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What Can You Do With an English Degree? 11 Career Paths to Consider! Part I of III

Updated: Jun 8


A woman lounges on a dark green couch, reading a red book. Stacks of books are all around the couch and there is a bookshelf in the back. She is pondering what to do with her English degree!

If you've got, are currently getting, or are even just thinking about getting a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature, then you might be familiar with a certain question.


And this question can come from anyone. You might hear it from well-meaning friends, curious family members, or nosy strangers. And that question is:

"So... what can you do with an English degree again?"

It's true. Unlike a nursing or engineering degree, what you should do with your English degree isn't always obvious or straightforward.


But don't worry, an English degree equips you with many employable skills. Therefore, an English degree can be a versatile stepping stone into many different career paths! In this post, I want to equip you with 11 ways to answer when that relative or friend or stranger asks you the dreaded question, "what can you do with an English degree?"


 

Also, this post is part I of III. In total, I am going to introduce you to 33 different career paths!

 

11 Career Paths for an English Major


 
1. Lawyer

Becoming a lawyer is a very common and desirable career path for people with English degrees!


An English degree gives you practice understanding and interpreting large volumes of dense information, reading and writing well, crafting strong arguments, researching information, and thinking critically—all very important skills for practicing law and representing clients.


In Canada, this is a provincially regulated profession, and the path to lawyer, at least in Alberta, has four main parts—and getting a degree in a field like English literature is the first step!


To become a lawyer you need:


  • 2–4 years of undergraduate experience (an English degree!)

  • A great score on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)

  • A Bachelor of Laws degree or Juris Doctor degree (3 years)

  • 8–12 months of experience articling (working as a student-at-law)



 
2. Legal Assistant

Legal assistants work in administration within law offices or the legal departments of large organizations and companies. They may also work in courts, banks, and municipal offices, too.


With the communication and organizational skills gained from an English degree, it should be no problem for any English major to excel in this field.

To get from English degree graduate to legal assistant, you'll most likely need to take a certification program or diploma program spanning 1–2 years.


To make yourself more desirable as a new hire, try to gain administrative volunteer/work experience while pursuing this path so you have some related experience to put on your resume.

 
3. Professor

Becoming a professor is the collective dream of many English majors! If you enjoy teaching, mentoring, researching, and creating curriculum, then this could be a great path to pursue.


Professors typically focus on a specific area within the field of English literature. This could involve specializing in Indigenous literature, Medieval literature, Canadian literature, American literature, Victorian literature, folklore, fantasy writing, modernism, poetry, fiction writing, or various other subjects.


Professors have a wide range of duties, which encompass teaching, collaborating, engaging in research, and actively contributing to their academic field. Moreover, they might take on leadership roles like heading a department.


Keep in mind, though, that academia is a hyper-competitive field, so it could take time—and a willingness to relocate—to build a career as a professor.

To become a professor, you need:

  • A Bachelor of Arts degree in English

  • A Master's Degree in English (or a related subject)

  • A PhD in English (or related subject)

 
4. School Teacher!

In Alberta, Canada, different teaching levels have specific requirements. Primary and secondary school teachers need a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education. Secondary teachers typically hold two bachelor degrees, one in their subject and one in education. Early childhood educators should have a certificate or diploma—and a bachelor's degree in child studies may be an advantage.


Good news—there are many universities where you can achieve a double major in English and Education and graduate with the ability to become a primary or secondary school teacher in only 4 years!


But don't fret. If you didn't decide on this career path during your English undergrad, don't worry, there are numerous well-reputed programs where you can get your after-degree bachelor of education in only 1–2 years.

Early Childhood Educator (Pre-School and before)

 

Elementary School Educator (Kindergarten – Grade 6)

 


Junior/Senior High School Educator (Grades 7 - 12)

 
5. Instructor — Technical or Vocational College

Many adults in the workforce require skills to fill knowledge gaps. If you enjoy teaching and working with adults, you might want to explore a career as a technical or vocational college instructor. Having a high level of expertise may eliminate the need for further degrees to follow this career path. For example, if you have specialized knowledge in something like technical writing, business editing, business knowledge, computer knowledge and so on, you could be qualified to teach a course!



 
6. Program / Project Instructor — Non Profit Sector

There are many government funded programs and projects that aim to help under served individuals in the community, and those programs and projects often need instructors to work directly with clients.


For instance, numerous non-profit organizations offer employment bridging programs for newcomers to Canada to enhance their employable skills, including communication, office technology, and English as a second language. Moreover, there are specialized programs aimed at linking newcomers and underprivileged individuals to particular career paths like line cook, early childhood educator, customer service, hospitality, and others.


If you have any specialized knowledge to pair with your English degree and a desire to help under-served populations, you can almost certainly get started in the non-profit world!


 
7. English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher

If you are passionate about the English language, and you enjoy working with newcomers, then consider ESL teaching! Getting an English degree will make you a strong writer with an excellent command of English grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.


All you need to go from an English major to an ESL teacher is a little bit of specialized training to polish your skill set—and the good news is this training is offered at many universities. An English degree or related degree is often required as a prerequisite to get into ESL training programs, and so having an English degree already makes you a natural fit for this job.


For example, after your English degree, you could get any of the following certifications to be able to teach ESL:


  • TESOL (teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Certificate

  • CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults)

  • TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate

 
8. Tutor

If you love working one-on-one or in small groups with students to help improve their understanding of English and boost their grades, then consider tutoring! Tutoring offers a wide range of opportunities. You have the option to work independently or join a tutoring organization, whether it's a conventional in-person tutoring company that serves students at a designated location or provides home tutoring services. Additionally, you may explore virtual positions at EdTech firms or online tutoring agencies if you prefer working remotely.

Pay for freelance tutoring depends on experience. With just an English degree, you can charge $30/hour. Advanced experience can command $50-75/hour. Specialized or teaching experience is even more valuable.

You can also tutor other related topics, too—such as English as a Second Language, or even social studies if you have that background (for example, a minor in history).



 
9. Archivist

Archivists work with records (information or objects of value). The main responsibilities of archivists are to create records, maintain them, facilitate access to them, and ultimately make decisions about whether to dispose of or retain them. Archives may be physical or digital, and so a willingness to work with technology is a must for archivists.


Archivists mostly work in archives and office environments, but when appraising or acquiring records from communities or individuals an archivist must be willing to conduct their work in warehouses, storage areas, garages, basements, or attics.


Archivists are commonly employed by libraries and universities, however, it's important to note that each institution may only have a single full-time archivist position available. Consequently, you might have to consider relocating if you are seeking full-time employment.

Having a Master's Degree in Archival Studies is typically required for archivists. Nevertheless, individuals with a master's in history or library sciences may also be eligible to move into this position.


 
10. Librarian

It's practically impossible to complete an English major without a deep love for books and regular visits to the library!


However, the era of dusty bookshelves and strict librarians is long gone. Nowadays, many libraries function not just as information and knowledge hubs, but also as community centers that offer computer/technology access, free meeting rooms, social activities, and a variety of events.


As a librarian, your role involves evaluating the needs of your community and sourcing resources to meet those needs. A crucial aspect of the job is granting access to both physical and digital resources, as well as guiding individuals on how to navigate them. Effective communication skills are essential for librarians in the modern world.


Librarians may also be tasked with conducting community presentations to inform the public about the library's services. Being digitally literate is a must for librarians, who should be capable of assisting clients with computer troubleshooting and other related issues.


To become a librarian, you need to obtain an ALA accredited Master's Degree in Library Sciences or Library and Information Studies, which can be obtained after completing an English degree.


 
11. Career Counselor

The extensive practice in writing, editing, and crafting compelling arguments for essays throughout your English studies equips you with the skills needed to excel as a career counselor. English majors are particularly adept at instructing others on composing impactful cover letters and resumes that get noticed by employers.


In this role, you may work virtually or in-person with young adults or adults. Career counselors often work in school environments and non-profit environments helping their clients build knowledge and navigate the labour market.


Main duties include advising clients/students about career options, helping identify aptitudes, providing feedback on resumes and cover letters, and providing additional supports—like conducting mock interviews to help clients develop better interview skills.


To become a career development professional, you must have post-secondary education in a discipline such as psychology, English, education, social work, or human resources. Many employers also require you to have a credential (like a certificate, diploma, or degree) in career development.

 

This post is part 1 of a 3 part series. Check back over the next few months for 22 more career opportunities for English majors.

 

Let me know in the comments if you have any additional suggestions for great ways to use your English degree! Feel free to share what you did with your English degree so others can learn from you, too!

 

Which career path interested you!?

  • Lawyer

  • Legal Assistant

  • Professor

  • School Teacher

You can vote for more than one answer.


 

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