Careers for English Majors

Contrary to all those annoying jokes you've heard, English is an excellent preparation for many kinds of careers.

Unlike narrow job-training, the study of the humanities (English, Philosophy, History, Classics) is intended to broaden our knowledge of human life, human achievements, and human potential through deep study of human culture. The humanities are not intended as specialized training for specific careers. Still, humanisitic study is a powerful way to develop abilities such as reasoning, interpretaion, research, and written and oral communication. These abilities are highly valued in the world of work.

People usually major in English because they have a passion for literature or writing. They believe that by studying what they love, they'll do better in college than if they chose a subject less appealing to them. This is an excellent rationale. But they (and their families) also hope that their English major will have practical value. They often ask, "Is English a practical major for people who don't intend to teach?"

About 30% of our English majors earn teaching certificates. The vast majority go into other fields. Some of these are traditionally associated with English, such as book publishing, magazine and newspaper journalism, and librarianship. But most English majors go into the larger world of business, government, and nonprofit organizations. When we have invited our graduates back to campus to discuss their careers, we've found that many of them have writing-related jobs in corporate communications as diverse as Valley National Bank and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. English majors, in fact, often get first jobs quite similar to those of business majors. Although they might start out somewhat lower on the pay scale, they can sometimes advance faster and further because of their superior writing, speaking, and research abilities.  English majors know how to learn, and how to communicate what they've learned.  They develop the ability to appreciate and interpret complex and subtle texts (including films) and communicate the results of their analysis. By the time they graduate, most have become exceptionally good at these operations. Often they don't how good they are until they discover that, at work, people keep coming to them with questions about writing and interpretation.

Analysis, interpretation, and communication are highly valued in many professions and careers. Business is only one example. Here's another. Although we don't specifically train our students for legal careers, students who go on to law school find that what they learned in English classes applies directly to studying and practicing law--although the texts they interpret change from novels and poems to laws and contracts. One scholar in our field, Robert Scholes, has said that what English majors learn is "textual power"--the ability to understand and appreciate texts created by others and the ability to create texts that successfully communicate to others.

Although some faculty advisors may feel unqualified to offer career advice--except about becoming a professor--many actually do have relevant job experience they can share with you. Before becoming a professor, your advisor may have worked as an editor, journalist, or script writer, for example, and would be an excellent source of information if you're interested in such a career. Or your advisor might be able to direct you to someone else on the faculty who can help you learn about a career, or even to a mentor in the outside world. After you've discussed career options with your advisor, you should explore the many resources of Montclair State University's Career Development Center.

The Career Services

For all kind of information about careers, explore the Career Services web pages. You can also reach the Center through Quick Links on the Montclair State University Home Page.

Cooperative Education for Internships

Internships allow you to get real-world experience while earning money and graduation credits. This is one of the most practical steps you can take toward getting your first job because it allows you to learn about a field you're interested in, make valuable contacts, and accumulate on-the-job experience for your resume. Arrange an internship through our experienced and highly-regarded Cooperative Education Program.