Email: What to do with an English Major
I own and have enjoyed your two writing books with my homeschooled children.
I recently read about your background on your website and would like to ask you a couple of questions.
My 11th grade daughter is thinking of majoring in English with teacher licensure. She would like to teach English, write books, and is also looking into what else she could do with an English major.
I read that your husband majored in English and was wondering what kind of advice he could give to someone in this major. What suggestions would he or you have for her to be successful with her college classes and beyond?
Any comments, suggestions, and advice for my daughter would be greatly appreciated!
Hi Sabrina’s daughter!
Wonderful that your daughter loves writing and English so much. My husband was hooked on literature which is what led him to his major. There are some unique opportunities that go with being an English major, but, in the interests of full disclosure, I should add that many of them don’t pay well. 🙂
English majors often go into teaching, editing (for a publishing company) or some kind of communications role (sales, marketing, technical writing, copy editing) of big companies. Writing (as in, writing to make money) is the least likely to earn a person a living, though plenty of English majors (or creative writing majors) attempt to get published. My mom, who works as a full-time author of over 65 books, says that the vast majority of writers earn only part of their income through their writing. They almost always combine their writing with teaching.
So teaching is clearly a popular choice and a good one. Jon went into the Peace Corps after his major in English and earned his credential while teaching English as a foreign language in a Moroccan high school. He returned to the states where he earned his MA in American Literature and has been able to work as an “adjunct professor” at multiple universities in both California and Ohio, as well as a high school English teacher. Teaching’s been a great outlet for him as he worked in other full-time jobs.
Jon just mentioned that the English degree is perfect if your intent is to teach junior high or high school English. It dovetails beautifully with that ambition. The teaching path offers a good living with excellent benefits and is conducive to family life, too.
Jon also worked as an editor at a text book company, which is yet another way to earn a living off of a degree in English.
I, unconventionally, majored in history. My writing has been both avocation and vocation. I found that my interest in writing had less to do with literature and more to do with issues: with non-fiction content. I earned my MA in theology which also called on my writing skills. It isn’t necessary to major in English to become a writer (just want to point that out). And some teen writers would do better to major in journalism where more writing jobs are available than can be had through “writing novels” for instance. So if current events are your thing, bypass the English major and go for journalism.
The best way to successfully pursue the English major is to be a passionate reader. Reading literature is what fuels that degree. You must be willing to analyze it, take it apart and look at it through a variety of lenses. If you don’t like taking literature apart or submitting it to scrutiny, best not to major in English. Academic writing involves critical inquiry so that means you have to be interested in that kind of work.
I love your question and hope you’ll ask follow up questions if you have them.