An English literature degree is a non-occupational specific field of study focusing on reading, examining, and critiquing writings. This degree may focus on the English language or English literature as separate or connected specialties. English literature examines writings from many time periods, from Shakespeare to the present day. Studies look at writings as a reflection of the social, political, and cultural norms and examine how they relate to history.

A language-involved degree concentrates on communication in all its forms. Its scope is beyond that of literature. Areas of concentration can include but are not limited to, business and marketing, conversation, or technical fields such as medicine and law.


How To Get An English Literature Degree


Application Process

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You must apply to an institution of higher learning that offers an English literature degree. You must fulfill the prerequisites of entry into this program. For most colleges or universities, this will be a high school diploma or proficiency exam. Some institutions favor those applicants that have also studied history, politics, or art.

What To Expect

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Those who study English literature can expect to study alone and in groups. Most of your time will be spent reading and investigating assigned subjects outside the classroom. Some time will be spent in lecture halls, but much will also be spent on independent research. Depending on the number of courses you take, you can expect to spend 10-12 hours per week in lectures or working in groups, and another 20-30 hours per week researching or studying alone.

Because much of this study is focused on the written word, being able to read and comprehend quickly is especially helpful. Being able to communicate what you have read, either via writing or speaking is also essential. Finally, analyzing and critiquing texts is important to those studying English literature.

A student of English literature can expect many assignments and deadlines. Papers must be well-formed, thought out, and submitted on time. Testing will assess skills gained throughout the courses. Some instructors also grade upon participation within the classroom discussions. Independent and group projects may also be assigned.


Skills Gained

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Those who study English literature and language must learn to form opinions based on analysis of writings. They are also expected to develop ideas based on their own experiences and research. Students must be able to express these opinions in written and spoken form and to be able to debate and discuss theories and opinions with others.


Timeline

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Most students can expect to earn a Bachelor of Arts, also known as a BA degree, in four years. Some students may continue their studies for another one to two years and get a Master of Arts degree, also known as an MA. Many students study more than one subject to get a dual major, as this can help you in your job search and allow for more employment opportunities after graduation. Some popular choices for this second course of study include other Humanities-related degrees, a second language, or education.


What Kind Of Jobs Can You Get With An English Literature Degree?

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It is no surprise that those careers which focus on communication, whether written or spoken, are appealing to those that pursue an English literature degree. Arranging an internship during your time in college is an excellent way to gain experience in one of the many areas where one can pursue employment. Internships can also allow students to explore whether a certain job sector is a good fit and whether the student can do the job day in and day out.

Some students may benefit from experience gained on campus. These students may pursue writing for a university publication. Opportunities include writing for a paper publication such as a campus magazine or newspaper, or electronic publications such as a website. Here we present a small list of some career opportunities available to those with an English literature degree.

 

Publishing

person using a type writer

The publishing world is changing. Many publishing houses are moving away from paper books and toward the electronic realm. Books and magazines that have traditionally been published in a paper format can now be released electronically. As a result, publishing houses are looking for staff that can help them stay relevant in this new world. Some jobs in this field include editors, marketers, and proofreaders.

Some other areas where jobs are available include production, public relations, and administration. Stand out in this field by completing an internship, publishing your own online content, and creating your own writing portfolio.

One unique job which falls under this heading is that of a lexicographer. A lexicographer writes, edits, and assembles dictionaries. This work involves extensive research of countless documents to assess what new words should be added to the dictionary. Lexicographers may also be responsible for defining new words. There is a limited number of these jobs as only a few publishers deal with dictionaries.

Journalism/Media

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This category of careers covers a vast number of jobs including those in newspaper (print and electronic), radio, television, film, advertising, and public relations. Writing and editing are obvious job choices in this area, but there are other opportunities. Promoting, managing, and scheduling can be important aspects of this field. Social media is a new aspect of this career. After all, who better to communicate daily with clients than someone who can write well?

The journalism and media field is quite saturated, but you can gain a competitive edge by pursuing an advanced or specialized degree and by gaining experience in the field through internships. Also, be prepared to show samples of your work and any reporting you've done to land a job in this field.

Advertising, Public Relations, and Marketing

man working in a computer

The advertising career field focuses on making businesses profitable and expanding brands. Being able to persuade someone through communication skills (in the form of words or pictures) translates well from English literature to marketing. Many jobs in this sector have good salaries and distinct measurable paths to success. Internships, portfolios, promotional skills (of yourself or a brand), and volunteering for a charity are ways to get yourself in the door in this career field.


The Arts

man painting in the street

Some English literature majors want to make their mark in the arts by publishing their own works and becoming a well-known author. But others would like to support the arts by working in a museum or art gallery. They may write promotional or educational materials, or seek grants for funding. Other opportunities include working to promote festivals or fundraisers.


Teaching/Academia

woman writing in a white board

Most teaching positions require additional training and education, but those with English literature degrees have a great start in this field. Those who study literature have a knowledge of books and stories and can use their grammar and spelling skills to help others learn. They are also great communicators. Careers are available teaching children at the primary or secondary level and adults at college/university level. Another option in this field is as an English as a second language instructor or in a position at an academic library. One can gain experience that translates to the classroom by tutoring, volunteering, and performing research.


Off The Beaten Path

Although not directly related to the field of English literature, some careers may be well suited to those with English degrees. Communication is key for most every job, so it is not surprising that those with English literature degrees can branch out beyond the expected. Here are a few careers where a degree in English literature will be useful.


Business/Finance

office colleagues in discussion

If you love numbers and words, the business world may be for you. Those who possess strong communication skills and have an interest in leadership and organizations may excel here. Good grades in mathematics and finance courses, a knowledge of business practices, and an interest in economics are ways to enter this field.


Law

gavel on a table

Although careers as a lawyer require advanced degrees, this field has many opportunities. Jobs in research and administration within private law firms or government offices are often good fits for those with an English degree. The roles of paralegals and legal secretaries may also be an interesting choice for English degree holders. Those who have studied the legal process or politics, along with those who have strong attention to detail may stand out in this role.


Public Sector

people meeting in a hall

Jobs in this area can encompass government, public health care, and administration. Many of these jobs offer the ability to see new places and represent your country. Some people find serving at the local or national level to be rewarding. The ability to assess and examine complex topics and communicate about those ideas are a part of many skill sets possessed by the English literature student. Volunteering, taking on internships, and studying current events are all ways to show marketability in this field.

Conclusion

Those with an English literature degree can manage and assimilate large amounts of research and communicate well. They are experts in influencing through an argumentative essay or a lively group debate. These skills are appealing to all employers, not just to those associated with an English literature degree.

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