We realize it’s frustrating to tell someone you’re an English major, knowing the next question will be, “English? What can you do with that?” We’ve prepared an answer for you: “Plenty!” In fact, you may have more options open to you than many of your fellow students who are majoring in fields far outside the humanities. A number of these options are listed below.
Consider a career in business. As an English major, you bring to the business world many valuable and marketable skills: the ability to read, understand, analyze, and evaluate texts in a wide variety of genres and styles; the ability to write clear, fluid, precise prose; the ability to think critically and creatively about complex problems; the ability to revise and edit the writing of others; and the ability to tell stories. As any personnel manager will tell you, such skills are in short supply. In addition, business in the twenty-first century has become increasingly global, so your exposure to the literatures and cultures of a variety of ethnic groups will give you the multicultural literacy required to succeed in this competitive world. Many CEOs of companies large and small were English majors in college.
Consider nonprofit administration: Nonprofits range from very small to very large, and typically they are the kinds of organizations in which people with talent can quickly move up. The communication skills you develop as an English major prepare you well to contribute substantially to–and even lead–organizations that make our communities better places to live.
Consider a career in government service. Former Wisconsin Senator Robert Kasten was an English major. Numerous state governors, state legislators, and members of both houses of Congress were also English majors. Careers in government, from elected office to agency appointments, require the complex language skills you are acquiring.
Consider journalism or publishing. Coupled with a major or minor (or even selective coursework) in journalism, an English major will help to prepare you for a lifetime of work as a writer and/or editor.
Consider a career in professional writing (including screenwriting and theatre). Management, law, and many other fields, including medicine, require expert language skills.
Consider teaching. Teaching high school English offers you the opportunity to continue to do the things you enjoyed as an English major. You will be able to read and discuss the finest literature. You will be able to instill your love of reading and writing in future generations of young people. It is true that the job market for secondary education English majors is highly competitive, particularly for those graduates who narrow their job search to local or even state-wide school districts. However, there is always a place for excellent candidates. English majors with additional background in foreign languages and linguistics may consider teaching English abroad.
Consider graduate or professional school. The English major offers exceptional preparation for law school, where skills in reading, writing, and critical thinking are requisite for success. It is also excellent preparation for an M.S. in Library Science, which would lead to a career as a reference librarian in a college or university. If you desire a career as a college English professor, then you should pursue a graduate degree in English. Recent UW Oshkosh English majors have gone on to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of Kentucky, The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Wichita State University, and many other institutions, including our own graduate English program. Earning an M.F.A. or a Ph.D. in English will take between five and seven years, and the job market awaiting you when you graduate will be extremely competitive. There are, of course, other careers available–such as those mentioned above–for people with advanced degrees in English.