Is an English Literature Degree Right for You?

An online bachelor’s degree in English literature is a good fit for people who love reading and want to study the works of some of the most influential writers throughout history in greater depth. Prospective English literature majors should be interested in research, literary criticism, and creative writing, and should have an open mind that’s willing to explore written works by authors who produce writing with themes and morals that they may disagree with and still be able to identify what is worthwhile and compelling in the text. The ideal student for a bachelor’s program in English literature is already well-read and skilled in writing, and wants to not only learn how to digest and compare complex works of literature, but become a better and more efficient writer as well.

Advice for Earning Your English Literature Degree Online

English literature is a reading- and writing-intensive degree program, and students who earn this degree online must be prepared to devote more time to their studies than students who learn on a traditional college campus. This is because online programs incorporate online discussions led by professors, and students must log in and contribute substantially to these discussions as part of their class participation grade.

The sheer volume of reading and writing assignments combined with extensive written discussions can eat up a great deal of time, so working students will need to take extra care to budget their time effectively so they won’t fall behind. Before enrolling in a program, prospective students should ask if they will have any opportunities to get their work published in student publications, as having published work to your name can greatly enhance your resume when you launch a job hunt after graduation.

Required Courses

Course work in an English literature bachelor’s program will include at least two courses each in American and British literature, broken down by time period. In addition, students will explore world literature and the works of impactful authors, like Shakespeare, Milton, and Hemingway. Some programs conclude with a senior thesis in which a student completes a research project on a literary topic of interest. Courses you may take in such a program include:

  • Medieval Literature and Culture
  • Literature and Culture of the Romantic Period
  • The Short Story
  • Literary Theory
  • Shakespeare

Common Career Paths

While English literature isn’t a vocational degree designed to prepare you for a specific career, the skills built in such a program, such as writing, critical thinking, and communicating complex information, can be applied to a variety of careers in print and web writing, publishing, advertising/PR, journalism, and more. You can even leverage your degree to pursue graduate study in preparation for careers as a librarian or college-level educator. Salaries for English literature careers can vary greatly based on your experience, the size and type of your employer, and the region of the country you live in, but possible careers include:

Public Relations Specialist

  • Expected Growth: 23%
  • Average Annual Salary: $61,980

Public relations specialists reach out to the media, and often the public as a whole, about their organization’s activities and how those activities impact the local, regional, or global community. This involves writing and issuing press releases about the organization’s products or services, answering questions from consumers, and providing relevant news on an organization’s website. The overarching goal is to raise awareness of the organization and present that organization in a positive light.

A bachelor’s degree is typically required for such position, with relevant areas of study including PR, journalism, communications, or English, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Librarian

  • Expected Growth: 7%
  • Average Annual Salary: $57,190

An English literature bachelor’s degree is the perfect foundation for future graduate study in library science. Librarians help library patrons find the resources they are looking for, including hard copy resources like books and videos, and online resources like research articles and periodicals. A master’s degree in library science or information studies is required for most librarian positions, the BLS explained, but a bachelor’s in English literature is a great way to gain literary prowess that will help you serve library patrons better when you enter this career field. The job growth and salary statistics provided above are available through the BLS.

Writer or Author

  • Expected Growth: 6%
  • Average Annual Salary: $68,420

Writers and authors produce original written material for books, novels, magazines and more. They may write for traditional print publications or the rapidly-growing world of online publications, and may be self-employed or salaried by an organization. Some make a living blogging or freelance writing, while others are highly specialized, and write songs, screenplays, movie scripts, biographies, or advertising copy.

To become a salaried writer, you generally must have a bachelor’s degree in a writing-focused area like English, journalism, or communications, the BLS explained, and having a background in English literature can vastly improve a writer’s ability to communicate with originality and familiarity. The above employment growth projection and salary average were taken from the BLS.

Editor

  • Expected Growth: 1%
  • Average Annual Salary: $62,440

Editors plan out the written content that will be published in a print or online publication, assign writing tasks to a team of writers, and review all written material submitted to them to make sure it is error-free and approved for publication. Editors must be skilled in anticipating the types of written content their audience would be interested in and focus on publishing the best possible content that meets that audience’s needs and interests.

A bachelor’s degree in a relevant area, like English, communications, or journalism, is typically required for such positions, the BLS explained. The above job growth projection and salary figure are available through the BLS.

Book Reviewer/Critic

  • Expected Growth: N/A
  • Average Annual Salary: $54,000

Experienced writers with extensive literary knowledge may eventually move into roles as book reviewers, who read new books as they are released and provide professional critique of the book in the arts and entertainment section of print publications and in online publications as well. A bachelor’s degree in English literature is relevant because of the course work in literary criticism and composition that equips graduates to glean the central themes of a text and evaluate the effectiveness of the writing style. While the BLS does not track employment growth of book reviewers specifically, the salary average provided above was drawn from job search site Simply Hired, which provides salary averages based information culled from job listings posted to its site.

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