English Major Jobs: What Can You Do With an English Degree?

Find out what kinds of English major jobs you can land in the professional world after graduating with a degree in English.

English Major Jobs: What Can You Do With an English Degree?
Keisha Kim

Thousands of college students have a marked talent for English, English literature and criticism, and a desire to major in English. At the same time, however, these college students feel discouraged about majoring in English because they are uncertain of how an English degree can help their career prospects and land a job post-graduation. Fortunately, college students who want to major in English shouldn’t feel deterred because there are plenty of ways to apply what you’ve learned pursuing your English degree to the real world, including the job market. 

Read on to find out what to do with an English degree and why it's not a bad major to pursue.

Why Major in English?

Majoring in English does not mean you’re limited to becoming an English professor or English teacher on the primary education level. Pursuing an English degree involves much more than just reading great works of fiction from throughout literary history. Majoring in English involves a significant amount of critical thinking, analytical skills — especially when it comes to studying and writing literary criticisms of written works — communication skills, and research. Pursuing an English degree can also open students up to greater awareness of other cultures and societies through the reading of non-Western literary works. Not only that, a big part of majoring in English involves analyzing and processing vast amounts of information, not to mention developing an extreme attention to detail and organization skills. And, of course, it can make you superb at grammar, a skill that is transferable to nearly all careers that involve writing that’s going to be published.

How to Major in English: Typical Requirements for an English Degree

Depending on the college you attend, the prerequisites for majoring in English can vary substantially. However, some of the more common requirements when pursuing an English degree include, but are not limited to:

  • English and American literature, often before and after a certain designated year, such as “before 1800” and “after 1800”.

  • Literary criticism, which focuses on the comparison, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of works of literature. Literary criticism is more or less an opinion, supported by evidence, relating to themes, style, setting, or historical or political contexts of literary works.

  • Non-Western literature, such as African American literature, literature of the Global South, Asian-American literature, and similar courses.

  • Writing courses, such as creative writing classes of various types.

  • Literary theory, which involves the way of interpreting a work of art like written works.

Skills and Applications of an English Degree

Students pursuing an English degree develop several critical and transferable skills during their undergraduate studies. A big skill that English majors develop is research. A huge part of majoring in English involves extensive research of past literary works, sometimes over a thousand years old or from the recent past; research skills are developed also in the writing of literary reviews and literary criticisms of works that college students have been assigned to complete. This heavy focus on research and dissection of written works spanning various places and times can be very applicable to the job market as research skills are consistently in high demand across many different industries.

Communication skills, naturally written communication skills, is another significant transferable skill that English majors can hone and use to their advantage in the post-college world. As an undergraduate pursuing an English degree, you will do a lot of writing, proofreading, and editing, all of which are invaluable skills in the job market. You’d be surprised how many professionals and executives lack basic writing and grammar skills, and if you’re armed with an English degree, your skills could be highly sought after.

Presentation skills is an additional skill many English majors develop over the course of their studies. Very often, English majors have to present the culmination of their research and written papers to professors and fellow classmates. The ability to effectively communicate your ideas and conclusions in a live presentation is a critical skill that can be easily transferred to countless jobs after college. Tons of professionals with long careers have a terrible fear of public speaking and presentation. Majoring in English can help college students develop and refine their presentation skills, and really impress both interviewers for job openings and professional colleagues in general.

Jobs for English Majors: What Can You Do With an English Degree?

Thus, if you’re big on English and want to pursue an English degree as an undergraduate, absolutely do not be discouraged about your prospects in the post-college world of getting a job. There are numerous English major jobs out there for you to pursue. There is, obviously, the route of becoming an English professor or teacher, but there are many other career options available that can harness your skills attained while studying to major in English. 

Here's a look at some popular English major jobs that you can check out that typically require an entry-level education of a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH):

News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists

Average annual salary: $63,230

Job Outlook, 2020-2030: 6% growth

When it comes to English major jobs, going into reporting, news analysis, and journalism is a no-brainer. These occupations will make you utilize all the skills and knowledge you developed while majoring in English, including writing, editing, analyzing, researching, and presenting. With an average annual salary of $63,230, according to the BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics (OES), news analysts, reporters, and journalists earn more on average than the average annual wage for all occupations, $58,260.

Technical Writers

Average annual salary: $81,470

Job Outlook, 2020-2030: 12% growth

Technical writers are one of the higher-paying jobs for English majors. Technical writers typically write and put together instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents that assist in communicating complicated and technical information more easily. Though there are tons of industries that employ technical writers, they are concentrated most in the computer and management, scientific, and technical industries. And with a 10-year projected employment growth of 12%, the job outlook for technical writers is excellent.

Editors

Average annual salary: $76,400

Job Outlook, 2020-2030: 5% growth

Editors are essential to so many industries these days, especially with the explosion of internet content as Web 2.0 developed over the last decade or more. Where in the past, editors were often limited to publishing houses and magazines, editors are in high demand by countless companies who need to produce content for their websites, email letters, brochures, video transcripts, and more. Editors are also one of the higher-paying jobs for English majors, with an average annual salary of $76,400.

UX Writers

Average annual salary: $120,645

Job Outlook, 2020-2030: N/A

UX writers, or user experience writers, rank among the top high paying jobs for English majors. UX writers work on creating copy for websites, apps, and other digital products that help users navigate the product. Such copy can include writing content for buttons, labels, chatbots, error messages, menus, and/or instructions to help guide users through the user flow of a product. 

Writers and Authors

Average annual salary: $81,120

Job Outlook, 2020-2030: 9% growth

Not surprisingly, one of the career paths that English majors can pursue is being a writer and author. Believe it or not, writers and authors, on average, earn an annual wage of $81,120, far more than the $58,260 annual wage for all occupations. The work writers and authors do can be screenplays, advertisements, scripts, stories, novels, nonfiction, and much more. 

Market Research Analysts

Average annual salary: $76,080

Job Outlook, 2020-2030: 22% growth

Thanks to the research skills English majors develop, a career in market research analysis is a fitting one for students who’ve earned an English degree. Market research analysts are in high demand, especially due to the massive growth in internet content marketing and ecommerce. This is part of the reason why the 10-year job outlook for market research analysts is a whopping 22% growth in employment from 2020 to 2030. Market research analysts can utilize not just their research skills from college, but their written communication and presentation skills to convey the findings of their analysis to important stakeholders at whatever company they work for.

English Language and Literature Teachers, College-Level

Average annual salary: $82,680

Job Outlook, 2020-2030: 12% growth

Again, this career path is an obvious one for English majors, but it’s also a solid high paying job for English majors. Being an English professor on the college-level allows English majors to teach what they love as well as conduct research and publication of their own works. The main drawback here is that to be an English professor on the college-level, you’ll have to earn a postgraduate degree beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Human Resources Manager

Average annual salary: $136,590

Job Outlook, 2020-2030: 9% growth

Although the major focus of human resources managers is on planning, directing, and coordinating human resources activities and the workforce of a company, they also require excellent written communication skills and a strong capacity for public presentations. Human resources managers have to craft language carefully and exactly for the policies that are implemented and disseminated throughout professional organizations. What’s more, human resources managers also tend to be the ones that write advertisements for open roles at companies in order to attract applicants. With an average annual wage of $136,590, this is definitely one of the highest paying jobs for English majors.

Highest Paying Industries for English Degree Jobs

If you’re wondering, what can you do with an English degree, one answer is that you can make quite a good deal of money. A broad range of industries have English major jobs and many of these industries pay comparatively well. Below is a breakdown of some of the highest paying industries for jobs for English majors, specifically 1) writers and authors, 2) technical writers, and 3) editors:

Highest Paying Industries for Writers and Authors

Industry

Hourly average wage

Annual average wage

Motion Picture and Video Industries

$59.68

$124,120

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities

$56.45

$117,420

Nondepository Credit Intermediation

$52.01

$108,180

Cable and Other Subscription Programming

$50.52

$105,070

Federal Executive Branch

$50.48

$105,000

 

Highest Paying Industries for Technical Writers

Industry

Hourly average wage

Annual average wage

Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution

$53.94

$112,200

Chemical Manufacturing

$49.83

$103,650

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities

$47.10

$97,980

Scientific Research and Development Services

$46.76

$97,260

Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing

$46.70

$97,130

 

Highest Paying Industries for Editors

Industry

Hourly average wage

Annual average wage

Specialized Design Services

$55.89

$116,250

Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing

$50.67

$105,400

Technical and Trade Schools

$50.10

$104,200

Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services

$49.70

$103,370

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities

$46.40

$96,510

All of these industries pay English major jobs wages that are much higher than the national average wage for all occupations, $58,260. So, if you’re committed to majoring in English, rest assured that there are high paying jobs for English majors out there.

The Bottom Line on Finding English Major Jobs

There are dozens upon dozens of career paths that English majors can pursue once they’ve graduated college. The idea that majoring in English means you cannot do anything besides be a primary school teacher or college professor is absolutely incorrect. English major jobs are in high demand and have the potential to pay very well indeed. What’s more, if you’re looking to major in English and need some financial help to pursue that dream, BrokeScholar has an entire library of scholarships by area of study, including English. Never let finances prevent you from pursuing your academic dreams and never get discouraged that your college major may be useless in the professional world.