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Careers in English

From newspaper editor to grant writer to marketing executive, many career paths are open to English majors. You’ll find that the skills in writing, critical thinking, communication, and interpretation of texts that you gain during your studies can help you make a great contribution to whatever field you enter.

Our students become expert thinkers and writers. Those skills are valuable in the university, but invaluable on the job market. Employers consistently look for potential employees who are critical and creative thinkers, and articulate professionals—English majors exceed these expectations.

Our students find that an English degree from WCU allows them greater flexibility in finding jobs based upon their own interests and abilities rather than the dictates of a job title.

Possible Career Paths

English majors go on to careers as writers, journalists, editors, grant writers, copy writers, freelance writers, technical writers, travel journalists, marketing executives, public relations specialists, communications consultants, and many more fields. Students find work with non-profit and for-profit companies alike, or the U.S. Government. English majors are also primed for careers in politics, and ready for law school. View the categories below to investigate some of the possibilities open to English majors. 

Newspapers & Magazines

  • Editor
  • Reporter
  • Copy Editor

Online Media

  • Content Writer
  • Editor
  • Copy Editor
  • Reporter

Radio & Television

  • Newswriter
  • Copywriter

Skills Needed

Journalists need strong written and oral communication skills. Advanced computer skills are required for online media journalists.

Compensation

$18,000-$200,000 / year

Links

Job Search

High tech positions such as web designer, software designer, and technical writer are modern career choices for English majors. This report discusses the qualifications, approximate salaries and what to expect in these three careers.

Technical Writer 
Technical writers hold positions with scientific or technical organizations and mostly produce manuals, proposals or product literature. You might also be responsible for creating letters, memorandums, writing style manuals, papers, reports, abstracts, advertisements, speeches, press releases, scripts, charts and tables. Basically, any and every kind of writing for the company can fall under your realm of responsibility.

Software Design
Software designers with Liberal Arts degrees are the people who design what the software will look like, not the people behind writing the code. These people design the graphics and write the text that appears as part of the software. They also design the look of the software and its packaging. A writer would also write any kind of reference software. A software designer may start out as a junior designer and move all the way up the ladder to software architect.

Web Design 
Web designers create the pages, layout, graphics, and text for websites. They don't run the technology behind the websites; that is for programmers. What web designers are responsible for is the creation of the look, feel, and navigation of sites and pages. The bottom of the ladder in this career is the web graphic designer. After mastering this position, one may move his way up through the ranks and arrive at the top with the rank of website architect.

Hi-tech training 
Many English majors work in technical support, training, and human resources. To learn more, visit the American Society for Training and Development. Founded in 1944, ASTD is the world's premier professional association and leading resource on workplace learning and performance issues. It has a searchable job bank.

Skills Needed

Technical Writer
You DON'T need a degree or focus area in science or engineering to be a technical writer. The majority of tech writers have a four-year degree in English. You must have a tremendous working knowledge of grammar and have a writing portfolio to show your prospective employers that you are a capable writing communicator.

Software Design
A bachelor's degree is needed to compete in the software design world. A software designer also needs to know how graphics work and have training in this area. As any writer, a software designer should have an excellent working knowledge of grammar and communications skills. A prospective software designer should have a portfolio of his work with text and graphics.

Web Design
Most web designers have a bachelor's degree in graphic design or visual or fine arts. Basic knowledge of HTML coding is required as well as working knowledge of programs such as:

  • Microsoft FrontPage
  • Macromedia Director, Dreamweaver, Flash, and Shockwave
  • Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and GoLive
  • Image Ready

Also needed is an ability to write with grammatical correctness and fluency because even if a website is great to look at, no one will be able to use it unless it communicates effectively. As with all writing jobs, a portfolio of work is necessary or required.

Compensation

Technical Writer
Compensation for technical writers varies according to skill level, industry, location and company. Salaries can range from $35,000 to $85,000 depending on the amount of experience the writer has.

Software Design
A junior designer would start out making around $30,000 depending on location and company. A project manager would make considerably more, usually between $70,000 and $110,000. At the top of the chain, a software architect could make upwards of $120,000.

Web Design
Like other careers, salaries of web designers vary according to location and type of employer. Salaries have been on the upswing and are expected to continue to grow with the Internet and web usage. For now, beginning web designers can expect to make $30,000 and $45,000. The salary for the highest level web designer, a website architect, is $70,000-$150,000.

Links

  • www.careerplanit.com
    This site is also a searchable site that gives details on many careers.
  • www.monster.com 
    This site has a wonderful job search agent and allows you to put your resume on the web for employers to view.
  • Order High-Tech Careers for Low-Tech People from Amazon.com. Of this ground-breaking book, which has changed the lives of many English majors, the author says, "If you're wondering what on earth you can do with a liberal arts degree, or are contemplating a career change, I'm pretty sure you'll find this book very useful, and fun to read as well. . . . By the way, my college major was French literature."

Non-profits exist to promote a cause or a public service. They are organizations where no individual or group is supposed to benefit financially from the activities of the organization. They are generally not allowed to have stockholders and no part of their income may be distributed to members, directors, or officers. Over one million non-profit organizations exist in the US alone, employing around 10 million people.

If you find an organization you think you would like to work for, it's helpful to set up an information interview with someone who works there. This can give you insight as to how such an organization is run, the process by which they hire staff, and how to get into the field.

Volunteering is a great way of getting a job in this field. Many people find the experience rewarding and fulfilling. They feel their work contributes to the welfare of their communities and they enjoy the less formal work environment.

Even though most entry-level nonprofit jobs don't pay high salaries, once you have gotten into the non-profit field and have experience your salary can extremely increase. There are many jobs in the non-profit sector. Here are a few that are appropriate for English majors.

Career Path

Magazine Editor
A description of the job includes editing magazine articles for clarity and adherence to internal style guidelines, managing newsroom and pre-press production, page layout, writing headlines for own departments and suggest ideas and new approaches to maintain reader interest, and assigning articles and work with staff to complete pre-press production and review deadlines.

Speechwriter
A description of the job includes writing and editing drafts of reports and speeches, cataloging large quantities of data in a detail-oriented fashion, preliminary discussion of speech with speaker, and handling speechwriting needs for senior staff, president, and volunteers on behalf of the foundation.

Development Director
The job description includes interacting one-on-one with small groups, delivering formal presentations to large groups, research tracking of prospective donors, speaking and writing to diverse audiences, managing staff and development team, supervising development programs, and writing fundraising and promotional literature. They are also responsible for creating, implementing, and managing a comprehensive fund-raising plan, including development of major gifts and planned giving, and expansion of a successful annual campaign, and also the cultivation of grants from foundations, corporations, and government agencies through research, writing, and reporting.

Skills Needed

Magazine Editor
Qualifications: To become a magazine editor in the non-profit sector usually requires a bachelor's degree in journalism or Liberal Arts.

The skills needed to be a magazine editor include strong copy editing skills, magazine editing, excellent writing and communication skills, ability to handle multiple projects simultaneously with tight deadlines, and knowledge of Microsoft Office.

Speechwriter
Qualifications: To become a speechwriter in the non-profit sector requires a bachelor's degree in English, journalism, or a communications-related field. They also usually ask for three to six years’ experience in speechwriting or experience writing for a variety of audiences.

The skills needed to be a speechwriter include highly developed writing, editing, verbal communication, and organizational skills. You must have knowledge of speechwriting and current events, be detail oriented, be able to research via phone, Internet and library, and have creativity.

Development Director
Qualifications: To become a development director in non-profit requires a college degree, three to five years of development experience, fundraising experience, and grant writing experience.

The skills needed to be a development director include strong writing skills needed for proposals and reports, excellent organizational and communication skills, capability of handling multiple tasks and meeting tight deadlines, ability to work independently and as a part of interdisciplinary management team, should be self-confident; team oriented and flexible, and should have excellent oral and written presentation skills in order to function as an articulate spokesperson for the foundation. Development directors also need knowledge of database and computer skills.

Compensation

Magazine Editor
The salary of a magazine editor is $41,266 / $56,798

Speechwriter
The salary of a speechwriter is $18,500 / $40,380

Development Director
The salary of a development director is $40,000 / $82,376

Links

Secondary Education—English Instructor
Secondary school teachers help student delve more deeply into subjects introduced in elementary school and expose them to more information about the world. Secondary school teachers specialize in a specific subject, such as English.

Secondary school teachers may use films, slides, overhead projectors, and the latest technology in teaching including computers. The use of computer resources, such as educational software and the Internet, expose students to a vast range of interactive learning.

Community College, College and University Instructors
College faculty usually have flexible schedules. Initial adjustments to responsibilities can be challenging as new faculty adapt to switching roles from student to teacher. This adjustment may be even more difficult with growing class sizes that increase an instructor’s workload. Some faculty members work staggering hours and teach night and weekend classes. This is particularly true for faculty who teach at two-year community colleges. Part-time faculty usually spend little time on campus, because they do not have an office. In addition, they may teach at more than one college, requiring travel between places of employment, earning the name "gypsy faculty." Most part-time instructors do not receive health or retirement benefits, and work for a contract-to-contract basis.

Hi-Tech Training 
Many English majors work in technical support, training, and human resources. To learn more, visit theAmerican Society for Training and Development.  Founded in 1944, ASTD is the world's premier professional association and leading resource on workplace learning and performance issues. It has a searchable job bank.

Career Path

Secondary Education 
Including school duties performed outside the classroom, many teachers work more than 40 hours a week. Most secondary school teachers work a 10-month school year with a two-month vacation during the summer.

English Instructor
Seeing students develop skills and appreciation of knowledge can be rewarding. But teaching may be frustrating when dealing with unmotivated and disrespectful students. Teachers may experience stress when dealing with large classes, students from disadvantage or multicultural backgrounds, and heavy workloads.

Employment /Prospective
Job applicants should expect to face competition for full-time positions. However, the number of college and university faculty is expected to increase faster than the average as enrollments in higher education increase. Because of reduced state funding, most colleges and universities are hiring growing numbers of part-time instructors.

Skills Needed

Secondary Education—English Instructor
Public school teachers are required to have at least a bachelor's degree, complete an approved education program, and be licensed. Many states offer alternative teacher licensure programs for people who have bachelor's degrees in the subject they will teach, but lack the necessary education courses required for a regular license.

Community College, College and University Instructors
Master’s degree (graduate school) x.6.1.6 or doctoral degree --In two-year colleges, master's degree holders fill most full-time positions. However, with increasing competition for available jobs, institutions can be more selective in their hiring practices. Four-year colleges and universities usually consider doctoral degree holders for full-time, tenure-track positions, but may hire master's degree holders for certain disciplines, such as the arts, and for part-time or temporary positions.

Compensation

Secondary Education—English Instructor
$19,710 to $37,870. In the 1997-98 school year, beginning teachers with a bachelor's degree earned an average of $25,700, according to the American Federation of Teachers

Community College, College and University Instructors
Full-time faculty average around $56,300 according to the American Association of University Professors, in 1998. Earnings vary according to faculty rank, degree held, type of institution, geographic area, and field. Salaries range from $23,100 to more than $90,360. Faculty in four-year institutions earn higher salaries, on the average, than those in two-year schools.

Resource Links

A writing and editing career often starts out with a position as an intern, editorial assistant, proofreader, or fact-checker. Writers find opportunities to contribute (freelance or otherwise) to local newspapers, websites, or school papers. This provides materials to begin building a portfolio.

Depending on what field you want to go into (book publishing, newspaper publishing, website publishing, etc.), entry-level jobs come in a variety of packages. Among editorial and writing careers, the following career paths in either print or online publications are the most familiar.

Career Path

The creative writing field is very broad and includes a variety of genres and options:

 

Children's literature Fiction
Poetry Articles
Romance Non-fiction
Science fiction/ Fantasy Mystery/Suspense
Scriptwriting Playwriting
Science writing  

These writers work with the help of an agent to sell or get their works published.

It's hard to break into the field, but it can be lucrative. Get connected with others in the industry to get your foot in the door. An advanced degree in English (MFA) is helpful but not always necessary.

Compensation

 

Editorial Assistant

$20,000-35,000
Copyeditor $25,000-45,000
Reporter/writer $20,000-125,000
Ass./Section Editor $25,000-75,000
Senior Editor $50,000-120,000
Managing Editor $45,000-120,000
Executive Editor $50,000-200,000

Salaries in these fields range widely across the board. Small publications tend to pay less than big publications. New media and online companies generally have better compensation, but also add a lot of pressure to their offline counterparts to raise salaries.

The type of writing you do will influence the amount you make. Business writers or writers who know a lot about a specific industry/technology will make more than feature writers or reporters who are doing work that most are interested in.

Resources Links

After college there is always the option of furthering one’s education by going to graduate school to receive a master’s degree. Here are a few helpful facts to make things go more smoothly and also answer questions one might have.

WHY GO TO GRAD SCHOOL?

According to recent surveys, Americans with a graduate degree earn an average of 35 to 50 percent more than do those with just a bachelor's degree. That's certainly one reason there are more people than ever in the United States applying to grad school.

When deciding to go to grad school or not, you should realistically assess what you expect it to do for you, and exactly what program will suit you best.

IT'S TOUGH BUT . . .

Grad school is as hard as a "real" job—and is often much more demanding and time-consuming—and the degree doesn't necessarily guarantee you the career of your dreams. So why did over a million people enter U.S. grad programs last year? Well, there are still compelling reasons to get a graduate degree:

CAREER CHANGE

Many people make the decision to return to grad school after working in "the real world" for a while. Some feel that their career options are otherwise limited. Others find that their interests and abilities have developed over the years and no longer have anything to do with their undergraduate education. A graduate degree is necessary training for the new field.

CAREER OR SALARY ADVANCEMENT

The upper levels of your field may be closed to people with only a bachelor's degree, no matter how talented or industrious you are.

SWITCH FROM PRACTITIONER TO ADMINISTRATOR

After working in the trenches for a while, and developing a strong sense of how an organization, school, clinic, or department could be better run, you may be interested in moving up to the management level of your field. This often requires some graduate education.

THE LURE OF IVY WALLS

To teach at two-year colleges you'll need at least a master's degree and maybe a doctorate or a professional degree. To teach or do research at four-year colleges, universities, and graduate programs, you'll need a doctorate and/or the "terminal" professional degree in the field—i.e. M.B.A., J.D., M.D., etc.

PROFESSIONAL LICENSING

Social workers, psychologists, therapists, and others who directly treat or counsel generally need graduate education to meet national and state licensing requirements. The proper licensing and credentials are also essential not only for employment reasons, but also for getting insurance reimbursement. Many insurance carriers authorize payment only to practitioners who meet certain educational and licensing standards.

BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT

Lots of people choose grad school simply because they love the field, and they don't really care about the job prospects. This is especially true of Ph.D.s in the arts or humanities and some of the social sciences. Other social science Ph.D.s and those in many of the sciences generally face a better job market, and some areas—notably computer sciences—are enjoying a real boom time these days.

BECAUSE THE JOB MARKET IS LOUSY

A slow economy is a popular reason for going right from college to grad school. The reasoning is: "Since I'm not going to get a job anyway, I might as well go to grad school. Maybe the job market will be better when I get out." This may not be the best idea. Some areas that have been often rumored to be ready for better employment prospects—college teaching, for instance—may not experience any significant change for the better any time soon. Bottom line: add a realistic appraisal of career prospects to your idealism and career hopes when you're making grad school plans.

HOW LONG?

The customary first graduate degrees in the Liberal Arts and sciences are the Masters of Arts and the Masters of Science degrees, which take one to two academic years of full–time study to complete. The M.A., in one of the Liberal Arts fields, generally requires a thesis as part of its degree completion whereas the M.S.—a degree in one of the sciences—requires a project.

WHAT TESTS TO TAKE

The GRE General Test is primarily a multiple-choice test that most graduate schools use for admission into their graduate programs. Taking this test can be a time of great stress and anxiety for students, but because most of the questions are in a multiple-choice format, you can study for this test and learn some of the "tricks of the trade" that have been developed by educators who have helped thousands of students prepare for this exam, and others similar to it.

TIMELINE FOR ADMISSION

This is to get through the application process comfortably. Fifteen to eighteen months before you plan to enter graduate school you should begin your preparations.

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