Where do English Majors Work? A Guide to Finding the Best Environment for You

Hello there ūüôā Welcome to another post where I discuss the possibilities for people with English (or other humanities) degrees ‚̧ English degree holders can be found working in a variety of different settings, filling a variety of roles. Understanding which environments you would thrive in can help give you clarity on your career path. So, where do English degree holders work? Here are some options:

Magazines: What English major wouldn’t want to work for a magazine? Chances are, you’ve already worked for one on campus. Writing is the first gig that comes to mind, but there are other positions, too, like being an editorial assistant, ad sales rep, PR specialist, photo editor (if you have skills in digital photo editing), column editor, editor in chief, and more.

This is a creative field and the publishing world is small, so of course you can expect a lot of competition. You may have to relocate to a major city if you don’t already live in one. However, sometimes local opportunities in suburban areas can still be found. You may also be able to work as a freelance writer.

Newspapers: This is of course the natural fit for someone who enjoys journalism. If you’re curious, enjoy uncovering the truth, and like working in a fast-paced, busy environment, then this could be a good career path for you. In addition being a reporter, you can also find a position as a copy editor, column editor, editor in chief, art director, data scientist, fact checker, news assistant, marketing specialist, videographer (if you have film and video production skills), and others.

Like magazines, this is a creative and, consequently, a highly competitive field. There should be local opportunities, but of course the best jobs will come from high profile papers (i.e- The New York Times). Like with magazines, it is possible to write for different newspapers as a freelance reporter.

Publishing Companies: Book publishers are probably the first thing that come to mind when thinking of English major careers. All of us probably dream of working for a big company like Simon and Schuster at some point or another. This is one field where networking is your best friend because, as you probably guessed, it is super competitive. Positions at publishing companies include working in: editorial, publicity, marketing, sales, subsidiary rights, management, design, and public relations. This is another field where you usually have to live in a major city, like NYC or Boston, to find opportunities.

Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations Agencies: All three of these agencies have distinctly different functions, but these days those functions tend to overlap, especially when it comes to digital media. One thing all of these companies have in common is that they need good writers. Getting your foot in the door, and working for an agency for a few years, can also make it easier to get a job later in the marketing or PR department of a larger company.

Ad agencies are notorious for their “company cultures,” often having fun, colorful offices and allowing their employees to work on comfy couches. That said, it’s a lot of work with tight deadlines, and working overtime is common. Like with the fields mentioned above, you can expect a lot of competition for jobs. Managers in these companies can make six figures, which makes working up to those jobs desirable for many. Freelance writing and design opportunities can be found here as well.

Human Resources and Staffing Agencies: Breaking into the HR world can be a challenge. Most jobs want you to have several years of experience, some require you to have a background in accounting or knowledge of payroll, and entry level positions are hard to come by, even for people who have degrees in Human Resources Management.

However, finding a position as a recruiter, specialist, or generalist, especially for a staffing agency, is not impossible. Networking, informational interviews, and having conversations with people already doing what you want to do are you best bet for getting in. You may also consider pursuing a masters degree in HR Management if you feel it is the best path for you.

Law Firms: English degree holders often find positions in law firms as administrative assistants, legal secretaries, and sometimes as paralegals. If you have attention to detail and can handle an environment where each case is important or urgent, this career path can provide you with stability and decent pay. You may also consider earning a certificate in Paralegal Studies, or pursuing a law degree. Keep in mind that the job market for lawyers is a bit over saturated these days. Check the employment rates in your state to learn more about the likelihood of finding work where you live.

Nonprofits and Government Agencies: Like many for-profit companies, nonprofits also need good writers. You may find a position working on grant proposals or fundraising letters. There are also jobs for fundraisers, social medial managers, communications specialists, administrative assistants, public relations specialist, program coordinators, community outreach specialists, managers, and others.

Smaller, local nonprofits may not be able to pay you, but getting volunteer experience could be a good way to network and add to your resume. Larger nonprofits in major cities are your best bet for finding full-time work. The key is to find an organization with a large annual budget (think over $1 Million a year).

Software, IT, and Technology Companies: It may seem like technology and English don’t mix, but the truth is, some English degree holders do pursue careers in this field. Writing is both creative and logical, and web design and development can be similar in this way.

If you minored in computer science, or simply have an interest in math and computers, you may be able to work as a technical writer, web designer, or web developer (some of these positions may require you to further you education, whether this is by earning another degree or developing the skills). You may also find an entry level position as an administrative assistant, marketing assistant, or tech support specialist.

Language Schools: You may have to further your education a bit for this one. But if you want to invest the time and money into earning a certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, it could be worth the effort. (The most common certificate is the CELTA, and it’s an intensive program that takes one month to complete full time, and about two or three months to complete part-time).

On the down side, teaching positions at language schools tend to be part time, causing some to work two or three jobs at different schools to make ends meet. On the plus side, full time work is still possible to find, and possessing a CELTA with your English degree can allow you to work in almost any country in the world. It’s a perfect option for people who want to travel. Some countries, like China, will allow you to teach English with just your bachelor’s degree. It would be an adventure, that’s for sure, and just think of the stories you could tell your grand kids.

Financial Services Companies: Working for a finance or insurance company is not exactly your typical English major’s dream job, but jobs in this field tend to be open to people with any degree, typically as general office clerks or phone reps. Not the most exciting option, but it’s out there.

Schools and Universities: If you decide to pursue a masters or PhD, working as a university professor is competitive, but possible. Adjunct professors don’t earn much money, but it can be a good way to get teaching experience. You may also get a masters degree in Education if you want to teach preschool, elementary, middle, or high school. Sometimes schools will also hire administrative assistants, marketing or fundraising specialists, social media managers, or PR specialists.

Graduate School: You may wish to pursue a master’s or PhD if you want to find focus or open more doors in your career. You can study anything provided you’re willing to spend a couple semesters earning the prerequisites you need, but degrees that work well with a foundation in English include: English, Creative Writing, Education, Law, Social Work, Marketing, Public Relations, Business Administration, and Nonprofit Management. Pursuing a degree in medicine, computer science, engineering, or accounting is not unheard of for humanities degree holders either.

There are many career paths you can pursue with an English degree. Writers and communications experts are needed in every industry. The downside to this, of course, is that writing is a popular job, and so there is a lot of competition. Networking and talking to people in your industry is the best way to find opportunities. Be persistent and don’t settle. You deserve to find work you love ‚̧

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What I Learned From Changing My Major In College

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When I first entered college as an undergrad, I chose to major in Theater. It wasn’t a hard choice. I had been taking acting classes for a few years and it was all I wanted to do. I loved theater. I loved learning my lines. I loved working with passionate, creative people. Being on stage gave¬†me a voice, and getting into character meant that I could take a break from being me. It meant that I could get a glimpse into what it might be like to be someone else. Nothing was more magical to me than acting.

My freshman year, I got to experience some really cool things. I got to learn about acting, arts management, sets, costumes, stage lighting, Stanislavski, musical theater, and much more. I got to see myself grow through my different scenes and assignments. I got to meet people who were all unique, but who were all united by their common love of the theater.

I also got to watch my peers act, sing and dance in several performances. Seeing people live their passion is one of my favorite things in the world, so being surrounded by creative people brought me a lot of joy.

While I experienced a lot of good things my freshman year, I wasn’t always happy. I spent a lot of time feeling sad, anxious and isolated. I broke down crying on more than one occasion. I knew I needed a change in my life, I just didn’t know what kind. My freshman year was followed by a terrible summer that only made my sadness and anxiety worse. I was in a really low place, and I knew that a hectic theater schedule wasn’t going to help me get out of it. I needed to find some peace and solitude.

I’ve never been the kind of person who only had one passion. I loved acting, but I also loved writing, so I decided to change my major to English. This wasn’t an easy decision, and no one I talked to thought I should do it. This isn’t surprising. People don’t like change, and even if the change you want to make is good for you, you’ll find that people won’t want to accept it. (You’ll understand what I mean by this if you’ve ever told your friends you’ve chosen to eat healthier. There will always be that one person who says, “Just have one cookie. It won’t hurt you!”)

Once I changed my major, things got better slowly, but not overnight. I missed acting and I was always worried about the future. Still, my friends said they noticed that I was less stressed than I was before. I was starting over, and starting over is never easy. Luckily for me, English majors are some of the loveliest humans you will ever encounter, so I got to meet some really kind people.

I began to focus more on writing. For so long, I had been used to putting a lot of my creative energy into acting. Now that I wasn’t taking acting classes anymore, there was this huge, ginormous void in my life. So, I filled it. In my need to create, I went from being a terrible fiction writer to a decent one. I wrote hundreds of poems. I wrote plays and scripts. I¬†learned how to write songs with my guitar. Occasionally I got to perform my songs, or read my poems and stories aloud at events. I found ways to continue to create and connect with others, all while maintaining the level of solitude I needed to find peace.

Experiencing two different majors really added to my college experience. I got to submerse myself in two different crafts. Writing and acting are very different, but they also have things in common. Both require you to use sense memory and to see things from another character’s perspective. I believe that acting helped me to be a better writer.

I learned a lot from all of this. I learned that there doesn’t have to be just one passion that will bring me happiness in life. It is important to choose something and commit to it, but it is also important to stay open to new things and new experiences. I thought that choosing a major meant doing one thing for the rest of my life. I realize now that this simply is not true. As C.S Lewis says, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

I have a lot of different passions, especially when it comes to the arts. I realize now that this is not a bad thing. I got to see myself grow as an actress and as a writer. Making a change is not always easy. I made a change because I wanted to be my best, healthiest self. Sometimes you need a break, even from something you love to do. And that’s okay.

xo

-Ashley

#MyThoughts