This site offers some basic information about career paths, strategies, and resources available to English Majors.
This website won’t provide much information about attending graduate school in English or law school. We believe there is plenty of information already available about these career options. Some of the most recent and interesting conversations are available online and your professors can serve as the best sources of advice on whether or not to choose an academic career.
Here we offer here some ideas about the many different kinds of things you can do with with your B.A. in English, along with some very practical advice for how those with English degrees find and get these kinds of jobs.
Federal government routinely follows the trends in labor statistics and developments in particular professions. This information is used to plan how the national resources are used and to refine public policy. All this data is available online, and one good way to start thinking about transitioning from student to professional life may be to check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook provided by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The handbook is an introduction to the terms and categories that government, employers, and job seekers use when they speak about specific fields of employment. There are also reliable reports from Association of American Colleges and Universities about earning prospect and expectations among liberal arts majors that you should study. There is also a summary of these findings with some useful commentary.
BA in English: Benefits vs. Risks
You have probably heard the argument that getting a degree in English is a very risky project. The argument says that it isn’t clear how education in reading, writing, and literature translates into a professional career. We propose a different standpoint: getting a degree in English (or in another field of the humanities or liberal arts) may in fact be less risky than getting a vocational degree which limits you to one kind of job for your entire career.
Studying English helps you to acquire so-called transferable skills. These skills find application in a number of professions. This is what we know English majors can do:
- Apply theoretical approaches to difficult problems
- Assess and respond to the needs of staff/co-workers/audience
- Develop written and oral communication skills
- Develop critical evaluation and application skills
- Develop and apply hypotheses to solve problems
- Edit effectively
- Influence and persuade others
- Present and scrutinize alternative viewpoints
- Synthesize ideas and themes
Our alumna Jayelle tells us a brief story about how studying for the English major prepared her to work for an Internet company:
Studying English prepared me with some of the most basic tools for the professional environment. The ability to complete a sentence may seem so simple, but you will realize many people can’t. The ability to think a project through is something I have found especially helpful. Planning a pitch for a new marketing campaign is much like planning a thesis in that the idea must be turned into something tangible. This is much like planning a paper, mapping out a plan, researching sources, drafting ideas and of course completing the project. In the workplace deadlines are important, and balancing four different courses that are writing intensive will make you better at time management. Most of all studying literature helped me to learn how to be objective. Removing yourself and your own experiences from a text you’re reading in class to better understand the characters is an exercise in objectivity. This is essential for life in general and beneficial in navigating workplace politics.
Career Information: John Jay and Beyond
This website contains a great deal of information about making the transition from the academic to the professional career using your skills. The navigation menu above will let you get to the various sections of the website dealing with different career paths or strategies for starting and developing your career.
The website has been put together with English graduates of John Jay College in mind, and some of our references and resources will be most specifically useful and accessible to our majors. The content is of course available to the general public, and may be of use to anyone going through the process of turning their academic credentials in reading, writing, and literature into a viable career.