English Majors, Have Hope!

If you’re an English major in college, then someone’s probably asked you if you’re going to be an English teacher. Then comes the awkwardness of trying to explain that there’s more to an English major than just teaching. So, English majors, have hope! There are careers available for those who decide to pursue an English degree!

My College Experience

At Utah State University, there is a variety of English emphases you can pursue. You don’t just get an English degree. I personally graduated with an emphasis in Professional and Technical Writing, the most vague of emphases. Even I sometimes don’t know what a technical writer does. Some of the other emphases are English Education, Creative Writing, Folklore, and Literature Studies. You can see the full list USU offers for English here. While some of these programs may prepare their students for grad school or furthering their education in other ways, some English emphases are actually in high demand.

Why Choose Technical Communication?

If there’s one thing I don’t regret, it’s taking the Professional and Technical Communication emphasis. I always wanted to be an editor of some sort, but I wasn’t interested in journalism. I always viewed the Professional and Technical Communication emphasis as the “hodge-podge” of English majors that didn’t want to do any other emphasis. Some of my favorite parts of the program were:

  • Few Essays. As an English major, you would think it consisted of essay after essay, right? Wrong. My roommates were often writing more essays than I was. In fact, I did very little writing for most of my courses.
  • Useable Skills. I currently don’t have evidence for this, but I’ve heard a lot of rumors that many people, if they find a job in their major, often find that the knowledge they gain doesn’t actually help them in the work force. However, as a Professional and Technical Communicator student, college definitely prepared me for my job. My classes focused on creating content that focused on the purpose, and that is exactly what I do for my career.
  • Versatile. Unlike other majors that have classes that need to be taken in a certain order, I had the choice to take whatever I wanted, depending on what was offered that semester. There are actually very few required courses, and I was able to complete a business minor without taking any extra classes. I loved being able to take courses that I was interested in rather than only what I was required to take.

What Can You Do with a Degree in English?

While the careers vary per emphasis, these were some of the careers I ran into while job hunting after college.

  • Copy/Content Writer. This is actually the career that I landed in. I now work at a digital marketing agency as a content specialist. I never would have described myself as someone who wanted to write for a living, but that’s what I do! Surprisingly, I love it! Writing content for companies is not like writing an essay. It’s a complex, yet fun process to create content that is engaging and fun for potential readers.
  • Social Media Specialist. I saw so many jobs for people who needed people to post on Facebook and other social media platforms for companies. It’s a growing field that I can only see continuing to grow. If you’re someone who is passionate for social media with an English degree, this job is for you. The English degree helps to write content, but the rest is all up to you!
  • Editor. This is what I originally wanted to do with my degree, but I did not find many jobs in my state. I would recommend entering the news industry with a degree in Journalism, but if you have a passion for writing, you may find a position as a news editor. Honestly, if you’re someone who pays attention to every detail, editing may be for you.
  • Technical Writer. This job title is a little harder to describe. Basically, engineers and other fields in science need writers. You can read more about my experience with engineers. If you love to take jargon and translate it into easy-to-understand language, this job is for you.
  • Proposal/Grant Writer. I took a proposals and grants class my last semester at USU. From that class and my job search, it looks like proposal writers are still in high demand. These jobs are a little harder to gain without experience, but it’s also a great field to enter if you want to help charities and non-profits.

Personally, I love the job that I found. Sometimes it can be hard and I sometimes don’t know what I’m doing, but it’s been such a learning experience. It’s fascinating to see why people write the way they do online. If you’re an English major, have hope! You can find a career. I believe in you!

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Working with Engineers

I worked in the Engineering Writing Center (EWC) at Utah State University (USU). The EWC had just opened, and there was a bit of a learning curve, both for the Writing Consultants and the students. As someone who’s never written a lab report, I was suddenly helping students write and format lab reports, proposals, and other technical documents.

Not only did I not know what I was doing, the engineering students didn’t know what they were doing, either. Whenever I told someone I worked with engineers for writing assignments, there was almost always a chuckle and a comment that engineers aren’t the best writers and it’s great they have an extra resource to help them.

Here’s what I think: Engineers are surprisingly good writers!

The Reason Why
Engineers have it rough. Not only are they writing about complex systems, complete with an entirely separate vocabulary, but they have to focus on format and writing style, too. The hardest part for engineering students is that no style is consistent.

While working in the EWC, I heard that some professors only accepted active voice while others refused to see anything but passive voice. Do you know how hard it is to use active voice while emphasizing the action rather than the subject? It’s impossible! And yet, engineers are asked to do this and more according to the demands of their professors and jobs.

What I Saw
The engineering students I worked with were surprisingly receptive to the demands made of them from professors. While some students didn’t understand the differences between active voice and passive voice or why a comma should or shouldn’t be used, they were willing to learn.

I had a student come in with a proposal. He made more corrections than I did! From a previous appointment at the EWC, he learned from the Writing Consultant the differences between active and passive voice. Not only did he know what to look for, he knew how to change the sentence from passive to active voice.

I believe people should give engineers more credit on their writing abilities. As a Writing Consultant, I was not asked to understand the complex vocabulary or concepts engineering students were learning in their classes. I only had to focus on the grammar, content, and style of their documents. However, engineers are expected to understand something complex and write about it, too.

Engineering students don’t want to become engineers because they like to write, yet they write more than I do. I think they do a pretty good job at it, too.