Do you have a BA in English? Whenever you inform people of this fact, is their usual response, “So, you want to be a teacher?” Being an English major, I fully understand. If I received a dollar every time someone assumed my sole aspiration is to teach, I wouldn’t need a job. No, there’s nothing wrong with being a teacher – the world could use more. However, it should be understood there are more options for English majors than teaching. For me, declaring English as my major once I entered college seemed only natural, especially since I had already decided my career choice by the time I was 14: To be a writer. While pursuing my degree, my dilemma had been what to write and where to work while I did it.
I knew I could be a journalist – I had written for the student newspaper and yearbook. However, I realized my taste and style required more creativity. But after years of having most of my short stories and poetry rejected, I knew I would need a nine-to-five if I wanted to keep from becoming the proverbial “starving artist.” And the “Great American Novel” I set out to write collected more dust than words.
It was not until I began looking for a position as a research assistant that I received a revelation. An English professor told me he reviewed books part-time. “It’s nice work if you can get it,” he’d stated. You can imagine my astonishment. For years, I’d practically lived with a book in my hands without being aware people actually get paid to read books. Shortly after our conversation, I entered a search on Google for ‘book reviewer.’ I discovered a plethora of magazines, newspapers, and websites that published book reviews. After emailing more editors than I can remember, I finally received my first freelance writing assignment. Discovering Craigslist landed me requests to write profiles, pitch letters, web content, and articles. Today, I know about writing blogs.
Truth is, I’m not as successful as I could have been if I had been a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.
But I have no regrets.
Writing is a process. At least now the pen’s getting a lot of use, the novel has a title, and I know there are many ways to put my English degree to good use.
Just in case you hold an English degree, but still wonder what you can do with it, here are a few options:
- grant writer
- manuscript reader
- marketing assistant
- book publisher
- public information specialist
- press secretary
- staff writer
And if none of these tickle your fancy, you still can be, yes, a teacher.