General Question

fujikohartlily's avatar

What can you do with an English degree?

Asked by fujikohartlily (35points) July 8th, 2009

I will graduate college next spring with an English degree. Why I ended up with this course of study is long and boring, but I would not have chosen it if I had had more options (or if I’d spent more time thinking about future career options). I have finished all the required classes for the degree, so at this point there is no point in switching schools so I can get a useful degree.

The problem is that I have NO idea what to do with this degree. None. It doesn’t apply to any job I actually have an interest in. But I can’t take out any more loans, need insurance really badly, and am too old to go for another degree anyway (I’m 32).

There must be SOMETHING I can do with this damn degree. Does anybody have some idea what use I could put it to?

FYI: I am not in any way cut out for any kind of corporate/business work.

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24 Answers

Frankie's avatar

As an English major myself, I can tell you that there are many options for you to choose from…some are pretty lucrative, some not so much. It all depends on your interests and strengths.
You should contact an adviser from the English department and talk with him/her about your options. They are there to help you, and trust me, your college and the Department in particular want you to succeed, as it makes them look better as a whole. Some colleges or departments even have job placement or career search programs where they will help you find employment with agencies who are looking for new hires. I think talking with someone in your department would be your best bet.
Good luck!

AtSeDaEsEpPoAoSnA's avatar

32 is definitly not to old. Be a teacher and just go back to school.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Sorry to answer a question with a question what made you decide to go back to school and major in English?
There may be a vocational answer in that.

fujikohartlily's avatar

I have no interest in teaching whatsoever.

kevbo's avatar

Teach English as a foreign language/teach abroad
Corporate communications (marketing communications, public relations, internal
Copywriter (periodicals, advertising, catalog)
Reporter (in a smaller market)
Any job that requires excellent written communication skills.
Admin assistant
Legal assistant

fujikohartlily's avatar

I majored in English at a small college when I was younger because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I got married and was a housewife for 12 years. Then, when I got divorced, I had to go to school, and I picked up the English degree again because I had so many credits in it, I thought I would finish quickly. I was wrong, however, and if I had known it would take me three years to finish, I would have gone to a school that offered web design and started all over. (Mine doesn’t.)

I have tried talking to Career Services, but my school is a science school that really frowns on its liberal arts department and is, in fact, trying to phase it out. No help from

Really, what it comes down to is, I went to the wrong school and got the wrong degree, and now I’m stuck trying to make the best of it, and don’t know what that is.

Frankie's avatar

Okay, so what are your strengths and interests? @Kevbo made an excellent list, hopefully there’s something on there that may work for you. Are you good with kids but don’t want the rigid and long hours of being a teacher? Then maybe you should look into tutoring. Are you a good communicator and a people person? Maybe communications of some sort would be good. Just think about what your skills are and how you could use them to augment the degree you have.
What sort of classes did you take as an English major? Were they mainly literature, or mainly writing, or something else?

marinelife's avatar

From Garrison Keillor

”...after a word from the Partnership Of English Majors.

Sue Scott: If you’re an English major, you have many advantages in this world and you ought to use them. The ability to express yourself readily, gracefully, sensitively, for example. An enormous advantage. When you go online in hopes of meeting your soulmate, for example. Sure, in the real world you’re not much to look at, but online you’re beautiful.

Garrison Keillor: (TYPING) As I sit here ensconced at my laptop and think of you, my precious one, adrift out there in this tedious drab uncaring world, I hope you hear the earnest palpitations of my voluminous heart.

SS: English majors have all the qualities women look for – intelligence, curiosity, a sense of adventure, and excellent punctuation.

GK: (TYPING) Would you deign to join me for a glass of wine, semicolon, if not, comma, perhaps, dash weather permitting dash, share an evening perambulation through the frost hyphen covered meadows, ellipsis.

SS: The man of my dreams! He knows how to use an ellipsis! I met a chemical engineer online yesterday and — there was nothing.

Tim Russell: (TYPING) Hey, wassup? wanna meet? IM me. Yo.

SS: I corresponded with a lawyer—

Tom Keith: Results may vary depending on attitude. Not responsible for disappointment. Prolonged exposure may produce severe irritation.

SS: I corresponded with a doctor—

TR: Meet you at noon—please arrive fifteen minutes early so you can complete the necessary paperwork.

SS: But my English major friend — Winthrop — what a peach. The use of ellipsis…..Words like “peripatetic” and “euphonious” — and nothing makes a girl’s heart go pitter-pat quite like parallel sentence structure—

GK: (TYPING) I enjoy gazing up at the heavens, writing limpid prose and looking forward to the day when you and I sit in the dark and watch “A Room with a View” at that little movie house that sells the espresso and organic scones. The thought of that rendezvous — c’est la journee, mon cher.

SS: “Rendezvous! Journeé!” — what a guy. I came on the information superhighway… and I found the road to love. With an English major.

GK: A message from the Partnership of English Majors.”

JLeslie's avatar

Just having a degree is part of the battle. No matter what it is in it shows employers that you finish things you start, that you can be focused, and going back to finish shows great strength and determination. You do not have to get a job directly related to English, although English will help you in most any job.

I think you will need to figure out where your interests lie apart from your degree. Maybe see a career counselor a few times, they might be able to guide you?

AstroChuck's avatar

Carry the US mail.

fujikohartlily's avatar

@Frankie yeah, @kevbo has a great list.

I’ve thought about editing, because I will be copyeditor at the school newspaper this coming year, but I am not sure, yet, if that’s something viable to pursue. (Old media dying and whatnot.)

Bascially, my strengths are writing and editing. I took classes in lit, though, because my university had no writing classes. (Like I said—it’s a science school.)

@JLeslie where would I find a career counselor?

kevbo's avatar

I forgot two:


cwilbur's avatar

Don’t think of the degree as the ticket to a job.

Think about the things you’ve learned to do for your degree. Think about the skills you have. Which ones will people pay for?

MrGV's avatar

You can go get into any medical school with it; if you’re willing to go back and take the prereqs

syz's avatar


kevbo's avatar

What can I say? I’ve gotten rusty.

wildpotato's avatar

Plenty. Look on craigslist. I have a philosophy degree, and had I gone with English instead I would have many more options open than I do.

@AstroChuck much lurve for bringing up Buk!

AstroChuck's avatar

@wildpotato- I was referring to myself.
What is Buk (aside from a town in Poland)?

Jeruba's avatar

Most people with degrees in English are not qualified to be proofreaders, editors, or writers. Those roles take talents and skills that tend not to be taught in schools and may not be possible to teach in schools. I speak as a long-time professional editor and proofreader of the work of many an English major.

For practical purposes I think you should look at the process rather than content knowledge that you have gained; for example:

— How to read a document and extract pertinent information
— How to research a topic
— How to dig into sources of various kinds
— How to organize and present information
— How to study and absorb content
— How to analyze written language

Many more examples should come to mind.

A significant number of prospective employers want to hire someone with a college degree but do not seem to care very much what field the degree is in. Generalizable skills such as those you have acquired in the course of earning a degree should equip you for work in many fields. I think you should try to decide what type of work you’re interested in and go for it regardless of your major.

In any case, your education is not for a job. It is for your life. Your English language and literature studies should provide an excellent foundation and framework for enriching gains that will see you through your life.

Darwin's avatar

You can always work in food service “Would you like fries with that?”

Seriously, though, you might consider scanning a copy of this book to get some ideas. If you want, you can buy the third edition here.

Basically, English majors can work anywhere folks need to communicate clearly or gather information. This site lists some of the many jobs English majors have gone into.

My sister is an English major. At first she made her living by repairing copiers for Kinko’s, fixing cars, installing drywall, editing (and translating) manuscripts on the internet, and proof reading the official records of the New Mexico legislature. Eventually, she did get a job teaching English to Native Americans. Now she is a tenured associate professor in charge of developing internet-based courses.

mammal's avatar

you really shouldn’t pick a subject that does not interest you,
particularly at 32,
why doesn’t English interest you?
was it English Literature or language?

wundayatta's avatar

First, join the Professional Organization of English Majors (POEM). Second, read this pep talk from Garrison Keilor. Third, check out this list.

Fourth, go to McDonalds!

wildpotato's avatar

@AstroChuck Buk, as pete kindly pointed out, is one of the greatest of all American writers and poets. For his short stories, try South of no North or Hot Water Music; for his poetry, go for You Get So Alone at Times That it Just Makes Sense or Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit; his newspaper column can be found in Notes of a Dirty Old Man. He also worked in the post office for a long time – his book on this was, I believe, his first, called Post Office.

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