English is a classic degree. It’s one of the most popular and long-standing major options for students entering college-level education. Defined, English majors study composition. This degree, more than any other, is reading-intensive and expects that students will hone their communications skills (both verbal and written), organizational abilities, and critical thinking. Research, intense attention to detail, and an understanding of multiple other subjects come into play, making this liberal arts major versatile and useful in any industry. English degrees are available at multiple levels, including associate, baccalaureate, master, and doctorate.
Associate’s degrees in English will provide a basic foundation for the field of study and even provide the qualifications for an entry-level position. Keep in mind that English is a competitive field, though, and many applicants will have baccalaureates. At the associate level, curriculum will include an introduction to technical writing, world classics, advanced reading, expository writing, and be peppered with editing, copyediting, and likely even some creative writing. Programs typically take 2 years to completed when attending full time.
A baccalaureate degree elevates competitiveness within the industry. Intense diving into the world of advanced literary analysis, compositional writing, and creative writing is on the curriculum at this level. Most English major programs separate out literature by periods and offer a number of courses that focus on race, ethnic, or sexuality subjects. Key movements, innovations, and themes will be traced from the earliest works to present because, as Ezra Pound said and is often quoted in English departments, “Literature does not exist in a vacuum.” Naturally a multidisciplinary study, there are often requirements on how many course to take outside of the English department, as well.
One of the most common misconceptions about becoming an English major is that every graduate wants to teach. While this isn’t the case, attaining a bachelor’s in English can be an excellent path to teaching. If this is the career goal, the school will need a teacher-training program and most states require licensure and certification to begin working. With this level of education, graduates are able to teach 12th grade and below.
Career paths for graduates with a baccalaureate in English who don’t want or intend to teach include: Content Writer/Manager, Content Strategist, Content Marketer/Marketing Manager, Technical Writer/Editor, Digital Copywriter, News Reporter, Journalist, Public Relations, Corporate Blogger, Policy Analyst, Search Engine Optimization Specialist, eCommerce Analyst, Social Media Manager, Brand Strategist, Editor, Freelance Editor, Publishing, Grant/Proposal Writer, TV/Radio Writer, Boutique Agency Worker.
English is one of the industries that still puts significant weight to academic prestige. Earning a master’s degree in English does two things: one, it will improve your competitiveness within the field, along with streamlining opportunities for higher positions, such as managing editor or for the manager title in general. Two, it improves academic authority. Teaching English in a public school also requires a master’s degree. These programs can typically be completed within 1 or 2 years.
If you want to teach at the university level, a doctorate used to be the only qualifier, but MFA programs now qualify graduates to become professors. Competitively, though, a PhD always looks better. An MFA is a Master in Fine Arts and, yes, it is different than a traditional Masters. Lasting between two to three years, the goal of these programs is to complete a publishable work by matriculation. MFAs in English aren’t as widespread as those in Creative Writing, but they are available and are considered terminal degrees.
A doctorate in English is the highest, terminal degree in this area of study. Programs span anywhere from five to seven years and are heavily focused in an area of concentration. PhDs often come with a commitment to teach on-campus and the expectation will be to publish scholarly work.