Careers with an English Degree


You may be pursuing a bachelor of arts in English based on a passion for literature in various forms, and not because you have a specific career in mind.


Have you thought about possible career paths your degree could take you down? Perhaps you have, and are worried that there's not much you can 'do' with an English degree.


Fortunately, in the pursuit of that passion for the subject matter, you'll have the opportunity to learn variety of highly employable skills, which lend themselves nicely to a wide variety of professions.


What You Can Do With an English Degree

You might choose to pursue a career directly related to your degree, such as publisher, editor, or writer, or you might decide to pursue careers outside of the field. With the knowledge, skills and competencies you acquire, your career path possibilities are numerous.


So, if you’d like to know more about what you can do with an English degree, read on below. This guide contains detailed occupational information on relevant career paths. Included are job descriptions, expected salaries, educational requirements and other pertinent information for to these careers.





What an English Degree Can Teach You

Although the specific goals and values of English departments may vary depending on which college of university is administering the program, the basic purpose remains consistent: the exploration and analysis of English literature and the English language.


Taken in its broadest sense, English literature refers to common forms of the written language: novels, biographies, short stories, poetry, drama, imaginative non-fiction, popular contemporaries, literature adapted to film as well as literature translated into modern English.


As a student, you'll be taught a variety of literary analysis methods, which will enable you to explore and analyze a comprehensive span of literature. You'll be introduced to, and may choose to specialize in, literature from different figures, historical periods and genres. With this major, you may also choose to further your study in the history and composition of the English language.


Although the typical curriculum is not meant to serve as professional training for specific careers, the skills and knowledge gained in pursuit of the degree does enable you to gain highly employable skills.



Employable Skills You'll Gain

As a result of this coursework, this major can provide you with a set of skills that is specific to the subject matter. These skills apply to careers that are directly related to your degree. They include:


• Superior skills in spoken and written English

• Ability to write creatively and professionally

• Heightened sensitivity to the cultural, historical, and spiritual dimensions of human life

• Proficiency in various methods of literary analysis 



Careers Directly Related to an English Degree

Now that you have an idea of what skills you’ll be able list on your resume, it's time to find out what careers you can pursue that are highly relevant to them:


• Assistant Editor

• Biographer

• Blogger

• Book Critic

• Book Review Editor

• Bookstore Manager

• Cataloguer

• Comedy Writer

• Content Developer

• Copy Editor

• Copywriter

• Creative Writer

• Crossword Puzzle Maker

• Document Reviewer

• Editorial Writer

• English Teacher Abroad

• ESL Teacher

• Essayist

• Grant Writer

• Greeting Card Writer

• Library Assistant

• Literacy Program Coordinator

• Literary Agent

• News Editor

• Novelist

• Playwright

• Poet

• Proofreader

• Publisher

• Reading Specialist

• Screenwriter

• Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Content Writer

• Songwriter

• Speech Writer

• Staff Writer

• Story Editor

• Travel Writer

• Tutor

• Web Editor



Other Employable Skills You Can Develop

Apart from the skills that are specific to an English degree, you can also acquire general, transferable skills as a result of your studies. You can apply these skills to plenty of careers that are not directly related to the major.


This is because, as an English graduate, you will make a competent employee in almost any industry, because of your capacity to learn and explore subjects is proven to be excellent. For example, if you can compose an argumentative essay on ‘why trials are theatres of societal self-examination’, you certainly can be taught to write a convincing marketing proposal.


• Written an verbal communications skills

• Qualitative researching abilities

• Time management skills

• Ability to operate within strict timelines

• Ability to think critically

• Ability to recognize quality information





Indirectly Related Occupations

Not interested in a career that’s directly related to your degree? That’s okay, because of the skills you’re able to gain as a result of your studies, you have plenty of other career options, including:


• Airline Customer Service Agent

• Alumni Relations Officer

• Bilingual Client Care Representative

• Community Education Officer

• Community Involvement Animator

• Compliance Officer

• Corporate Lawyer

• Customer Service Representative

• Elementary School Teacher

• Flight Attendant

• Fundraiser

• High School Teacher

• Indexer

• Journalist

• Librarian

• Linguist

• Medical Librarian

• Motivational Speaker

• Narrator

• Politician

• Production Assistant

• Production Editor

• Proposal Coordinator

• Public Relations Specialist

• Public Speaking Consultant

• Publication Assistant

• Publicity Agent

• Sales Representative

• Science Writer

• Script Supervisor

• Technical Writer

• Theatre Critic

• Translator

• University Professor

• Volunteer Coordinator


Please Note: Some careers, whether directly or indirectly related to a degree in English, may require further education and training above an undergraduate degree. To find out more about the specific education and training requirements of each career, click on their links above.



Tips for Getting a Job with an English Degree

In order to increase your chances of finding relevant employment, consider the following tips:


• Consider a graduate degree in English

• Increase your employable skill set with a double major

• Gain relevant career experience as a student

• Don’t be scared to start at the bottom



Gaining Career Experience as a Student

Pursuing a work placement opportunity (also known as an internship, field experience, practicum or co-op opportunity) in career fields related to your degree is the best way to gain invaluable career experience while you are still a student.


If you are thinking of pursuing a career in English, do your best to get work experience in the field before you graduate. Even if you decide to pursue a career not directly related to your degree, this work experience will be very helpful. Working in the field while you’re still a student has many benefits, including:


Meeting other people who share the same professional interests

If you are lucky enough to land a work experience opportunity in a career path related to your major, meeting others who share that same interests and passions can be highly beneficial.


You can see them operate on daily basis, you can ask them what it is they like about what they do, you can learn how they got where they, and you can get idea of the dynamics of the environment they work in. For example, if you intern with a publishing company, you may be surprised to find out how closely editors work with members of the sales team.


Making your own conclusions about a career in your field

Have you heard that the paper industry is in decline? Have you been warned not to pursue a career in publishing because it’s a dying industry? If you are interested in publishing, gaining experience in the field before you graduate can help you either prove or disprove such rumors, and even if they’re proven you may have such a passion for what you are doing that you may decide that’s where you want to be anyway.


Strengthening your resolve to pursue your chosen career path

Once you’ve gotten a sample of what working in a career related to your degree is like, you may find yourself even hungrier and more determined to succeed than you were before. If you discover that it can offer professional, creative and intellectual fulfillment, you will not want the opportunity to slip away. You may find yourself suddenly even more interested in your coursework, which can only mean good things.


Gaining valuable career related experience

Are you worried that your internship will be similar to those on TV, where interns are unpaid and overworked, performing tasks such as coffee runs and picking up dry cleaning?


If your school has any role in facilitating the opportunity or introducing you to the opportunity, odds are the employer has been carefully screened and will only provide you with valuable on-the-job experience; internships, co-ops and other forms of work experience are meant to add practice to the theory you have been learning, while simultaneously giving the employer a valuable team member.


Ensure that if your field experience work opportunity is not for credit towards your English degree, that you are clear about your expectations before agreeing to the work term.


Getting your foot in the door with an organization

A nice and easy way to begin your career after you graduate is to be offered a position with the same organization you worked for as a student! If you’ve done quality work and made a good impression, chances are that organization will want to retain you on a full-time basis once you’ve graduated. They will already be familiar with you and your work ethic, and they will save a great deal of time and expense trying to recruit someone else.


How to find an appropriate internship

Your college or university may or may not require you to participate in an internship or other form of work experience program. If it is an academic requirement, you will likely have the opportunity arranged for you. If it is not a requirement, speak with your professors, other English department staff as well as your school’s guidance and career counselors to help you find a suitable opportunity.


If seeking an internship from an outside source, be cautious, as many internship opportunities operate in the grey area of employment law, and are designed to use students as free labour in order to perform mundane tasks. 






How Much You Can Earn as an English Graduate

You may be curious as to what salary you can earn with this major when first entering the workforce. The truth is, your salary could vary drastically, and is heavily dependent on the following factors (not an inclusive list):


• Your level of education (such as if you went on to graduate studies)

• The industry in which you find work

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Other work experience you may have accrued

• Other skills you may have


English Graduate Salary Ontario: According to a salary survey in 2011 conducted by the Ontario Council of Universities, $38,407 CAD is the average salary earned by Humanities graduates (which include English graduates), 2 years after graduating from Ontario universities in 2008.


Unfortunately, similar statistics for other Canadian provinces and the United States cannot be found from reputable sources.



Relevant Scholarships

If you're looking for help pay for school (and who isn't?) Search our scholarships database for scholarships that are specifically for students in an English degree program.


Success Tip: Be absolutely sure to apply for any, and all, scholarships for which you qualify, as there is so much scholarship and award money that goes unused every year due to a lack of applicants.



Professional Associations 

To find out more about careers related to your degree, consult the following professional association websites. They offer career-related information, and many have job boards that advertise job openings.


Writers - Professional Associations

Professional Writers Association of Canada

Canadian Authors Association

The Authors Guild

Society of American Travel Writers

National Association of Independent Writers and Editors


Publishers - Professional Associations

Association of Canadian Publishers

The Association of American Publishers

Independent Book Publishers Association


Editors - Professional Associations

Editors' Association of Canada


Indexers - Professional associations

Indexing Society of Canada



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