You might be surprised at the variety of possible jobs with a degree in English.
“A lot of people put English majors into a box,” says La Sierra University professor Melissa Brotton. “They think the only jobs you can get with an English degree are to become a writer or to become a teacher. They don’t think about all the other potential jobs for English majors that require outstanding communication skills.” According to a survey cited earlier this year in U.S. News & World Report, the actual choice of careers for people with an English degree is extremely broad. About 40 percent of recent English majors have jobs in business, with varying roles that include communications, sales, management, and administration. Nearly 10 percent work in law, and about the same percentage work in arts, culture, and entertainment. Health care and computer technology also offer attractive careers for English degree holders.
There’s No Limit to English Degree Job Possibilities
“You can pursue almost any job with an English degree,” explains Brotton, who chairs La Sierra’s department of English. “You’re developing the ability to write well, think independently, and solve problems creatively. Employers in almost every industry are constantly looking for people with those types of skills.”
Brotton has seen it firsthand. Graduates of her department at La Sierra University have gone into a wide range of professions, illustrating the rich menu of career choices for English majors. In recent years, Brotton says, her students have found employment in fields such as:
- Medicine. “We have a lot of premedical students in our classes,” Brotton notes. “Medical school admissions people are looking for strong communicators, so you can really stand out with an English degree.” Dentistry, nursing, counseling, and health care administration are other potential health-care careers for English majors.
- Business. Few enterprises can succeed without superior communicators on staff. English majors are in high demand to lead teams, manage projects, develop sales proposals, edit reports, interact with clients, and other roles. “One of our star students from six or seven years ago went to work for a startup,” Brotton notes, “and he’s been very successful. Creativity is good for business.”
- Marketing. The digital media revolution has opened up a variety of jobs for English majors across all media, including websites, print publications, social media, and audiovisual channels such as podcasts and YouTube. Every type of organization requires these services, including nonprofits, government agencies, and for-profit companies.
- Information technology. Like medical schools, IT departments have started actively recruiting good communicators into their ranks. “There were so many complaints about IT people being hard to understand,” Brotton says. “Everyone relies on technology, so the ability to explain it to nonexperts is valuable.” Technical writing is a particularly fruitful job opportunity for English majors within IT.
- Law. It’s easy to transition into a legal career with an English degree. After all, lawyers excel at the same things as English majors: careful reading, precise writing, and deep thinking.
What to Look for in an English Degree
At the best colleges for English degrees, career development is built into the academic program.
“Students are attempting to find their path during college and establish themselves,” Brotton says. “It’s important to find a supportive environment that gives you the freedom to explore, but also the structure to provide you with some practical skills.”
Brotton and her colleagues at La Sierra help promote job opportunities for English majors by providing:
- Professional training. At La Sierra, English majors can get jobs as tutors in the university’s writing center. “That type of training and experience goes a long way in a job interview,” Brotton says. “It shows that you have maturity, teamwork, strong communication and other skills.” In addition, English majors at La Sierra can gain experience on campus in fields such as publishing and theater, or arrange an off-campus internships in almost any industry.
- Attention from faculty. La Sierra’s English professors build one-on-one relationships with their students, serving as career mentors and role models. “We’re known as a supportive department,” Brotton says. “Students enjoy the small English classes, and they’re inspired by the family-like atmosphere.”
- Creative outlets. “We encourage our English majors to submit their work for publication,” Brotton says. At La Sierra they can place their work in the university’s own Roadrunner Review and in a separate journal published by the campus chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, an English honor society. The university also sponsors an annual drama competition, and English majors routinely submit their work to journals.
- Career connections for English majors. La Sierra’s department of English brings well-known authors to campus each year, giving students a chance to interact with successful professionals and learn about their careers. The department also encourages English majors to build out their networks by attending academic conferences, arts festivals, and other events.
“With an English degree, job preparation is not like trade school,” Brotton concludes. “You’re not acquiring a specialized toolkit. You’re becoming a thoughtful, skilled professional with well-rounded abilities that enable you to enter any field.’
“You can pursue almost any job with an English degree. You’re developing the ability to write well, think independently, and solve problems creatively. Employers in almost every industry are constantly looking for people with those types of skills.”Dr. Melissa Brotton, La Sierra University