It’s the big question that most English students ask themselves, after three years of reading relevant (and irrelevant) books, what do you do with an English degree after university?
Most people think that all English students have learn to do is leisurely read books as they overstay their welcome in coffee shops. I wish it was that idyllic (as reading books you love in your own time is), but it’s not.
Essentially, an English degree is about reading and critiquing someone else’s use of language, so how does that apply to a real job?
I was very aware that my English degree did not translate into one career and that’s precisely why I wanted to do it. The transferable skills (which will be your biggest buzz word when applying for jobs just fyi) from an English degree translate into lots of different professions or further studies.
It’s a broad stepping stone to stand on before deciding exactly what path to take.
Now that I’m two years out of university, I’ve been asked numerous times by English students (and pesky science students) what I can do with my degree. The truth is there is no right path or “one” path; you’ll muddle through and do what feels right to you.
Here are some of the ways that you can apply your English degree after finishing university:
Further studies to become a lecturer/researcher/professor
A considerable amount of English students go onto specialise in a period or theme of literature, often the incredibly popular Romantics or Medieval courses. From a Masters to a PhD to teaching or researching at University level, there’s lots of scope to continue to explore the field that you focus on in your undergraduate dissertation if that interests you.
A Masters – to explore or aid with a career path or interest of yours
Another reason to do an additional higher education course is to apply your degree into an interest or specific career such as doing a Masters in Creative Writing, Film, Journalism, Marketing or a joint honours (English and History, Psychology and so on).
I did a Masters in Creative Writing as I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to professionally do that. I didn’t know how to structure a novel or format a screenplay (still working on that one) so I thought this qualification would help me with that.
This has been useful for my career, but also I absolutely loved the experience and my Masters course. I met lots of wonderful and likeminded people and it was worth it’s weight in gold compared to some of my undergraduate degree! I’ve written more about the benefits of doing a masters here.
After completing a broad degree such as English, you could do an intensive conversion course and transfer your skills into another sector such as Law. So even if you change your mind about the kind of career you want after University there are still lots of options available to you.
In my experience (and my pals) these are the most common job roles for English graduates:
Whether it’s undertaking a PGCE or doing Teach First, teaching is a popular option for English graduates.
When you apply for a teaching position or a PGCE there is an English test and I’ve heard it’s quite difficult, so having an English degree will help prepare you for this. Also those good old transferable skills from presentations, group work, general organisation, analysing texts and general knowledge of social, political and economic principles feed into teaching as well.
Journalism & Publishing – Editor, Journalist, Production
Another popular career choice for English graduates (myself included) is Journalism and Publishing. An English degree is learning how to write in a specific way and continuously adapt the message from the research that you uncover. This can be applied to magazines, news articles or editing features or books.
If you’re starting out in this sector, you might find that you’re balancing the pros and cons of working for free. I’ve written more about that here. Generally, the best thing to do is to build up a portfolio of work, which could be on your own personal site and blog, working on a student newspaper or contributing to online magazines.
Marketing & Sales
In marketing and sales positions, you need to be able to write effective, persuasive materials to achieve a specific goal. You can do a masters or short courses to learn the skills for these roles or you can learn on the job as there’s usually training.
Everyone that I know that works in PR absolutely loves their job. It’s about effectively communicating with clients online and in person (and virtually now too), creating thought-out and interesting campaigns as well as problem solving and preparing for events, launches and new products. Again, this role is a great career path for an English graduate.
Copy Writing, Personal Assistant and Admin roles
As with all degrees to some extent, an English BA teaches you how to be organised, write professionally and work to strict deadlines. It also encourages you to think creatively about tasks, which is vital in these roles.
Creative Writing – Screen, Stage, Novels
The career path that the majority of English graduates aspire too is being an author, screenwriter, playwright or poet. You might think that’s far-fetched, but with an English degree you’re one step closer to that dream kids (at least that’s what I tell myself).
I could go on and on with this list of jobs that an English graduate can do as I would argue that you can apply an English degree to any sector. Just sell yourself, keep an eye out for additional courses online that might interest you and remember that there are so many options out there!
Are you an English graduate? What did you do after university?