Whenever you tell someone you’re a college student, the first thing they’re going to ask you is either what institution you attend or your major. When one of those doesn’t satisfy their standards, they’re going to ask you what you plan on actually doing with your life. Even though I’m a student at one of the most respected universities in the world, I still get disdainful looks when I admit that I’m an English major. People immediately ask me what I’m going to do with that. Almost every individual I encounter in this manner assumes I’m going to be a teacher, just like everyone assumes a political science major is going to be a lawyer or a biology major is going to be a doctor.
Newsflash: there are quite a lot of career options out there. Today, I’d like to highlight some of the various places you can go with an English degree.
Being an English major teaches you a lot about good writing and bad writing and how to turn the former into the latter. Being an editor comes naturally following graduation. This can take a lot of forms. Every piece of published writing has an editor, whether that is a long form magazine piece on politics, breaking news pieces, novels, and even marketing emails. Being an editor is a great way to combine your hobbies with your career.
Though English majors may not always want to be public speakers, they’ve written enough in their four years of college and picked up enough outside knowledge that they can write speeches for others to give. Your favorite politician probably wasn’t an English major. They need people with great writing skills to make them more marketable to an audience. That’s where you could come in.
While political science might be the most obvious choice to pick if you’re imagining a future in law, there is no real “pre-law” track. Law schools are often looking to fill their incoming classes with people from diverse backgrounds and majors. Law requires being a good writer and the skills you learn from the English major will suit you well when you’re drafting your first amicus brief or opening statement. Not to mention, it will allow you to analytically analyze all the documents you come across.
It’s a natural transition to go from an English major to a writing job, but many people don’t look to journalism if that wasn’t their major. For example, my university offers a singular journalism class so I don’t exactly feel prepared to be a real journalist, but I’ve learned a lot about writing through the years. I also know that I can learn the format on the job. Being a journalist is all about sniffing out the story, which people are used to doing in novels and poems. Also, creating a lede is a lot like writing a thesis statement.