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Author Topic: Legitimate English careers?
Vyrus
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I'm currently wondering; what well-paying positions are there that one can get with an English degree that aren't teaching? I've heard things in both the fields of journalism, which I've tried and doesn't interest me much, as well as advertising. Advertising sounds interesting enough, but it would make more sense to get schooling in the actual field of advertising if I were going to pursue that as my main career objective. I don't mind higher schooling, and was planning on it up to and including a PhD. Well, you fine folks of hatrack? What are some careers that might have me? I'm a sophomore in college, if that gives you an idea of where I am currently.
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fugu13
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There are very few jobs that do; it isn't a degree you should get for the purpose of working in a related job. Small numbers of people who get such a degree will enter publishing (but they'll frequently be doing things essentially unrelated to having an English degree), more will enter journalism (but journalism and studying English are almost as unrelated as studying English and history), and most will do nothing at all related to their degrees. Teaching won't be a frequent occupation, with those positions more held by people who got education degrees.

A PhD in English is a stupid idea unless you can gain admission to one of the top two or three schools in the country. That's assuming that you want to teach for bad wages. Only do it if you absolutely love studying English, not if you "don't mind" it, and even then only if you meet the former requirement. A masters in English is somewhat better, but pretty much a money sink with no payout to speak of.

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Aerin
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I majored in English and I'm a technical writer. It is an absolutely fantastic job - I work largely self-directed, I write for a living, there's little stress (there are few - although some - documentation emergencies) and I've never had the slightest trouble getting a job for well over a decade in all sorts of economies. If you are good at and stick with it and work for a company that has a place for it, you can become a supervisor of writers and make quite a bit. Even entry level salaries are decent - much better than anything else you get that is writing-based, including journalism and teaching.

Technical Writing

You do need a degree, and best of all is if you have a degree and a strong background in something technical. I had a degree in technical writing and did internships in college in web design and in chemistry labs, and that has made me incredibly employable my whole professional life.

It isn't writing poetry. And it's almost like translating, so if interpreting technical stuff sounds like death on a platter, you might get bored. But...it's working with words, and you get to be excited about grammar and things, and you can work in just about any industry because most industries need professional communicators.

You don't need an advanced degree, although it doesn't hurt. But it isn't necessary. What you need is a good portfolio and varied work experience, so build up your portfolio and resume while you're an undergrad, and you'll have your pick of cities and industries in which to work when you start looking for a job.

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fugu13
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Ah ha, I did forget about technical writing. Technical writing is a pretty good option. Of course, it also doesn't require an English degree at all; a few decent writing classes plus some technical background will make you capable of becoming a skilled technical writer.

Not that there's anything wrong with the English degree, just remember that the degree is almost entirely separate from your job prospects.

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Aerin
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In my experience, having the actual degree in English put me over the top in getting jobs. I know it is why I was chosen over the candidates for my current job - they told me.

There are tech writers who are techies with a few writing classes, and there are technical writers who are writers with some technical background. I can tell the difference in what they write.

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fugu13
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Didn't you say above your degree was in technical writing?
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Aerin
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It is: English with an emphasis in tech and professional writing. (Was that not clear?)
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fugu13
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Ah, fun. I'm glad more and more departments are offering that as a specialization (though it's a pretty big departure from the traditional English degree).
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advice for robots
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I have a degree in English and work as a copywriter in my company's marketing department. I've been working in this capacity for 10 years now, with some freelance copywriting on the side. I would say that for a degree that most people don't think has much market value, my English degree has given me plenty of mileage. I do agree with Aerin that after a few years in the writing field it's your portfolio and experience that count, not your degree.

I leveraged my English classes and contacts to get jobs as an editor and proofreader during college, both on campus and off, and worked as kind of a cub technical writer at a local company for a while, too. When an opening appeared in a large company's creative department, I jumped at it and got it (fortunately for me, they were looking for someone who could edit, and I became the department's de facto proofreader as well as a writer). I've really enjoyed my work and have gotten to work with a lot of fun people, too.

In retrospect, however, I wish I would have picked Marketing Communications or something similar as my major, not English. I simply did not know the advertising/marketing field really existed as an option until I was getting close to graduating. The choices I gave myself in the first month of my college career were English and Art, and I chose English because I thought working as a writer would be more practical than working as an artist. Somewhat blindly, I stuck with English all the way through. I didn't even know there was such a thing as Graphic Design, either, or I probably would have at least tried to get into that program. I am still amazed that I am where I am now, judging on how clueless I can be.

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Aerin
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Is it? The major difference came in the final year - I took all the same generals and all the same foundation English courses as the lit majors and the teachers.
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The Rabbit
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Most of the English majors I've known, ended up going to Law School.

quote:
Teaching won't be a frequent occupation, with those positions more held by people who got education degrees.
This is not correct, at least not in any state where I have lived. To teach at the secondary school level, you must have either a major or a minor in the subject plus a teaching certificate. Only elementary school teachers have degrees in education.
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Most of the English majors I've known, ended up going to Law School.
Funny. This happened to the one English major I know.
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advice for robots
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English is a pretty good degree for going on to business school as well.
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Darth_Mauve
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Sales:

Sales is all about communicating with the customer, discovering what they are really saying, and creating a narrative where the service or product you offer fits the needs that you have discovered.

That is pure English.

Does your studies of Shakespeare come into play? Sure. If you've studied Shakespeare you've discovered one of his greatest skills is the ability to speak in the voices of all classes, from the Royal King to the country buffoon, Shakespeare speaks their language. That is what a salesman must do--speak Medical to the doctor, legalese to the lawyer, street to the teen and red-neck-ese to the red neck.

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fugu13
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quote:
This is not correct, at least not in any state where I have lived. To teach at the secondary school level, you must have either a major or a minor in the subject plus a teaching certificate. Only elementary school teachers have degrees in education.
There are certainly exceptions, and a lot of them, but I allowed for plenty of room for them. Also, I'd bet that even in that state the percentage of English majors going into teaching (what I was talking about, per my wording) is quite low.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
quote:
This is not correct, at least not in any state where I have lived. To teach at the secondary school level, you must have either a major or a minor in the subject plus a teaching certificate. Only elementary school teachers have degrees in education.
There are certainly exceptions, and a lot of them, but I allowed for plenty of room for them.
Not in the areas where I've lived. I've never known or even known of an English teacher who wasn't an English major. In fact, I've never know a secondary school teacher whose major was education (and I know a very large number of secondary school teachers).

quote:
Also, I'd bet that even in that state the percentage of English majors going into teaching (what I was talking about, per my wording) is quite low.
I don't know what state your referring too. I've lived in quite a few. Nation wide, English is the most common profession for English majors. It may still be a small percentage, but its greater than percentage that pursue any other single profession.
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fugu13
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quote:
Not in the areas where I've lived. I've never known or even known of an English teacher who wasn't an English major. In fact, I've never know a secondary school teacher whose major was education (and I know a very large number of secondary school teachers).

You live in a very strange area. But you're right, it turns out teaching in schools is at very least one of the top two or three careers for English majors.
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Scott R
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quote:
Originally posted by Aerin:
In my experience, having the actual degree in English put me over the top in getting jobs. I know it is why I was chosen over the candidates for my current job - they told me.

There are tech writers who are techies with a few writing classes, and there are technical writers who are writers with some technical background. I can tell the difference in what they write.

:raises hand:

Also a technical writer, but without a degree in English. I manage a group of writers and testers.

I don't think a degree in English is necessary to be a good technical writer; I prefer journalists or people with degrees in history because in my experience, they tend to be able to translate technician better. [Smile]

Otherwise, I agree with everything Aerin said.

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Belle
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As an English major, I have to agree with Rabbit. The majority of people who were taking English classes with me as an English major were planning to teach secondary English. Other popular choices were law school and those that wanted to get an MFA in creative writing. Good luck to the poor souls.

I actually hold an education degree because my state has two paths for secondary certification - major in the subject, and then get a master's in education (the fifth year or alternative track) or the traditional track which is a double major in the subject field (English, math, history, etc) and education. Because I was advised through the education department, my diploma reads BS in Secondary Ed but I had to meet all the requirements for an English major as well.

Most people did the fifth year track because they were certified at the master's level and get paid more. I made a good decision, I think, and got certified at the undergraduate level because it was quicker and cheaper. Then the economy went south and people with master's degrees found it hard to get hired because they were expensive. I started a master's program in English as a Second Language figuring the ESL degree would give me more of an edge in finding and keeping jobs. So far, it hasn't, but I will get the extra pay that comes from having the master's degree once I graduate next month.

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Dobbie
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quote:
Originally posted by Vyrus:
I'm currently wondering; what well-paying positions are there that one can get with an English degree that aren't teaching?

Public school English teacher.
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pooka
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If you count linguistics, I've worked as a bookkeeper, legal secretary, and ophthalmic technician. Other than the legal secretary gig, I haven't held a job related to my field. Though I do think having a degree did open the other doors. Having a degree shows you can finish something you started and have an attention span of more than 6 months, supposedly.
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Teshi
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[quote]Teaching won't be a frequent occupation, with those positions more held by people who got education degrees.[quote]

I disagree. I double majored in English and history and then took my Bachelor of Education a couple of years later along with many others in the same situation. Where I went, you couldn't get into the consecutive Bachelor of Education program without having a four-year degree already.

English is, hopefully, a gateway degree. You might need to get some other qualifications but combined with something else it's pretty useful.

I'm a elementary school teacher who just taught a year of just maths and religious studies, though.

Kids: "What's your degree in?"
Me: "English and history."
Kids: "You don't have a maths degree?"

Flummoxed.

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