As someone who loves reading and writing, you are probably wondering if you can turn your passion into a well-paying job in the future. And in your search for the career prospects of English degree holders, for sure, you have come across the stereotype that students in the social sciences, humanities, and languages are destined to a life of underemployment.
Research data, however, tends to say otherwise—in fact, a study conducted by Burning Glass Technologies (2018) found that only 29% of English majors stand a chance of being underemployed after graduation, as compared to 50% of those in homeland security, law enforcement, and related protective services, and 35% in the biological and biomedical sciences. This only proves that contrary to popular belief, English degrees open up a wide array of challenging and exciting employment opportunities in the media, communication, or education fields.
Whether you want a career as an educator, writer, editor, or journalist, the first step you must do is to take an English degree from a reputable institution. In this guide, we will give you detailed information about everything you need to know about English degree programs—from average college costs to degree requirements and employment opportunities.
An English degree typically focuses on the study and analysis of contemporary and classic literature, as well as their connection to culture, history, and other fields of study. It is mostly a reading-intensive degree program and covers the English definition and scope of literature, as well as the study of writing and composition. Throughout the program, you will be able to refine your operational, grammatical, and organizational skills. In addition, it involves the study of notable works in literature and the influential ideas behind poems, novels, and movies across the world.
Some of the courses you can expect to encounter in an English degree include applied linguistics, journalism principles, English composition, and advanced literary analysis. To help you become an effective and critical reader and writer, you will be exposed to a variety of films, poetry, theatrical plays, and more. Some schools also allow you to pick a concentration area for a more specific study, such as British poetry, creative writing, or other critical literary genres.
As an English-degree holder, you will find a wide range of career options in the literary, education, media, and communication fields. In these sectors, your knowledge of the English language and your communication and writing skills are most marketable and valuable.
With an English degree, you can explore career opportunities as an educator, news reporter, copywriter, or PR specialist. Some of the most common career paths for English majors also include elementary and middle school teachers, postsecondary teachers, and lawyers and judges (Data USA, 2019).
Source: DATA USA (2019)
The surge in demand, lack of state funding, and ballooning student services have resulted in more expensive college costs, according to one report by Business Insider (Hoffower, 2019). On average, students pay at least $3,440 annually for a two-year degree at a public institution or $9,410 in a public four-year college. And that is not even half of it—prospective students also have to consider other factors that go into the overall cost of college, such as room and board, textbooks and school supplies, transportation, school and activity fees, and other personal expenses.
It is no secret that college is expensive, and the biggest chunk of the total college cost mostly goes to tuition and fees. Hence, it is usually one of the deciding factors that students consider when choosing which college to attend. To support this claim, data from a study conducted by Royall & Co. reveals that the cost of attendance in college is the top reason why students opted not to go to their college of choice (Royall & Co., 2016). The study also cites campus environment, location of the school, and financial aid as other factors that affected their decision not to attend their preferred college.
Source: Royall & Co. (2017)
For an English degree tuition, costs will vary depending on the institution you attend and the degree type that you pursue. Add to that the kind of institution that you will be attending, whether it is public or private, and whether you are an in-state or out-of-state resident. In the table below, you will find detailed information on the cost of an English degree for associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral.
|School||Location||Annual Tuition||Accreditation||Graduation Rate||Notable Programs|
|1. Foothill College||Lost Altos Hills (CA)||$3,555||WASC ACCJC||56%||Associate of Arts in Accounting
Associate of Arts in Political Science
Associate of Arts in Economics
|2. Sussex County Community College||Newton (NJ)||$5,200||MSCHE||33%||Associate in Arts in English
Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts - Anthropology
Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts - Psychology
|3. Bismark State College||Bismarck (ND)||$5,499||HLC||44%||Associate in Applied Science in Human Services
Associate in Applied Science in Petroleum Production Technology
|4. Georgia State University-Perimeter College||Decatur (GA)||$4,050||SACS COC||13%||Associate of Arts in English
Associate of Science in Psychology
Associate of Arts in Film and Media Studies
|5. North Dakota State College of Science||Wahpeton (ND)||$4,484||HLC||51%||Associate of Science in Liberal Arts - General Liberal Arts (Transfer)
Associate of Applied Science in Information and Communications Technology - Web Developer
Associate in Applied Science in Pharmacy Technician
An English degree is perfect for anyone who is interested in language, loves writing and reading, and wants to explore the ideas that have always challenged and fascinated humanity. If you are ticking all of the above, then your calling may really be in the English discipline.
Aside from studying the interesting ideologies presented in literature and its interaction with philosophy, psychology, history, art, and other major disciplines, an English degree prepares you for careers in education, law, public service, and many other areas. Furthermore, the degree program does not just entail the study of literature, editing, and evidence-based writing. It also involves the development of analytical thinking and interpersonal and communication skills, which are some of the skills that most employers seek nowadays (Indeed, 2020).
That being said, an English degree could be your ticket to high-paying jobs in well-respected organizations. From working in the media to becoming part of publishing companies, being an English major can bring you challenging and exciting employment opportunities with room for career growth.
As an English degree holder, there are plenty of career options that you can choose from. The following section provides a detailed discussion on the employment opportunities that you can explore in the English discipline.
Taking up an English degree can be a risky investment. If you are not careful about your academic and career decisions, then all your efforts in completing the program can go to waste. A single wrong move on your part can squander your entire college education and employment opportunities.
However, the best thing about the English discipline is that it is an extremely broad field of study. Thus, English majors can be found in many sectors, especially in areas that rely heavily on communication skills, literature analysis, and English education.
For instance, many third-world countries are in need of more English teachers. A study by the British Council found that there are a total of 1.5 billion non-native speakers in the world who are studying the English language (British Council, 2019). In turn, there is a high demand for English teachers abroad, and this could give you a chance to travel and experience new cultures as an English instructor in foreign countries.
In addition, many organizations are always on the lookout for writers who can research products and come up with well-written and easy-to-consume articles to boost brand engagement. With each passing year, the demand for writers and communicators in various sectors has been opening up career opportunities for English majors.
For most jobs requiring an English degree, the average annual salary is $49,220. This works out to be the equivalent of $23.66/an hour, or approximately $947/week and $4,102/month (ZipRecruiter, 2020).
Depending on the type of job, the average pay range for English degree holders varies greatly. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that being a marketing manager is one of the highest-paying English degree jobs (U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). Individuals in this profession earn as much as $132,620/year. Meanwhile, authors and writers earn a median pay of $62,170/year.
There are four types of English degrees: Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral. Whether you want to get started on your English degree education or further your studies in the field, the guide below provides detailed information on English degree types.
Average time to complete: Two years
Mostly offered by junior and community colleges, associate degree programs in English provide an introduction to relevant study areas, such as contemporary literature, creative writing, and public speaking. Throughout the program, you will learn how to best express yourself through various oral and written outlets, and you will have a deeper understanding of the basic principles of communication. Most of the courses also involve conducting meaningful and critical literary analyses.
Furthermore, an associate degree prepares you for entry-level jobs in different kinds of workplaces, like publishing houses or media organizations. Alternatively, it also serves as a stepping stone for upper-level university study.
Entry-level jobs: Copyeditor, proofreader, copywriter
Average time to complete: Four years
A bachelor’s degree in English involves a multidisciplinary study of literature, which taps into related fields like psychology, philosophy, ethics, religion, and world culture. Some of the courses you will be taking throughout the four-year program include applied linguistics, studies in rhetoric, principles of communication, and English composition. You will also learn how to refine your practical skills in compositional writing, advanced literary analysis, and creative writing.
In addition, a bachelor’s degree program in English usually offers a concentration area, allowing you to focus on a specific field of study. For instance, you can find some schools that offer concentration areas on journalism, public relations, marketing, or education studies.
Entry-level jobs: Online journalist, marketing specialist, advertising staff
Average time to complete: Two years
There are many reasons why individuals decide to pursue a master’s degree in English. One is to gain specialized knowledge to advance in a particular field of study, and another is to climb up the career ladder and transition into senior positions. For individuals already working in the media and publishing industries, a master’s degree can help advance career ambitions to managing editor status or a higher position. Moreover, if you want to pursue a teaching career, most public institutions require a master’s degree.
As workplaces continue to evolve and become more competitive, data suggests that jobs requiring master’s degrees are projected to increase by 18% from 2012 to 2022 (U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). Meanwhile, a study by National Center for Education Statistics reveals that in the academic year 2022-2023, there will be approximately 836,000 master’s degrees awarded in the United States (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021).
In this additional two-year degree program, you can expect to come across courses, such as introduction to English research methodologies, literary criticism, and educational instruction in English. The program also gives you an opportunity to study English from a wide range of literary and linguistic perspectives.
High-level positions: Managing editor, university professor, instructional coordinator
Source: NCES (2021)
Time to complete: Five to seven years
A Ph.D. or doctoral in English is the highest degree you can earn to advance your studies in the field. It provides a more in-depth study of the subject and usually has intensive requirements for graduation. These could include a written thesis, exams, and teaching experience.
Depending on the school, you can choose from among many areas of specialization, which typically focus on the study of a specific era in literature, geography, or literary techniques. Compared to other degree programs, a Ph.D. in English is more research-oriented, and instead of studying coursework, you will likely have to conduct a study project and present a dissertation to earn your degree.
High-level positions: Editor-in-chief, news analyst, post-secondary teacher
Whether you want an associate, bachelor, master, or PhD in English, there are some requirements that you have to complete first. Below, you will find the most important English degree prerequisites and skills requirements that you will need to get started on your English degree education.
High school diploma
Most institutions will require you to present your high school diploma as proof of graduation. This lets the institution know that you have completed the necessary courses and are now qualified to enter a collegiate-level study for an English degree. In some schools, you may also be asked for your GED transcript or additional proficiency examination scores.
Regardless of which degree program you are planning to take, your grades in subjects relevant to the discipline you want to study will matter for most universities. In fact, university statistics from the National Association of College Admission Counselors found that 81% of higher education institutions place considerable importance on students’ grades in all courses (National Association of College Admission Counselors, 2020). Hence, you will most likely need to meet the required GPA to gain entry to a certain program.
Before applying for English degree programs, you need to have excellent grades in English language and literature. This is because some schools only accept an A-level grade in these subjects. Your grades in other humanities and arts subjects will also be considered in the admission process.
TOEFL or IELTS score
If you are a foreign student applying for an English degree in the US, you might need to take a Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, before admission to the program. This exam measures English language proficiency and is required by universities to ensure that you can cope with degree-level studies. In most universities, the required minimum TOEFL scores are from 61 to 89.
As for local students in the US, universities may require you to take an International English Language Testing System (IELTS). This is a proficiency exam designed to assess your ability to listen, read, write and speak in English. The test is graded on a scale of 1 to 9, with 9 being equivalent to an expert skill level, and 1 being rated as a non-user of the English language.
As an English major, you will be spending a lot of time reading various kinds of literary work. Hence, your analytical skills will come into play as you interpret and analyze the ideas behind notable literary works. To have a deeper understanding of literature and the English language, you will often need to conduct different kinds of analyses as part of your studies.
Writing expresses an author’s creative thoughts and originality of ideas and expression. Thus, your style of writing relies heavily on the kind of creativity that you have. Throughout your studies for an English degree, your creative ability will come in handy when you are assigned to produce written or oral content.
Verbal and written communication are both important English degree skills that you must have as an English major. These will help you deliver and understand information more quickly and accurately. Listening, empathizing, speaking, and observing are all valuable skills that you can use to broaden your knowledge of the English discipline.
From the study of literature and linguistics to journalism and composition studies, the English discipline certainly covers a lot of grounds. It is a broad field with various areas of study, which is why it is important for you to know exactly what you should look for in the English degree programs that universities offer. Below, you will find some of the important factors you have to consider:
Most universities offer a variety of specialization areas within the broader field of English. Some of these include theory and cultural studies, rhetoric and composition, visual culture, media and digital studies, and more. Taking a specialization takes the complexity away from studying a broad-ranging subject. Instead, you can focus on the specific field of study that you want to pursue. In addition, choosing the right specialization based on your academic strengths can help you achieve your career goals faster.
Graduating from a reputable university translates into better employment opportunities in the future. Therefore, many students consider the perceived excellence of an institution before choosing which university to attend.
Findings from a study published in the journal The Economic and Labour Relations Review found that “the response rate for applicants from well-valued universities is 40% higher, depicting a quite large market reputation premium. In other words, a graduate from a well-valued university needs to send out around 13 applications and expect one positive
response in return (Nogales, Córdova, & Urquidi, 2020).” In contrast, graduates from poorly valued universities need to send out more applications before expecting the same result.
As such, there are several indicators that determine a university’s overall ranking and reputation. Some of these include academic peer reviews, faculty to student ratio, employer reviews, citations per faculty member, and the proportion of international faculty and students (Research Trends, 2011).
In a study conducted by US News, the University of California-Berkeley emerges as the best school for English degree programs (US News, 2021). In second and third places are Yale University and Harvard University, respectively.
Simply earning your English degree is not a surefire way of securing a job position in your dream company. The secret lies in playing off your academic strengths as an English major and using them to your advantage.
After all, workplaces have evolved drastically over the years, and more organizations are now fixed on building their enterprise around the strengths of each of their employees. As published in the book Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham, data findings, which were collated from 7,939 business units within 36 companies, concluded that organizations with employees who feel that their strengths are used every day are more powerful and more robust.
Thus, to say that English degrees do not hold any value in the employment market is taking a plain, shortsighted view. As discussed in the sections above, an English degree brings to the table a wide range of career paths in various industry sectors. With their excellent written, verbal, communication skills, English majors end up nearly everywhere—from tech companies that need PR specialists, publishing houses with a great demand for writers and editors, and to academic and research fields in the extensive English discipline.
On a related note, you can also check out this guide to the top 110 best colleges in America to explore your options.