Note: This article was published Dec. 29, 2017. Please click here to see my more recent posts.
There seems to be a long-standing misconception that English majors can’t find jobs after college, but that has always baffled me. Perhaps it’s because I started college as a music major. (Can you imagine how many jobs there are for clarinet players?)
So when I changed my major to English after just one semester in the music school, I anticipated endless possibilities as to where I could go with my career.
Turns out, I was right.
While my alma mater’s website only lists a handful of job ideas for graduating English majors, there are so many more options beyond teaching, technical writing, and aspiring-to-be-a-novelist. In today’s digital world, where everything involves writing and communication, the possibilities for English majors are endless.
In today’s digital world, where everything involves writing and communication, the possibilities for English majors are endless.CLICK TO TWEET
While I won’t list everything an English major could do after college—the wonderful team at Dear English Major can handle that—I will tell you my story:
A first generation college student, I graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts in English and a minor in mass communications in 2017. While at Shenandoah University, I received the College of Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence in Journalism, served as editor in chief of the student newspaper, and published several pieces of creative writing in the student literary journal.
At the school paper, I worked with an amazing team of writers and photographers who helped me bring student news at my small-town college back to life. We revamped the paper’s print edition, giving me the opportunity to learn how to design and print newspapers, and later went totally digital, giving me the chance to show off my web design and management skills.
I learned very quickly you get out of college what you put into it, and I put my 100% into everything I did.
My role as editor in chief for the school paper ended up landing me my first real job in the industry: as a copy editor and page designer for a pair of local newspapers. An op-ed I wrote for the school paper as a freshman staff writer also caught the eye of an online publication, who reached out and asked if I wanted to serve as a regular contributing writer for them.
I’d never considering freelance writing as a career prior to that, but I jumped in with both feet—and I’ve never looked back.
That first freelance gig paid a measly $25 for 500 words, but it was a start. I soon wrote for a variety of online content hubs, racking up clips and making connections throughout the industry all while I was still in college.
For me, freelancing was a more fun, more lucrative alternative to interning.
For me, freelancing was a more fun, more lucrative alternative to interning.CLICK TO TWEET
Back at the local papers, I made long-lasting friendships and experienced the hustle and bustle of a real newsroom. It was a job I’d applied to on a whim, but I learned more about the industry there than in any college lecture.
Soon, however, the freelance work started to add up. In August of 2017, I took the leap into full-time freelancing, and now, I couldn’t imagine any other career. I schedule my own work hours and can work from anywhere with a WiFi connection (or a hot spot). I’m grateful that freelancing has given me the chance to be financially independent and support my family, and since I worked in college, I already have years of experience as a freelancer just months after earning my degree.
Nowadays, I remain self-employed and do a variety of freelance work, mostly for companies, but sometimes for individual authors. My jobs involve writing stories, editing op-eds, scheduling Facebook posts, drafting press releases, and a little bit of a lot of other things, too.
When people ask me what I do with my English degree? I tell them I do a little bit of everything.
As for where I’m going to go next, the short answer is: I have no idea.
I’ve considered going back for a graduate-level degree and looked into online certifications on topics like copyediting and proofreading. For now, however, I’m just trying to enjoy being my own boss in my 20s—it’s a luxury I don’t ever want to take for granted.
If I had to give advice to a current college student majoring in English or considering it, I’d have four simple words: keep your options open.
If you want to be a language arts teacher or write creatively, you’re on the right track—and I’m so proud of my friends who have followed these paths. But if you aren’t sure yet, don’t let your focus in humanities limit your potential; you may find that your B.A. in English opens many more doors than you once thought possible.
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This article was last updated Sept. 24, 2020.