Unlike conventional wisdom, which tends to underestimate majors in humanities, a degree in English literature has a lot to offer. It allows you to develop an excellent understanding of literary history, as well as enhance your knowledge of various intellectual traditions. In addition, it can teach you transferable skills, such as communication, presentation and research. All of these are highly sought-after by employers!
Finally, studying English literature can open the door to a wide range of career paths down the line. This means that, even if you’re not entirely sure what you see yourself doing in the future, you’ll have plenty of time to figure out what your ideal profession is.
So, since you’re likely in the middle of brainstorming possible scenarios for the future, here are the top 20 careers you can pursue with an English literature degree. We’ve arranged them from the most modest to the highest annual median income!
Average annual salary: $36,680
As a tutor, your main objective should be to use your expertise to guide your students and help them achieve academic success. Your tutees could range from elementary school kids and university students to learners with learning difficulties and even adults who are interested in expanding their knowledge in a particular area of study.
A significant advantage to tutoring is that it comes with a lot of flexibility, too. You could offer tutoring sessions online and at home, or work for a school or an academic institution.
Average annual salary: $39,680
Administrators are essential within every company; this role calls for excellent organizational, leadership and communication skills. Your duties will involve answering phone calls and emails, liaising with clients and other staff, arranging appointments, as well as managing departmental budgets.
If you enjoy working within fast-paced office environments but also the interpersonal aspects involved in front-facing positions, this could be viable career path.
Average annual salary: $45,410
If you have a knack for grammar and a sharp eye for detail, you can use these skills to your professional advantage. Copyeditors are responsible for checking written documents for errors, including syntax, grammar and punctuation, as well as the clarity and style of a text.
To do this job, you need to be able to catch any inconsistencies, repetition and factually incorrect statements through meticulous reading and research.
17. Editorial assistant
Average annual salary: $45,410
Editorial assistants can work within various fields, including book publishing, newspapers and magazines, digital media sites, and corporate companies. While the material you’ll be editing and assisting with may vary across these sectors, you’ll generally be required to research various topics, proofread texts and support editorial staff with other tasks.
While this may be considered as an entry-level role, it’s a great way to break into these industries and work your way up to other roles.
Average annual salary: $48,370
As an English lit graduate, critical thinking, communication and writing are the Holy Grail of your transferable skills. These also happen to be essential assets for a career in journalism.
Your options here are quite diverse: you could be a print reporter, a broadcaster for a news agency, a staffer for an online magazine, or a columnist for a local newspaper. There’s also plenty of entry points in this career: you could do a master’s, complete an internship, or land an entry-level role before climbing up the ladder.
Average annual salary: $49,110
If you’re bilingual, you could use your language skills to translate written and oral material. It’s important that you’re equally fluent in both languages, however, as you need to ensure that your translated work preserves the meaning of the original text.
From books to movie subtitles and articles to videos, you could work with diverse media and use your English literature knowledge as a competitive advantage — having a specialty is always a plus.
Average annual salary: $56,230
Does this entry surprise you? It shouldn’t! English majors can be paralegals, and the reason for this is that, at college, they gain precious relevant skills. These include research, citation, critical thinking and, of course, writing skills.
In their day to day, paralegals assist lawyers by organizing documentation, drafting correspondence, conducting research and gathering facts for cases.
So, if during your studies you realize you don’t want to teach or get into technical or creative writing in the future, you can finish your degree and enroll in a certificate in paralegal studies after. As long as it’s a program that’s approved by the American Bar Association, you’ll be able to break into the world of law.
13. Academic librarian
Average annual salary: $61,190
Ask an English literature graduate what their ideal job would be, and a lot of the times you’ll get a similar response: something to do with books.
Working as a librarian, however, involves a lot more than book-shelving and book-stamping. Indeed, academic librarians offer general and subject-specific research help. Not only that, but they’re also responsible for expanding and managing book collections, contributing to academic course developments and organizing library resources.
Average annual salary: $61,320
Though teaching is not the only thing that literature graduates can build a career out of, it’s a viable, popular choice for many. As a subject, however, teaching is not one-dimensional; for example, you could work with young children as an elementary school teacher or with teens as a high school teacher. Alternatively, you could teach English as a second language to adults or young learners — and travel the world while you’re at it.
If this is something you want to pursue, consider applying for a master’s degree in education or official teacher training courses so you can secure your qualified teacher status (QTS). You could also look into TESOL courses such as CELTA and TEFL.
11. Web editor and content manager
Average annual salary: $63,350
Remember those transferable skills I just mentioned? Editing and proofreading should also hold a prime spot on your list.
As a web editor and content manager, you’ll be responsible for the written and visual content produced and shared by companies. This often involves working with SEO tools to drive traffic to the website, monitoring the performance of content, and planning a detailed content strategy.
10. Freelance writer
Average annual salary: $69,510
Taking the path of freelancing will allow you to get a flavor for different kinds of writing projects, learn to manage your time independently, and create the schedule that suits you. You could be preparing content for social media one day and writing up an article the next!
Plus, thanks to the internet, you’ll be able to collaborate with companies or other professionals from all around the world, with no restrictions to how much or how little you work.
As landing a full-time writing career can take some time when you’re fresh out of college, freelancing is a great way to gain work experience as you explore your options.
9. Digital copywriter
Average annual salary: $69,510
If you have a way with words, copywriting could be a good profession for you.
Copywriters are a valuable asset for companies. Their job requires them to produce persuasive and eye-catching copy that can boost the visibility of a business or a product.
But coming up with catchy content isn’t all there is to this role. Indeed, copywriters are required to conduct thorough research, find statistics, and interview experts before putting pen on paper. As for the content, it can range from blog posts to social media captions and magazine copy.
Average annual salary: $69,510
If your dream is to work within publishing, then there are various roles you could pursue, including that of a literary agent, a production editor or a publisher. The latter lies in the top tier of the industry and involves overseeing the editing, design and production of books and manuscripts.
To earn yourself the publisher title, you need to climb your way up, usually from an intern position to a permanent role within a publishing company.
Average annual salary: $78,060
As an English literature graduate, you’ll understand the impact a single word can have on a text, speech or conversation. Lexicographers, who fall under the category of technical writers, research new words and are responsible for upkeeping and putting together dictionaries.
As the years go by, new expressions become part of mainstream speech, and lexicography ensures that the origins, usages and meanings of these words are documented.
In terms of their duties, lexicographers are the ones who get to define new words, ensuring that their descriptions are both accurate and current. A typical day in the life of a lexicographer involves working in an office, researching, editing and proofreading material.
6. Technical writer
Average annual salary: $78,060
Technical writing involves putting together technical manuals, instructional guides and reports. If you enjoy writing but are more of a rational thinker without a creative flair, this could be a good match for you!
Sectors such as manufacturing, IT, engineering, biotech and finance need technical writers to present information in a clear, constructive and unambiguous manner while employing user-friendly language. Your work may also span from briefs, press releases and policies.
5. Professor and lecturer
Average annual salary: $79,640
If you’re passionate about academia, then why not build a career within it? Whether you want to study the linguistic patterns of English, research literary styles, explore radical critical theories or focus on postmodern poetry, you can do so by completing a master’s and a PhD in any of these areas.
After that, you can work as a professor and lecturer in different universities, colleges and educational establishments while undertaking research and teaching subjects you’re truly passionate about.
4. PR manager
Average annual salary: $119,860
A PR manager’s job can take them from NGOs to universities and large corporations to government agencies. Their work revolves around creating and maintaining a good public image for their employer through conferences, interviews and social media.
To do that, you need to be a creative individual with excellent communication skills which you can use to act as the representative of your company.
3. Education policy analyst
Average annual salary: $122,510
If you’re passionate about education, then this role could be fitting. As an education policy analyst, your job is to research current educational policies, curriculums and ongoing issues to assess their impact on students and their communities. Your role, then, would allow you to advocate for certain changes that could transform educational standards as well as the student curriculum.
Before you can advance to this position, it’s essential to gain experience working within schools first. It may also be advisable to pursue a graduate degree in public policy or education.
2. Social media manager
Average annual salary: $133,380
Do you know everything there is to know about social media?
Working as a social media manager is a versatile and challenging job. It’s also one of the fastest-growing careers out there, with nearly every company now employing professionals to increase their social media presence and boost their brand visibility online.
Not only do you need to curate your employer’s online profile, but you’re also in charge of strategizing social media campaigns, orchestrating the content production and engaging with your online audience.
1. Advertising manager
Average annual salary: $135,030
While this isn’t a role you can land right after graduation, it could be one that you can aspire to and work towards. Plus, it’s one of the highest-paying marketing jobs at the moment.
As an advertising manager, you’ll be in charge of your clients’ advertising campaigns, overseeing every medium including print, socials, TV and online ads. You also get to come up with effective brand strategies to increase visibility, approve content before publication and lead an entire team of staff.
Though you may be telling yourself that you’ve got to figure out everything right now, it’s okay to need more time. At a time when stress among students seems to be rising each year, it’s imperative that you do your best to take care of yourself.
As we’ve seen, English majors have a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a career. Plus, nothing stops you from switching careers down the line, should you want to! You could, for example, start off with an internship in the publishing industry, and end up teaching English as a foreign language a few years later. Or you might even find yourself pursuing careers which are totally unrelated to your studies. That’s okay, too!
Our advice to you is to speak to graduate students and professors, and start making professional connections as early as possible. The more conversations you have with subject matter experts, the better. Hearing first-hand experiences can help you make concrete decisions for your own career journey.
Which of the careers we talked about are you leaning towards? Leave us a comment and let us know!
Originally published on August 10, 2020. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.