English Degrees

An English degree is an excellent choice for people who are interested in crafting or reflecting upon the written word. English majors can work as writers, editors, publishers, teachers, in public relations, or they can use it to transition into other areas of study, such as law. English students are expected to develop critical thinking and analytical skills, and their classes often task them with studying literature and then writing criticism or analyzing the author’s meaning in an essay. By the time they receive their diploma, they should have the analytical tools to evaluate the written work of others, the ability to present their ideas or concepts in writing, and the intellectual and organizational skills to complete a project.

Classes and Assignments of an English Major

Some schools offer specialized tracks in their English programs, which may offer different classes. The most common specializations are creative writing, language arts, literature, and writing and rhetoric. Generally speaking, all English majors will have to take either college writing or composition classes, as well as classes that study historical literature. Yet the degree plan changes depending on the track. For example, a student in the creative writing program will likely take intermediate and advanced fiction, non-fiction, and poetry classes, while a literature student could take rhetorical history, literary criticism, and advanced expository writing. But although there are differences, most English students will read and analyze or criticize written works and write essays.

Degree Levels for an English Major

  • Associate. Although online associate English degrees provide a solid foundation for further studies, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that a bachelor’s degree or higher is typically needed for a job as a writer or editor. To get an associate degree in English, a student will probably need to successfully complete courses in advanced reading, contemporary and dramatic literature, and poetry and creative writing.
  • Bachelor’s. Online bachelors English degrees will enable you to get an entry-level position as a writer, editor, or an author. English majors can work in a wide range of industries, including for newspapers and magazines, as copywriters for marketing or advertising firms, as teachers, and as editors or writers for textbook companies. In addition to their basic math and science courses, English majors may also take British or American literature, literary analysis and interpretation skills, academic writing, and introduction to communication.
  • Master’s. A student in an English master’s degree program may take classes that further explore literature and the writing craft. Some schools offer graduate-level courses in Old English, Medieval literature and culture, poetry form and theory, creative nonfiction, and rhetorical theory. Online masters English degrees are great tools that can improve students’ chances of finding a higher paying job after they graduate. A candidate with a master’s degree may find employment as an editor or writer at newspapers or magazines, or as a teacher at the high school level.
  • Doctoral. Those interested in pursuing a position in post-secondary education should consider pursuing a Ph.D. in English. Doctoral programs offer classes that may examine specific works of literature, such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, as well as written works from the Middle Ages and more recent historical periods. The courses are designed to teach students how to go beyond the words on the page and instead think about the political, historical, or sociological meanings conveyed in works of literature.

A Future as an English Major

The BLS expects employment in the writing and editing industry to grow about 8% until 2018. The growth in online media, including Web-only news organizations, is increasing demand for writers and editors, while more traditional media, such as newspapers, are cutting their staff. The BLS states the median salary for writers and editors in May 2008 was $53,070. Meanwhile, the job outlook for elementary, middle, and high school teachers is expected to grow by 13% between 2008 and 2018, although that percentage is a general figure and doesn’t take into account the subject taught. Still, opportunities will become available as tenured teachers retire.

The BLS states the median salary for kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers in May 2008 ranged from $47,100 to $51,180. For post-secondary English or literature teachers, the median wage in May 2010 was $60,400. However, keep in mind that job availability and salary for all positions may vary depending on your employer, experience, level of education, and location.