Career outlook

A degree in English

English studies are excellent preparation for any pursuit that requires breadth of mind, creative thinking and well-developed communication skills.

Professional schools, such as medical, business, and law, often encourage undergraduates to major in English as they complete their pre-professional courses. The B.A. in English can provide an excellent foundation for many advanced-degree programs.

Transferable skills

An English degree offers the top skills employers seek, including:

  • Leadership 
  • Ability to work in a team 
  • Communication skills (written, verbal) 
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Flexibility/adaptability
  • Technical skills
  • Interpersonal skills 
  • Organizational ability

Source: Job Outlook 2016, National Association of Colleges and Employers

Some careers in English

View some of our graduate student job placements.

Career Median salary Market growth
Media and Communication Worker $45,220  9 – 13% 
Human Resources Specialists $58,350  5 – 8% 
Poets, Lyricists, Creative Writers $60,250  2 – 4% 
English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary (advanced degree) $61,990  9 – 13% 
Marketing Specialists $62,150  14% + 
Nonprofit/Community Services Management $63,530  9 – 13%
Technical Writers $70,240  9 – 13%
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers $104,140  5 – 8% 
Lawyers (with professional degree) $157,700  5 – 8% 
Medicine (advanced degree) $187,200+  9 – 13%

Source: O*NET Online, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration

Graduate study

This degree also provides a solid foundation for graduate study in:

  • Law
  • Business
  • Medicine
  • Many other advanced graduate programs

Notable people with an English major

  • Harold Varmus (Nobel Laureate in medicine and director of the National Cancer Institute)
  • B.F. Skinner (behavioral psychologist, National Medal of Science) and Benjamin Spock (pediatrician, best-selling childcare author)
  • Rachel Carson (marine biologist, conservationist, Presidential Medal of Freedom)
  • Toni Morrison (Nobel Prize), Rita Dove (Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize), Stephen King, Tom Clancy, etc.
  • Steven Spielberg (Hollywood director, producer, screenwriter)
  • Emma Watson (actress, activist)
  • Anne Mulcahy and Andrea Jung (former CEO's of Xerox and Avon)
  • Angelo Bartlet Giamatti (Yale University President, Major League Baseball Commissioner)  
  • Grant Tinker, Judy McGrath, and Michael Eisner (TV network and studio CEO's)
  • Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Gretchen Morgenson, and WSU alum Helen Thomas (nationally recognized journalists)
  • Mario Cuomo (former governor of New York)
  • Sally Ride (physicist, astronaut, first woman in space) 
  • John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas (U.S. Supreme Court justices)

English in the job market

The skills and abilities one learns as an English major can be more generally applied to any career requiring expertise in the use of language as a means of communication.

"English majors might be surprised that their talents can be both so noticeable and so needed in the workplace. 'How bad can it be?' they ask. The situation is quite poor, and many employers continue to insist in interviews and articles that many of their administrative problems would be eased if they could find management staff with solid writing and speaking competencies" (DeGalan & Lambert, xiii). DeGalan, Julie and Stephen Lambert. Great Jobs for English Majors. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

Skills emphasized

Communication

  • Influencing and persuading
  • Assessing needs of an audience
  • Presenting alternative viewpoints
  • Clarifying ideas
  • Making oral presentations
  • Shaping general ideas into specific points and programs
  • Research

Designing/directing projects

  • Organizing ideas/information
  • Developing hypotheses
  • Solving problems
  • Using information resources
  • Comparing interpretations
  • Critical Thinking and Analysis

Summarizing ideas

  • Comparing information
  • Using theoretical approaches
  • Developing critical evaluations
  • Thinking independently
  • Synthesizing ideas/themes
  • Applying close reading and interpretation

Writing

  • Abstracting information
  • Interpreting data
  • Editing
  • Writing concisely
  • Writing creatively

For free career counseling, workshops, and portfolio development assistance, please use the Wayne State University Career Services Office, located on the first floor of the Faculty/Administration Building. Your Department of English advisor may also have field-specific career development materials available for loan.