So what can you do with an English major? Because the skills acquired through careful study of language and literature are so widely applicable, your options are virtually unlimited. A quick survey of working people you know will undoubtedly reveal that many were English majors as college students--start asking around! In these increasingly communication-minded days, fluency with language--including skill in both written and oral communication--is at the top of many employers' lists. Grace and confidence in communicating are crucial steps toward beginning any successful career. Following are some categories you might consider.
The first thing that comes to mind, traditionally, in connection with an English major is teaching. And there's nothing wrong with that! The field of teaching, remember, is vast, ranging from elementary education to post-graduate instruction, and from private to public institutions of all sizes. Besides teaching American, English, and/or comparative literature, English majors might go on to teach writing (including creative writing, business and professional writing, technical writing, and so on).
Or, English majors might choose a career in writing itself. This could mean journalism--writing for newspapers or magazines, or perhaps freelance writing of nonfiction, fiction, and/or poetry. (Some freelance writers do, in fact, manage to make an adequate living from their writing projects; others combine their freelance work with, perhaps, teaching or a staff writing or editing position.) But there are unlimited possibilities for writing on the job as well. Writing skills are essential in the fields of advertising and public relations, for example, and many companies and nonprofit organizations need strong writers and work on in-house publications, newsletters, grant proposals, annual reports, technical and administrative documentation, and so on.
Do friends come to you for help in editing their papers? An eye for accuracy and clarity in writing might mean you are especially well-suited for work as an editor. While we generally associate editorial jobs with newspapers, magazines, and book publishing companies, more and more positions are becoming available for technical editors today as well. Written documents need careful editing--but so do today's all-important Web pages.
The world of publishing is vast, and jobs for English majors range beyond the editorial realm. Strong communications skills are needed, as well, in the sales and marketing, publicity, and human relations departments of major publishing operations, to name just a few.
Literature and Research
Further study is a valuable option, and some English majors will be drawn to scholarly research and writing. In addition, English majors who love the library might consider the field of library science, as well as related work as general researchers. English majors with added strengths in foreign languages might also consider work as translators.
With its strong emphasis on language, logic and critical thinking, a background in English studies is excellent preparation for a career in law. The historical emphasis of many literature courses often leads English majors to discover a passion for history. And English majors are well-suited for careers in business as well, where the abilities to solve complex problems and to research and write effective documents are of utmost importance.
These are just a few of the many possibilities. If you have spent four years working hard to gain a critical awareness of language and its intricacies, you will be well-suited for whatever comes next--be it further study or entering the workplace. Clear and careful communication will never go out of style.