Degree in English: Classes & Job Prospects

Bear with us while we finishing writing our latest haiku so that we can tell you all about getting a degree in English. Yeah, we know what you are thinking. You don’t want to sit and read Shakespeare, Chaucer or Bronte all day, everyday while getting your degree. Well we have some good news for you today, because while you may indeed touch on some of those authors, but getting a degree in English is so much more than just reading the classics. Trust us and keep on reading to find out all of the juicy details.

Degree in English

What is a degree in English exactly? Well for starters an English degree usually has an emphasis on writing, reading, critical thinking as well as communication skills. This is a degree major that will help to prep potential students with a liberal arts geared background for a surprising amount of careers.

degree in english 2

Different Degrees in English

There are quite a few degree levels that you can pursue when you are thinking about taking a stab at a degree in English. Take a look at the different options to see which one tickles your fancy.

Associate Degree in English

An associate degree in English will only take you about two years to complete and is a viable option for those that are interested in literature and writing. You can often find an associate degree program in English offered through community or junior colleges. When you get this type of degree you will gain some beneficial experience in communications, fine arts and humanities.

Something to remember when signing up for this degree program will be that you will have to complete the required general education courses. You’ll spend some time slaving away over math, life science, physical science and some social science classes, but you’ll be able to select your own courses and can try to find some things that are interesting for you.

There just so happens to be an Associate of Arts in English degree program offered at Sinclair Community College. The English program at this school is geared towards students wanting to transfer to a four year program at another school. The cool thing about the curriculum at Sinclair Community College is that the classes will fulfill the requirements needed for transfer and will make the remainder of the pursuit of your English degree a bit easier.

There is quite a list of classes that you will be able to take to score your associate’s degree, so let’s look at a few of them now:

  • American Literature I: In this course you will learn how to recognize and explain what the relationship is between various cultures as well as those from different social, political and economic backgrounds. You will study a lot of major American writers that specialize in poetry, drama and prose from the Colonial Period through the Civil War
  • Literature of Africa, Asia & Latin America: In this course you will be tasked with analyzing the writing of people from non-European cultures. You’ll be given various assignments to study writing from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The main goal of this class is to walk away with an understand that there are universal values and common experiences that we all share as humans

Bachelor’s Degree in English

After you have completed your associate’s degree you may then decide that you’d like to take on two more years of schooling to complete a bachelor’s degree in English. Your total amount of schooling at this point will be four years, but it could be worse, right! A bachelor’s degree will focus on the areas of linguistics and literature from many different sources. You will also spend time focusing on the history, grammar and ancient types of English writing.

If you are interested in becoming a writer or a teacher this is a pretty solid degree option for you. This will provide you with a solid amount of literature, linguistic and literary theory classes to help you hone your existing skills toward that path of a teacher or writer. These courses will also help you slide into a great many other positions that we will talk about in more detail later…So don’t go anywhere and keep reading!

The folks at Arizona State University have an online Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Yep, that means you can totally sit in you pajamas while you read, write and then read some more. Students that attend ASU will learn how to function as a team, interpret information analytically, problem solve and will learn leadership skills. It’s also expected that students work on their oral and written communication skills.

Let’s take a look at some of the courses that will be required in order to learn a great many of the aforementioned skills:

  • First Year Composition:  During the First Year Composition course at ASU, you will learn how to read critically and write in a persuading manner. You’ll also be required to bang out a research paper, so consider this your heads up
  • Critical Reading and Writing About Literature: In this course you will be introduced to the terminology, methods and the objectives that will be studied in literature. Students will then be expected to turn these key points into study skills that will aid in the evaluation and interpretation of literary works

Master’s Degree in English

For the last leg of our degree level information extravaganza we are going to cover a master’s degree in English. In this type of program you are really in the home stretch of being incredibly well versed in the subject of all things English and literature. By now you likely have a firm grip on literary analysis, writing, linguistics, critical thinking and should be able to recite The Canterbury Tales in Middle English…Ok, so we are kidding about that last part, but we had to see if you were paying attention.

During the completion of your final few years in school you will come to a point where more in depth written and oral presentations are required. You may feel the need to add some critical reading, literacy development or writing instruction classes to fill in any gaps of knowledge if you have the extra brain space that is. You can also add some other classes that will give you a leg up if you decide to go into teaching English or writing as a profession.

Here are some bonus classes that you may find helpful:

  • Methods for teaching English
  • Creative writing
  • Literature analysis
  • Professional experiences
  • Language learning

Specialty Area for English Degrees

We now know that you can earn an English degree at an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s level, but what if we take our discussion a bit further. We want to tell you a little bit about some of the specialty areas that you can focus your studies on during your time as an English major.

Bachelor of Arts Degree in World Literatures

Did you know that you can get a BA in World Literature as part of your English degree? Well you sure can! This is a pretty interesting degree that focuses on literature and globalization. During your time in this section of an English degree you will study a wide array of literary texts that have been translated into English. You’ll cover literature from Africa, East and South Asia, the Pacific Islands, Europe, North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. As a side note we’d like to add that having a good basis of foreign language studies can be helpful.

Once you are fully engrossed in your schooling as a world literature major, you’ll be ripe with critical and analytical thinking skills. You’ll be able to read through literary texts and clearly understand:

  • the interpretation and diffusion of literary works
  • the cultural and historical significance behind many literary productions
  • the integral role that literature plays in our contemporary world

If this sounds like a cool spin to put on your degree in English, go ahead and check out Ohio State University for the world literature geared degree program.

Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature and Culture

Here is another fun twist to put your English degree. You can still get all of the benefits of a degree in English, but you can add a special dose of literature and culture on the side. A program like this will help you to have a better understanding of yourself and of other cultures and times. You will spend a good deal of time learning about the writing, music, history, language as well as the important social factors of many cultures.

When you are enrolled in you your English degree program with an emphasis on literature and culture, you will develop some pretty helpful skills that will likely prove to be helpful at some point. You will have an ace up your sleeve in the form of skills in problem solving, written communication, interpersonal understanding and of course critical thinking.

Check out the University of Denver as a schooling option if you are interested in adding another layer to your degree in English.

Rhetoric & Composition

Here is yet another avenue that you can travel down during your pursuit of a degree in English. We are talking about studying Rhetoric & Composition. The specialized area of English focuses on a rather broad field of knowledge, but an interesting one nonetheless. You will spend time studying history, trends, methods, issues and the themes that are the driving forces behind the great literature of our past, present and future.

A lot of Rhetoric & Composition programs have some extra strengths in genre as well as language theory. There are some programs that also have an amped up emphasis in style, public discourses and writing training.

If an emphasis in Rhetoric & Composition floats your boat then take a gander at the Kansas University Department of English site.

What Can I Do with a Degree in English?

A lot of people will tell you that if you have a degree in English that you will have to become a high school or college English teacher. This is actually a pretty big misconception and not the case at all. There are a fair amount of jobs that are viable for those that have a bachelor’s or master’s in English. Let’s take a look at some of the pretty cool jobs that you can have once you have completed your schooling and have that pretty diploma to hang on your wall.

Commercial Journalism

Old school journalists are a dying breed these days it seems. To keep up with the ever changing face of writing in such a digital media driven world, we have Commerce Journalists to fill the gap. What these writers do is function as a traditional journalist and advertising writer hybrid. A lot of media companies are really interested in commerce journalists and have open positions right now. Luckily, you don’t have to have a ton of experience for this job. All you really need are skills, intellect and a good bit of motivation to keep you plugging along.

Even though commerce journalism jobs have only been around for about five years, there are quite a few companies that tend to have these positions open. Keep an eye out for openings at new digital media companies, small private media companies as well as long standing traditional publishers. Most companies are going to look for peeps that have mad writing skills and a Bachelor of Art degree in English.

Education Coordinator at an Online School

As most of us know by now, digital education is where it’s at. You no longer have to sit in traditional classrooms anymore. You can now get a primo education all from the comfort of your own home and even in your pajamas if it strikes your fancy. With the increase in online schooling will come the increased need for education coordinators.

Online universities are now in need of content producers that will help them to draft programs, blog posters and promote both of those things. Teachers are needed at these schools too of course. Lastly, online schools will also need education coordinators and their support people to help run the virtual offices with administrative tasks.

Online universities are mainly looking for those that have Ph.D.’s, but will even bring on those that have master’s degrees if the rest of their experience falls into the right categories. You’re likely to see open positions in public universities like Udacity and online colleges like University of Phoenix.

Social Media Community Manager

These days social media can be a way to make or break a company. This new area of focus also opens up new employment opportunities for those with a degree in English. You can get a job as a social media community manager. In this position you will run different social media forums to market and update those interested in the companies.

This job is an amalgamation of marketing, editorial, communications and branding. You’ll probably want to be a bit out going with some stellar communication skills to really be an ace in this position. Most companies will hire a social media community manager that has an English degree and some prior writing experience.

You’ll be able to find jobs like this at a lot of companies, especially large ones that have a brand name to uphold. Be on the lookout for companies that specialize in product distribution, professional sports teams and large entertainment companies.

Speech Writer

Forget being pigeon holed as an English teacher – instead become a speech writer. Have you heard of President Obama’s speech writer, John Favreau? He was only 27 when he wrote Obama’s inauguration speech. You will get a lot of the experience that you will need to become a speech writer during your schooling as an English major.

You can snag a job as a speech writer for large companies and politicians. You’ll likely start out as an intern and work your way up. Maybe even try to sneak into an internship position somewhere along the lines.

You Have to Watch This Video!

Here is a super fun and wonderfully informative video from Arizona State University about getting an English degree. It addresses some of the lingering questions that some of you may have when trying to decide if this is the right degree avenue to pursue. Go ahead and take two minutes and five seconds to take a gander at it. Trust us, it’s worth it.

Check Out These Wildly Successful Folks Who Have English Degrees

As we have already said, there are a lot of things that you can do with an English degree and there are a great many people that prove that to be the truth. There are a surprising amount of well-known and rather notable people that have English degrees in their arsenal already. You’ll likely be surprised by some of the guys and girls on our list! Take a look!


Rock legend, Sting has an English Degree from Northern Counties College of Education. We know that he is best known for his days with the Police when he was waxing poetic about “Roxanne”, but before that he snagged an English degree. He went on to use that degree to become a teacher before his passion for reggae laced rock and roll took over.

Conan O’Brien

Nope we are not yanking your chain here! Funny man, Conan O’Brien does indeed have an English degree and it’s from Harvard of all places! Conan’s area of study was classic literature and his senior thesis incorporated the works of Faulkner and O’Connor. This dude knows his stuff and is hiding quite a lot of smarts inside that ginger covered head of his.

Barbara Walters

Legendary journalist and breaker of glass ceilings, Barbara Walters earned a degree in English from the notable Sarah Lawrence College. Her degree certainly helped her to make a name for herself. She was one of the first major female reporters to stand among the men in her field as an equal. She is best known for her long running stints on the “Today” show, “20/20” and as the creator, executive producer and lead moderator of “The View”.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

As if being a Supreme Court Justice wasn’t awesome enough, Clarence Thomas also has an English degree from the Holy Cross College. Justice Thomas was well prepared for his time as a Supreme Court judge by taking an active role in many social causes on campus during the time he was earning his degree.

Stephen Spielberg

We were totally surprised to see that Academy Award winning direct, Steven Spielberg was an English major at California State University, Long Beach. He never completed his degree even though he was already three years into the process. The silver screens were too much of a draw though and reason enough for him to leave school to become an unpaid intern at Universal Studios.

Former MTV CEO Judy McGrath

McGrath was a major player in the game of success that MTV and its fellow networks, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. Before diving into the “Jersey Shore” she earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English from Cedar Crest College.

Michael Eisner, Former Disney CEO

Michael Eisner was the CEO of the Walt Disney Company for a good stretch of time, which would make people think that he must have a solid background in business or even a degree. Well to the contrary, Eisner never even tools a single business course. He was instead an English literature student. He felt that he gained so much from his English degree that he has even urged his three sons to jump on the English train as well…choo choo, Michael!

Sources and Recommended Reading

Feel free to hit up our list of sources for some extra information to fit into the extra space in your brain. We know we have tossed a lot of information at you and that it can be hard to keep it all together, so click away as they say!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *