What is the value of an English degree? Find out the truth about English degree jobs and how to make a career from studying English.
According to a 2022 report from Inside Higher Ed, the number of English majors in the United States has decreased by 20% since 2012, part of a larger downward trend that began in 1993.
Students are turning away from traditional humanities programs like English degrees as more students pursue STEM majors to improve their career and salary prospects.
Whether true or not, conventional wisdom holds that humanities programs do not provide good job opportunities. As a result, English departments across the country are revamping their course offerings and focusing on transferable job skills.
The Value of an English Degree
The stereotype of the miserable, jobless humanities graduate is just that—a myth—even though English students do earn less on average than those in STEM areas.
According to survey results, English BA graduates are about as happy with their benefits, job security, and advancement opportunities as people with degrees in other majors.
But according to a 2018 survey from Burning Glass, 29% of English graduates select employment that doesn’t require the degree they recently earned and that doesn’t pay enough to be consistent with their education.
A startling 31% of business majors are also underemployed, demonstrating that career-focused majors don’t always produce better employment results than liberal arts degrees, according to the same analysis.
According to the survey, degrees like business may hinder students in the job market due to their curriculum. Many of the professions with low underemployment rates, such as engineering and nursing, teach their students “hard” skills, such as the how-tos of practical tasks like drawing blood.
In contrast, humanities departments frequently instruct students in “soft” skills, such as effective communication and critical thinking.
According to Burning Glass, business programs may not adequately teach their students both hard and soft skills. Students are then left to build their own skills and apply them to their work experiences.
The soft skills, then, are what give an English degree its worth on the job market. Employers, according to Monster, have recently given preference to applicants who exhibit qualities like inventiveness, critical thinking, and adaptability—exactly the talents that are taught in expository writing and literature analysis programs.
What to Do With an English Degree
If you choose to major in English, expect to hear a lot of people—family, friends, and even strangers ask what you plan to do once you graduate.
Since it’s up to you to shape your own career path following graduation, it may be difficult to answer that question.
But don’t fret too much; English majors have a variety of career options available to them.
Careers With an English Degree
Many English departments have begun offering classes and sometimes whole specialization tracks in professional and technical writing. These courses teach students skills that transfer easily to jobs outside the classroom.
Students who study professional and technical writing can find English degree jobs writing technical manuals, creating copy for websites, managing social media accounts, or writing press releases.
Majoring in English can also lead to careers in education. Of course, graduates with a bachelor’s in English can find work in K-12 classrooms, usually after pursuing a state certification or a master’s degree in education.
However, those interested in more international endeavors can also find work teaching English abroad. Countries like Spain, France, and China offer well-paying jobs for college graduates who move overseas to teach English.
English degrees can also prepare students for work in a number of creative fields. With the advent of digital self-publishing, for instance, a growing number of writers have found success selling their fiction on websites like Amazon.
Others may find work writing for scripted podcasts, web series, video games, or the film and television industries.
Jobs You Can Get With an English Degree
- Teaching in K-12 classrooms
- Teaching English abroad
- Private Tutoring
- Communication or public relations roles
- Social media management
- Content creation and management for websites
- Professional or technical writing for companies
- Editorial roles at traditional and digital media companies
- Self-publishing through Amazon and other websites
- Scriptwriting for podcasts, web series, video games, or film/television
- Proposal/grant writing for companies or nonprofit organizations
- Freelance writing or editing.
Pursuing Graduate Degrees in English
Although there are many various kinds of degrees and career options, many universities offer graduate degrees in English.
A master of fine arts (MFA) is an educational option for those who are interested in creative writing. These courses take you through writing workshops where other students read and comment on your work.
Even though these kinds of programs are not necessary to publish your writing, they can help you develop your abilities and build a network of peers who are committed to supporting your career as a writer.
For people who desire to work as English or literary instructors in the field, [Ph.D.] programs are helpful. Even though Ph.D. programs aid in the development of expertise, these degrees don’t necessarily lead to employment opportunities outside of academia.
For those looking to teach high school English, several universities also offer a master of arts (MA) in English education.
Pursuing an MA through the English department of a nearby university may enable you to gain certification or result in improved job possibilities, depending on the regulations of your state.
Ph.D. in English programs with subfields including literature, rhetoric, and composition are often offered by research-intensive institutions. For people who desire to work as English or literary professors in the field, these degrees are beneficial.
When students are interested in the breadth and difficulty of Ph.D. programs but aren’t convinced they want to devote 5-7 years to more study, these institutions frequently offer a master’s-level version of the degree.
Even though Ph.D. programs aid in the development of expertise, these degrees don’t necessarily lead to employment opportunities outside of academia.
Is an English Degree Worth it?
Each student must ultimately decide whether they think getting an English degree is worthwhile for them. How much did you pay for this degree, and how much money do you expect to make after you graduate?
It’s true that an English major won’t earn as much money after college as someone with a different major, but that doesn’t make their degree any less valuable.
For starters, a BA in English is unquestionably the degree for you if you wish to follow certain careers: An English degree can help you become ready for fascinating creative options in a range of media as well as professions in instructional fields like teaching and editing.
Because employers are increasingly looking for workers with good communication and critical thinking skills, students who want to work in other industries can also considerably benefit from the capabilities that an English curriculum offers.
Even if earning good pay is your top priority, you should exercise caution when making decisions based only on projected salaries.
While a field may be in demand when you select a major, that doesn’t mean it will continue to be so throughout your whole career. If students don’t have more general abilities that can withstand changes in the labor market, they risk being underpaid or possibly out of a job after graduation.
A shortage of students pursuing Pharm.D. degrees, for instance, has led to predictions of a 10% unemployment rate by 2021 — a number that could increase by as much as 2% each year after that.
The American Pharmacists Association points out that ten years ago, becoming a pharmacist was a lucrative career due to shortages in the field.
In contrast to vocations like engineering and medicine that need industry-specific talents, those that require an English degree are less influenced by market trends.
Even if you decide to pursue a career that requires hard skills, you can think about minoring in English or double majoring in it to make sure your talents are applicable to a variety of fields.
In the end, students who major in English become adaptable workers with the ability to creatively apply their communication and critical thinking skills to careers in virtually every industry. Employers place high importance on the ability to communicate well and ask the proper questions.
Although it can be challenging to quantify the market value of an English degree, it is obvious that English writing skills are in demand.
Not to mention the creativity it fosters, whether in your own work or in a professional setting, or the personal enrichment that comes with learning the English language. The worth of an English degree is enormous because of these and numerous other reasons.