Please note: This article was written and published several years ago and may no longer be accurate.
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People ask me all the time what I do for a living — and now, I’m coming clean.
That was a really big lead-up to a really simple, uncontroversial answer, but I digress.
There seems to be a long-standing misconception that English majors can’t find jobs after college, but that has always baffled me, particularly because I started college as a music major — can you imagine how many jobs there are for clarinet players?
Spoiler alert: not many.
So when I changed my major to English after my first semester of college, I thought there would be an infinite number of possibilities as to where I could go with my career, and I was right… but not everybody knows that, apparently.
In fact, my university’s website only lists a handful of jobs that English majors can go on to do, and there are so many more options that aren’t technical writing, teaching, and aspiring to be a novelist. In fact, in today’s digital world, where everything involves writing and communication, the possibilities are truly endless.
I can’t give you an entire list of everything an English major can do after college (although the wonderful team at Dear English Major may be able to), so instead, I’ll just tell you my story:
I graduated college with a degree in English and a minor in mass communications in 2017.
While in college, I worked at the school newspaper, first as a writer, and by the end of my tenure, as editor in chief. I had an amazing group of friends/colleagues that worked with me to bring the paper back to life after many years of it being sort of stagnant, and I am honestly so thankful to have had that opportunity, because it has opened so many doors for me.
In fact, an op-ed that I wrote for the paper during my first semester in college was picked up by a national political news site, who asked if I’d like to be a freelance contributing writer. I’d never really thought about freelance writing before that, but I jumped in with both feet, and it has made all the difference.
I ended up quitting my work study job at the university’s childcare center to work as a writer for the paper, and in between classes, I wrote for a variety of online content hubs, making about $25 for every 500 words.
It was a start.
I kept doing this for about a year while I continued through school before I saw a job listing for a copyeditor at a local newspaper. I was so excited thinking about this job, but if you ask my friends, they’d tell you that I never thought I would get it. I was really just applying on a whim!
They ended up calling me in for an interview and the editor of the paper offered me the job on the spot. It was truly a life changing experience — especially because I was working full-time while being a full-time student.
Oh, did I mention I didn’t actually quit any of my other jobs while I was doing this either?
So I was working 60+ hours per week: at the local paper, on the school paper, and freelance writing, plus I was still taking 6 classes or 18 credits (the maximum number my school allows in one semester). I was really wearing myself out.
But it turns out that it was all worth it, because that journey led me to where I am today: I’m financially independent, working full-time, and loving every minute of my life.
So now comes the begging question: what do I do?
Simply put, I work in digital media.
I’m self employed, and I do a variety of jobs for several companies.
First and foremost, I’m an editor for a national political news site, but I don’t just edit news — my duties range from writing stories to formatting syndicated columns for our site to scheduling Facebook posts and desktop notifications.
I also do a lot of freelance work for other companies, including social media consulting, public relations, editing, and writing. With all of this combined, I’m able to happily (and comfortably) support my family.
So when people ask me what I do with my English degree, I can tell them I do a little bit of everything.
But mostly I work in digital media, and I love it. It’s awesome to be able to work from home, and I get to make my own schedule for the most part, which works out great for my fiancé and I — we love adventure!
I think that a lot of the work I did in college prepared me for my job today, and I’m really glad I started working in college, because instead of having to start at the bottom of the totem pole after school, I had some leverage to negotiate salaries and create a livable lifestyle for myself post-college.
As for where I’m going to go next, the short answer is: I have no idea.
I’d love to get a graduate degree in creative nonfiction writing and/or digital media, but I’m not sure I have the time (or the funds!) for that, so for now, I’m just trying to enjoy every minute of my 20s that I can.
If I had to give one piece of advice to English/media/liberal arts students, it would be to keep your options open. You don’t have to be a teacher or novelist (unless you want to).
The possibilities are endless when it comes to jobs that you’re qualified for, so get out there and go for it!
You got this!