What can I do with an English degree?

What can I do with an English degree?

English students have a lot to offer prospective employers, including well-developed communication skills, the ability to work independently, flexibility and adaptability.

English graduates enter a broad range of professions, including education, marketing, journalism and public relations. Their analytical and communication skills are potentially in demand in management roles both in business and the public sector.

This guide should help you think about the skills you have, the jobs they can be applied to, and the options available.

Skills for your CV

Specific skills you will have gained include:

  • critical and evaluative thinking
  • self-management
  • excellent written communication
  • oral communication and interpersonal skills
  • research and analysis skills
  • ability to work independently

Though pay levels for English graduates may not be as high as those in other areas, many of the career opportunities it opens up can be particularly rewarding. Typical roles include publishing, academia or working with heritage and culture.

English graduates are suitable for many roles in the business sector, where their ability to sift the evidence and present arguments will help them to succeed. What is more, their interpersonal skills should set them up well for a role in management. Employers in areas such as finance and IT often have vacancies such as customer-facing roles that are not technical, or where it is not a requirement for applicants to have a numerate degree: these are among the options open to English graduates.

Job roles and career areas you could work in

With some additional training, English graduates could consider jobs in teaching, journalism or acting, and the following roles:

What do English graduates go on to do?

Here’s what English graduates who finished their degrees in 2016 were doing six months after graduating, according to the What do graduates do? report published in 2017.

Destination Percentage
Full-time employment in the UK 41.5
Part-time employment in the UK 13.9
Working overseas 2.7
Working and studying 7.2
Further study 23.6
Unemployed 5.5
Other 5.6

Source: What do graduates do? 2017

Key areas of employment for fresh English graduates

These are the top five areas of work taken up by 2016 English graduates six months after graduation, according to the 2017 What do graduates do? report.

Areas of employment Percentage
Retail, catering, waiting and bar staff 17.9
Marketing, PR and sales professionals 15
Clerical, secretarial and numerical clerks 12.1
Education professionals 11.4
Arts, design and media professionals 8.9

Source: What do graduates do? 2017

Other careers pursued English graduates included business, HR and finance (8.2%), management (3.4) and legal, social and welfare professions (3.0%).

The proportion of English graduates working in retail, catering, bar and waiting jobs is perhaps a reflection of this group’s willingness to take on jobs in the short-term while working towards longer-term career goals – it’s worth remembering that English graduates are less likely to be unemployed than graduates of several other degree subjects, including computer science and IT graduates (9.8% of whom were unemployed) and mathematics (7.3% unemployed).

Secretarial and clerical positions (taken by 12.1% of English graduates) can offer a way into competitive industries such as publishing, so it may be that English graduates are pragmatic about playing a long game with regards to their overall career goals.

Which careers attract English students?

Media and advertising was by far the most popular career choice for English students identified by a 2017 survey of more than 60,000 undergraduates carried out by trendence UK, a partner of TARGETjobs’ parent company GTI. Just under a third (29%) of English students who participated in the survey said they were interested in this area. The next most popular careers for English students were as follows:

Career sights Percentage
Charity and not-for-profit (10% expressed an interest)
Hospitality 5
Retail 5
Public sector 4

Source: trendence UK Graduate Study 2017

Famous people with English degrees

If none of these options appeal to you, there are plenty of other paths available. Consider the following famous people, who all had English degrees:

  • Emma Watson – as bookish as her character Hermione in the Harry Potter films, she studied at Brown University in the US.
  • Jeremy Paxman – now known as the presenter of University Challenge, Jeremy’s own student days were spent at the University of Cambridge.
  • Philip Pullman – studied at the University of Oxford, and later created a parallel version of the city in his fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials.
  • Reneé Zellweger – the Bridget Jones actress studied at the University of Texas.
  • Hannah Murray – otherwise known as Gilly in Game of Thrones and Cassie in Skins.
  • Stephen Fry – the QI presenter studied at the University of Cambridge and even appeared on University Challenge while he was a student.