Whether you’re already an English major or you’re just starting to consider the field, you’ve likely heard the question, “What can you do with an English degree?” from your parents and peers. While people with liberal arts degrees are no strangers to skepticism from others, they continue pursuing their passions and achieving their goals.
Many lucrative and enjoyable careers exist for English majors — whatever your skill set might be. Yes, you can plan your career around your English degree and make a high salary while doing so. Here are 10 potential paths to explore.
Many lawyers majored in English as undergrads before earning their law degrees. It’s no surprise — the legal profession requires robust critical thinking, writing and argumentative skills. English programs specialize in these abilities, which is why many prospective lawyers choose this path. Many graduates assist lawyers as paralegals before pursuing legal careers.
While passing the bar is the first step to post-college employment, building your foundation while in school secures better positions. Take clinics for hands-on courtroom experience, and enroll in diverse courses to learn about the different areas of legal practice.
Lawyers spend countless hours writing, reading and researching. They draft contracts and courtroom arguments, and they study expansive legal texts. Though they thoroughly comprehend legal jargon, most clients they work with are unfamiliar with these terms. Lawyers must be able to communicate simply and effectively for everyday people with no law experience. Many of them handle clients through small private firms or governmental positions.
The Department of Labor projects this profession to grow by 6%, with 50,100 new positions opening by 2028. The median salary in 2018 was $120,910.
2) Public Relations Specialist
PR specialists make their clients look positive within the media. They create trend stories and press kits to grab media attention and persuade outlets to feature their clients. Most employers have a clear message to relay to the public — a PR specialist’s job is to communicate it effectively. You’ll spend a lot of time interacting with the media, writing client speeches and evaluating promotional strategies.
Some specialists manage individual clients like musicians and athletes, while others work for corporations. Any person or business displaying themselves to the public needs a PR team, so you’ll find jobs in this sector relating to interests ranging from politics to clothing brands.
Entry-level agents start by answering media inquiries and assisting with press events. Previous work experience within a business’ PR department can land you a well-paid entry-level job. Then, you’ll receive more substantial responsibilities — like speech writing and press release creation — as you climb up the ladder. Excellent communication skills — especially verbal — are necessary. You’ll write often while also speaking to numerous media outlets and coordinating events. If you’re an extrovert with a passion for persuasive writing, this profession is perfect for you.
The median pay for a PR position in 2018 was $60,000. Salaries are higher in government positions, followed by advertising and business. Researchers calculate the job outlook for PR specialists to be 6% from 2018 to 2028.
Editors are the backbone of any writing profession. They’re the final pair of eyes on any written work you read, ranging from books to newspaper articles to blog posts. An editor checks for grammatical errors, syntax mistakes, and overarching inconsistencies. While you may assume editing mostly consists of analyzing others’ work, it also requires excellent communication skills. You’ll collaborate with multiple writers and editors, especially if you work at a publishing house or magazine.
Breaking into the editing field calls for proactive networking, as entry-level jobs aren’t always abundant. Many editors start their careers in departments different from their professional goals, such as marketing. Once they enter a publishing house, they work their way up to editing. Beginning editors receive low-responsibility assignments like proofreading and correspondence, and they work under the guidance of a senior editor.
You can gain access to specialty positions after around five years of experience. This far-reaching journey is fulfilling for nearly any lover of the written word. More than 80% of editors reported feeling pleased with their career and lifestyle choice in a recent survey.
Salaries depend primarily on your employer. Entry-level editors typically make between $31,000 and $40,000 per year.
4) Social Media Manager
If social media is your strong point, you’ll succeed in this career. Social media managers build and maintain connections with bloggers and influencers to spread company recognition. You’ll promote your organization through various platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. The job involves analyzing engagement data, studying the trends of each platform and deciding what to post for optimal interaction.
Before social media managers put their plans into action, they write and present promotional strategies to colleagues and higher-ups. Since they mentor many lower-level content developers, people in this position need to understand grammar, syntax and style guidelines — which is where a well-rounded English degree comes into play. Writing for promotional channels is much different than writing fictional stories or technical manuals.
Your audience expects to be impressed, so you’ll have to discover what makes them tick. Once you do, the results are highly rewarding — statistics continue to prove users’ love of technology. Snapchat users, for example, consume 10 billion videos per day. If social media didn’t seem lucrative in the past, it surely does now.
Social media managers make an average of $55,199 per year, while higher salaries reach up to $90,000.
Journalism has persevered for centuries. Where there’s a scoop, there’s a journalist nearby. These individuals capture news stories while they’re happening, presenting all the nitty-gritty details to readers across the world. Many English majors enjoy lucrative careers as traditional news journalists, while others enter the field of commerce journalism.
Commerce journalists bring revenue to businesses by writing content about their products. They persuade consumers to buy the company’s goods using well-written arguments to hook them in. Marketing and writing merge to create a writing form similar to PR and copywriting but unique in its merit.
All great journalism combines objective content and authentic experiences. In addition to the skills you’ll build with your English degree, you’ll need to hone your interpersonal abilities, as interview subjects are more likely to engage with reporters they find easygoing and caring. Collaborating with fellow reporters is also crucial. Further, a background in coding or multimedia design has become increasingly necessary since most consumers get their news from the internet and TV.
The median salary of media correspondents in 2018 was $41,260 per year, although wages can reach $100,930.
Copywriters create written content such as blog posts, product descriptions, and emails. You can work in-house for a particular company or at a digital marketing agency for multiple clients.
Copywriting is much like commerce journalism — you’re convincing a reader to buy a product or try a service. Depending on the copywriting you do, some assignments will be more sales-oriented than others. Company blog posts and research articles serve as educational or entertaining content, while product descriptions explicitly sell goods.
Your audience is the main consideration of any piece. Who are you writing to, and why should they care? All successful copy is persuasive without being overbearing, and it reaches its audience on the appropriate levels. Whether your writing is formal, casual or humorous depends on your readers. Your English degree will prepare you well with the skills you’ll need to reach these different target audiences.
You can start a copywriting job soon after graduating with an English, as you’ll gain most of the required writing knowledge from your education. On-the-job training will teach you the specific style guidelines your employer follows.
Copywriters earn an annual salary of $51,234 per year.
7) Technical Writer
Do you read the instruction manual when building a new gadget? Take a closer look next time — a technical writer is responsible for its creation. These writers compose website FAQs, product guides and other detained documents by explaining how a product functions and how consumers can use it. Like lawyers, these writers must condense complicated jargon into a language everyday people can comprehend.
Technical writers are wordsmiths, but not in the sense of elegant prose — instead, they deconstruct intricate concepts with ease. As a professional writer, you’ll master conciseness — and user intent always remains crucial. Consumers should be able to grasp your explanations just by skimming them.
Many colleges offer technical writing courses as part of an English degree, giving you a headstart before hitting the workforce. Hone your skills by writing manuals or descriptions for existing programs and apps. Once you construct your portfolio, you can freelance or apply for a company position.
The average pay for a technical writer in 2017 was $70,577.
8) Freelance Writer
Wake up at noon, take an extended lunch break, and work without a boss hovering over your shoulder. That’s life for freelance writers, and this freedom drives many people to pursue freelancing as a career. Freelancing means avoiding the daily commute to a job site, saving you hundreds on gas and public transportation. A typical freelancer works with several clients, although some consistently work with one large firm.
You can freelance without extensive resources or experience, and many sites are available for you to advertise your services. However, it’s nice to have some work experience and relevant education — like an English degree — on your resume to appeal to customers. You’ll hone your interpersonal skills as you seek out and maintain business relationships. You’ll also need to have a basic understanding of various digital tools — 77% of freelancers agree technology has made finding work easier and eased their stress over financial stability.
Freelance writers learn core principles of time management, and they’re known for their self-discipline. Self-employment encourages you to take the initiative to improve yourself. You’ll also practice adapting your writing style to meet client needs.
Freelance salaries vary depending on the hours you work and how much you charge. Self-employed workers make an average of $49,293 per year.
9) Television Writer
It’s hard to resist the glamor of the entertainment industry, which is why many English graduates shoot for careers in film or TV scriptwriting.
Networking is integral to any job — and even more so within entertainment. With so many established names around, agencies want to know you have the necessary skills and knowledge. Sometimes a recommendation from an industry authority is all it takes — especially in such a saturated field.
You can kickstart your TV-writing career by composing a spec or an episode of an existing TV show. This script shows producers your linguistic abilities and lets them know you can handle an episodic series without creating plotholes. While you can still develop original manuscripts, specs for existing shows get you in the writer’s room.
Once you’ve secured a spot in the industry, you can practice shooting off ideas with others. Writers bounce thoughts around the room with lightning speed when coming up with episodes. You’ll need to develop storylines with little preparation. Feature films provide more freedom and pacing, so consider this avenue if the speed of TV writing doesn’t suit you.
Beginning TV writers earn $31,700 a year, while the average for senior-level writers is $85,580.
10) SEO Specialist
Search engine optimization (SEO) involves improving a website so that search engines will rank it high in results pages. Everyone wants to be among the top spots. Think about it — how often do you venture to the second page of Google results? The sites that attain this high ranking incorporate effective techniques. As an SEO specialist, you’ll help companies revamp their websites and marketing strategies.
Outside of your English-related knowledge, you’ll put your problem-solving skills to the test in this career. You’ll also need to comprehend SEO topics like keywords, user intent, and linking strategies. Fortunately, a wealth of information exists on these subjects, and they’re easy to learn. Many SEO specialist positions require one to three years of experience, which you can get from a marketing job.
The annual pay for an SEO specialist is around $52,310 a year.
Choose a Successful and Enjoyable Career
This list provides plenty of options for using your English degree — and you still have many more to explore. Shake off your fears and step outside of the box when looking for a job.
An English degree equips students with skills virtually every job sector needs — which means you’ll have no trouble building a lucrative and successful career.