When you imagine the perfect college experience, what do you picture? If you dream of diving into great works of literature or writing to your heart's content, you're clearly cut out for an English degree program. An English major provides exceptional preparation for all kinds of career paths. More importantly, this program helps students become their best selves. Through in-depth reading, personal reflection, and lots of discussion, English students develop a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. They emerge capable of developing and communicating about a variety of high-level concepts.

But perhaps you have never considered an English major because you’ve been led to believe you can’t get a job with an English degree. Don't let misconceptions deter you from seeking the degree you were always meant to earn. To separate fact from fiction, we've compiled a helpful guide to the English major and its value in the real world. Keep reading to learn what, exactly, an English major is, why it's so valuable, and which job opportunities will be available when you graduate.

What Is an English Major?

Before you move forward with seeking a major in English, it's important to understand what this degree program involves and how it differs from other academic options.

At its core, this major involves a liberal arts emphasis, in which students explore a variety of relevant subjects to gain a well-rounded education. Additionally, students focus heavily on coursework that promotes a better understanding and use of the English language.

While English programs can vary significantly from one institution to the next, the most sought-after degrees within this niche include the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science in English.

The former exposes students to many aspects of the English language, such as linguistics, literature, and writing. Additionally, B.A. students may study foreign languages. The B.S. encourages students to take a deep dive into a specific area of interest.
Students who are unable to commit to an English major are encouraged to try for an English minor, which makes an excellent complement to many other degree programs. Within the minor program, students may take between 20 and 25 credits, typically providing a comprehensive overview of linguistics, creative writing, and English and American literature.

Are There Different Options for English Degrees?

English degree programs are incredibly versatile. As we've mentioned, many students prefer to focus on specific aspects of the English language. To do so, they may seek their Bachelor of Science in English while adding an area of emphasis to the mix. This targeted approach allows students to hone their abilities within various niches, such as teaching or creative writing. Common options include: 

  •  Literary Studies

Students who love to read — and to discuss and write about what they've read — thrive when enrolled in literary studies programs. Required courses help students develop an appreciation for important works from many historic periods and geographic locations.

  • English Education

Many English students hope to one day share their love of the written word while working as teachers. English education programs prepare them for success in a high school or junior high setting. Their far-reaching knowledge must include not only the broad spectrum of literature, writing, and linguistics but also, public speaking and adolescent learning.

  • Creative Writing

From poetry and short stories to nonfiction, students who pursue this track learn to flex their writing muscles in several capacities. Along the way, their creativity flourishes, as does their ability to critique and revise their work.

English Degree Requirements You Can Expect

Both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in English involve a variety of specific course requirements designed to help students become well-rounded individuals. These include general education classes, targeted English coursework, and electives. Language requirements are also common, as research indicates that the mastery of foreign languages corresponds to improved native language skills.

Within their selected English track, students must take a mix of foundational courses (at the 100 and 200 levels) and upper-level classes (at the 300 and 400 levels). Many upper-level courses have strict prerequisites that students must fulfill. As such, careful scheduling is essential. Keep in mind that some prerequisites or foundational courses will only be available during the spring or fall semesters.

The ETS may be required as an exit exam; this assesses proficiency in core skill areas. By the time students reach their upper-level English courses, they can expect to receive targeted training to help them pass the ETS exam.
What Can You Do with an English Degree?

An English degree is one of the most versatile degree programs available, as it equips you with the ultimate transferable skill: written communication.

7 Top Career Opportunities for English Majors

Many employers look favorably on applicants with English degrees. While a variety of job listings mention this credential, the following are among the most common positions for English program graduates:

1. English Teacher

As we've discussed, the Bachelor of Science with an Emphasis in English Education is one of the most commonly cited jobs with an English degree. This is a great option for anyone who is passionate about working with a new generation of talented young people. Teachers' hard work prepares students for success in a professional and academic world that highly emphasizes written communication.

2. Content writer

From blog posts to white papers and even marketing emails, content writers can create numerous types of copy intended to promote their clients' best interests, with some specializing in search engine optimized content. While many in-house content writing positions are available, these professionals often prefer to work in a freelance capacity, which gives them greater control over their schedule and their clients.

3. Copy Editor

Once copywriters or content writers submit completed drafts, it's up to copy editors to correct grammatical errors and complete the fact-checking process. Additionally, copy editors may adjust the language of submitted pieces to better align with the client's objectives. From there, these professionals provide targeted feedback to writers and clients alike.

4. Content Strategist

Responsible for planning, designing, and editing content, strategists help businesses achieve core objectives through the power of the written word. Often, they work closely with teams of writers and editors to produce optimized content on a long-term basis. To that end, they often handle scheduling and feedback, thereby creating a streamlined workflow. Their goal: to keep all parties happy while maximizing productivity.

5. Bookseller

Many English majors dream of working in quaint bookstores. After graduation, some go on to open their own independent bookstores, while others work for larger chains. Some are content to work directly with customers while serving as booksellers, while others work as buyers, determining which titles specific shops or chains should carry. Many quickly rise through the ranks to take on managerial positions.

6. Editorial Assistant

Typically employed by publishing companies, editorial assistants play a key role in the production of print materials such as newspapers, magazines, or books. As with content editors, they're often responsible for proofreading and fact-checking. While this is a common entry-level option for English majors, there is significant room for advancement. Many editorial assistants, for example, eventually become senior editors.

7. Operations or Project Coordinators

English graduates who rise through the ranks within publishing companies may eventually hold the title of project coordinator. This high-level position requires professionals to develop and maintain efficient workflows. Project coordinators often work closely with both creative and sales teams, providing much-needed assistance with resource allocation and scheduling. Agility is a prized skill for this position.

These are just a few of the many types of jobs that English majors may obtain after graduation. Many others have found success in fields or positions that, at first glance, don't seem particularly relevant to their degree. For example, it is common for English majors to work in marketing, law, public relations, or even hospitality. With the right skills, a world of possibility could await.

Pursue Your Dream Degree at University of the Cumberlands

As you can see, the opportunities for English graduates are endless. A variety of employers highly value this degree, as it conveys mastery of the written language, not to mention the development of today's most important soft skills: critical thinking, empathy, and creativity. Enroll in the right English program, and you could be on the path to great rewards in both your personal and professional lives.

Our English program and general education curriculum both strive to fulfill University of the Cumberlands' mission to form "a heightened awareness and sensitivity to the search for truth and a deepened responsibility toward humankind." Faith-centered instruction allows English students to develop personally, professionally, and spiritually.

If you’re thinking about pursuing an English degree, don't hesitate to get in touch with the admissions office at University of the Cumberlands. We'd love to discuss your aspirations and introduce you to our wide range of academic programs. Contact us today to get started.