English majors declined by 20% between 2012 and 2018, according to analysis from the Association of Departments of English (ADE). Still, over 42,000 degrees in English were awarded in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. And many famously successful people ranging from Fortune-500 CEOs to acclaimed journalists to U.S. senators majored in English.
If you’re considering English as a major, you might be wondering about your career options after graduation. Or perhaps your parents—who may be footing some or all of the bill—are the ones who are concerned.
As an English major, you’ll develop a core set of competencies which can be readily applied in the work world.
Whatever your situation, it will help to know that there are plenty of possibilities.
What English Majors Bring to the Job Market
Here are just a few of the skills you’ll offer future employers, regardless of what industry you choose to work in:
Creating a compelling argument. Obviously, English majors learn to convey written messages in a clear and coherent way. As part of this process, they learn to take a position (like a thesis statement in an essay) and make an argument that supports the assertion.
Proofreading and editing written work. English majors are taught to proofread, edit, and refine written pieces until they are polished.
Giving constructive criticism (and taking it well). They learn to give and take constructive criticism, since papers are often reviewed by peers in the classroom setting.
Reading for the big picture while noting the details. English majors read and digest massive amounts of content each week. They’re able to pick out major concepts and discern flaws in arguments.
Managing their time and prioritizing tasks. They must learn to manage their schedule well in order to complete the time-consuming reading and writing tasks assigned to them on time.
Respecting differing points of view. Learning to understand and appreciate different perspectives as they attempt to understand the approach taken by various authors and classmates is another valuable skill learned as an English major. They learn that there are typically many different ways to approach a problem.
Exercising creativity. English majors often have a creative flair that enables them to compose poems, stories, and essays, as well as to conjure up a unique interpretation of a piece of literature.
Preparing and giving presentations. Explaining perspectives and presenting information verbally to others is a critical part of the educational process for English majors. As a result, they learn to give presentations—a valuable skill in the business world.
Top 10 Jobs for English Majors
Since your major is only one aspect of your professional profile, you should carefully assess other values, interests, and skills before making a final career decision. However, here are some common careers for English majors to consider.
1. Social Media Manager
Social media managers need the kind of creativity possessed by English majors to devise strategies to promote an organization through social media outlets. Often, they develop written proposals for other staff to consider and must explain their ideas to colleagues in order to draw consensus.
Social media managers often need to choose bloggers and content developers with whom to affiliate, and they need to manage these relationships. The critical reading skills of an English major can help them to select quality writers and provide constructive feedback to these individuals.
The time management skills of the English major help the social media manager to juggle the many different projects which are typically coordinated within that role.
New graduates will often start out as assistants supporting the efforts of social media, public relations and marketing managers. Pursue on-campus roles with social media for student organizations or administrative offices at your college.
Salary: According to Glassdoor, social media managers earn an average annual salary of $50,473.
2. Technical Writer
Technical writers compose manuals, frequently asked questions, help sections of websites, and other documentation regarding the use of products and services. They tap the ability of English majors to use precise language to explain ideas in the clearest and simplest manner. Technical writers need to solicit and incorporate feedback as they revise documentation based on user experiences just like English majors do when revising their essays based on the criticisms of faculty and classmates.
Salary: Per PayScale, technical writers earn an average annual salary of $60,103.
3. Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists need to tell a compelling story about a client or colleague which will capture the attention of the media and generate placement with a magazine, newspaper, website, television or radio station.
English majors have developed a refined sense for storytelling and have the creativity and writing skills to convey these messages through press releases.
Organizational skills critical to managing the English major's extensive reading/writing workload are essential for public relations representatives as they plan events and address the needs of multiple constituents.
Salary: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for public relations specialists is $61,150.
Ask an attorney to reference their most critical skills, and it won't take long for them to mention writing as a core skill. Lawyers compose contracts, memos, legal documentation, and courtroom arguments. The writing skills of English majors, and their ability to carefully construct language, position them to excel in these aspects of legal work.
Writing may be even more essential to the success of law students as they continually draft arguments about legal cases and precedents.
Law students also use the reading skills that English majors develop in order wade through the extensive legal texts and articles that are assigned.
In order to pass the bar exam, law students must also craft well-written answers to essay questions.
Salary: Lawyers earn a median annual salary of $122,960, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5. Grant Writer
Grant writers are also storytellers, as they must explain to funding agents in a convincing manner how resources will positively impact their constituents. They often review, edit, and modify submissions from scientists and faculty as part of the grant development process. Research and reading skills are essential to grant writers as they investigate funding sources and review projects which have been funded by target organizations over time.
The artistic sensibilities of many English majors favor them in situations where they are generating funding for organizations in the realms of art and culture.
Salary: Per Glassdoor, grant writers earn an average annual salary of $51,395.
Librarians can tap the English major's ability to appreciate good literature as they consider which books to incorporate into their collection. Reading skills help them to quickly read book reviews as they decide upon selections. English majors learn how to tap resources as they compile information for papers and librarians spend considerable time guiding patrons regarding the best sources for their research projects.
The detail orientation and organizational skills of the English major help librarians to set up efficient systems for cataloging and shelving books.
Salary: Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, librarians earn a median annual salary of $59,050.
7. Editor and Content Manager
Editors must have the critical eye of the English major as they review submissions for magazine and book publishers. They provide critical notes and directives for revisions to writers. Content managers and online editors need to evaluate the writing ability of potential contributors, often freelance writers, and provide feedback and direction.
Editors, like English majors, must know their audience and plan for communications that will appeal to their readers. They must be able to set and abide by deadlines in order to produce publications on schedule.
Salary: According to PayScale, editors earn an average annual salary of $52,403 and content managers earn an average annual salary of $59,076.
8. Human Resources Specialist
Human resources specialists utilize language very precisely and carefully as they draft employment policies for organizations. They coach managers about written communications to employees about performance. Human resources managers compose advertisements for jobs in order to attract the most qualified candidates. They develop written training materials for staff development.
Human resource managers need the critical reading skills of the English major when reviewing resumes, employee evaluations, language for contracts, and proposals for expanding staffing.
Salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, human resource specialists earn a median annual salary of $61,920.
9. Teaching English as a Second Language
English majors develop a solid command of the English language, including grammar and vocabulary. They are well positioned to pursue graduate work and qualify as an ESL instructor domestically in the public school system or at a college.
In addition, English majors are recruited as English teachers directly out of college by international language organizations, including the Peace Corps, as well as language schools abroad.
Salary: According to Glassdoor, ESL teachers earn an average annual salary of $45,544.
Fundraisers must be able to engage prospective donors, assess their interests, and devise written communications which have the best chance of generating contributions. Development staff write content for brochures and websites and compose campaign letters. They draft language for volunteers to use with telephone fundraising. Fundraisers draft letters of appreciation and articles recognizing the contributions of donors.
Fundraisers, like English majors, must be organized and detail oriented in order to plan successful events and cater to the needs of those in attendance.
Salary: Glassdoor reports that fundraisers earn an average annual salary of $46,850.
How to Get Hired
Learn More About Possible Career Paths: Visit your college career center to map out potential career paths. Consider your interests, skills, and abilities and how they connect with possible careers.
Build Your Skillset: Once you’ve identified a possible career, find the gaps in your skillset and that of successful professionals in the field. Fill the gap by taking classes, finding mentors, and volunteering for projects.
Match Your Qualifications to the Job: To get the hiring manager’s attention, decode the job advertisement and match your skills and experience to their requirements.