written by: Haley Drucker•edited by: Noreen Gunnell•updated: 10/15/2010
English is one of those degrees that can leave you scratching your head, wondering what the point of majoring in it would be. But the advantage of an English major is that it can prepare you for a surprising range of careers.
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The English Major
“So you’re getting an English major," your friends and family might ask, “what can you do with that?" It’s not an uncommon question. English seems a vague kind of degree, not leading into any particular profession or field. But that’s the great thing about choosing this major—it doesn’t force you down one particular path. The advantage of an English major is that graduating with this degree leaves you well placed to pursue a wide variety of careers and lifestyles.
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English Major Skills
Employers love to hire English majors, and not just for jobs related to writing. A bachelor’s degree in English tells your potential employer that you have several very important skills. You can read and write well, and nearly every job requires some writing. More broadly, you know how to communicate clearly. And having an English degree shows that you know how to think critically and analyze the world around you for deeper meanings.
English majors can think well, learn complex information, and communicate effectively. So it’s no wonder they get hired into what might seem unusual fields, like public relations and marketing. The pros of an English major are varied, and the leaders of many types of companies recognize this.
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English Major Fields
Of course, after getting an English major you’re likely to want to follow a career path closely related to your studies, and even here there is a lot of choice. Teaching is a popular option, though you’ll want to think ahead for that and major in English Education. English teachers are respected and highly sought after, since most students will take more English throughout their school years than any other subject besides math.
There are also numerous writing fields an English major can choose to pursue. There is technical writing, for example: a popular field right now that pays surprisingly well. Or you could pursue a career in journalism and other media, business writing, editing, publishing, or advertising (just to name a few). Creative writers might become novelists, poets, or screenplay writers. And for English majors who prefer the literature/reading side of the major, there is always the option to go into scholarship and become a university professor.
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English as a Pre-Degree
Finally, a bachelor’s degree in English is a common choice for those who plan to go on to get a master’s degree in certain fields. In particular, a B.A. in English is popular for those who plan to later attend law or business school. Again, it’s those communication and critical thinking skills that transfer well to these two careers, as well as the ability to analyze and critique texts and events.
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The Beauty of English
So in a way, becoming an English major is liberating. It’s a way of preparing yourself for the workforce by gaining important skills without specializing too narrowly. If you take a job in publishing after you graduate and decide after a year or so that you don’t like it, you still have a lot of options. You can take a job writing for magazines, go into advertising, write a book, or go back to school for a teaching or law degree. There are many pros to an English major, skills that will transfer even beyond the workplace to your everyday life. So the next time someone asks what you can do with an English major, tell them: “Anything." Because that’s pretty close to the truth.