What Can I Do With a BA in English?
You're more valuable than you think. The skills you develop as an
English major, such as writing, editing, problem solving, critical thinking,
are highly prized by employers in nearly every profession. In this age of information
and technology, the particular skills you've developed while engaged in studying,
analyzing, and writing about literature are in more demand in the workplace
than ever before. Employers in all career pathways consistently cite writing,
communication skills, the ability to work independently, and adaptability at
the top of their lists of desired skills. As an English major and student in the
liberal arts, you will develop these skills in abundance.
The difficulty is often the sheer range of choices. Unlike
a student of nursing or landscape architecture, an undergraduate English major
has not been trained
for one specific kind of work; instead, English majors develop a wide range
of transferable skills. It's probably true that no one is
going to pay you to write poetry or to research the roles
drama... but whether you're aware of it or not, you've been acquiring and
refining a large number of important workplace skills that employers of all
sorts place at a premium -- whether those employers are located in the field
communications, government, non profit, business, high technology, the arts,
health and human services, or law. This can make the task of career exploration
Career planning is a process, and it takes time. It begins
with self assessment (what am I good at? what do I enjoy? what's important
to me?) and research
into career fields, sectors or industries, and employers. It's a process in
which you'll attempt to match your values, needs, ethics, aspirations, talents,
and abilities with the needs of an agency, organization, or institution. This
page is designed to help you to begin this process and to access the resources
available to you at the University of Washington.
For further reading, check out English
Grads, Brilliant Careers (Arts
& Sciences Perspectives) and Reality
Check on an Old Myth: The "Unemployable" Liberal
Arts Major from the UW Transfer Newsletter.
Career Services: What Can I Do With My English Degree (PDF)?
What Do UW English Alumni Do?
UW English alumni engage in an astonishing range of careers from all employment
sectors and at all levels. For details, visit our alumni
profiles, or click here to view
a list of more than 1,100 unique job titles currently held by UW English alumni.
English Major Transferable Skills
This partial list of transferable skills developed in the course of the English
major is taken from the English Major Skills Workshops, presented by the Department
of English and the Center for Career Services. We encourage you to participate
in one of these workshops -- this web page is no substitute for the interactive
self-evaluation process that the English Major Skills Workshop provides.
working with others
meeting deadlines and managing time
understanding components of complex problems
managing a project from conception to completion
finding solutions to intricate problems
perceiving the world from multiple points of view
using original sources
summarizing and presenting information
analyzing texts and information
creating persuasive messages
using precise language
assessing an audience
drafting documents in accordance with guidelines
Some Typical Jobs for English Majors
Many occupations require an individual who can write and speak well, solve problems,
learn new information quickly, and work well with others on a team. This means
that English graduates use their education in a wide variety of fields, and your
future career may relate more to your personal career interests, work values
and transferable skills than anything specific to the content of your major.
The following list contains a representative sample of job titles of former graduates
with an English major. Use this as an idea list, and remember that it represents
some, but certainly not all, of the careers you might consider.
assistant copy editor
public relations assistant
radio production assistant
public relations specialist
web content developer/writer
human resources manager
advertising copy writer
market research analyst
museum collections assistant
public relations specialist
human services coordinator
special events coordinator
K-12 teacher (with K-12 certification)
librarian (with MLIS degree)
financial aid counselor
Some Work Applications of English Major Skills:
proofread and edit manuscripts
market and promote books
manage sales database
attend national bookselling conferences
"I felt competent editing and proofreading, even though I had never done it before, and felt that I was being challenged to grow."
Public Relations Specialist
write and edit press releases and articles
conduct background research
communicate under the pressure of a deadline
"I learned that the skills you gain as an English major go far beyond literary texts. The ability to think on your feet, the skill of being flexible enough to handle any contingency, and the determination to think through problems are all aspects of being a liberal arts major."
write reports of witness testimony
conduct conflict of interest checks
communicate with attorneys and law enforcement officers
"Our job is incredibly important, since we are the eyes and ears of the attorneys. If we fail to interview the witnesses properly or fail to complete our tasks, the clients lose their liberty/freedom."
Trade and Market Development Intern
collect statistical trade data
communicate with international clients and governments
recruit American companies for Canadian trade show
"My ultimate career goal of working for the State Department either in France or Switzerland now seems completely attainable."
Commercial Real Estate Intern
rent collection and billing
market properties to real estate brokers
draft listings, proposals, leases, and other documents
"My goals for the internship were to learn more about the commercial real estate business and expand my job to learn skills that could make me more marketable in the future."
Museum Collections Assistant
catalog and maintain museum artifacts
prepare condition reports on stored collections
engage in acquisition, evaluation, and preparation of new artifacts
"While my initial position was limited to running the admissions desk, I eventually was able to interview for, and ultimately secure, a position with the Collections Department."
Literary Manager Assistant
assist literary manager/dramaturgy
engage in background research for play production
review plays for possible production
maintain script library
"I have gained valuable theatre experience that I would not have been able to obtain in the classroom. I have been able to watch, and participate in, a professional theatre group."
schedule and assist with auditions
review audition tapes
research casting files for talent
communicate with casting directors, actors, and producers
"Just as when I read a novel and visualize in my mind what type of person the character is, my work in casting goes one step beyond to decide what actor could best embody that person."
What Can I Do to Prepare While I'm Still in School?
Visit the UW Center for Career Services,
located in 134 Mary Gates Hall. CCS has a broad array of services available
for undergraduates, including
career counseling, classes and workshops, employer panels, career fairs,
job listings and internships, campus recruitment, and much more. Make CCS
home base for career exploration activities. You can even post your résumé to
employers through their job web.
Go on an Informational Interview:
Setting up an informational interview with a professional in your field
can be an excellent and much less threatening
way to practice your interview skills and find out more about a particular
job or field. For tips on making contact (including a sample letter), setting
up the interview, preparation, and conducting the interview, click on the
link above, or see the CCS Career Guide (also known as the "gold guide").
Pick up your free copy at the Center for Career Services in 134 Mary Gates
Get Experience through an Internship or
Volunteer Work: At the most recent
series of Career Education Week panels, an overwhelming majority of English
alumni and other professionals working in related fields stated that an internship
had helped them to get where they are today, either through an offer of a
permanent job by the sponsoring organization, or through valuable contacts
they made, or through skills they developed which led to their current positions.
Employers value experience very highly: it shows them that you know what the
job or field is like and are prepared with the necessary skills. Even if you
are close to graduation, consider a quarter-long internship or a short-term
Make Contacts: Talk to faculty, counselors, graduate students, and your peers.
Get involved in departmental and college functions, lectures, seminars, workshops,
and activities. Some of the most valuable contacts you'll make in college
may not be apparent at the time you're making them. Networking is extremely
important: this is how you get information about career fields, find resources,
hear about jobs, get recommendations, forge key relationships and locate mentors.
A large percentage of professional jobs are found through personal contacts,
not through the want-ads!
Get Involved in a Student Organization: Consider joining a student organization
like the English Undergraduate Association or Bricolage, in the Department
of English, or the Undergraduate Fiction Writers Association. There is also
a vast and diverse array of student organizations on campus to suit almost
any interest. Not only will you have an opportunity to make contacts, but
you may also have a chance to develop skills like leadership, presentation
skills, and teamwork.
Take the "Navigating
Career Options" course
(GEN ST 350):This three-credit
class, offered every quarter, is an exploration of career options that
will help you to learn how to navigate your course through the vast
domain of job
search strategies and career possibilities. Connect your academic experiences
to your future career. Elements include experiential learning, individual
self assessment and processing, generating career options, group interaction/discussion
and journal writing.
Begin the Task of Self Assessment: Take the Strong Interest
Inventory or the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory through UW's
Student Counseling Center to
help you to identify your strengths and interests.
Put Your Research Skills to Work: Begin to investigate possible
career fields, employers, and jobs. There are many resources at UW to help
you with this
task. There are also countless resources beyond UW. Some key places to
start on campus are the Center
for Career Services, the UW
Alumni Association, the
Student Counseling Center,
and the UW Libraries
Attend a Career Fair, and Bring Your Résumé:
Career fairs are a great opportunity to see what's out there and to make
contacts with recruiters.
They are also a great place to practice your presentation and interviewing
skills and try out your résumé. The Center
for Career Services holds their annual Internships and Summer Jobs Fair and their Liberal Arts,
Science, and Business Career Fair in early April. They also sponsor a Minority
Career Fair every February.