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What Is an English Major: A Foundation for Careers in New Media

What is an English major? The study of English has evolved over the years, but has never ceased to be important in many professional settings. The role that English students play in the workforce after graduation today is exciting and varied. In addition to developing traditional skills, such as exploring literary masterworks and learning to critique literature, English majors have opportunities to become talented writers with communication skills that can benefit nearly every industry.

English student reading book in library, education research and self learning in university life concepts

In today’s virtual landscape, where communication is more vital than ever, businesses and organizations increasingly turn to English majors to support their marketing,

sales, technical writing, public relations, and professional development divisions, among others. Increasingly, opportunities are growing for this versatile and rewarding field of study in the digital age.

Program Goals of an English Degree Program

For those who wonder what is an English major’s primary goal, the answer largely depends on the student’s career aspirations. Generally, universities offer flexible English degree programs that enable students to focus on specific areas of interest. A university’s curriculum may feature courses that include the study of literature from different eras and cultures, as well as creative writing, professional writing, English education, literary research, narrative arts, video literacy, communication, and technical writing.

Competencies Gained with an English Degree

English majors develop a number of highly marketable skills through their studies. These competencies are sought out by employers in fields including publishing, journalism, advertising, education, law, marketing, and public relations.

  • Writing. Because English courses train students to write compelling research papers, reports, analyses, and pieces of creative writing, English majors develop strong writing skills that they can apply in a number of professional settings. From persuasive and professional writing to technical and creative writing, graduates are well-versed in effective written communication strategies that convey complex ideas with clarity.
  • Rhetoric. Those with skills in rhetoric can make use of literary and persuasive devices like analogies, parallelism, and alliteration to devise sentences that attract and hold their reader’s attention. They might also structure their writing so that it tells a compelling story, makes a valid point, persuades the audience, or elicits an emotional response. The rhetoric skills of English majors often make their compositions stand out.
  • Communication. In addition to their strong writing skills, English majors are generally effective verbal communicators. Their competency in analysis enables them to read between the lines, remain sensitive to their audience’s reactions, and articulate their point with clarity. This positions them as strong collaborators and leaders who are able to clearly explain the needs of a team.
  • Application of creativity. English curriculum trains students to apply creative thinking to their communication and problem-solving skills. They develop unique ideas, find new approaches, and implement original strategies to connect with customers and improve their organization’s profitability. This outside-of-the-box approach often makes English graduates invaluable team members.

What Can English Majors Do in the Workforce?

Organizations are increasingly seeking to employ English majors as our digital society gives rise to the need for talented content creators and clear communicators. While computers and social networks rely on programmers and data scientists for their technical prowess, it is experts in the humanities who devise the content that keeps organizations relevant. In addition, English majors often add empathy, stories, ethics, culture, language, history, and communication to public dialogue and company conversations.

Opportunities for English Majors in New Media

ZipRecruiter reports that the demand for communication skills in technology companies increased by 77% from 2017 to 2018. A “soft skills” gap is present in many new media organizations, where the most sought-after skills include customer service, communication, and customer relationship management. The curriculum in English degree programs helps students cultivate these abilities and makes them well-suited for such roles.

Due to their communication skills, English majors may enjoy opportunities in professional education jobs with positions such as trainer, coach, and workshop leader. Other rewarding careers to which English majors are well-suited include technical writers and editors, who secure average salaries of more than $69,000 per year, senior writers and editors-in-chief, whose salaries average in the $70,000s, and editorial directors and executive editors — both of which average salaries of more than $90,000.

Additionally, they may find employment managing digital content or a company’s public relations team. In fact, PayScale reports corporate communications directors earn on average $128,000 per year, and students who majored in humanities-related subjects like English are 4.3 times more likely to claim such a position than the average graduate. There are vast opportunities in emerging fields for skilled communicators. While most undergraduates won’t earn such high pay rates immediately after graduation, experience can lead them to discover new opportunities, many of which are very well-paid.

While it may take several years of on-the-job experience to land such high-paying gigs, English majors find a wealth of fields in which to apply their talents. Along the way, they can tailor their skill sets to land profitable work in emerging fields.

Learn More About English Degree Programs

Never have English majors’ skills been more desirable for employers than in today’s digital world. Those who study English are in demand in a range of different fields, both because their knowledge is so widely applicable to a number of roles and because organizations have a growing need for professionals who can think critically, communicate effectively, and solve problems creatively. Graduates with bachelor’s degrees in English may choose to pursue careers in marketing, public relations, law, technology, and business. To learn more about potential opportunities for English majors, explore Maryville University’s online bachelor’s degree program in English.