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English Literature Major: Career Information for Recent Graduates

A degree in English literature typically covers coursework that involves researching, writing and editing. Find out about the career options, degree requirements, job outlook, and salary information for English literature graduates.

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An English literature major can look for work in a number of different industries, including education, journalism and public relations. It should be noted that certain careers require additional education or a teaching certificate.

Essential Information

The skills acquired by English literature majors are highly desired by employers. Cogent writing, critical thinking and creativity are widely valued assets in a variety of career fields. According to the College Majors Handbook published by JIST, the top three fields for recent graduates with a bachelor's degree in English are writing and editing, business and education.

Careers Writer Editor Public Relations Specialist Elementary School Teacher Middle School Teacher High School Teacher Adult Literacy Teacher
Education Requirements Bachelor's Degree Bachelor's Degree Bachelor's Degree Bachelor's Degree, Teaching Certificate Bachelor's Degree, Teaching Certificate Bachelor's Degree, Teaching Certificate Bachelor's, Master's Degree
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% -5% 6% 6% 6% 6% 7%
Annual Median Salary (2015)* $60,250 $56,010 $56,770 $54,890 $55,860 $57,200 $50,280

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

English Literature graduates can start a career in a variety of fields such as public relations, business and teaching. Furthermore, students who major in English literature can choose to become a writer or editor for online publications, magazines, advertising agencies or corporations. The creative writer can opt for a job as the author of children's books or novels.

Writers and Editors

Writers and editors develop material for online publications, newsletters and trade journals, as well as books, magazines and newspapers. Whether they write articles, textbook chapters, video game text or biographies, writers perform research, organize their material and present it in a style appropriate to the medium to convey a message. Editors review and edit writing for clarity, grammar, content and style. Writers and editors may work heavily with electronic publishing software, multimedia software and scanners.

Publishing and print journalism, traditional industries for English majors, have been experiencing crisis and change. Alternative markets and media, however, provide additional opportunities for English majors interested in working in the competitive writing and editing fields. Writers and editors work in marketing and communications departments in private industry. They work in electronic publishing, and they write and edit advertising copy. Writers and editors with a scientific or technical background can find many opportunities in technical writing and editing.

Job Outlook for Writers and Editors

Competition for writing and editing jobs is stiff, and the market isn't experiencing swift expansion. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), employment opportunities employment opportunities are expected to increase 2% for writers and decline by 5% for editors from 2014-2024. For journalist reporters and correspondents, employment is expected to decline 8% over the same period. Enjoying better prospects, jobs for technical writers are projected to increase by 10% within that decade.

Business Occupations and Public Relations Specialist

English major skills are useful in numerous business professions that require strong writing skills and analytical abilities. Many businesses are willing to train candidates with these essential strengths in the business acumen and procedural knowledge related to entry-level business positions. English majors write and edit grants, perform administrative tasks and develop marketing materials, among other duties.

Public relations, marketing, advertising and promotions attract many English majors due to the centrality of writing and creativity in these business fields. Public relations specialists strive to build a positive relationship with the public and other organizations through media presence and other avenues, such as community participation. Creative and media services departments employ English majors with talent.

Job Outlook for Public Relations Specialists

According the BLS, employment is expected to grow for public relations specialists at a rate of 6% from 2014-2024; however, entry-level jobs are very competitive.

Educators

With the push for educational reform and a weak economy, many recent English majors are exploring teaching through alternative certification programs such as Teach for America. English majors can also enter post-baccalaureate or master's programs to earn a teaching credential in as little as one year. With a degree in English literature, students may pursue certification as elementary teachers or middle or high school language arts teachers.

In addition to traditional teaching of English composition, grammar and literary genres, English majors interested in pursuing education can explore additional options. According to the National Education Association (www.nea.org), the number of English language learners has steadily increased since the turn of the century. This fact creates a need for well-trained teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL). Other areas to explore are educational research, reading consultation and educational technology coordination.

Job Outlook for Educators

The demand for elementary and middle school teachers during the 2014-2024 decade is expected to grow 6%, and there will also be 6% growth for high school teachers, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov). Adult literacy and GED teachers, some of whom teach ESL, could see a 7% increase in employment opportunities in the same decade. Variables such as grade level, location and subject affect job opportunities. Prospects are higher, for example, for bilingual and ESL teachers and teachers willing to work in rural and urban schools that have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers. Licensure in multiple areas and the ability to relocate could also enhance job prospects.

The career choices for an English literature major vary widely and can include positions in fields like technical writing, adult literacy and marketing. Understanding the competition in certain industries, as well as the type of salary to expect, are important factors in determining if a degree in English literature is the right path for you.

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