When students voice their desire to major in English, they often hear people say with doubt and concern in their voices, But what are you going to be able to do when you graduate?
Usually, knowing only that they love to read and write, these students hem and haw, trying to think of a good answer to that question, one that would silence the belief that nothing practical could come from the study of English.
People who have studied English have no such problem. They have an immediate and emphatic answer: An English major can do anything that he or she wants!
Graduates of English programs know from experience that the skills they developed while studying English are universally applicable. They know that, rather than having no options, English majors are going to have a multitude of career paths to choose from, including a teacher, journalist, magazine writer, publicist, events planner, librarian, and many more.
The list below offers a more expansive description of some of the career possibilities available to English majors. Narrowing this list down and helping students tailor their education to their preferred career is the goal of Career Architecture in English.
WRITING AND PUBLISHING
Freelance writers work independently and sell their work to publishers or other agencies. Established authors may be commissioned for a particular piece, but others send out unsolicited queries and manuscripts or work through agents who, for a fee, help them place their work with magazine or book publishers. Submitting work to contests and for awards helps to establish a reputation as a writer. Attending conferences and workshops provides vital feedback and encouragement. Creative writers -- poets, story writers, novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters -- create original works. Creative nonfiction writers may propose their own topics or be assigned pieces to research and write by an editor. Writers must be self-disciplined, organized, and persistent, as well as creative and original.
Sample Work Places: Most freelance writers are independent and work at home. They may write in addition to a regular job, at least until they are established. Freelance writers may work for a number of different magazine, papers, and book publishers and must be able to meet various deadlines.
Editors are responsible for the final quality of a publication, whether a newspaper, magazine, or book. They organize, plan, and layout publications; review proposals; and select material. They review, edit, and rewrite the work of writers. They must have excellent knowledge of grammar, proofreading skill, and familiarity with publishing and graphic design software. Large newspapers and magazines have many types of editors, including managing editors, assignment editors, and page or section editors. Entry level copy editors and production assistants proofread for grammar, style, accuracy, and readability.
Sample Work Places: Editors typically work at for newspapers, magazines, book publishers or companies with in-house publications.
Journalists and reports gather information, interview people, write stories, and report news. News analysts and commentators interpret the stories and write editorials or opinion pieces. Reviewers and critics help readers decide what movies to see, what books to read, what plays to attend, what music to listen to, and where to eat. Training in journalism, excellent writing skills and experience on a college newspaper are all assets in getting jobs in journalism. Reporters are inquisitive, out-going, and able to work under pressure. Commentators must have acute insight into news events and be able to analyze trends. Critics must present their opinions persuasively. For all hours may be long and demanding, especially near deadlines.
Sample Work Places: Newspapers, news magazines, broadcast media
Publishers take care of the business side of magazine, newspaper, and book publications. They run the company, determine and implement policy. They work with writers and editors, production staff, advertising and marketing personnel, and general administration. They are supported by a large number of managers, art and design workers, production assistants and administrative support.
Sample Work Places: Newspaper, magazines, trade book companies.
Radio, Television and Screenwriter
Writers for the entertainment industry must have talent and creativity. They need a basic understanding of media language and the radio, television or film industry. Take are self-motivated, determined and able to take criticism. They often begin as freelance writers or get a start as advertising copywriters or by working or corporate films, educational projects, or documentaries. Training in film or media studies is desirable but not absolutely necessary.
Sample Work Places: Broadcast radio and television stations, film industry
Science writers should have a strong background and interest in medicine or science as well as training in a specialized field. They may write for professional scientific or medical journals, or they may interpret scientific material for general readers. They often organize and edit information for advertising or public relations.
Sample Work Places: Newspapers, magazines, professional science publications, scientific or medical journals, books and textbook publishers.
Technical writers must understand the field they are writing about and be able to translate that information into language that is easy to understand. They write manuals, instructions and proposals, and promotion materials. They also research, write, and edit technical material, illustrations, catalogs, and charts. Additionally, technically writers must have the ability to handle multiple projects, and couple with that a "get the job done" attitude.
Sample Work Places: Scientific or medical journals, book and textbook publishers.
Web Developer/Web Designer
Web developers or web designers design and develop layouts for small or large business websites. They also apply text and graphics to designed layouts. Knowledge in HTML and other programming languages is helpful. Additional responsibilities can also include:
Technical management of web site resources.
Monitors speed of site and web traffic.
Trains colleagues on how to use software tools and website construction.
Online writers and web page designers create and design web pages for business, industry, government, and educational institutions. Web writers often transform print documents into effective web sites. In addition to being clear and concise writers, they must know principles of web page layout and design, programming and coding, and appropriate web page software.
TEACHING AND EDUCATION
Vocational, personal, and educational counselors generally work with individual students and families to provide career, personal, and educational counseling -- including college admissions, entrance testing, and financial aid. Counseling usually requires a masters' degree in counseling and state certification. Often subject teachers will become counselors.
Sample Work Places: Public and private elementary, middle, and high schools.
Librarians today are involved not just with books but advanced technology and information literacy, including the Internet, remote access, CD-ROMs, and virtual libraries. Head librarians select and organize the collection, prepare budgets, and hire staff as well as work with the public. Librarians require advanced degrees in library science and sometimes further education in a specialized area. Media Specialists work in high school libraries and media centers. Library technicians and media assistants are entry level jobs available to those with high school or bachelors' degrees.
Sample Work Places: Schools, colleges, universities, law libraries, medical institutions, and government.
Archivists are responsible for collecting, organizing, cataloging, preserving, and finally storing historical documents and other important records for museums, libraries, and other institutions interested in preserving these records. Some specialize in a particular type of document, such as letters, manuscripts or films. They research and analyze collections and prepare exhibits. Curators and museum directors take care of the administration of a museum or gallery. They acquire, authenticate, and evaluate collections, arrange and oversee exhibitions, and write grants and proposals. Conservators clean, restore and take care of the physical condition of the collection. Archivists, curators and conservators require advanced degrees in museum studies, but a solid background in the subject is also valued.
Sample Work Places: Museums, libraries, government, colleges, universities, research facilities.
Post Secondary School Instructor/Professor
College and university faculty teach and advise full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students. Many start as teaching assistants, who receive graduate tuition and a per course stipend for teaching introductory and composition courses at a university. To become a full member of the faculty at a college or university, candidates must complete their Masters or, preferably, their Ph.D. in their discipline. In addition to teaching, full-time faculty are expected to serve on committees, keep up with developments in their field, and write scholarly articles.
Sample Work Places: Community colleges, public and private colleges and universities
Education administrators provide instructional leadership to faculty, set and maintain standards, oversee student life and services, and manage the daily activities of schools, colleges, and universities. They must be hard-working, responsible and devoted. From College presidents to principals to daycare leaders, these people set the tone and policy for their institutions. They supervise teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, coaches, staff, and others involved with education. They are responsible for budgets and school operations. They provide a liaison with the school board or board of directors and may be helped by assistant principals, department and division chairs, and other administrators.
Administrators require an advanced degree in Education or other subject matter--their preparation varies; many begin as classroom teachers.
Sample Work Places: Schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions such as vocational schools, prisons and daycare centers.
Secondary School Teacher
Secondary school teachers teach and work with high school students in a specific discipline. Increasingly high school teachers are expected to go beyond the classroom to use the Internet and other technologies to engage students in the learning process and prepare them for college or the workplace. In addition to teaching five classes, most teachers have additional duties in their school or department. Public high school teachers must have a bachelor's degree in their subject and state certification, which usually required a master's degree or the equivalent. Private school teachers can work without certification but are generally paid less than public school teachers.
Sample Work Places: Middle schools and high schools, both public and private.
Actor/Director/Producer for Film and Television
The life of an actor may look glamorous if you look at the stars of film and television, but there are many other opportunities in film, video and theater than top-billing. Actors must have talent and an understanding of the way people behave and must be able to convey this understanding through their performances. Directors interpret the scripts and pull all parts of a production together--from casting and working with the actors to set design, lighting, sound, music, and costumes. Producers are responsible for the financial success of a production. Ultimately they draw up budgets and hire the director, actors, and crew.
Sample Work Places: State, city and regional theaters, cabarets, theme parks, radio and television stations, advertising, film or video production companies, schools, colleges and universities.
Recreation and Special Events Organizer
A wide range of jobs are available in the recreation industry, from managing parks or recreation facilities to organizing entertainment and special events.
Sample Work Places: Theme parks, theaters, concert halls, national parks, historical sites.
Administrative assistants are no longer just secretaries. They are still responsible for scheduling and coordinating office activities, storing, retrieving, and circulating information, answering telephones, and clerical duties. However, with the increase in automation and technology, they have taken on increased responsibility for finding information, training other staff, and operating computers and office equipment. Legal, medical and executive secretaries take on various additional duties and responsibilities in specific areas. While entry level positions are open to people with basic secretarial skills, high school or associate degrees, and the appropriate certification, the more specialized positions require a bachelors' degree. Administrative assistants must be meticulous in grammar and writing, tactful in dealing with people, and organized in managing an office. Those who exceed these basic qualifications can advance to positions of greater responsibility.
Sample Work Places: Offices in any branch of business, industry, government, or other institution.
Human Resource personnel are the mediators between employers and employees. They have to be organized, analytical, business-minded, and interested in serving people's needs.
Sample Work Places: Business, industry, government, or other institutions.
Entry-level management jobs often appeal to a variety of students who are unsure of the direction they want their careers to take. They may oversee contracts, schedules, budgets, inventory, research data, and Human Resource requests. They are often the focal point for customer communications and interface.
Sample Work Places: Retail, business, and industrial companies.
Marketing, Sales and Advertising
People working in marketing, sales and advertising are involved with the most important activity of any business or institution--the effective and profitable delivery of a service or product. Managers in these areas supervise the various departments, devise the marketing strategy, and oversee promotions and sales. They must be organized and enthusiastic about the product and company. While employers value business courses, internships, and experience, many seek personnel who also have a strong liberal arts background.
Sample Work Places: Business, industry, government, hospitals, schools, and any company that delivers a service or product to the public.
Public relations specialists establish, maintain, and promote the image and reputation of a business or institution. They insure good communication between the business and the consumer, the community, and government. They must be tactful and able to balance the interests of various groups. They provide information about the company and, depending on size and the nature of the business, they handle all areas of publicity connected with the business. An internship is a good way to gain experience and learn the responsibilities of this job.
Sample Work Places: Business, industry, government, hospitals, schools, and any company that must deal with the public.
GOVERNMENT AND NONPROFITS
Lobbyists have to understand both the written and unwritten rules of legislative procedure in order to influence legislation. They have to be able to assess the realistic chances of a bill being passed in order to take action.
Sample Work Places: State and federal legislative offices and with the interest groups they represent.
Local, State, and Federal Government
The government--local, state, and federal--is the largest employer in the country, providing careers in all types of services from transportation, postal service, public safety, to regional planning, revenue service, and law enforcement, not to mention healthcare and education. The required education and experience depend on the specific occupation. Some government positions are elective. Volunteer work and community service are good ways to learn about and get involved in local government.
Sample Work Places: Local, state, and federal government offices.
Nonprofit organization, literally, are tax-exempt organizations that perform a variety of public services without engaging in commercial activities. The National Wildlife Association, UNICEF, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the National Education Association (NEA), and many other foundations, charities, cultural organizations, social services, religious organizations, and professional associations are nonprofit organizations. While many such groups use some volunteers, they function as businesses and employ workers in many capacities. Those working in the nonprofits could find themselves doing a wide variety of tasks each day.
Sample Work Places: Community services, charities, churches and synagogues, educational institutions, cultural centers, and foundations.
Many opportunities exist for those interested in politics. Office managers, legislative assistants, speechwriters, campaign workers, press secretaries. The English major's general background is good preparation for many of these jobs. Internships, especially in the Washington Internship Program, and volunteer work provide experience and entry into government and politics. Those interested in a career in politics must be energetic, enthusiastic, and articulate with good speaking and writing skills.
Sample Work Places: Offices of politicians at the local, state, and federal level.