English majors

Career Paths for the Clueless English Major

Believe it or not, teaching isn’t your only option.

September 30, 2019
8 mins read

With fall break swiftly approaching, college students everywhere should prepare to face a familiar stream of questions. Family gatherings, reunions with old friends and awkward gas station run-ins never fail to produce these dreaded inquiries. You know, easy questions like, “What do you want to do with your life?” and “What are your post-graduation plans?” For English majors, or any other student whose field isn’t intrinsically lucrative, your answers to such questions probably produce quite a bit of disdain. If you’re struggling to connect a passion for the written word with a respectable interrogation response, check out the following career paths.


Although a career in marketing isn’t typically associated with English majors, the profession demands an astounding amount of language and writing. According to O*Net Online, a career assessment program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, a strong command of the English language is essential for the marketing field.

Upon further consideration, the requirement makes perfect sense. Without proper communication, strategies for business success inevitably collapse. Language-lovers, if interested in a marketing career, can couple their English skills with a related minor. Soon, with the proper skillset, a career in marketing will await the business-savvy English enthusiast.


Throughout their careers, editors interact with and contribute to a society’s intellectual wealth. As they polish manuscripts, these essential figures help budding authors communicate with clarity and precision. Additionally, editors constantly wrestle with ideas, evaluating works’ strengths and weaknesses on a daily basis. Individuals enamored with scrutinizing texts will flourish in an editing career.

Zachary Wagman, an editor for Penguin Random House, loves the excitement that accompanies engaging manuscripts. As he describes a typical day in the office, Wagman reveals that, “Every once in a while, your heart rate goes up, and you find yourself flipping the pages, and you lose track of time.” If you can picture yourself getting lost in a compelling manuscript, consider an editing career. Intrigued English majors can intern, learn the necessary technology and perfect works that could shape a generation.

Public Relations

If scrutinizing literary works isn’t your favorite pastime, you can still put your English major to good use. A job in public relations presents plenty of opportunities to tinker with the written word. Essentially, public relations specialists are storytellers and work to manipulate popular opinion. Throughout their careers, public relations professionals create positive images for employers. 

Despite this influential role in society, few outsiders can articulate the responsibilities of a public relations specialist. Robert Wynne, founder of a successful PR company, explains their duties in his well-traveled Forbes article. In essence, public relations experts “create narratives to advance their agenda” and “protect, enhance or build reputations through the media, social media, or self-produced communications.” As you can imagine, a career in public relations requires exquisite writing and communication skills. Luckily, English majors often leave college with these attributes in hand.

Technical Writing

Technical writers, instead of persuading audiences, spend their time explaining procedures. Throughout their careers, these professionals create manuals, how-to-guides and diagrams. As a whole, technical writers strive to break down complex processes and simplify instructions. Clear, concise language is a necessity within this field. Additionally, skilled technical writers can anticipate potential confusion, and address the area in their instructions.

Obviously, a technical writing profession requires intense attention to detail. However, the diversity within this field allows employees to explain already beloved concepts. For example, if you enjoy biology, technical writing could present you with a career explaining scientific processes. Or, if you adore a certain product, this field will allow you to spend your time explaining its methodology. Potential technical writers should seek experience in their preferred industry, and tackle classes on business writing.

Freelance Writing

For English majors unimpressed by concise explanations, freelance writing provides a flexible, constantly changing alternative. Simply stated, these professionals fulfill writing assignments for clients. Responsibilities include tasks like editing, ghostwriting, copywriting, social media marketing or blog management. Throughout their careers, freelance writers can work for businesses, publications or educational establishments. If someone needs coherent sentences in a timely manner, freelance writers will create this content for profit.

For many freelance writers, the profession’s flexibility constitutes its primary appeal. Authors can complete assignments from the comfort of their homes, eliminating tedious or inconvenient commutes. Additionally, the ever-evolving list of potential clients allows writers to explore unfamiliar and enticing subject matter. English majors, if interested in a freelance writing career, can even begin building an online presence before graduation.


When people talk about English majors, education is often the first career to surface in the conversation. Each day, the automatic association brings chagrin to countless humanities-lovers. Although annoying, this knee-jerk affiliation should not drive potential educators away from the field. After all, teachers wield unrivaled influence over the next generation’s minds. Without intelligent, high-minded individuals working in schools, vital lessons would remain untaught. If language-enthusiasts neglect the field, enticing stories could slip away into obscurity. A new group of children would lack the books that eventually create English majors. For all these reasons and more, teaching is an essential field beloved by word-nerds everywhere. 

At the end of the day, career-oriented questions rarely yield easy answers. Few college attendees can perfectly map out their plans, and even less expect life to meet all their expectations. The well-intentioned, familial interrogation session is a bit grating for all students. Across the board, individuals grapple with the best way to apply their talents, and struggle to formulate perfect plans. English majors are no exception.

Despite life’s intrinsic lack of clarity, you can still put your scattered ambitions to good use. Seek new experiences with the ferocity of a determined student. As Mindy Kaling says, “If you don’t see a clear path for what you want sometimes you have to make it yourself.” Along the way, articulate your trials and triumphs with the flair of an English major.

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