Careers for English Majors

As I prepare for a presentation on career prospects for English majors (or should I say job prospects), I thought I would try out a few ideas here. Have you ever noticed that people seem to think English is an unmarketable degree? That’s been the case for as long as I can remember, but it hasn’t stopped the many English majors I’ve known from getting jobs and making a living. What those jobs are, though, can vary tremendously.

Though there isn’t an automatic career path for many English majors, the skills you develop in your English classes are actually in high demand in the workplace. The most obvious skill English majors have is the ability to write. This is usually more than just writing grammatically correct sentences and spelling words correctly — though that can be a huge benefit. Good writers understand how to craft an effective sentence, not just a correct sentence. Good writers know how to organize a paragraph clearly and concisely, and they know how to structure an essay, which can transfer into structuring anything from an email (or tweet) to a hundred page report. English majors should be good communicators, both in written and in oral form.

This can lead to jobs in many fields, though there aren’t recruitment fairs that focus on English majors. Typically, an English major has to make his or her own way. You have to knock on doors and get your resume out there. You have to be willing to start at the bottom rung and work your way up, and you might be able to do this in any field, especially if you have an interest in it.

Good jobs for English majors to consider might be working in arts agencies or museums. Sales and advertising might be worth pursuing, especially if the product you’re selling is one you’re passionate about. Consider working in a bookstore, if you love books. Technical writing doesn’t have to be about boring subjects (though it might be, and might pay the bills); it can be about subjects that you care about: the environment, music, gaming, film, social media, etc.

And don’t forget that one of the skills you’ve learned as an English major is to research. Though you may not continue doing academic research unless you go on to graduate school, your ability to formulate successful search queries, you ability to analyze and evaluate sources, and your ability to synthesize the information you have gleaned in your research and harness it to an argument, will all come in handy on a variety of jobs. And English majors are typically known to have a good work ethic, to be able to work well on a team, and to meet deadlines. Though I wouldn’t put that on my resume, you can use it to your advantage when on the job, as well as when you are looking for a job.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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