Careers in English

Did you know that Emma Watson, Conan O’Brien, Stephen Spielberg and Sally Ride were all English majors? While you may not think that you’ll become an actress, TV host/comedian, Oscar-winning film director or astronaut, it is important to know that an English degree prepares you for more than careers in teaching, publishing and professional writing, which the degree also does exceedingly well.

As an English major or minor, you will develop writing, analytical, critical thinking and creative skills that will be of use in a variety of careers. Most importantly, you will learn to express yourself – to communicate effectively as a writer and speaker. These skills are in high demand with small and large companies, including high-tech firms, such as IBM, Microsoft and Dell.

Some of our English alumni currently work in public relations and non-profit agencies. They work as editors, technical writers, web developers/writers, librarians, writers for on-line media, translators and ESL instructors. Some pursue careers in law and medicine, or study for advanced degrees in literature, creative writing or linguistics. Many of our graduate students go on to academic careers.

Contrary to myths of the unemployed or under-employed humanities major, an article by Jeffrey Dorfman published in Forbes suggests that students who study English and other disciplines in the humanities, get a "great return on their investment," while they study a discipline which excites them intellectually. Our Career Services program lists many jobs for English majors.

Here are some of the careers that a few of our alumni are currently pursuing. Hear what they have to say about our department:

"Earning my Bachelor of Arts in English at Northern Illinois University was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my adult life. This program helped me to sharpen my writing and oral communication skills; these skills are ones that I utilize daily in my practice as a Student Affairs professional."

Ari Owens

“Earning my B.A. in English at NIU was among the best things I’ve done for myself both personally and professionally. This qualification opens doors for me globally as a teacher of the English language and literature, and I’ve formed a solid career as a middle and high school teacher overseas."

Gina Pulciani

"After receiving my M.A. in film and literature at NIU, I moved to Indiana University to complete my Ph.D. and I currently teach in the Department of English at Syracuse University as Assistant Professor of Film & Screen Studies. NIU gave me an interdisciplinary foundation in close reading and analytical writing."

Will Scheibel, Assistant Professor of Film & Screen Studies, Department of English, Syracuse University

"Most people believe that if you get an English degree, you have to teach English—but, that’s simply not the case."

Robyn Schuricht Bryant

"I started the English M.A. program at NIU over a decade after earning a B.A. in English at another university. As a young mother returning to academia, I found myself overwhelmed at times; thankfully, however, many of the English faculty mentored me as I pursued a master's in English education."

Melanie Kleimola

"While going to a doctoral program in Counseling Psychology from an M.A. program in British and American Literature might not seem like a logical next step, it has been a fairly natural transition: analyzing works of literature and analyzing people are surprisingly similar processes."

Laurie Donnelly-Pascual