What can I do with an English Literature degree?
Reading books and discussing Shakespeare is great, but can it really get you a decent job? An English Literature degree gives you more options than you might think!
Back in the olden days when I was studying English at university, I was often asked if I was going to be a teacher. And I would internally roll my eyes. Whilst there’s certainly nothing wrong with teaching, it wasn’t what I planned to do (spoiler alert: I ended up in a job doing great stuff like writing blog posts for Bath Spa University!), and the assumption always kind of exasperated me. It seemed so limiting, so uninspired, when in fact there is a wide range of careers you can explore with an English Literature degree, and they don’t all involve staring at musty tomes or being a “starving artist.”
Why study English Literature?
Studying English Literature is a natural choice for the book-lovers and wordsmiths among us, but it’s also a great choice for developing research, independent thinking and creative problem solving skills.
Of course, you’ll read and discuss a variety of literary texts and genres, but you’ll also gain valuable analysis, interpretation and communication skills - skills that are highly transferable and desirable to employers everywhere.
"While degrees typically improve graduate critical thinking skills, I would argue that English Literature is a specific subject area where this is especially true," Bath Spa Employability Consultant, Aquari'elle Singer, says. "Critical thinking is such a valuable skill to have. The ability to reflect, to scrutinise and to explore ideas from a variety of angles makes English Literature students excellent problem solvers in a variety of workplace settings.
"Critical Thinking ranked in the Top 10 Skills of 2025 (World Economic Forum, 2020) so English Literature students are graduating equipped with one of the most highly valued work skills of the future!"
You can also combine English Literature with another subject such as Creative Writing, Publishing or even Philosophy to create a more specialised degree.
Teaching and academia
The “are you going to be a teacher?” question is a classic for a reason, so let’s start there. Teaching is a natural and very common career path for English graduates, providing a job that lets them share their enthusiasm for language and literature whilst educating the next generation of bright young people. And it’s far from one-dimensional - in addition to primary and secondary education, you might also consider teaching English as a second language (TESOL). You’ll need to get additional qualifications to teach, but an English degree is a great foundation to start.
For those who can’t get enough of the research, analysis, and discussion of obscure-yet-fascinating literary stuff they experienced at university, or if you’ve always thought your name would sound great with “doctor” in front of it, but you can’t stand the sight of blood, academia is a great career choice. Many English Literature graduates go on to do a postgraduate degree (or two), find their niche in academia and become lecturers and professors. And you can still indulge in your preferred specialisms - researching, writing papers and essays, contributing to journals, magazines and newspapers - and just generally get paid to geek out over the things you’re really passionate about.
Publishing is one of the UK’s largest creative industries, offering a wide array of career opportunities for those with a passion for creating and getting information out into the world - whether it’s books, magazines, websites, blogs, or some futuristic space printing press we’ve yet to invent.
You could discover the next best-seller as a literary agent or publisher; polish it up and get it ready for a wider readership as a book editor; or help to make it into a thing you can actually hold in your hands as a production editor. And the digital realm of e-books, online journals, magazines and more offers plenty of opportunities to grow within the industry (it’s not all about books).
The publishing industry can be competitive, and most graduates won’t start out in these roles, but a role as an editorial or production assistant is a great first step onto the ladder.
Media and Communications
If you have a love of words and a flair for writing, there’s almost certainly a place for you in media and comms. Being such a broad category, there are myriad avenues and roles to consider which will let you flex your creative muscles and use your powers to persuade, promote, inform or entertain (or maybe a bit of all of those).
Copywriting and editing
Copywriters and editors work in many different sectors, and almost every type of business needs an excellent writer to produce, edit and proofread copy for their website, annual report, promotional materials, image captions, video scripts, and and and….
Copywriting is often a varied and fast-paced role - one minute you’re writing about ducks, the next you’re proofing and tweaking an important and very serious announcement from the head of your department (ask me how I know!) - but if you love to write and hate being bored, it’s a great career choice.
Marketing and advertising
Similarly, lots of English grads find roles in marketing and advertising - in fact copywriting often goes hand-in-hand with marketing and advertising. But it’s not just writing - you could also find yourself brainstorming new ideas for campaigns, putting together comms plans or researching promotional widgets (within your budget!) to put your logo on.
If your urge to write coincides with a search for truth, then journalism is a great avenue to explore, whether it’s online/print or broadcasting. And if this all sounds a little too corporate for you, you can always work for yourself as a freelance writer.
Web and digital
The world is very much “online”, and many (if not all) organisations have some kind of online presence, which means they need creative, tech-savvy communicators to produce and manage content.
Social media management
Who doesn’t want to coin the next “Sue, you’re shouting at tea” moment? As a social media manager, that person could be you. Organisations are using social media in increasingly varied ways, from promoting their products to communicating with their customers, and though it may seem like all those tweets are created on the fly, in reality, effectively running an organisation’s social media presence often requires a lot of thought and planning.
In addition to monitoring and responding to messages, you’ll need to create content plans (and often produce the content too), keep your eye on trends and oversee large campaigns to promote special events, new products, or anything else your organisation wants to shout about. If you’re quick-witted, creative and love having an excuse to be on your phone all the time (it’s for work!), it’s a career worth considering.
But it’s not just about the Tweetbook and the Snaptoks. Web content managers and digital copywriters are integral to creating, editing and maintaining many different types of content for organisations’ websites.
OK, you’re convinced. Now what?
Now that you know getting an English Literature degree offers loads of exciting career opportunities and won’t condemn you to a life of eating beans on toast, are you ready to explore a bit further? Check out our English Literature degree and learn about the School of Humanities. You can also have a look at our English Literature subject area, for an overview of all our English Literature-related courses, news and events.
And don’t just take it from me. See what our other staff and students have to say – book an Open Day!
Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.
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