Is an English Degree Worth It? [2020 Guide]

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Is an English degree worth it? English majors are strong communicators and insightful critical thinkers who can find work in a variety of different fields.

Is an English Degree Worth It

Whether you want to be a writer, a teacher or a business professional, studying an English can help get your career off to a successful start.

Is an English Degree Worth It?

public relations specialists meeting in an office

Yes, an English degree is worth it for many students. With an average salary of $59,230 and 4% job growth (Bureau of Labor Statistics), a degree in English can help you launch a career in this exciting field. Common English careers include writer, editor, reporter, high school teacher, and public relations specialist.

English is a versatile field of study because you won’t be limited in where you can work and what you can do. Any industry that relies on clear communication may be able to put your services to good use.

In an English degree program, you’ll study the works of master writers, which can serve as a model to inspire your own writing abilities. By studying grammar, enrolling in writing workshops, and critiquing others’ work, you’ll learn the best ways to clearly and effectively convey your thoughts. That is a skill that will readily transfer to the workplace.

Many businesses rely on employees who can prepare concise yet meaningful communications for internal or external use. Public relations, media relations, and advertising are fields to consider.

Nonprofit organizations could benefit from your English skills as well. You’d be a strong candidate for grant writing or fundraising positions, for example.

Publishing is another field that might appeal to you as an English major. You could pursue a career as a professional writer. That might include writing freelance pieces, newspaper articles, children’s stories, textbooks or novels. You could also work behind the scenes as an editor or a publishing executive.

The television and film industries rely on writers as well. Crafting a strong script requires writers, editors, and development managers. News stations need reporters and announcers.

You may want to pass your love of English on to future generations. With the right credentials, you could use your English degree for a teaching career. Middle schools and high schools often hire English teachers to teach literature, composition and grammar.

An English degree can offer a strong foundation for graduate studies. From this bachelor’s program, you could find success in law school, medical school, an MBA program, or a library science program.

How to Decide Whether an English Degree is Right for You

Writer working in a cafe

English degrees often have the reputation of being “useless” degrees. That’s a far cry from the truth.

Even still, it’s smart to develop a clear understanding of why you’re pursuing this degree. Not only will you have a ready response for your critics, but it will help you keep your eyes on the goal.

1. You love words and communication.

Writer working on her laptop

No doubt about it, you’re going to spend a great deal of time reading and writing if you become an English major. That will be a lot more enjoyable if you’re a person who loves words.

During your bachelor’s program, you’ll read written works from around the world. This exploration will help you become a more cultured individual who better understands people and society.

You’ll also try your hand at many different types of writing. Whether you want to be a poet or a paralegal, practicing under the tutelage of experienced writing faculty will serve you well in your career.

2. You want to develop your critical thinking skills.

Author working at home

During your English program, you’re going to study works that don’t make a lot of sense on the first readthrough. In time, though, you’ll learn to draw meaning from complicated texts and then critically evaluate them. In the process, you’ll learn to dig deep and analyze situations from all sides.

Critical thinking is a valuable workplace skill, and employers will appreciate your ability to evaluate issues, consider creative solutions and build evidence-based arguments to support your ideas.

3. You’re looking for career versatility.

English majors can go in nearly any direction they please. In business, publishing, media, education and more, there are numerous roles that an English major could fill. You don’t have to have your whole career path mapped out right now. Getting an English degree allows you to keep your options wide open for the time being.

As you take a variety of classes in the English department, you may get a better feel for your passions. By the time you graduate, you may know just what you want to do, and you’ll have strong writing, communication, research, and critical thinking skills to support those goals.

Top 5 Things You Can Do with an English Degree

You can go nearly anywhere with an English degree, but there a few career paths that often hold particular appeal for English majors. You may find that one of these jobs is the best fit for you too.

1. Editor

Editors working on their project

Your advanced writing skills would qualify you to work as an editor, especially if you have a strong grasp of grammar and a keen eye for details.

Editors work in a variety of settings. Some are employed by publishing houses to help bring textbooks or novels to print. Others work for newspapers, magazines or websites. Editors are needed in the business sector as well.

2. High School Teacher

English High School Teacher teaching in class

If you want to cultivate a love of reading and writing in young students, then a teaching career may be for you. At the high school level, you might introduce students to Shakespeare or guide them through their first term papers. Junior high English teachers are needed as well.

Working in a public school requires teaching credentials. You might be able to take the necessary classes during your English program.

3. Public Relations Specialist

Public Relations Specialist interviewing a client

In public relations, you’ll serve as the face of an organization. For this job, it’s critical to be skilled at oral communication, which your English major will help develop.

Public relations specialists often work for businesses or nonprofit organizations. They can also represent celebrities or other individuals. If you’re in public relations for a politician, you might be known as a press secretary. Media relations is another subset of this field.

4. Reporter

Reporter delivering news

If current events are your passion, then you may want to work as a reporter who brings the news to people.

Reporters may work for television networks, radio stations, newspapers, or online outlets. Whichever form of reporting you choose, your communication know-how will be invaluable. You could also work as an investigative journalist. That role might draw on the research and critical thinking skills that you developed in college.

5. Writer

Writer typing on her laptop

You may have dreams of writing the next Great American Novel, and that’s certainly one goal you could pursue with an English degree. Other outlets for your writing skills could include blogs, magazines, and informational texts. Many writers work as freelancers.

Technical writing is a top-paying job for this field. If you have science or technology expertise, you could get paid to write manuals or other detailed documents.

English Degree Alternatives

newspaper writer working in a cafe

English studies can prepare you for a range of jobs, but you may want a degree that directly relates to your specific career goals.

  • Bachelor’s in Communications. In a communications program, there may be a greater emphasis on oral and online communication than there is in an English program. This degree is relevant to public relations and journalism careers.
  • Bachelor’s in Digital Media. While English majors typically use words to tell stories, digital media students carry out visual storytelling. Potential career paths include user experience, video games and graphic design.
  • Bachelor’s in Journalism. A degree in journalism will equip you to explore current events and share your findings with the public. Your research and reporting skills could lead to a job as a broadcaster, a newspaper writer, an investigative journalist, or an editor.

With an English degree or any of these alternative programs, you’ll become a strong communicator with marketable skills.

English Careers & Salaries

English Careers & Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the media and communications sector pay an average annual salary of $59,230, and they’re expected to grow at a 4% rate over the next several years.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Technical Writers $72,850
Writers and Authors $63,200
High School Teachers $61,660
Editors $61,370
Public Relations Specialists $61,150
Middle School Teachers $59,660
Interpreters and Translators $51,830
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $51,740
Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts $46,270
Announcers $39,790

Some of these career paths, such as working as a translator, a paralegal, a teacher, or a technical writer, may require you to take extra college classes or pursue additional training after graduation.

Is English a Useless Degree?

Author thinking while drinking her coffee

Not at all! Rather, English is a degree that can propel you toward any number of careers. Many English majors go on to jobs in media and communications. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s a field that pays an annual average salary of $59,230.

There’s no telling how far you’ll go with an English degree. The many famous people who began their careers as English majors serve as proof of that.

Their ranks include reporter Bob Woodward, author Toni Morrison and comedian Joan Rivers, as well as Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court. Other examples are doctor Benjamin Spock, astronaut Sally Ride, and politician Mitt Romney.

Can You Make Money With an English Degree?

Yes, an English degree offers the promise of good earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, working in media and communications, as many English majors do, pays around $59,230 per year. Some English majors become teachers. On average, high school teachers earn $61,660 annually.

One of the top-paying roles for English majors is being a technical writer. This job involves producing written materials on scientific, technical or mechanical topics. Instruction manuals are one example. The average annual salary for technical writers is $72,850.

What Jobs Can You Get With an English Degree?

English teacher teaching her students online

There’s no limit to what you can do with an English degree! English majors have found success in nearly every sector. Communications is a great field to pursue. You could work as a writer, a reporter, or a translator.

Some English majors get jobs in the business and nonprofit sectors. If that interests you, think about a career in public relations or grant writing. Surprisingly, you might even get a science job with your English degree thanks to your research and writing skills.

Don’t forget about education! This degree may help you become a junior high or high school English teacher.

Is English a Good Major?

Public Relations Specialist working in the office

For those who are interested in words and language, English can be a great degree program. During your studies, you’ll get to read and analyze many books, poems and plays. You’ll also have many opportunities to practice your communication and writing skills.

By the time you graduate, you should be able to bill yourself as a talented communicator, a critical thinker, a careful researcher, and a creative problem-solver. With those skills on your resume, you could pursue jobs in media, government, business, education, science, publishing, or law.

What Can You Do With an English Degree?

Writer working in a cafe

You can pursue a wide range of careers with an English degree. If you want to be a writer, a degree in English can help you get there. You can do other language-related jobs as well, such as editing, reporting, interpreting or teaching. Your job options won’t be limited to the communications sector, though.

Because of your strong grasp of language, your critical thinking skills, and your understanding of culture, you might be well suited for jobs or graduate studies in science, business, government, politics, criminal justice, or healthcare.

Getting Your English Degree Online

English Degree student studying online

A bachelor’s degree in English may serve as your entry ticket to many different careers. As you study literature and writing, you’ll develop your ability to communicate clearly, analyze critically, and persuade effectively.

Whether you want to be a writer or an editor, a reporter or an announcer, a public relations specialist or a teacher, an English degree can help you get where you want to go. English majors can find work right out of college or pursue graduate studies in various fields.

Explore university opportunities and submit applications to be on your way to a meaningful, career-building English degree.

James Chen
WRITTEN BY
James Chen