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Careers in English

Careers in English

Job Prospects for English Majors 

Studies have shown that, apart from teaching, English majors generally have a more difficult time finding an entry-level position than most non-English majors do, particularly if those non-majors hold technical degrees. Not all is bleak, however, for those same surveys indicate that, once hired, the English major tends to get promoted more often and more quickly than her/his non-major counterparts. The reason for this is that while English majors may lack job-specific abilities, they do possess general communication, organizational, and managerial skills that help them to advance. They typically start off in their careers at lower salaries than others, but after five or six years, they lower this gap, and, in many cases, they actually surpass non-majors in terms of both income and job status.

English majors make excellent managers. Through reading and discussing literature, people become more aware of the psychology of other people and more sensitive to the diversity of personality types. It is this awareness and sensitivity that helps English majors in professions where they deal with and oversee others. At universities, for example, there are more college administrators (deans, vice-presidents, presidents) who are from the English faculty than there are from any other academic field. The focus on writing in the curriculum enhances the majors' ability to communicate effectively in a business climate where clarity of expression has become increasingly important.

So there you have it. If you are an English major, your career prospects are, ultimately, very encouraging. However, you must be very resourceful and creative both in preparing and in searching for a job. Those very skills which are valued by those in a position to promote are not necessarily those skills sought out by those who hire.  Research those areas that interest you.  Consider appropriate minors.

This page is designed to follow a step-by-step approach both to help you get to know yourself better and to give you practical advice about career exploration.

Step One: Know Yourself

There are those fabled students who are goal directed from the start.  They know who they are, what they want out of life, and what they have to do to achieve their aims.  For most students, however, college is a time for searching and for understanding who they are.  The average student changes majors at least once during his or her academic career.  With all of these uncertainties, how is it  possible to decide on a career choice?  How do you prepare for a career, if you don't have any idea of what you want to be?

Fortunately, there is help available. An excellent starting place for all students, whether you know what your future plans are or not, is the Strong Index Test, which can be picked up at the SCSU Bookstore for about $10.00.  This is not a test in the true sense of the word, and you can't study for it or cheat by peaking at the answers.  It asks you you a series of questions about your likes and dislikes and develops a personality profile. It compares your profile to people in various professions to see where there is a match.  It does not determine aptitude, merely similarity of interests.  When you have finished taking this test at home, bring it to The Counseling Services Office in Engleman Hall where it will be mailed off and graded.  Make an appointment, and, when the test comes back in about three weeks, a counselor will go over it with you and answer questions that you might have.

Another test available through The Counseling Services Office is the ACT Interest Inventory (Uniact), which, like The Strong Index Test is designed to help college students make the connection between work and the things that they like to do.  If you would like more information about Uniact, go to Engleman 238 or click on the company's website at

While you are at The Counseling Services Office,  you should ask about Discover, which is an interactive computer program that supplements the two tests above.  It can also provide help with information about specific jobs, pay scales, financial aid, paying internships, resume writing, networking, interviewing, and resources on the internet.

A final on-campus resource, and one that every student should visit as soon as possible is The Career Services Office in Schwartz Hall 102. The office has a wide array of reference materials about specific jobs and occupations along with a staff that is there to help you with questions.  On-campus interviews, information sessions, and workshops are scheduled throughout the year.  The office invites employers to campus to interview students for anticipated vacancies. It also conducts career fairs to give students the opportunity to meet informally with members of the business community. 

Once you have a good idea about yourself and your goals, you should focus on your skills.  What do you have to offer a potential employer and what areas to you need to explore to develop additional expertise? 

Step Two: Know Your Skills

All employers are seeking certain skills from the people whom they hire.  For you to respond to their needs effectively, you should undergo a realistic self-assessment,  not only to present yourself in the best possible way to them,  but also to see where you need to fill in gaps.  There are two main types of skills, general and specific, although, obviously, there is considerable overlapping in these categories.

General Skills that most English majors possess include the abilities to communicate effectively, organize thoughts, conduct research, understand people, think critically, and show imagination

You may have been a camp counselor, completed an internship, held a part-time, summer, or even full-time job. If so, you may have developed other general skills such as the ability to manage employees, meet deadlines, or handle money. While all general skills are important and while they are often required of applicants, it is also very essential to learn specialized skills to be considered for a position in many areas that might be of interest to English majors.  In the pages that follow, you will be given information about many career opportunities open to those with a degree in English.  To prepare yourself for these careers, however, you will need training in areas other than your major.  Consider minoring in such subjects as computer science, business and economics, or a foreign language (particularly Spanish).  Your background in English will help you, but you may need to dovetail it with additional academic expertise to stand a solid chance of entering the profession you desire.

As we move more and more into the age of technology, clear, effective communication skills are becoming increasingly more important to employers.  English majors can write, but they need to know what it is that they are writing about.  This is why careful selection of courses outside the major is very important. and why technical writing has become a such popular option within our own degree program.  One obvious note of caution.  As you research careers by clicking on the bar below, you will become, perhaps, a little more aware of courses and training that you may need to pursue.  If a particular academic area is definitely not your cup of tea, however, don't tie yourself to a career that is too closely associated with that concentration.

Step Three: Research Careers

The purpose of this page is just to check to see if you have done all the necessary research about yourself  before looking into the possibilities for careers for English majors.

Take a personal inventory or interest test such as Strong or Uniact.

Go over the results of that test with a member of the Counseling Services Office in Engleman Hall.

Take the interactive computer Discovery Program in the Counseling Services Office.

Visit the Career Services Office in Schwartz 102 for information about their services such as on-campus interviews and job fairs.  Look at the material they have available on various career options.

Conduct self-assessment.  Enumerate the skills that you have already that might interest potential employers.  Consider other academic areas to augment the English major program.

Look for internships and summer employment as valuable ways to gain experience and background in an area that you might consider for a future career. No employer expects a recent college graduate to have had a full-time occupation (although many students for a variety of reasons do delay or interrupt their educations and take on full-time jobs).  Still, experience does help.

Careers in English

Different careers attract people with different personal interests, talents, and aspirations.  You can find out information about a particular career by using the search engine on the US Labor Department page Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Be aware, however, that many of these areas require specific expertise outside English.  If so, you should consider an appropriate minor.  In some cases, these careers involve post-graduate training.

Guide to Online Schools  

If you want further information about any of the fields apart from what is provided in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, you might want to try consulting the following websites for either job opportunities or facts about a profession:


Advertising Age

Association of National Advertisers  

Standard Direct. of Advertising Agencies    

Technical Writing

National Association of Science Writers 


National Council of Teachers of English 

National Education Association 

American Association of University Professors


National Business Association 

Non-Profit Management Association 

Public Relations 

O'Dwyer's List of Public Relations Firms 

Public Relations Journal 


American Society of Journalists and Authors 

Poets and Writers 

Writers Guild of America-East


American Bar Association When you arrive at the home page of the ABA, click on "Career Counsel" in the left column for articles and opportunities about positions in the legal profession.

Government Service

United States Government Job Website

Your Resume

Never underestimate the importance of a well-organized and well-written resume.  In general, it is the first look, and sometimes the only look, that a potential employer will have of you.  You will be competing against people who have given considerable thought to what appears in their resume, and, even though you may be a superior candidate, that fact will be lost if you don't present yourself well both in your resume and in your cover letter.  There are a number of good books available that can provide valuable suggestions to you on how to proceed.  Consult the SCSU bookstore, a local bookstore, a library, or the resources of an internet site such as barnesandnoble.comor  You might also consult with someone from the Career Services Office in Schwartz 102.  While various books may differ slightly in their emphases, you should be able to pick out common threads.  This particular page is not designed to grade you as to the specific details of how to construct a resume.  For these you should consult the other sources listed above.  nevertheless, here are some general guidelines you should consider:

  • Include a cover letter with your resume that is specific to the job you are applying for.  It should be brief (no more than a page in length).  Employers tend to become impatient with lengthy letters and often, for no other reason, dismiss the candidate.  The letter should motivate the employer to read the resume, and it should highlight or expand upon those qualities, skills, experiences, and objectives that you wish to stress.
  • Be neat and accurate in both your cover letter and resume.  Because most computer word processing programs today correct spelling, grammar, paragraphing, and spacing, a misspelled word or a grammatical error will often lead to an immediate rejection.  Have someone you trust proofread your application for both spelling and stylistic problems.  Computer programs do not pick up everything!
  • Be aware of the different types of resumes and the purposes of each.  The most common form of resume is one in which you focus on (1) the chronology of your work experience.  If you have significant experience in the area in which you are applying, this may be your best choice.  If you are a recent college graduate, don't neglect internships or volunteer work.  They may be highly relevant; a second form of resume is that which emphasizes (2) function, that is, what you specifically did in your previous positions as opposed to the job titles themselves.  This type of resume works best when you want to focus on particular skills that you can offer any potential employer; a third type of resume that is very similar to the second one is one which is (3) targeted to the specific job for which you are applying.  That is, you focus only on those skills that you have that are needed for a particular posted position.
  • You should consider writing different resumes for different types of jobs.  A resume to a business that focuses on your education and scholarship might be better directed to an academic source rather than a commercial one.
  • Send out original copies, not Xeroxes.
  • Do not include names, addresses, and phone numbers of references in your resume unless the ad for the position you are seeking specifically requests them.  The statement "references furnished upon request" is generally sufficient.  Nevertheless, you should get permission from people you plan to have serve as your references ahead of time so that you can be prepared to act immediately upon an employer's request for further information.
  • Resist the impulse to be whimsical on your application.  Don't use unusual typefaces; don't print in colors; don't send along pictures of your dog or cat.
  • Be specific and give details wherever possible.  Don't merely say that you have computer skills; say rather that you have skills in Word, Excel, or Adobe Photoshop.

There are many things to consider in a job search.  Preparation is everything.  Get started as early as possible.  Do your research.  Develop your skills.  Know yourself.