Is an English Degree Right for You?

An online bachelor’s degree in English is good fit for people who are passionate about reading and who are interested in careers in writing, editing, publishing, teaching, communication, or research. The ideal student is one who is interested in a program in the liberal arts that emphasizes critical thinking, classical and contemporary literature in its historical and social contexts, and breaking down written works to determine central themes and what is effective in the writing style. Consider majoring in English if you are interested in interdisciplinary study, as an understanding of English can deepen your appreciation of philosophy, religion, and sociology as well.

Advice for Earning Your English Degree Online

As with other degrees in the liberal arts, an English degree is notoriously difficult to sell in the job market. This is why you should take extra care when choosing a minor. Consider pairing your English major with a minor in business, technical writing, journalism, or social work to expand your career options after graduation, and to explore practical applications of your major.

Consider enrolling in programs that require or encourage internships or portfolios, so that you have skills and experience to showcase alongside your degree and draw the eyes of employers. Since English courses are writing-intensive, working students will need to budget their time effectively to allow for the many essays, research papers, reports, and critical analyses they will be assigned alongside extensive reading assignments.

Required Courses

Bachelor’s degree programs in English are designed to improve a student’s ability to critically analyze literary works. Course work will emphasize English and American literature as well as world literature and the works of influential writers. As a major in the liberal arts, English will also typically require four years of a foreign language. A specialization in English education leading to teacher certification will require a student teaching internship. Courses you may take in an English major include:

  • English Literature (pre-1700, Romantic Period-20th Century)
  • American Literature(pre-and post-1800s)
  • Expository and Persuasive Writing
  • Literature Backgrounds: Greek, Roman, and Biblical Literature
  • The Influence of Shakespeare

Common Career Paths

An online bachelor’s degree in English can open doors to numerous career paths, including careers in teaching, writing, and communications. English graduates can apply their degrees toward teaching at public and private schools or at the university level, although college-level teaching requires a graduate degree. Salaries for English careers vary depending on your level of experience, the size and type of your employer, and the region of the country you live, but common careers include:

High School English Teacher

  • Expected Growth: 7%
  • Average Annual Salary: $57,770

High school English teachers educate students in ninth through twelfth grades, teaching concepts in grammar, spelling, and punctuation; composition skills; and literature. They also assign essays and stories, grade assignments, and work with students individually if they are falling behind in class.

To work in public schools, high school English teachers need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a teacher’s license, which requires students to complete state-approved teacher education program, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Students who want to teach English typically select English as their content area or English education as their specialization. The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Author or Writer

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

While people usually think of book or magazine writing when they think of authors and writers, this vibrant career field also includes screenwriters, copywriters, playwrights, and songwriters. Many writers work on a freelance basis, or specialize in blogging or writing online content for a variety of audiences and employers and 68% of these writing professionals were self-employed in 2010.

To become a salaried writer, you typically must have a bachelor’s degree in relevant area like English, journalism, or communications, the BLS explained. The job growth projection and salary average provided above are available through the BLS.

Technical Writer

  • Expected Growth: 17%
  • Average Annual Salary: $67,910

Technical writers create instruction manuals and other documents that communicate complex information to users of a product. This process involves determining what a user needs, studying the product and learning about it from its designers, organizing and writing supporting documents, and selecting graphics that can help readers understand how the product works. A bachelor’s degree in English, journalism, or communications, as well as experience with a technical subject or within a certain industry, is typically required, the BLS explained. The job growth and salary statistics provided above were drawn from the BLS.

Editor

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

Editors are responsible for making sure that written content is ready to be published and may give writing assignments to a team of writers. They must plan for content that will engage their audience on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, depending on how frequently their publication is published. In 2010, 45% of editors worked in the newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishing industry, the BLS noted. A bachelor’s degree in English, journalism, or communication is typical of the field. The job outlook and salary average provided above is available through the BLS.

Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

  • Expected Growth: -8% (reporters and correspondents) / 10% (broadcast news analysts)
  • Average Annual Salary: $43,640 (reporters and correspondents) / $78,380 (broadcast news analysts)

News media professionals such as these deliver all types of news to the public at the local, national, or even international level. They generate ideas for news stories, conduct research on those stories, interview sources, write articles, and make sure that the information they provide is accurate and timely. While a bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications is more typical for positions in journalism, an English degree and relevant writing experience can also land you an entry-level job. An internship at a news organization or experience at a student newspaper can greatly increase your job prospects. The salary and job outlook statistics shown above were taken from the BLS.

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