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A future in English
By Jennifer Bailey
A degree in English language is designed to get you reading books, analyzing theories, critiquing prose and verse and taking a more critical look at the signs and words surrounding us every day. The aim is to get students thinking creatively and analytically about the English language in general. And while there’s more to an English degree than reading hefty novels until your eyes go crossed, it would make good sense to say that reading and analyzing written works is likely to be central to your studies and something you must enjoy and have a passion for.
Did you know that English Literature has developed over the last 15 centuries from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present and is the largest body of literature written in a modern language? Wow, right!?
At the undergraduate level, this major includes in-depth and wide-ranging exposure to literature from both British and American contributors. Your extensive reading would include works from the greatest authors but you would also become familiar with the works of lesser-known authors including poets, essayists, playwrights, novelists and historians.
You should expect to start with courses that cover a large scope of literature from different periods in history; for example, you could be reading Shakespeare one week and Virginia Woolf the next. Your reading will require you to study and analyze passages relating texts to their cultural, social, historical and political contexts.
If you choose to major in English, you will stretch your thought and analytical skills. For this reason, lecturers will not spoon-feed you information but instead will expect you to develop your own understanding by reading assigned critical theory and journals along with the key texts. Seminars and group discussions provide a setting in which to test your ideas on your fellow students and gain a better understanding through idea sharing and debate.
Perhaps you are asking yourself: "What can I do with an English degree once I graduate?" English degree graduates can be found in more or less every industry filling a variety of roles – from editor, to academic and legal advisor, to manager.
Although there’s no one industry which takes precedence, English degree graduates are often found where strong communication and written English skills are very important; such as in media and publishing but also in archiving, writing, book selling, information and research, tourism, events management, social work, research/library, acting, youth work, probation work, human resources, teaching, retail management and sales.
Encompassing many smaller industries, the media sector covers everything from film to television, newspapers to news blogs, advertising to PR and more. Depending on your specific area of interest, there’s a niche for just about any graduate whether you want to produce, write, edit, review, schedule, promote, manage or run.
Be aware that careers in media can be very competitive. To give yourself an edge up on the competition, you should consider gaining valuable work experience during your studies. Interning is a good way to get a feel for different options and will be a boost for your long term career goals.
For example, if you want to go into publishing, you will likely need experience in a similar environment, either from an internship or involvement with a student publication such as your university newsletter, magazine or website. Also, consider a media blog and an active social media platform.
A popular way to utilize this degree and to experience other parts of the world is to teach English as a second language in another country for a period of time before taking off into your long term career plans. This will give you great real world experience and a larger world view which is a trait in demand with companies from all fields.