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What can I do with my English degree?

What if you love your degree but have no idea what you can do with it?

This series, What can I do with my degree?, will feature professionals, recent grads and current students in various disciplines to help you answer that very question about your own degree.

We’re going to start with one of the most common—and most confusing career-wise—undergraduate degrees: English.

So, what can you do with your English degree?

Related jobs: teacher, librarian, writer, editor, publisher, journalist, literary agent, and more
Related fields: publishing, education, government, marketing and advertising, public relations, and more

For more information, check out these guides for English grads from Simon Fraser University, the University of Manitoba and the University of Toronto.

Marisa Baratta

Book and magazine publishing student, writer and editorial magazine intern
Bachelor of Arts in Specialized English and bilingual certificate of excellence from York University’s Glendon College

I’ve always wanted to be a book writer, but I also wanted a steady income while I worked toward that goal. In grade 10, my sister pointed out that I enjoyed editing, so I decided I should become a novelist and a magazine writer/editor.

People in the magazine industry come from all over and post-graduate education isn’t necessary, but it’s a big plus. In my final year of university, I took a trip to the guidance counsellor and found one school offering a magazine-specific program: Centennial College.

Its book and magazine publishing program is highly rewarding and put me in contact with professionals across the publishing industry. It gave me a comprehensive overview of the industry and taught me the skills I needed to stand out.

Before I entered the program, I worked as an editorial intern for three months for a magazine and fell in love with my dream job.  I’ve almost completed the program at Centennial, where I am currently a web intern, and have another editorial internship lined up for the summer.

Jean Geary

Independent communications consultant
Bachelor of Arts in English from York University’s Glendon College

I majored in English and was in the bilingual stream, as they called it in 1980 when I graduated from Glendon. I then moved to London, England, where I took practical courses in public relations, advertising and marketing at night while working in the field.

My first exposure to PR work was through extra-curricular activities. I auditioned—unsuccessfully—for a role in Romeo and Juliet but was assigned to lead the publicity. I discovered that not only did I enjoy it, I did it well.

My English degree helped hone a number of valuable and relevant skills: time management, perseverance, research, discipline, and especially writing and editing.

Raffaela Baratta

Supervisor, library support services

Bachelor of Arts (English major with a minor in French) from Concordia University; Master of Information Studies from the University of Toronto

Shortly after graduating from Concordia, I decided to stay home and raise a family.  When my youngest began JK, I volunteered at the school library and, over the next two years, decided that I wanted a career where I could spend my days being surrounded by books. I always loved to read.

In the interim, I was hired to work as a library clerk by a school board and soon found myself supporting their library automation software. I also applied for and was accepted in the Master of Information Studies (formerly Master of Library Science) at the University of Toronto.

The ability to communicate with people, examine a problem and resolve it, and plan and execute [projects] were developed in the course of earning a B.A. I believe that analyzing literature, researching and writing numerous essays during my years at Concordia has helped to hone the essential skills I unknowingly use everyday.

Most of my friends and family constantly asked, “Why an English Major? What can you possibly do with that?” Apparently, one only has to apply oneself to discover the endless possibilities.

Karen Daigle

Application Support Analyst
Bachelor of Arts in English from Queen’s University

I worked for a non-profit organization in various capacities and, after six years with the organization, I was selected as the project manager to implement a new computer system. I worked side by side with the company we hired to implement the system and found that I thoroughly enjoyed data analysis and troubleshooting. I became a fairly proficient programmer and have worked in IT ever since.

I believe the part of my degree that has helped in this field is the analysis that was required when writing essays, term papers and exams. I also developed the ability to communicate well, which has proven invaluable. In the IT world there are many people who are very proficient technically—but if they are unable to understand a user’s needs and clearly communicate with the users, their value to an organization is limited.

Written by

Marisa Baratta loves writing, especially about topics pertaining to environmental change, animal issues, human rights and health. She loves helping others and wants to make a positive difference in the world. She is always working on publishing her books, which seek to inspire and incite laughter. She has been published in the National Post, t.o. night newspaper and on several online magazines. She completed a BA with a specialization in English and a bilingual certificate before studying Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. She lives with her family and two cats (can you spot one of them in the picture?).

6 comments

  1. Danielle Lorenz
    April 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    This is a great article. People think that getting a job in a program like English is extremely limiting, because all you can do is be an English teacher (something I’ve heard more than once). That is definitely NOT the case at all!

  2. April 5, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I agree! The funny thing is people’s first guess was that I wanted to be a teacher, but at the time, it was the one thing I knew I didn’t want to be!

  3. April 8, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I would recommend Technical Writing to any recently graduated English major. Not only does it require exceptional writing and editing abilities, but it can lead to a career in project management or marketing writing.

    As an added bonus, most technical writing positions are in the Information Technology (IT) field, an industry that keeps growing every year.

  4. April 8, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Thanks, Ivan! In your experience, what qualifications and experiences do employers that hire technical writers value?

  5. May 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Hey, Ivan, that’s neat how you pointed out writing can link to Information Technology–which, as you said, is a hot topic on everyone’s minds in this day and age.

    Writing really is such a versatile skill that is necessary to any field. What I should really say is that COMMUNICATION is so important to any job.

    Thanks for the input!

  6. Courtney
    June 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I’m currently taking Bachelor of Arts for English Major and its not that this program limits me in anyway, it’s that there are so many choices in where I want to go that make me feel overwhelmed, in which direction I want to pursue this degree. I’m hoping with my second year I can figure this out, this site definitely helped put into to perspective that there ARE possibilities! If anyone has suggestions on a career that involves traveling while using this degree please feel free to do so.Thank you!

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