What Can You Do with a degree in English?


What can I do with a degree in English?

Writing/Editing | Education | Publishing | Advertising | Public Relations | Law | Business/Industry



  • A major in English can be good preparation for continued graduate or professional training in areas such as English, law, political science/government, public administration, psychology, counseling, communications, and religious studies (i.e., seminary).
  • Develop a specialty area of interest via additional coursework and/or work experience for greater marketability within that specific career field.
  • Save samples of written work to be used for a portfolio.
  • Be prepared to be proactive, determined, assertive, and confident in order to secure freelance writing opportunities. Writers typically experience many rejections for each piece that is accepted for publication.
  • Cultivate other career opportunities in order to supplement a freelance writing income.
  • Obtain additional areas of expertise such as journalism, broadcasting, technical writing, or politics for specialized positions.
  • For careers in advertising or public relations be prepared to begin in an entry-level position.
  • A bachelor's degree in English is sufficient for many entry level positions in business and industry.
  • Appropriate teacher certification is required for public school teaching.
  • A graduate degree is required for teaching at the college or university level.



Areas of focus:

Creative Writing



Technical Writing


Potential Employers:



Broadcast media companies (including television and movie industry)

Trade, professional, or consumer publications

Internet sites

Advertising agencies

Large corporations

Government agencies

Colleges and universities

Technical industries


Strategies to achieve your goal:

Select elective coursework in a particular area of interest.

Write for campus publications such as college newspapers, magazines, or departmental/program newsletters

Develop speaking and debate skills.

Volunteer to assist or tutor students in the writing center

For technical writing positions, obtain a concentration in technical writing. Take science and/or computer courses to gain knowledge about technical areas and trends.

Become familiar with the proposal writing and submission process involved in freelance writing.




Potential Employers:

Public schools

Private schools

Colleges and universities


Private learning centers


Strategies to achieve your goal:

Acquire computer skills.

Gain volunteer experience with Big Brother/Sister program, tutoring, sports, summer camps, teen counseling, child care centers, or with other special populations.

Participate in school activities such as debate, literary club, campus publications, student government, alumni relations, and admissions.

Obtain appropriate state certification for public school teaching.

A graduate degree is required for post-secondary teaching.

Earn certification to teach multiple subjects/age groups for increased job opportunities.




Areas of focus:








Potential Employers:

Special interest magazines

Trade magazines

Associational and organizational magazines

Sunday newspaper supplements

Educational and professional books

Religious books and magazines

Other book publishers


Strategies to achieve your goal:

Obtain summer internship in an area of the publishing industry.

Participate in summer publishing institute.

Develop word processing and editing skills.

Work on student publications.

Conduct an informational interview with or shadow a professional in the publishing industry.




Areas of focus:





Potential Employers:

Advertising agencies

In-house agencies of large companies


Strategies to achieve your goal:

Demonstrate talent, persistence, assertiveness, and enthusiasm.

Be prepared to start in an entry-level position.

Obtain strong statistics background for market research positions.

Create portfolio of writing and ideas showing originality and imagination for creative or advertising positions.

Gain knowledge of various media, contemporary tastes, and trends.

Obtain campus newspaper, TV, or radio experience.

Participate in sales and promotions in student organizations or private businesses.

Complete an internship in a market research firm or advertising agency.

Supplement curriculum with courses in business, art, or graphic design.



Public Relations

Areas of focus:






Potential Employers:

Public relations firms

Advertising agencies

In-house public relations departments

Trade associations

Colleges and universities

Nonprofit organizations

Government agencies


Strategies to achieve your goal:

Obtain internship or other relevant work experience.

Develop strong research skills, public speaking ability, enthusiasm, and interpersonal skills.

Supplement curriculum with business courses.

Become an effective team member by working on group projects for campus organizations.




Potential Employers:

Law firms

Corporate legal departments

Government agencies

Public service agencies


Strategies to achieve your goal:

Develop strong organizational skills and attention to detail.

Become skillful in debate and public speaking.

Organize campus events, speakers, or political rallies.

Obtain summer or part-time work in a law firm.

Complete special training requirements for paralegal positions.

Attend law school and earn a law degree to become an attorney.




Areas of focus:




Human Resources

Insurance: Claims and Underwriting


Potential Employers:

Business organizations including banks, real estate agencies, insurance firms, and large

and small corporations

Retailers including department, grocery, drug, specialty, variety, and book stores


Strategies to achieve your goal:

Obtain a business minor.

Gain work experience through part-time jobs, internships, or relevant volunteer work.

Secure leadership roles in campus organizations.

Join student professional associations.

Develop strong analytical and computer skills.

Gain experience as financial officer or treasurer of a campus organization.


(Adapted from a pdf by Career Planning staff of Career Services at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. (1992, Revised 1999, 2004))


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"The English major background is mostly helpful. But sometimes because of the amount of criticism and analysis that we do in class, it is detrimental because of how critical we are with our own work."

--Bryan Kish