What can I do with an English major?

Careers / Graduate School and Law School / Writing as a Profession

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Careers

True or False: All English Majors become teachers or novelists. FALSE

An English major prepares you for more than a single job:  it prepares you for careers in a variety of fields.  Effective writers and readers are increasingly in demand in today's workplace.  It's never too early to start planning. 

While an English major does not purport to train students directly for a particular job, it does prepare you for a surprising variety of professional careers including business, law, medicine, and journalism. Being an English major means that the skills that you will gain are crucial for many different professions. Fisher English department alumni have succeeded in a wide variety of fields, such as:

  • financial analysis
  • law
  • executive recruitment
  • social work
  • library science
  • marketing
  • loan management
  • film, television, and radio production
  • advertising
  • website managment
  • newspapers
  • clinical information
  • information managment
  • law enforcement
  • public relations
  • all kinds of corporate writing
  • AND education, and poetry and novel writing

Visit Fisher's Community Alumni Resource Database (CARD) to contact alumni and ask about their fields. Check out "Working your Degree" from CNNMoney for a discussion of the English major in the workworld. And last, find out what these famous English majors did with their degrees!

All English Majors are urged to do an internship.

With an English major you can of course also consider teaching at the secondary level. The job market for high school teachers is excellent in many states. If you enjoy working with young people and are outgoing and energetic, this may be an excellent career for you, with the potential of mobility to other parts of the United States.

Contact the School of Education and begin early to take the courses required for secondary certification in English.  If you're not sure about teaching, consider teaching English to foreign speakers after you graduate from college, or applying for jobs at private or Catholic schools, which often do not require certification or Masters Degrees for new teachers. This can be a short-term career with opportunities for travel and enrichment at a time in your life when you might like to try something new.

Graduate School

Graduate school (in Literature, in Composition and Rhetoric, in Creative Writing, or Legal studies) is certainly one option for the future of the English major. There's a lot to consider, and a good deal of planning to do if you think you might want to take this route.

Law schools love English majors, because we're trained to read carefully and closely and to weigh the meanings of words. A law degree takes three years and generally includes field experience in the form of a free clinic or a summer internship. Consider taking English 271 if you're wondering if you're suited to legal studies. See also Fisher's Pre-Law program

Graduate school in English might be an MA (Master's in English), an MFA (Master's of Fine Arts, if one wanted to focus on creative writing) or a PhD (doctorate) in either literature or composition and rhetoric. These are all degrees to pursue for the love of learning and the desire to contribute to the field.

In New York State, all public school teachers must have an MA by their fifth year teaching, and that MA does not need to be in Education; in can be (and ought to be!) in English.

Most college professors hold PhDs. The academic job market is very competitive and jobs are very demanding.  "Time off" is an illusion in a profession where you are expected to spend your "vacations" writing books and articles.  Graduate school itself is arduous and expensive. Currently, the average time to PhD in the United States across all disciplines is 6.9 years. Check out Drew University's guide to the graduate school decision for a little help deciding if you're up to the challenge.

Writing as a Career

Writing is an increasingly marketable skill. There are growing career opportunites for writers in companies - preparing internal newsletters and external brochures and communications, for example - and in technical writing (for manufacturers or computer hardware and software, for example, to write the brochures needed to explain in non- technical language how to use their products). Writers with relevant computer skills in web design and desktop publishing are sought after for well-paying and satisfying writing jobs.

The corporate world can't function without technical and professional writers, who are among the best-paid and most sought-after former English majors of all.  Technical and professional writers are responsible for turning out advertising copy, service manuals, training materials, and a host of other kinds of business writing.  Technical writers can work full-time, part-time, or freelance; they can work from home or at the workplace.

You could also become a freelance writer, working on a per-job basis for businesses and industries and selling stories or essays to magazines. Consider taking one of our courses in Creative Writing, Creative Non-Fiction, or the Essay to see if this suits you.

If technical and professional writing  interest you, you will probably want to concentrate in Writing.  After completing 200-level writing courses, you'll be ready to take English 355, "Advanced Professional Writing.   This course is taught by a professional writer and will give you an excellent introduction to the field and the opportunity to prepare a portfolio and resume.

While at Fisher, learn as much as you can about computers and information technology.  You should take courses in the Computer Science department and courses in Communication/Journalism department on Web design, as well as English courses 358, 361, and 364.   Emerging technologies such as desktop publishing and web design favor computer-literate writers who are also skilled at graphic design and layout. 

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Last updated Thursday, May 31, 2012. Web design and maintenance by Prof. Lisa Jadwin.