Presently, there's a stereotype that all English majors want to become teachers. It can be almost guaranteed that if you tell someone that you are studying or plan to study English, they will respond with, "Oh, so you want to be a teacher?" I have experienced this dozens of times throughout my educational journey and afterward. People don't realize that there are so many more options for students who choose to make English their major.
To give you an idea as to what you can do with an English degree, it will be helpful to give you some insight into the types of courses you will take, because those courses are where you will gain the necessary skills and knowledge that will help you get jobs in the future. Creative writing is a common course offered for English majors, and you may see it in the form of writing poetry, short stories, and plays. Many courses are literature courses, like American literature, British literature, and women's literature. Some courses focus on the work of one acclaimed writer such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Hemingway. Linguistics is another area where you may learn about language structure and the history of the English language. Some courses are more specific and focus on technical writing, report writing, or research.
Now, let's take a look at some of the career options for an English graduate.
Journalists produce media in various forms. You could work for your local newspaper, a magazine company, a website, or a broadcasting company as a reporter, writer, editor, or researcher. Maybe you enjoy writing editorials or reviews. Maybe you enjoy interviewing people. Just keep in mind that journalism is a competitive field and it can be tough to procure an entry-level position, which will likely be an administrative/assistant role. It will help if you get some experience working for your college paper, or if you take on a summer internship while you are completing your degree. The more experience, the better. Most job postings will state that either a journalism or English degree is required in order to apply.
Careers available in the publishing field include writer, proofreader, editor, copy editor, and researcher. An entry-level position would likely be an editorial assistant. If you enjoy writing and reading, or enjoy editing content for grammar, punctuation, syntax, word flow, and clarity, then you may want to consider working for a publishing company. Publishing exists for books, journals, magazines, educational materials, and marketing materials. The only drawback is that it can be a very slow rise to the top. You won't be able to jump right from new English graduate to Senior Editor, but if you truly enjoy the written language and bringing words to life, then you will have a fulfilling career as you grind your way to higher positions.
Some more possible career paths for English majors include developing marketing strategies as a marketing manager, creating campaigns as an advertising account executive, and developing content as a social media strategist/manager. To have good marketing, advertising, or social media strategies, you must have creativity, knowledge of your audience, and excellent communication skills. To get a job in one of these fields, it is wise to have a blog or writing portfolio to show to potential employers.
Technical writing may sound a little intimidating, especially if you don't consider yourself a "technical" kind of person. However, if you've earned an English degree, then you possess the core skills necessary for an entry-level position. You'll learn the rest along the way. A technical writer essentially takes complicated, technical information and makes it easier for users to understand, usually in the form of user manuals and help sections. Technical writers work at software companies, medical companies, engineering companies, computer design companies, and more.
Yes, an English degree can set you up for a career as an English teacher, but you will have to pursue a graduate degree. You will also have to pass your state's teaching exams and apply for a teaching license, and there are continuing education classes you will need to take throughout your teaching career. You can also teach English as a second language and travel abroad. The teaching career path can be quite fulfilling, as you are contributing to others' educations and instilling knowledge into young minds and setting them up for success in their futures.
Maybe you grew up reading books every day and are passionate about literature and story-telling. Maybe it is your life-long dream to be a novelist and become a big name in the world of fiction literature. This career path may be the most daunting of the aforementioned options, and probably the least realistic regarding successful career paths for English majors, but it is a possible one nonetheless. A course load heavy with literature and writing courses can certainly help set you up to write something of your own, whether it be a book, play, screenplay, or poetry. It should still be noted, however, that is it best to have a reliable job in place and be financially stable before you begin chasing your dream of becoming a successful author. It requires a great time-commitment, and rejection is bound to happen along the way.
Majoring in English will afford you many different opportunities on your career path. Don't let others make you believe that there is only one route to take, or that English is too generalized or too competitive of a field. Use your degree and your exceptional understanding of the English language to follow your dreams and to lead you into a career where you enjoy what you do. Use it to help other voices be heard, and let your voice be heard, too.