Career Opportunities for English Majors
The study of English opens doors to many careers. English majors develop highly valued skills in oral and written communication, research, and the ability to think creatively as well as analytically.
This major is considered excellent pre-professional training for careers in education, media, law, and medicine. Law schools and medical schools consistently place a high value on the qualities developed in the English major: broad humane understanding as well as articulateness. These qualities are also highly valued in training for civil service, public policy, and health services as well as for teaching and library science. Business also values English majors: excellent writing and research skills are highly portable.
Nature of the Work
It is difficult to summarize the work of those with a degree in English due to the broad array of career options they pursue. Presented below are brief sketches of occupations that require the English major’s skills in communication and analysis.
Production assistant, editorial assistant, and copywriter are examples of entry-level positions in publishing. Production assistants clip stories that come over the wire services’ printers, answer phones and make copies of material for news writers, editors, and program directors. They review copy for errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. They check manuscripts for readability, style, and agreement with editorial policy. Editorial Assistants perform research for writers and verify facts, dates, and statistics. They may help prepare material for publication or broadcast by arranging page layouts of articles, photographs, and advertising or by planning the use of films. They may also compose headlines, prepare copy for typesetters, and proofread the printer’s galleys. Some editorial assistants read and evaluate manuscripts submitted by freelance writers or answer letters about published or broadcast material. Copywriters write advertising copy for use by publication or broadcast media to promote the sale of goods and services.
Technical writers put scientific and technical information into readily understandable language. They may prepare engineering manuals, catalogs, parts lists, instructional materials, and engineering reports. Technical writers often are part of a team, working closely with scientists, engineers, accountants, and others.
Places of Employment
Again, it is important to point out that English graduates are found working for a broad array of employers in non-literary as well as literary careers in business, industry, and government. Nearly half of those in writing and editing positions work for newspapers, magazines, and book publishers. Substantial numbers also work on journals and newsletters published by business and nonprofit organizations, such as professional associations, labor unions, and religious organizations. Others write and edit advertising and public relations materials for advertising agencies, public relations firms, and large corporations. Some also work In radio and television broadcasting; others develop publications for federal, state, and local governments.
Thousands of others work as freelancers writing articles, books, and, less commonly, television and movie scripts. Wildest dreams of riches and fame can come true for writers, but most support themselves primarily with income from other sources.
Technical writers generally work for firms manufacturing aircraft, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and computer and other electronic equipment. Firms in the energy, communications, and computer software fields also employ many technical writers.
Many of the jobs listed above may be obtained with a bachelor’s degree, depending heavily on the type of coursework completed and experience gained while in school. Those job titles preceded by an asterisk generally require specific education and/or experience beyond the bachelor’s degree.
All prospective writers need practical writing experience and must be able to express ideas clearly and logically. Other valuable skills include creativity, intellectual curiosity, a broad range of knowledge, self-motivation, and perseverance. Editors must develop good judgment in deciding what material to accept and what to reject. They must also have tact and the ability to guide and encourage others in their work.
Technical writers serve many diverse industries, and most employers prefer some appropriate technical background, e.g., coursework in engineering, computer science, or applied science, as well as knowledge and experience in the craft of writing.
Valuable experience can be gained while a student through coursework, summer and part-time jobs, volunteer work, academic internships, and participation in extracurricular activities on campus.
For further information and/or career counseling contact the Career Services Center, Veitch Student Center, N.W. Wing, University of California, Riverside, (951) 827-3631.