English and Communications Degree: Careers, Grad School, and Finding Your Path

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Figuring out your career path when you have a degree that doesn’t lead to a specific job can be tough. People who study subjects like English, history, philosophy, or general maths and sciences like biology or chemistry are often assumed by others to have limited jobs available to them.

It’s certainly not as straightforward as studying engineering, nursing, education, medicine, law, social work, mental health, or accounting. Degrees that lead to a specific career path take out the guesswork of having to choose a career after graduation. Having a more broad degree still has it’s advantages, however, because you don’t have to feel stuck in one career path.

For creative types, this can be a good thing, because we can get restless, curious, and bored if we feel restricted to one path. I know, this all sounds fine and dandy until you’re left with an empty wallet, no sense of direction, a “useless” degree, and an overwhelming pile of debt. But the truth is, the old mantra they used to tell us in elementary school is true, knowledge really IS power.

All degrees open up doors to more careers and more opportunities. The challenge of carving out a career path when your degree doesn’t lead to a specific job is exactly that, a challenge. Are you up for it? I think you are! Even people who have degrees in accounting or engineering should know that their degree opens MANY doors, not just the one path. Anyone can want a career change in their life at any time, so the truth is, what you study, in many cases, doesn’t matter. Many people end up pursuing careers not related to what they studied.

If you have a degree in English, Communications, or any other liberal arts subject, don’t believe there are no careers out there for you. There are several. Does that mean it will be easy to get started? Not at all. You have to choose a path that’s right for you, and then you have to build your resume up with relevant experience if you don’t already have it. Volunteering for a local nonprofit is probably the best way to do it.

Internships can be good, too, but sometimes you need experience for those, too. Choosing a nonprofit and volunteering with them for at least a year is a great way to gain experience. Try to volunteer doing something related to the career you want. If you don’t know what you want to do, try out a few things within the organization. If you can do this before you graduate, even better.

Building a career is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, try things, fail, and fail again. It means you’re one step closer to success. If you’re still trying to figure out your career, your not alone. I’m in the same boat, but I know we can do it ūüôā Here are some careers to consider if you have a degree in English or Communications:

Journalist for newspapers, magazines, or blogs

Editorial Assistant

Publicity Assistant

Junior Copywriter

Senior Copywriter

Grant Writer

Fundraiser

Technical Writer

Accounting Clerk

Social Media Manager

Event Planner

Public Relations Specialist

Marketing Assistant

Marketing Manager

Account Executive

Assistant Manager

General Manager

Human Resources Assistant

Administrative Assistant

Medical Receptionist

Executive Assistant

English/Literacy Teacher

ESL/TESOL Instructor

Tour Guide

Art Gallery Associate

These are some of the careers you can consider if you have a degree in English or communications. For some, you may need to learn new skills or get a new certification, but if it’s something you really want to do, it’s more than worth it. You can also consider these subjects for grad school:

English

Creative Writing

Library Science

Media Studies

Education

Literacy and Language

Public Relations

Advertising

The truth is, you can study anything in grad school. Don’t have the prerequisites you need? Go back to community college and take them. That’s not to say that it’s easy, or that taking on more debt or spending more money is a casual decision. But it’s important to realize that you are not limited by your degree. There is nothing wrong with studying something you love. In my opinion, it’s what you should do every time. Follow your bliss.

Building a career is not easy. Having options is great, but you do need to choose a path and you do need to gain experience. The path to gaining experience, interning, or volunteering may seem long, but look at it this way. The time you spend volunteering and learning from experience, is not much different from the time someone else is spending in grad school, med school, or law school. Things take time, and that is okay.

Stay strong and believe in yourself. You have options, you have a future, and you have opportunities. Get out there and find them. I’ll be doing the same. ‚̧

 

 

Career Reflections

I think the myth of the overnight success leads a lot of people to feel depressed. There’s this idea that we should have our ideal jobs right after we graduate college, but that’s just not the reality for most people. And that sucks, doesn’t it? We work so hard in school, and somehow four years of studying, writing essays, taking exams, and having a meltdown (or twenty) gets deduced to one small piece of our resume. We get lost in a sea of people who have qualifications and skills that are similar to ours.

Humanities grads are often made to feel like they chose the wrong area of study, and that they’ll never get a good job. People will judge us and say we’ll never get a job outside of retail or food service. The thing is, lots of people start there careers working in a minimum wage job. Is it ideal, especially when you have student loans to pay off? Of course not, but just because a person starts small, it doesn’t mean that’s where they will be for the rest of their lives.

It’s like people think your first job after you graduate will be what you do forever. We know this isn’t true, but if your path isn’t neat and predictable, people think you have no path at all. I’m sure it’s hard for some people who study¬†accounting or¬†nursing to understand people who don’t have a degree that leads to a specific career, and if someone in a STEM field judges humanities majors, it’s probably more a reflection on them than it is on the people who studied English or History.

Choosing a major that leads to a specific job may work for some people, but I know people who studied accounting, computer science, or medicine, only to realize later that they didn’t enjoy the work. Not only that, but that the career wasn’t a good match for their personality to¬†the point that they were unhappy everyday, then quit. I know education grads who have spent months trying to find a proper teaching job.

None of these people are failures, even though others may see their paths as hopeless. Maybe they feel that way themselves. The problem is that the most important aspect of a career is never taught to us: these things take time.

For some people, having their ideal career means going to university for ten years. For others, it might mean being a bartender or a sales associate for a couple years while they gain experience interning or volunteering in what they really want. This path may not be cool or shiny and sparkly from the outside, but it sure as hell is realistic. Sometimes building a career requires a shit ton of grunt work.

Some of the most successful people I admire are those who spent up to seven years waiting tables, bartending, or working in banks before they were able to run their own businesses full time. Some people start small and work their way up in a company, then continue their education when they get a better feel for the work they want to do. I know some people who worked in retail for a long time, and then got promoted until they worked their way up to being a manager.

For some people, a specific degree is needed for a specific job. And that works for some people. But for me, education is about enrichment. Most jobs I apply for don’t really care what you studied. But they do care about your skills, and even more about your work experience. So, I’m doing what I can to gain experience. It’s not a shiny, sparkly overnight success. It will take time, and I’m okay with that.