It’s not what you can do with an English degree, but what an English degree can do for you
By Katie Catanzarite
I had spent the better part of my eighth grade year dreaming about becoming a pediatric oncologist. I loved researching, watching medical shows, and bombarding my uncle–who happens to be a radiation oncologist–with tons of questions every time I saw him. But, one day I really just woke up and thought, “This isn’t for me.” It was then that I realized all of my research and interest in the medical field stemmed from story ideas that I had and wrote. I never wanted to become a doctor myself, but maybe I could write about one. In fact, I had always loved writing, but it didn’t hit me that I could make it my career until the summer before I entered high school.
And once the writing bug bit me, I never looked back.
I was quite lucky, for when I spoke to my mom about my new revelation she thought it was perfect. I come from a creative family: both my parents majored in journalism and my dad’s brothers majored in English and creative writing. My family provided a lot of support, but, sooner or later, I new I was going to be confronted with people who were not as enthusiastic. In fact, when anyone comes out and declares their major as English, other people might not always make them feel the best about their decision.
However, I am here to tell any aspiring writers/authors out there: do not let anybody deter you. Even though it stings–and it will hurt, believe me–you have to power through. I’ve gotten benign reactions like, “Oh, you’re an English major, so must want to teach!” But also degrading reactions such as, “Wow, you better marry rich.”
For starters, I don’t think anyone majors in English for the money, though it doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be poor. You also are not sentenced to a teaching position, though that is a great option if you feel it’s your calling. But, to lift your spirits, just this past Thursday there was a career day for English majors on my campus. Our career advisor shared some cool job possibilities she found, and I’d like to share them with you.
- B2B Content Writer: “B2B” stands for Business-to-Business and is a sect of marketing and communications. These types of writers write compelling content for a business and try to gain customer interest and satisfaction. This can include writing for a business’s social media pages, blogs, or brochures and websites.
- Editor: This is a common path that entices English majors, including myself. I love it when a friend asks me to proofread or peer review his/her writing samples. So, if you find a similar joy in (constructively) critiquing others’ pieces, maybe you’ll want to give editing a try.
- Paralegal/Legal Assistant: That’s right, English, particularly journalism, is an open door to law school. My mom got her Bachelor’s in journalism, Doctorate in law, and Master’s in education, and now works as a professional academic advisor. She’s gotten all over the board with an English degree!
- Technical Writer: Technical writers can write anything from instruction manuals to journal articles. They’re not so much on the creative side, but if you’re interested in factual articles or research essays, this could be for you.
- SEO Content Writer: “SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimization. There are billions and billions of articles out there on the Internet and SEO Content Writers go through articles and highlight the important subjects and key words so users find what they are looking for quickly. Think of how “hashtags” and “tags” work to group things together on social media. You can actually make a job out of that!
Honestly, there are so many job opportunities available for English majors because they’re provided with such a broad set of skills. Never get discouraged, because if writing is truly what you want to do, you won’t be happy settling for something “practical” or “safe.” No degree holds a guaranteed job offer or position, so do what you love. Also, if none of those job options appeal to you, don’t be afraid to say you want to be an author. Look at all of the books that are out there. It is possible, and it is practical because this is what you are meant to do. Do what you believe in, do what you love, and you can never go wrong.
About Katie Catanzarite: Katie Catanzarite is a junior Creative Writing major at Seton Hill University. She is inspired by J.K. Rowling, John Green, and R.L. Stine. Life is her muse . . . and tea . . . many, many cups of tea. Aside from college and volunteering for Write Local she also runs her own blog: www.classicallykatiecat.com.