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    English Major Overview

    By Zach Skillings

    Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: March 21st, 2024
    English Major Overview

    If you’re thinking about pursuing an English major, you may be curious about what you’d be getting yourself into. There’s a lot of different opinions floating out there about English majors, but we’ll cut through all of that and give you the facts. Here’s what you need to know about majoring in English. 

    What is an English major?

    An English major is a humanities degree option that emphasizes the study of the English language. Students in this discipline focus on the connection between literature, culture, history, and other fields of study. While working toward their degrees, English majors analyze novels, poems, and films, and from across the world. In doing so, students develop skills in reading, writing, active listening, discussing, debating, and presenting.

    Coursework to expect

    If you major in English, expect to take a lot of reading- and writing-intensive courses. Starting out, most schools require English students to take at least one introductory-level class focused on critical reading and writing skills. From there, English majors can expect some flexibility in their course selection. Along with studying novels, English majors usually gain exposure to other types of literature such as poetry, plays, and film. Some majors may focus on a specific concentration such as 20th century American literature or British poetry. 

    Below are some potential courses you may encounter as an English major:

    • The Novel (European/Modern American/Japanese/etc.)
    • Creative Writing
    • Drama
    • International Fiction
    • Language and Linguistics
    • Literary Theory and Criticism
    • Poetry
    • Shakespeare
    • Teaching English
    • Women Writers

    Opportunities after graduation

    Although some will have you believe it, English is not a dead-end major that leaves students with limited post-graduate options. A degree in English actually opens doors to a variety of graduate programs and career paths. Granted, your post-graduate path may not be as clear-cut as it would be if you majored in something else. But that’s just because there’s so many routes you can take. It’ll be up to you to shape your career following graduation.

    Jobs you can get with an English degree

    As an English major, you’ll learn skills that are transferable to a variety of fields. Employers value creativity, critical thinking, communication, reading, and writing – all of which are skills cultivated by English departments. Below are some popular career choices for English majors. Note that we’ve listed median annual salaries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that entry-level salaries are typically lower. 

    1. Technical Writer 

    Technical writers compose instruction manuals, help sections of websites, and other documentation regarding the use of products and services. They use precise language to make complex and technical topics easier to understand. 

    2022 Median Pay: $79,960 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 7% (faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    2. News Reporter

    Reporters research and write news stories for television, newspapers, radio, and websites. They keep the public informed on important local, national, and international stories. Reporters often have certain beats such as local news, sports, business, or pop culture. 

    2022 Median Pay: $55,960 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): -3% (decline)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    Also see: Top journalism scholarships

    3. Writers and authors

    Copywriters prepare marketing and advertising copy to promote goods and services. Their writing is viewed in places like company websites, blogs, advertisements, email newsletters, and social media. 

    2022 Median Pay: $73,150 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 4% (as fast as average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    4. Public Relations Coordinator / Social Media Specialist 

    PR coordinators create and maintain a positive public image for companies, brands, or individual clients. They write press releases, manage social media posts, and handle face-to-face engagement at special events with journalists and media professionals. Some PR coordinators may specialize exclusively in social media. 

    2022 Median Pay: $67,440 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 6% (faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    5. Paralegal 

    Paralegals assist lawyers by investigating facts, preparing legal documents, and researching legal precedents. They have excellent research skills, a keen attention to detail, and strong problem-solving abilities. 

    2022 Median Pay: $59,200 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 4% (much faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    6. Librarian 

    Librarians help patrons find books and other resources, conduct research, and set up systems for cataloging and shelving books. They’re typically employed by local governments, universities, and K-12 schools. 

    2022 Median Pay: $61,660 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 3% (faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    7. Fundraiser

    Fundraisers organize events and campaigns to collect money and other donations for organizations. They’re commonly employed by nonprofit organizations, universities, and some hospitals. 

    2022 Median Pay:$61,190 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 5% (faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    8. High school teacher

    High school teachers educate students in public and private schools, working with grades ranging from 9 through 12. Some teach traditional English classes, while some specialize in ESL (English as a Second Language). 

    2022 Median Pay: $62,360 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 1% (little or no change)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    See also: Top careers for English majors

    Advanced Degrees You Can Pursue with an English Degree 

    Many students use their bachelor’s degree in English as a stepping stone to pursue an advanced degree such as a master’s. From law and medicine to journalism, there’s a big range of post-graduate programs you can enroll in with an English degree. Below are some other popular choices: 

    • Master of Arts in English
    • Master of Education 
    • Master of Fine Arts
    • Master’s in Media Studies 
    • Master of Business Administration

    How do I pay for an English major?

    There are many ways to pay for an English major. One of the best options is to apply for scholarships. To start, you can look for writing and essay scholarships to play to your strengths. You can even look into scholarships specifically for English majors. We also have lists of scholarships by state, and a scholarship search directory to find custom-tailored scholarships to suit your needs.

    However, scholarships typically can’t cover the entire cost of your college education. You may have to take out loans to help pay for college. Those can include federal and private loans. Our ultimate guide to student loans can help you sort through the process and find the best loans for you.

    How do I know if the major is right for me?

    If you’re considering a major in English, ask yourself the following questions: 

    • Do you enjoy reading for pleasure? 
    • Are you passionate about writing and being creative? 
    • Do you enjoy learning about different cultures and historical periods? 
    • Do you value clear communication?
    • Would a degree in English help you achieve your career goals? 

    If you answered yes to most of these questions, then an English major could be right for you!

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    Frequently asked questions about being an English major

    Is it hard to get a job with an English degree?

    The answer depends on the job you are seeking. Many jobs that require only an English degree will be quite competitive. That is why it might make sense to minor or double-major for more job prospects. Even holding a certificate can boost your job search as an English major.

    Can I double major as an English major?

    Yes, it is possible to double major as English major. While many student choose another humanity major to double up with, some decide on a STEM major so that they are the ultimate rounded out student.

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