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Careers After an English Major

Critical thinking. Creativity. Interpretation. Studying English prepares you for a diverse range of professional fields, including teaching, journalism, law, publishing, medicine, and the fine arts. English majors also pursue careers in tech companies and other startup ventures--in Silicon Valley and beyond. Whether copywriters or social workers, entrepreneurs or filmmakers, alums are applying their studies at Stanford to every corner of the world.

A Successful Future

As an English major, you are developing a heightened awareness of the power of language. Your considerable vocabulary, understanding of style, advanced critical thinking abilities, and experience writing complex, original work, gives you distinctive verbal capabilities: precision, subtlety, persuasiveness, and clarity all number among the tools at your disposal. Your knowledge of historical trends in, and applications of, written discourse, further strengthens your analytical abilities and your engagement with modern writing in any field. These qualities, coupled with the skill to communicate clearly and effectively, will serve you well in a wide range of fields.

A career in teaching

The deep immersion in the history of literature through intimate seminar discussions prepares many of our students to succeed as teachers in classrooms at all levels.

The medical humanities

The medical profession is increasingly interested in the values learned from humanistic courses such as English. An English degree, or a double major in English, would enhance your application to medical school.

Critical analysis

Through a close grappling with complex texts, the English major teaches students to read critically and to analyze deeply.  These skills take many of our students into careers in law and other areas that demand analysis of complex data.

Advanced reading and writing

An English major will teach you the skills of close reading and advanced writing. English majors very often seek out careers in publishing, public relations, advertising, media, or teaching. Occupations to be considered are copywriter, columnist, commentator, critic, editor, production assistant, public relations representative, reporter, correspondent, technical writer or writer/author for non-profit organizations

Communication skills

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, “what sets two equally qualified job candidates apart can be as simple as who has the better communication skills.”  The advanced reading and writing skills taught in the English major, the knowledge of how to put things into compelling narratives, will have a deep and long-lasting impact on your career.

The power of the imagination

Our subject is the human imagination expressed through the rich history of English and American literature. Our goal is to educate students in the history and practice of the creative process itself.  A degree in English teaches an empathic understanding of human motivation, and an engagement with big-picture thinking that encourages entrepreneurial leadership.

Bridging Education, Ambition & Meaningful Work (BEAM)

Careers no longer follow the linear paths that they have for previous generations. The area of study you pursue in college provides you with a broad range of opportunities after graduation rather than training for one specific career path. The skills you have developed as an English major--including technical analysis and interpretation, critical and creative writing, and historical synthesis--prepare you for a range of possible careers.

As you begin your career search, remember that BEAM offers professional career counseling services, available to aid you through various aspects of career planning and job searching, such as preparing for job interviews. A more detailed listing of BEAM’s services is just one of the many tools that will be provided to you through this guide. In order to access several of these BEAM resources you will need to register with the BEAM. To do so, simply visit BEAM.

What Our Alumni Say

TEACHING

"I have spent the past seven years teaching high school English in the San Francisco Unified School District. I fell in love with teaching after actually T.A. -ing bio labs and then teaching English in Vietnam. What I appreciated most about my time at Stanford in the English Department was seeing the passion of some of my instructors. I model my own teaching on their passion and desire to connect the literature to our lives." -- Daniel of San Francisco, CA

JOURNALISM

"After graduation, I was a print reporter for the Alameda Newspaper Group. In late '98, I relocated to the Washington DC bureau of NBC News to work for Dateline, where I produce, write, and research investigative news reports." -- Anonymous of Chevy Chase, MD

PUBLISHING

"I have been working since the fall at a small literary magazine in San Francisco, doing everything from writing and editing to research/fact checking as well as PR and event coordination." -- Audrey of San Francisco, CA

"I moved to New York with 5 friends from Stanford, then worked in the Internet development division at Harper Collins. I became the online Marketing Manager for children's books and built web sites like LemonySnicket.com and BeverlyClearly.com. Now, I'm working in Editorial at Chronicle Books in San Francisco." -- Christina of Ross, CA

ENTERTAINMENT

"I started my job in feature film story development at Fox Searchlight Pictures almost immediately out of college. I then accompanied my boss in his move to Focus Features. I work in the department that reviews incoming scripts/pitches/remake ideas, etc, and decides which of those ideas become movies. We then work with writers, producers, directors, agents/managers, cast, etc. as we shepherd the project through the filmmaking process, often dealing heavily with the development of the story and character themselves." -- Rache of Los Angeles, CA

"I originally pursued a career as a magazine writer/editor, freelance writing for several magazines and working as a copy editor for a website that focused on film. Then I worked as an editor for a Teen magazine until the publication folded in 2001. I found my way into television development because I am experienced in molding writers and helping them tell a good story. I now hope to continue my career at Nickelodeon and eventually to become a TV Development Executive." -- Audrey of Los Angeles, CA

"I started off working at a café and concentrating on fiction writing, my area of concentration as an undergraduate. After winning an award from the Berkley Fiction Review, I switched gears and worked for NBC's Internet venture, and then as a Financial Editor for one of the world's largest investment banks. I moved to L.A., where I was a Story Analyst for one of Hollywood's most prestigious talent agencies before becoming a marketing executive at Disney. My English degree from Stanford gave me the education to pursue a broad range of opportunities, and a passport to be noticed by top-tier organizations." -- Fred of Los Angeles, CA

PUBLIC RELATIONS

"I studied English because I enjoyed the courses, not because I thought it would help me get a specific job. I started working in professional sports immediately after graduation in a position with the SF 49ers Media Relations Department. PR and Media Relations are all writing and oral communications based. And you need to love sports. My English degree proved I had the basic skills to learn how to do the job. Now, I run my own Media Relations department for a pro Women's basketball team.” -- Kimberly of Sacramento, CA

"I've spent seven years in politics, culminating in a stint as Communications Director for a U.S. Congressman and now am a political consultant, working in P.R., media, and community/government relations." -- Erin of Chula Vista, CA

NON-PROFIT

"I knew all along I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector, and my extracurricular activities supported that goal. I ended up in development/fundraising at KQED because 1) that's where the jobs are, 2) I loved my organization, and 3) I knew the field. Being a strong writer with general analytical skills trumps all else. We always hire the best writers, all other skills roughly equal." -- Amy of Oakland, CA

MEDICINE

"After graduation, I worked as a Research Associate for a Neuro-imaging Lab at UCSF. There, I studied the possible correlations between the brain's structural changes and chemical changes in patients suffering from major mood disorders: I began medical school in the fall of 2002, and I'm currently finishing up my second year. I honestly believe that my decision to be an English major in college was one of the best decisions I ever made. I had many insecurities declaring English because I was afraid I would graduate with few skills besides being prepared for teaching, writing, or pursuing a Ph.D. However, pursuing science and medicine with an English degree not only helped me to stand out as a unique candidate among thousands of Biology majors, but it also strengthened other important qualities that contribute to a person's well-roundedness (such as speaking, writing, and interpersonal skills)." -- Andreana of Brooklyn, NY

MENTAL HEALTH

"I've held several social worker jobs since graduation, in mental health, child protection, specializing, for several years, in the 0-3 year-old population and infant mental health. I'm currently a Medical Social Worker and work with sick and disabled kids. My English degree has served me well in writing and research skills- I've used it for grant writing, policy making, program development, communications with client at different levels, etc.” -- Libby of San Jose, CA

LAW

"For the past five years, I have been practicing law in Atlanta, GA, with a focus on legal issues surrounding the financing of non-profit corporations, low income housing, schools, hospitals, and other public projects. In my practice I primarily focus on specific meaning of words and their use in contractual language. The skills that I developed in analyzing literary works has helped immensely in the interpretation and drafting of my work." -- James of Atlanta, GA

"I received my JD/MA from Duke. Wrote a novel and am negotiating with agents. Worked as a law clerk to a federal judge; now practice at FTC in areas of privacy, identity theft, and finance." -- James of Washington D.C.

FINANCE

"Despite being a double major in English and Economics, my English major has been much more valuable in my career in Finance. Being able to think critically about the businesses and industries we invest in as well as clearly communicating is absolutely important. My English major helped me significantly in this." -- James of San Francisco, CA

TECHNOLOGY

"I interned at Microsoft the summer I graduated--worked in the embedded devices group as a technical writer intern. After my internship ended, I interviewed for a full time position with the same group. Been working there ever since, writing technical documents. I also mentor many High School/Middle School students who are female, of color, or disabled, during the summers." -- Mandy of Seattle, WA

"I'm a designer for console video games, working in the Bay Area. Majoring in English didn't directly influence this choice, but it certainly has helped! Creative problem solving and good writing skills are an excellent selling point to any employer.” -- John of San Francisco, CA


Further Resources

BEAM

Handshake

Stanford Alumni Mentoring

Career Guide for English Majors

Please contact Margot Gilliland, Assistant Director of Career Communities - Bachelors & Masters in Arts & Humanities, with questions.