“Oh, you’re an English major? So you’re going to be a teacher, right?”
Maybe you are an English major with the hopes of becoming a teacher, but maybe not! Wherever there is communication—whether it’s in the form of speeches, presentations, commercials, print ads, podcasts, broadcasts, instructions, brochures, press releases, newspapers, magazines or books—there is a need for people to create, edit and revise that content. And that’s where you come in, English majors!
To find out what opportunities are out there for collegiettes studying English, we spoke to Rochelle Sharit, a career planning manager at Northeastern University’s business school, and Deanna Rodin, associate director of Hofstra University’s career center. If your love of linguistics and literature has inspired you to choose an English major, here are a few careers available to you.
1. B2B content writer
What it is: B2B marketing, or business-to-business marketing, is used for one business to sell goods or services to another business (as opposed to businesses selling something to a consumer). A growing number of B2B clients are interacting with companies through social networking channels, such as Twitter, blogs and LinkedIn, and someone has to capture the interest of those customers through well-written content.
Why your English degree is valuable: With a little business and social media expertise, your English major can take you far in the world of B2B marketing. “As an English major, students can apply their writing skills to many business positions if they are motivated to learn the business or technical side of the role,” Sharit says. “For B2B content, [applicants should] understand the business benefits provided by the product to help make the sale.”
If you have a knack for strategizing and marketing, strong writing skills will help you flourish in B2B content writing.
What it is: Editors plan, coordinate and revise material for publication in books, newspapers, magazines or websites. They review story ideas and edit drafts, deciding what will appeal to readers the most.
Why your English degree is valuable: Editors must ensure that all written content is free of grammatical or spelling errors, so strong language skills are a must! As Rodin points out, “A major in English expands your vocabulary, enriches your ability to express ideas, teaches you to make complex material more palatable and trains you to become an efficient and effective communicator.” Writing skills are also important, as editors should be able to express ideas clearly and logically.
3. Paralegal or legal assistant
What it is: Paralegals do a variety of tasks in order to support lawyers, such as maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research and drafting documents. They may work in any field of law and may support a single lawyer or a large group of attorneys. TheAmerican Bar Association maintains a list of accredited paralegal programs.
Why your English degree is valuable: Paralegals must be able to document and present their research to their supervising attorneys, so speaking and writing skills are essential. Your English training will also have developed your critical thinking, research, citation and writing skills, which you’ll need in a legal profession. Your education will also need to include computer skills and the basics of American government and legal research, but your English degree is a great start!
4. Technical writer
What it is: Technical writers produce instruction manuals and other supporting documents to communicate complex information more easily. They also distribute technical information to customers, designers and manufacturers. Experience with a technical subject, such as computer science, Web design or engineering, can help.
Why your English degree is valuable: According to Sharit, technical writers must be able to “learn the product side to communicate to the reader of a technical manual.” In order to take that difficult-to-understand information and translate it for colleagues and consumers who have nontechnical backgrounds, an English major’s communication skills are a must. Technical writers must be able to think about a product in a way a person without technical experience would think about it.
What it is: Journalists inform the public about news and events happening internationally, nationally and locally. They can report the news for newspapers, magazines, websites, television or radio.
Why your English degree is valuable: Solid, effective communication skills cannot be overrated, especially in the field of journalism. “Yes, you might argue that all college students, despite their major, are taught communication skills,” Rodin says. “However, it is our English majors who perfect it.” Journalists need to be able to report news in writing, so strong writing skills are necessary!
6. SEO Content Writer
What it is: SEO (search engine optimization) content writing is a process of creating optimized web content to target specific audiences. Every website has a specific target audience and requires a different type and level of content, and it is the job of the SEO content writer to produce content that is relevant and searchable.
Why your English degree is valuable: Though social media skills are a must, “applicants need to learn strategies of using social media tools to draw customers to the company website,” Sharit says. To raise a page’s ranking and content relevancy for search engine hits, content has to be well written. SEO content writers are essentially professional bloggers who write with a specific client in mind, so great writing skills are necessary to create website content that will boost the company’s page rank.
What it is: Copywriting is essentially the bridge between creative writing and advertising. It involves proofreading and editing copy, creating ads, writing digital and print copy and taking part in social media campaigns.
Why your English degree is valuable: When it comes to sending a message, no one can do it better than an English major. “Every company or organization needs to communicate something to someone,” Rodin says. “An English major can help fill that role. There is more need than ever, with an increase in the use of social media and with an abundance of information available, to be clear and concise, yet interesting.”
Every business, big and small, utilizes a creative department, and your English major will give you the creativity you need to stand out from other applicants.
8. PR writer
What it is: PR, or public relations, is the strategic, marketing-based field that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the public. PR writers create company newsletters, press releases and content for social media. The writer’s responsibilities include media relations, publicity and reputation management of an organization.
Why your English degree is valuable: Since PR requires you to be a mediator between the public and your organization, strong oral and communication skills are important. PR also requires a strong background in research, problem solving and reading comprehension—all skills you’ll have acquired from your English studies.
Lucky for you English majors, you’re able to utilize several skills that work well within today's demanding business world. “There are a plethora of job opportunities where writing is highly valued, but almost none are done in isolation,” Sharit says. “To make yourself a strong candidate, combine your writing skills with something more by either learning on your own or through courses. Otherwise, demonstrate your flexibility and curiosity in learning new skills.” Expand your repertoire, and the number of jobs available to you will open up as well.
While these positions may not lead to writing the next great American novel, combining your creative mind with an entrepreneurial spirit can give you a career you may have never imagined—and one that shock all those people who told you a liberal arts major wasn’t practical!