We can all think of jobs that have evaporated because of technical, social, or historical changes. Professions change, and most people will find themselves continually retraining: Nurses will adopt new diagnostic technologies, and computer programmers will switch from one language or platform to another. An English degree provides a broad set of skills in communication, research, and analysis that you can use no matter where your career takes you.
What Do English Majors Do With Their Degrees?
A degree in English provides you with broad training in writing and research, but you’ll have a little more responsibility to shape that training into the credentials for a job. Here are some of the most common careers that an English degree opens up:
Technical and Business Writing: this involves everything from user manuals, to official documentation, to business-to-business marketing reports.
Editing: Working as an editorial assistant or copyeditor (freelance or in-house).
Advertising/Public Relations: this can include writing press releases or a corporate blog to developing wholesale public relations and branding strategies.
Social Media Manager: of Fortune 500 companies, 62% have Twitter accounts, and 58% have Facebook pages. English majors are ideal people to manage a corporation’s ongoing communication in social media.
Corporate Training, Educational Administration, or Literacy Training: many English majors, especially those with graduate work or training in teaching, go on to work in the administration of educational institutions, or in providing specific training in writing in-house for corporations.
Website Development: this can include producing website from scratch, or managing the publication and generation of information as a form of public relations for a corporation or organization.
Government and International Affairs: this can include working as a communications officer, a legislative aid, or even as a lobbyist.
Museums, Galleries, and Public Humanities Activities: this can involve many of the communications and press release responsibilities of a public relations job, but it can also include grant and proposal writing.
Non-Profit Organizations: dedicate your career to following through on your social values; your work may include public relations and communication, events planning, or grant and proposal writing.
Law: with a focus on close reading and lots of practice writing, English makes an ideal pre-law degree.
Researcher: this can involve everything from market research for businesses to publications researcher (who might research story and script ideas). Additional areas of work can include research work in libraries and government agencies and even with search engine marketing and optimization.
Why Employers Like English Majors
Over the last few years there has been a strong push from industry leaders about the value of the broad training in research and communication that you get from an English degree.
Recently Fast Company published an article by Michael Litt called “Why This Tech CEO Keeps Hiring Humanities Majors,” arguing that “[w]hile tech businesses are booming, many of the jobs waiting to be filled require broader skill sets than just great engineering chops. And in my experience anyway, the truly irreplaceable jobs—not just of the future but of the present—are the roles that intermingle arts and science. My employees with humanities backgrounds regularly show they’re willing to learn new skills and try new things.” Writing at Wired, Emma Pierson agrees, arguing that people with a humanities background are especially important in computer science.
A few years ago, Bracken Darrell the CEO of Logitech explained why he seeks out humanities majors. Calling them an “endangered species” he suggests, “If you find one, you need to run over and catch them in a conversation.” Business Insider goes on to explain: “As technology continue to dominate our economy for years to come, Darrell believes that companies would benefit from having ‘great thinkers’ who were taught to dissect and critique various scenarios.”
And English majors aren’t just important to technology companies. In “Why I Hire English Majors” Steve Strauss explained how important the skills that English majors have are for all kinds of businesses: “for my needs, and I suggest the needs of most small businesses, English majors are easily the top choice when it comes to getting the type of teammate who can make us all better, as they say in basketball.” Looking at recent work on narrative in economics, Healther Long explains that "The world’s top economists just made the case for why we still need English majors." It’s no wonder that the American Express Open Forum declared, that “English Majors are the Hot New Hires.”
Planning Your Future
The department has many people who can help you figure out what career is best for you. The faculty in the department especially good at helping you to think about where graduate school might take you. Our group of Career Mentors have been assembled to provide advice about careers outside of the university. You’ll meet many of them as part of EN 1111, English Studies. Especially if you’re looking to enter the workforce right after graduation, an internship can help you develop the experience to decide what’s right for you, and contacts to get that first job. You may also want to check our our list of Alumni Stories, in which our alumni describe their time during and after their time as an English major.