Why English Majors are Good at Their Jobs, Proof That They Can Move Up and Things to Consider*

{View first part, “What She Will Do with an English Degree” (aka “She Showed Them”), and previous part, JUST A FEW Jobs for English Majors}

Do English majors have more skills than good grammar? A lot of them — and they can move up in their careers like everyone else.

In the last post on this subject, we looked at just a few jobs suited to people with English degrees, such as content editing and publishing, marketing writing, social media and email work. A lot of people may think it’s all a bunch of bunk — it’s time to do some debunking.

English degrees involve a lot more than reading or writing all day. Though that’s a large part of it, the larger tie-in is where the mindset, skills and aptitudes of the English major meet the needs of the workforce.

Grammar and punctuation. Let’s get the most obvious skill out of the way — the one that everyone sees as being the only skill that an English major has. People believe that the greatest skill of English majors is knowledge of English grammar, punctuation and the like — and they do need that skill. Why?

Because it prevents companies from looking stupid.

It’s obvious why editors need good grammar skills, but so do those who choose content; does a company really want a content manager who accepts submissions or creates content rife with errors?

Think of how much more credible even a post on social media is when it’s grammatically correct.

No one is perfect, and there will always be grammatical mistakes in the world; but you get the idea.

Strategizing content. Whether it’s considering what type of infographics to post online or what articles will be running in a publication, editors, marketers and various content staff need to consider one important thing: the audience.

Guess what makes English majors so good at audience interaction: They spend a ton of time in school writing with a certain slant and reading various works (both other students’ writing and published authors’ works), and thus learning how to look at content from another person’s point of view. Audience engagement is of vital importance — and the most successful businesses know it. Reaching and keeping the right audience (aka customers) is a hallmark of success.

Reading literature can play a large part in this, also. English majors can take an entire plot, characters, setting and more to see small details as well as how those details fit together.

Writing to persuade. Writing to persuade the audience can be a key skill set. If you’re trying to reach customers, persuasion is obviously key — but it’s also key if you’re writing a business proposal. For non-profits, grant writing (writing proposals to specific companies about how their grant money will be used and proof that it’s worth the investment) takes just as much skill in persuasion as writing business proposals.

Jobs for English Majors Vary — Just Like Any Other Major

One time, while driving to work (at a publishing company, by the way), I was changing radio stations and happened upon a talk show. The radio personalities were taking calls where people complained about their jobs, and one person called in talking about how her editing job involved mostly comparing and contrasting the same documents, perhaps just in different languages (she obviously was fluent in more than one language).

When the radio show hosts asked her if she had a degree, she unfortunately answered, “An English degree.” And of course, the hosts went on about how useless that was, saying, “Oh yeah, look how far that got you!”

Keep in mind that every company is different — this is true for every job out there. People in just about any major have various skill sets within that field; and different companies will utilize different skills within that discipline. The caller’s experience was much different, for example, than my first editing job.

Moving Up with an English Degree

I was lucky enough that my first job out of college was with a magazine publisher. It was an entry-level job, and I enjoyed the content. With any job relating to content work, handling content you are interested in is half the battle.

After nine months, I was able to move to an Associate Editor position with additional responsibilities. After a few more years, it was a Managing Editor position, which included planning articles targeted toward our audience, between my own ideas, ideas submitted by our freelance authors and questions from readers. After that, I became Editor of a couple of publications. There are other positions for those wanting to move up in the editorial ranks; each company will have a different lay of the land for potential career paths. Some will not, qualifying as “dead-end jobs” — but in that case, you just go someplace where the path goes farther.

It’s the same with any job that can be performed at more than one venue.

Or some of us with English degrees learn even more skills, which when combined with our English majors, give us a pretty large toolbox; graphic design and web editing are just a couple of examples.

Things to Consider

Will someone make a lot of money with an English degree? Most people don’t — but they can certainly survive just fine if they have a modest lifestyle. People in publishing and content fields at least tend to agree that we all made the conscious decision at one point to choose something they love to do, though it won’t make them rich. Different people have different priorities, and beyond paying the bills, that’s always an individual decision.

Last, everyone’s job is more complex or difficult than is obvious. Don’t believe it? What about a maid? Is it that easy to be running around cleaning all day? Most people don’t even want to clean their own homes. Customer service? Don’t even get me started on all the entitled people in the world who think they’re better than customer service reps — and treat others accordingly.

By now, it should be clear that jobs for English majors can be complex and rewarding for the right people — and they’re jobs that may change with the times but aren’t likely to go away any time soon.

*Republished from my former site, Artistically Writing.