What can I do with an English degree?

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The captioned question is posed as there are probably many students who have the misconception that you can’t do much with a degree in English. Percy Shelley, one of the great English Romantic poets of the early nineteenth century stated: “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.” He was suggesting that authors wield great power through the invisible influence they exert over hearts and minds. Perhaps all writers should be lumped into the words of Mr. Shelley.

English majors choose a major that not only challenges them intellectually but gives them pleasure. They love to read and think that reading matters. Or they hope to be writers and have taken courses in creative writing to test their potential as poets, fiction writers, and dramatists. They may have taken courses in expository writing to polish their skills or to see if the essay and other non-fictional forms were their best genres for a writing career.


There are online and on-campus programs available in this subject. Typical bachelor curriculum may include:

  • Introduction to Research and Writing
  • Introduction to Professional Writing
  • Concepts and Applications of Information Technology
  • Renaissance and Medieval Literature
  • Shakespearean Studies
  • Creative Writing (Fiction and Nonfiction
  •  African American Authors

At the master’s level, there are programs offered with greater specificity. For example, the University of Washington has these degree programs:

  • Master of Arts-  English Literature and Language
  • Master of Arts for Teachers-  same as above
  • Master of Fine Arts-  Creative Writing

Areas of study in English Literature and Language are:

  • Language and Rhetoric
  • Critical Theory
  • Textual Studies
  • Medieval and Early Modern
  • American Literature

For those with the desire, there is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in English Literature and Language.

Regardless of the degree choice, an English major graduate leaves enduring skills. Examples of which are: critical thinking, creative problem-solving, ability to conduct research, proficiency in written and oral communication, and the capacity to articulate as succinctly as possible.


Jobs applying English such as teaching readily come to mind. But what about jobs not as well known that have excellent prospects:

B2B Content Marketing

With the rise of digital marketing, the need for content online has exploded. This is the age of the writer. B2B (business-to-business) sales involves long, complicated sales processes. People don’t just buy, for example, a $60,000 software suite for a corporation in an afternoon. They research different solutions online, check out reviews, and search for whitepapers. Content marketing  responds to the age of Google and is one digital marketing channel that has grown in the past 10 years.

Social Media Manager

Social media is here to stay. Governments, sports teams, brands, and companies need people to run their social media programs, develop strategies, and come up with ways of engaging customers, citizens, and fans. As humanities majors have strong communication skills, many of us end up in these types of jobs.

Corporate Communications Manager/Director

As the manager or director of corporate communications, your job would be to oversee teams that write newsletters, email campaigns, reports, press releases, articles, web content, and other communication pieces.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the category of Writers and Authors earning a median annual salary of $55,940. It seems impossible to calculate an average income for English majors. The job prospects are too broad due to its diverse application. It applies to the creativity of ad-agencies, legal research for attorneys, web editing, public relations, and speech writing for politicians. With this diversity is the ability for graduates to find employment quickly. For example, in 2011, 89% of Purdue University English graduates were employed within a few months.