that specialize in technical writing. Many technical writers have also been trained in a technical area. Their most important qualification is the ability to write clear, concise prose. Computer skills are usually essential.
Many English majors write fiction, poetry, drama, or screenplays. Most creative writers have a gift for language and a profound understanding of the human condition. Although a college degree is not required to write creatively, the training offered by college programs (undergraduate and graduate) is often indispensable. Note that few creative writers earn a living from their writing. Most take jobs in other areas (especially teaching) and write in their spare time.
Because English majors combine writing skills with the critical analysis of texts, they are well-suited to pursue careers in law. This is especially true if they add history, political science, and philosophy to their studies.