CareersEnglish majors get good jobs. While English majors typically go into teaching, librarianship, journalism, editing and publishing, marketing and public relations, or law school, English majors can and do go into a variety of professions that aren't "typical." There are many options: see "100 Careers for English Majors" at Inside Jobs for at least 100 ideas.
Composing Your Life as an English Major at USCB
The English major at USCB will cultivate in you a broad cultural awareness and the ability to read carefully, think critically and write effectively in various contexts. The major is a place where we believe in learning for its own sake and wonder in the power of words to shape, change, inform, question, confound, and inspire. We value both the traditions and the new directions in American, British, and World literatures, the study of the language itself, the arts of rhetoric, and the craft of writing. It’s a place where we practice the gifts of hospitality — of listening and responding to writers across time and space, and to each other, too. We believe in reading a text closely—and then sideways. We also believe in drafts and drafts and drafts; we strive for clarity and wit, and hope for grace.
These are all knowledges, skills, and practices that prepare you for a range of life experiences and careers. By choosing a major in English, you are choosing some degree of openness and self-determination as well as some of the attendant uncertainty because it is exciting and because it gives you the opportunity to compose your own life and career. For these reasons, it’s especially important for you to be able to articulate and to demonstrate for yourself what you are gaining throughout the process, and be able to translate the good work you do into languages that people outside the “English club” can understand.
What follows here are a series of observations about how best to cross over, and this starts your first year at USCB. Some of these may inspire you to write your thoughts down. Do it: draft, draft, draft. Also know you are not alone in this process—forge relationships with your professors and with other English and humanities majors. Ask questions. Come see us.
Plot Your Course(s).
Aristotle claimed that all good plots have a beginning, a middle, and an end. What destination do you envision for your career? Are you planning on getting a full-time job as soon as you finish the B.A.? Or do you want to go graduate school? (In what field? Straight away, or after some time working?) What steps, credentials, experiences, skills, do you need to gain along the way, and how you envision gaining them? What courses at USCB do you need to take? Do you want to add a minor, or get a double major? What kinds of organizations, clubs, internships, and work experiences will best set you up for your next step? What standardized tests do you need to take (LSAT, GRE, GMAT)? When are grad school application deadlines? Who is going to write your reference letters (ask early)? These are all topics for discussion in the advising session you will have each semester with an English faculty member—and you can participate in periodic workshops hosted by English faculty and Career Services throughout the year.
Robert Burns wrote that “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men / Gang aft agley,” which is to say, often go awry, so it’s good to be open to new experiences. Sometimes it is simply good to explore, to dive in, and to get lost. Don’t be surprised if you change your mind about the course you have carefully plotted. What is your Plan B? Just revise.
Know the Facts about Economic and Employment Outcomes.
There are clear economic arguments and practical reasons for getting a degree in English. [Read More]
Seek Professionalizing Experiences.
The conventional wisdom also doesn’t take into account what you will do, the path youwill take, the skills that you are acquiring, and your values. Because you are not merely a data point, the experiences you get in college are particularly important, as is the practice you get in translating your knowledge, skills, and experiences to the world. Seek out public-facing work, work with teams, and manage projects:
- Pursue a Writing Concentration within the major.
- Join the editorial and publication staffs of The Pen, USCB’s creative writing journal, or The May River Review, USCB’s interdisciplinary critical journal. Enroll in ENGL 211: Editing and Publishing Practicum, a one-credit course that can be taken multiple times, and learn and practice the craft.
- Do an ENGL 466: Writing Internship with local or national organizations or businesses and take professional writing courses such as ENGL 460: Advanced Writing, ENGL 461: Writing in the Health Professions, ENGL 462: Technical Writing, and ENGL 463: Business Writing, to practice writing and communication outside of the academy.
- Become a Writing Center tutor.
- Seek for ways to turn classroom research projects into public-facing work: library / museum exhibits, websites, podcasts, videos, presentations to community groups and USCB students who are not in English, theatrical performances, visits to local schools.
- Get involved with USCB Theater, whose work is inherently public-facing: if you don’t want to be on stage, get involved with the activity before and after the performances — the dramaturgical thinking about how to present a text on stage, the promotion, marketing, and community education efforts.
- Get involved with and be a leader for one of the student organizations hosted by the Department of English and Theater: Sigma Tau Delta (our local chapter of the International English Honors Society), the Society of Creative Writers (who organize readings and publish The Pen), Rogues and Vagabonds (the student theater club), and The Sturdy Beggars (the student improv troupe.)
- Get involved with and be a leader for clubs and organizations outside of English and Theater. You will find that people value you for your creativity as well as your writing expertise, and the work you do outside of English and Theater circles will help you clarify for yourself what it is you have to offer.
- Pursue a totally different academic minor, or take classes in more professionalizing fields: business, media arts, computational science, and health promotions, for example. Become more adept at Spanish or French. If you can handle math, don’t just take the easiest math and forget about it. Learn how to do basic statistics, use spreadsheets, design websites, do basic economic analysis, or read financial statements.
- Present your work at USCB’s Student Research and Scholarship Day or the annual conference organized by our local Sigma Tau Delta chapter.
If You Intend to Continue Your Education, Prepare for It Now
- Study for the standardized tests. English majors tend to do well on the verbal and writing (if tested) parts of exams like the GRE, the GMAT (for business schools), the MCAT (for medical school), and the LSAT (for law school). And business schools, law schools, and medical schools are seeking students of diverse academic backgrounds, including humanities degrees.
- If you are considering a graduate degree in English, you may have to take the GRE subject test in Literature, and to prepare, you should take all the literature courses you can.
- Write a thesis or an honors thesis.
- Qualify for, and join, our chapter of Sigma Tau Delta.
- Graduate programs are widely different, even within the same discipline. Explore different programs—look for their job placement rates, figure out what kind of financial support they provide, read up on the faculty there (are they doing work you are interested in doing?). Consider how far you are willing to travel (look at USC Columbia, but don’t just look at USC).
- Stay on top of deadlines — application processes often start the Fall before the year you would begin the program. You may need writing samples, statements of intent, and letters of recommendation.
- Discuss this all with an academic advisor.
- Write and revise resumes and cover letters. Attend workshop offered by the department and by Career Services.
- Join LinkedIn.
- Contact alumni from USCB (go to our group on LinkedIn or our Facebook page) and people working in the field you want to go into: ask them out for coffee, offer to buy their coffee (they’ll buy your coffee anyway and give you advice).
- Research organizations and businesses that do the kind of work you want to do — show you have done that research when contacting them.
- Find a mentor: Read Karen Burns, "13 Tips on Finding a Mentor" (2010), U. S. News and World Report, and; Taunee Besson, "Finding the Right Professional Mentor," CareerCast.