Is English a Good Major? [2021 Guide]

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If you enjoy words and books, it seems only natural to ask yourself, “Is English a good major?” Majoring in English may be a strategic move that opens up a wide range of career opportunities.

English major

Getting an English major is about more than becoming an expert in composition, literature, and grammar. In studying for an English degree, you may work on developing your skills in communication, critical thinking, and persuasion.

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The skills you may acquire through an English degree program may come in handy in many different lines of work.

Is English a Good Major?

writer working in library

Yes, English is a good major for many undergraduate students. Jobs in media and communication field are projected to grow at a rate of 4% in the next 10 years (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Common careers in this field include reporter, writer, editor, public relations specialist, and language arts teacher.

English can be a useful degree program because it helps equip you with skills that may be applicable across many industries. You may learn to think critically about information and situations, articulate your thoughts clearly, and use proper writing techniques.

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Getting an English major won’t lock you into a career as a professional grammarian. While publishing and teaching may be promising fields for you, careers for English majors may also be available in sectors like journalism, business, and nonprofit administration.

Plus, a bachelor’s degree in English may be an asset for professional graduate studies. Many students choose undergraduate English studies as preparation for law school, medical school, library science studies, or Master of Business Administration programs.

English Major Curriculum

English major students in university

Topics you’ll study for an English degree may include literature, grammar, and writing. These courses may help enhance your skills in research, critical analysis, and persuasion. Classes may include:

  • American Authors
  • British Literature
  • Creative Writing
  • Fundamentals of Journalism
  • Global Literature
  • Grammar of the English Language
  • Literary Analysis
  • Research for Writing
  • Shakespearean Literature
  • Writing for Business Settings

For a major in English, you may have the option to select quite a few elective courses. For example, you might choose classes about works of literature that come from time periods, areas of the world, or genres that particularly interest you.

5 Things You Can Do with an English Degree

Technical Writer working

English degrees may take you far. The following five careers involve interesting responsibilities, pay impressive salaries, or have promising growth potential.

1. Technical Writer

Instruction manuals and other technical documents need to be written with clarity and accuracy so that readers can understand and apply the information.

Pairing strong language skills with a keen understanding of science or engineering might lead to success as a technical writer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that technical writing jobs are growing at a 7% rate. Those who work in the publishing industry make an average salary of $74,650 per year.

2. Editor

Editor working in office

The job of an editor is to prepare materials like books, newspapers, and magazines to make them ready for print. Editors may also review online media. Many editors work for publishing companies, but some offer their services as freelancers.

Working in this field typically involves beginning with entry-level positions as a proofreader or an assistant. Advancing in the field may even lead to roles as a managing or executive editor.

3. Public Relations Specialist

Public Relations Specialist' team in meeting

Public relations specialists represent their organizations to the public. They may deliver press releases, maintain social media accounts, and partner with members of the advertising team.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions for PR specialists are growing at a 7% rate. Plus, experience might lead to a PR management position. That role pays an average annual salary of $118,430.

4. High School Language Arts Teacher

Educators have the joy of sparking in their students a love of books, language, and learning. English majors with teaching certificates often teach reading, writing, or speech courses.

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Language arts teaching positions are often available at any grade level, but high school teachers, on average, make more than elementary or middle school instructors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists an average annual salary of $62,870 for public high school teachers.

5. Reporter

Journalists interview subjects, investigate topics, and prepare reports to share current events and other happenings with the public. Reporters may work for newspapers, television networks, radio stations, websites, and other media services.

The average pay for reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts is $49,300, but the top earners in the field may earn over $127,370 each year (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Journalists in radio and television typically earn more than those in printed media.

English Major Careers

English Major Careers

Some English majors choose a career path that closely aligns with their educational background. Others branch out and use their communications skills to enhance other fields.

If writing is your passion, you may pursue a job in journalism. Your job might involve investigating stories, writing articles, or editing the pieces. On-air reporting might also appeal to you.

Publishing is another field to consider. Writers may pen books or contribute to magazines. Technical writing may be a lucrative job if you have background knowledge on complicated topics, such as mechanics or electronics.

Editors ensure that materials are ready for print. Many jobs in publishing require working your way up through various assistant roles. Some students have a library position as their end goal. Becoming a librarian requires a masters degree, but you may work with books and other materials as a library technician.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, media and communication occupations pay an average annual salary of $61,310.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Technical Writers $74,650
Writers and Authors $67,120
Editors $63,400
High School Teachers $62,870
Public Relations Specialists $62,810
Middle School Teachers $60,810
Fundraisers $59,610
Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners $51,560
News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists $49,300
Library Technicians $31,840

Teaching is popular among English majors. Instructors with English backgrounds are especially beneficial at the junior high and high school levels. Teacher certification is required to teach in most schools.

You may also expand into other fields, such as business and nonprofit work. Clear communication is critical for success in public relations, social media management, grant writing, fundraising, and event planning.

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In addition to potentially leading you straight into a long-term career, an English degree may also serve as the foundation for professional graduate studies. You may have many more opportunities in your career with a graduate degree. So, for many students, earning a masters in English is worth it.

Fields to consider include law, business, and medicine. Your communication abilities and critical-thinking skills may serve you well in any of those disciplines.

How to Know If a Degree in English Is Right for You

Degree in English student

English is a versatile degree that may take you in a variety of directions. It’s also a program in which many different students may find success.

Signs that you might enjoy majoring in English include:

  • Creativity and passion for self-expression
  • Desire for a flexible degree with many career options
  • Interest in literature from different times and places
  • Strong grasp of language mechanics

An English degree can be useful and versatile, but there are other majors you can choose from, depending on your career goals. If you’re certain of your future career path—for example, public relations or education—you might want to consider a specialized degree in that field rather than a broader degree in English.

What Do English Majors Do?

English teacher teaching

English majors may find work wherever speaking, writing, and critical-thinking skills are needed. In other words, English majors might work nearly anywhere!

Common lines of work for English graduates include publishing, journalism, public relations, library services, and grant writing. Specific jobs you could pursue might include editorial assistant, newspaper reporter, freelance writer, and social media manager.

Teaching language arts to middle school or high school students may be another career option to consider. For teaching roles, you may take classes from the education department as well as the English department and seek certification from your state.

Is English a Hard Major?

English major students attending university

Much of your time in an English degree program will likely be spent on reading, analyzing texts, and writing.

If reading and writing are some of your favorite activities, then you might find the courses to be a great fit for you. For those whose least favorite high school assignments were reading novels and writing papers on them, an English major might be quite challenging.

Also, you may be encouraged to engage in writing styles that are outside of your typical wheelhouse. For example, there might be courses on business communications or creative poetry composition.

What Can You Do with an English Degree?

PR Specialist at work

Some of the top-paying careers for English majors are found in technical writing, public relations, and editing. If you earn a teaching certificate along with your English studies, you might make a reliable income as a language arts educator.

Majoring in English may also help prepare you for graduate studies in a lucrative field, such as law or business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers make an average of $126,930 each year. Top business executives earn an average annual salary of $107,680.

Should I Major in English?

Students who love words and the power that they hold may be ideal candidates for college English studies. Signs that you fall into that category include a passion for reading books, a desire to express your thoughts and ideas through writing, or an interest in analyzing the stories you read or watch.

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English majors aren’t always certain about what they want to do after graduation, and that’s okay. This degree can help set you up for success in a variety of career fields, including journalism, publishing, and public relations. You may explore your options during your bachelors program in English.

How Much Do English Majors Make?

Event Planner working

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that people who work in media and communication roles earn an average of $61,310 each year. Writers and authors often make between $35,880 and $133,460. For editors, the typical range is $33,620 to $126,800.

Having mechanical or scientific knowledge might qualify you for a position as a technical writer. With an annual salary range of $45,510 to $119,040, it’s one of the top-paying jobs in media and communication.

Another promising line of work is public relations. PR specialists make an average of $62,810 annually. A promotion to management might bring in anywhere from $66,740 to $208,000 each year.

What Is the Difference Between a Literature Major vs. English Major?

Writer working at home

A literature major focuses on reading creative works and analyzing them. The pieces with which they engage may include novels and poems.

Students in the English department take a good deal of literature courses, too. English encompasses a broader scope of study, though, so there may also be courses on nonfiction writing, language mechanics, and research.

Literature majors often want to become writers of some sort. While English majors can also pursue writing careers, they may also be good candidates for a variety of other jobs that emphasize communication skills.

Is an English Degree Worth It?

English Professor in university

Yes, a degree in English is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 4% job growth in media and communication jobs through the next ten years. Common careers in this field include technical writer, social media manager, teacher, journalist, and library technician.

Employers will likely appreciate the strengths that you may bring to the table because of your English degree. Those skills may include creative thinking, critical analysis, persuasion, and clear communication. You may put your skills to use in media, business, community improvement, education, and other job sectors.

The numerous doors that can open to you after you graduate can make earning an English degree worth it for many students.

Getting Your Degree in English Online

English Online

A strong command of the English language may take you far in life. If you want to develop your knowledge of literary works, bolster your writing skills, and become a more critical thinker, earning an English degree online can help you achieve those goals.

As an English major, you may find work in publishing, education, and business. Nonprofit organizations, libraries, and television networks may also offer appealing jobs.

If you believe an English major is right for you, you may want to look into the possibility of earning your degree online. Accredited online programs may accommodate busy schedules with flexible courses that lead to respected English degrees.

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Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.