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Career Information for a Degree in English Language and Literature

Mar 24, 2019

English language and literature is a great program for those who love the classics and want to spend their college years studying them. Graduates of a degree program in English language and literature might find work in the following career fields: writing, secondary school education or university English education. Read more here.

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Career Options for English Language and Literature Graduates

Having a solid grasp of the English language is vital in nearly every industry. Coupled with education in English literature may appeal to those interested in careers such as writing and teaching.

Writer Secondary School English Teacher Postsecondary English Teacher
Education Bachelor's degree in English, journalism or communication Bachelor's degree in English plus teaching program Master's or doctoral degree in English
Duties Research and writing Lesson planning, teaching, student assessments Curriculum planning, teaching, advising, student assessments
Median Salary (2017)* $61,820 (all writers and authors) $59,170 (all high school teachers) $64,910 (English language and literature professors)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 8% growth (all writers and authors) 8% growth (all high school teachers) 10% growth (English language and literature professors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Writer

Writing is a desirable and sought-after profession for those who possess abundant creativity and have a way with words. Specific types of writers include caption writers, copywriters and creative writers, each of which has a unique set of responsibilities. Writers begin the process of creating a written work by researching their topics using journals, books, interviews or personal experience. Once their work is on the page, writers revise for clarity and coherence.

Nationally, the median annual salary for writers was $61,820 in 2017, but wages vary substantially by employer and the writer's reputation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job opportunities are relatively abundant but competition is often severe. The expected job increase is average, at 8%, from 2016-2026.

Secondary School English Teacher

Teaching high school English and literature classes can be very rewarding. Many adults look back on their English teachers as the most inspiring leaders from their high school careers. Most writers credit their English literature teachers as major inspirations as well. Job responsibilities for high school and middle school English teachers include developing students' writing and reading comprehension skills, administering tests and evaluating students progress throughout each term.

For the 2016-2026 decade, the BLS reported that jobs for high school teachers were expected to rise at an average rate (8%) compared to all occupations. The median salary for secondary school teachers in 2017 was $59,170.

Postsecondary English Teacher

College English and literature professors or instructors are charged with refining the interpretive, compositional and critical thinking skills of their students through discussion and exploration of English literature. Many professional writers find teaching college English and literature to be a perfect position, because there is often ample free time to pursue individual interests and seek outside publication. The demand for college teachers, who generally must hold doctoral degrees, is growing as more and more people attend college.

The BLS anticipated job growth specifically for English language and literature professors is expected to be 10% from 2016-2026. However, the competition for these positions can be strong because of their relatively high salaries and good benefits. The salary range is varied, according to the prestige of the college or university and the teacher's experience and reputation. The BLS found that postsecondary English language and literature teachers made a median salary of about $64,910 in 2017.

What Is a Degree in English Language and Literature?

English language and literature degree programs center on the literature of the Anglophone world, from England and the British Isles to the U.S., Australia and even South Africa. In an English language and literature program, students learn about the history and structure of the English language, develop their writing and rhetoric skills and study the literary greats, including Louisa May Alcott, Herman Melville, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison and more.

Many book lovers choose an English major because the degree involves reading many types of novels, short stories, essays and poems. Students who have earned a degree in English language and literature might end up working in many different careers, from writing to teaching to academia.

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