So you’ve read Austen and Shakespeare, you’ve written your term papers, you’ve written a number of short stories or poems, and now you’re the proud recipient of an English degree. Congratulations! You might be asking yourself, “but what do I do now?” Whether your lifelong passion is to be a writer or you majored in English because you simply love to read, there are endless possibilities going forward.
1. Go to graduate school. For a lot of people, the English degree is just a stepping stone to get to the next phase in their studies. Some English majors go on to get a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Some pursue a Master’s degree and then a PhD in Literature so they can teach at a college level. Some begin the journey to becoming a librarian with a Master’s in Library Science. Some even go on to law school.
2. Publish your writing. You can go the traditional route and find a literary agent to represent your book or you can self-publish or find an independent publisher. You can even become a hybrid author who pursues both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Although publishing of any kind requires a lot of hard work, determination, and patience, it can be extremely rewarding to see your work in print. With the drastic ways the publishing world has changed in the last decade or so, it’s never been a more exciting time to be a writer.
4. Explore freelance work and web content writing. Many freelance writers contribute to magazines, websites, and other publications. Also, there is a huge demand for web content in practically every industry. You can use websites like Textbroker, Elance, or Thumbtack to find freelance work or you can pursue a full-time position as a web content writer for a company.
4. Get a writing-related position. There are a lot of positions that are obviously a good fit for the English major like technical writer, corporate blogger, or digital copywriter. Additionally, there are many companies that hire professionals with strong communication and writing skills. Some of these positions may not seem directly related to the English degree at first glance (recruiting, public relations, sales, marketing, advertising, and human resources, to name a few) but they actually require many of the skills one develops when studying English in college.
5. Work with books. Whether you are working as a bookseller with a physical or digital book retailer or you are working in the publishing industry as an editor or a literary agent, this is a great option for the English major who loves literature but doesn’t necessarily want to write her own books. It should be noted, though, that publishing can be difficult to get into, and most of the publishing industry (in America) is located in New York City. There are many independent publishers all over the country, though, and the world, and even with the way the publishing world has changed, as long as people are still reading, there will still be jobs in this arena.
6. Find a mentor. Sometimes the best way to decide where you want to go after getting your English degree is to find someone who has already been successful and model your career after them. There are many ways to find and connect with successful English majors. Also, most universities and colleges will have some type of mentor program available for recent graduates.
7. Try multiple things. I graduated with an English degree in 2008, and since then, I have done about everything on this list. I received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans, I have self-published books and I currently have a literary agent who is helping me along my traditional publishing journey, I have worked with marketing companies as a web content writer and social media manger, I have written freelance web content, I have blogged for different websites, I have worked at bookstores, and I have had many successful writers mentoring me along my journey. Now, I work full-time in my home office as an author, a freelance editor and writer, a writing coach, and an internet marketer.
A lot of people love to spew negativity with their talk of “useless liberal arts degrees.” I disagree wholeheartedly with this point of view. If you are willing to work hard and persevere, you can have a writing-related career. Even if you wind up doing something seemingly unrelated to your studies, I guarantee you will use the skills you learned as an English major (creativity, critical thinking, and communication) in your career every single day.