An English degree at Western prepares you for a wide variety of career options. Whether in the private or public sectors, employers are looking for people with the kinds of skills that an English major develops. Those skills include:
- reading critically
- summarizing and analyzing information
- interpreting discourse
- conducting research, both primary and secondary
- understanding audiences and other people’s perspectives
- responding creatively
- writing effectively in a variety of forms
- presenting information
- discerning problems and solutions across different systems
- employing storytelling stratgies to solidify and change organizational messages
In other words, your ability to effectively understand, communicate and collaborate with others in the analysis and production of documentation, digital or otherwise, is your key competency.
In survey after survey, employers consistently cite writing, communication skills, the ability to work independently, and adaptability as the most sought after skills. Whether the employer is a non-profit, a small business, corporation, or a government agency, they know they can teach you the job-specific skills you need. What they want and know they cannot teach is the broad cultural understanding and the analytical and communication skills you spend years developing at Western.
More and more employers are looking for people with the confidence, patience, and ability to design and communicate different kinds of material to multiple kinds of users and readers. That means English majors can play a crucial role in the construction of meaning, which is what our knowledge economy values and sells. In other words, most employers are convinced that ‘it’s not what you have or what you say; it’s how you say it and how you deliver it.’ Organizations, both for for-profit and for-purpose (or non-profit) believe this, and they need people who can help them build value and connect with customers and clients. What’s more, the ability to create, organize, reorganize, and analyze meaning is required of the careers considered knowledge-intensive (i.e. socia media coordinator, editor, videogame designer, teacher) and more traditional or ‘product-based’ careers (i.e. civil engineering, manufacturing, hardware development). Organizations know that technological skills are not only easy to teach, they are simply not enough. A glitch-free videogame is meaningless without compelling narratives and characters; a new and brilliant mobile app is only as valuable as users understand and perceive its abilities; a non-profit’s message is far more powerful if it is designed to spread from person to person rather than from organization to donor. English majors are often in a good position to help organizations create such useful, meaningful, compelling content.
As a result, the English major, in addition to preparing one for a career as a teacher or for entry into graduate or law school, can lead to a wide range of careers, including but not limited to:
- social media coordinator
- videogame plotting/design
- web content creator
- research analyst
- technical writer
- advertising copy writer public relations specialist
- user experience expert (UX)
- usability tester
- book buyer/seller
- web content developer/writer
- human resources manager
- market research analyst
- special events coordinator speech writer
- grant writer
- fundraising coordinator
- legislative assistant
Perhaps the best way to understand the array of opportunities for English majors is to look at what our alumni are doing by browsing any of our alumni newsletters.
If you’d like more information about careers for English majors, check out Western’s Career Services Center or explore any of the following:
I’m an English Major. Now What? by Timothy Lemire
Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career, by Sheila Curran
Careers for Bookworks & Other Literary Types, by Majorie Eberts and Margaret Gisler
For English Majors Blog
THINGS TO DO TO PREPARE FOR A CAREER
Visit the Career Services Center
The Career Services Center helps connect students, faculty and alumni with job and internship opportunities and provides counseling for career success. Students and alumni can register with Viking CareerLink for job information and opportunities. If you need assistance using Viking CareerLink, contact WWU Career Services at 360.650.3240, or visit their office in Old Main 280.
English Job & Internship Opportunities from Viking CareerLink
The Department of English has partnered with the Career Services Center to showcase current job and internship announcements directed specifically to English majors and recent alumni. Check back often as Viking CareerLink is updated daily with new opportunities.
Develop a Specialty Area with a Minor
If you have a general idea of what kind of career you might like to pursue, choosing a related minor can make a difference. English majors have made good use of minors in writing studies, foreign languages, business administration, internet resource creation, journalism, political science, and others.
Interview an Alumnus
If you have an interest in a particular career, check with Western’s Alumni Association to see if they know of any English alums who have pursued similar careers. Set up an interview for advice. Through the Ask! Online Network, you can search for alumni mentors based on various career and academic fields. Start connecting today and build career-related relationships that will last beyond graduation! www.wwualumni.com/ask
Develop Your Computer Skills
Many English related jobs involve producing a wide variety of texts, including written, image, audio and visual media. Developing skills with writing, image, audio, and video software will prepare you for entry-level requirements for many careers.
Seek an Internship
Internships are good opportunities to gain experience in you field of interest. The English department offers writing internships with a wide range of local businesses and non-profits through its internship course ENG 461 Internships in English: Professional Identity offered every spring. Contact Nicole Brown (Nicole.Brown@wwu.edu) for information.
Submit Your Work to and/or Be a Student Editor for Journals such as Jeopardy, Labyrinth, and Occam’s Razor.
If you are interested in editing and publishing, then get experience writing for or working with one of Western’s publications. Submissions are usually solicited in fall quarter, while editorial positions are typically advertised in the spring for the following year.
Create a Professional Social Network
Begin actively creating a professional social network. Consider joining Linkedin and begin cultivating contacts in your areas of interest.
Create a Professional Portfolio
For careers that involve producing media, employers will likely want to see examples of your work. Begin creating your own Professional Portfolio by saving your best work in various genres and media. Even if the sample work you collect isn’t directly related to a job for which you are applying, it can serve as an example of professional excellence that shows promise for the work you will be doing.
Attend a Job Fair
Job and Career Fairs are great opportunities to network, try out your resume, and practice your interviewing skills with recruiters. Western holds multiple Job Fairs every year.