Written by Selina Scott.
Well, now you’ve done it. You want to be an English major and so it shall be. Your love of that old book scent and unquenchable thirst for devouring words has finally pointed you in this direction. Everything feels better on paper, your novels coming along somewhat, everything is a metaphor and over-analyzing is your forte. So ignore those looks of skepticism from your parents and read on and learn everything you need to know about being an English major.
What you’ll be doing
Ok, so you’re an English major, now what? What does that even mean? Lucky for you- some of the courses turn out to be incredibly interesting. Some of these classes are tough to get into since there are only so many available seats, so you need to go in with a game plan.
Some English majors are encouraged to base their pattern of coursework with models of study. These models of study can range from the classical and most popular British and American Literature to African American/ Africa Diaspora Studies, Creative Writing, Children’s Literature and Film and Media Studies. If you decide to take the Creative Writing route, you can take classes like Shakespeare, fiction writing, folklore, American literature and poetry.
Expect to write at least two papers for each class and prepare yourself for some workshop criticism. Get yourself a copy of “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” and get comfortable reading a variety of short narratives weekly. You have such a wide and fascinating range of options; you just need to find your right niche.
The classes you’ll take
You, of course, need to have at least one traditional Shakespeare class since, you’ll come to find out, Shakespeare’s influence can be found in many writings. In a class like Advanced Exposition, you can learn how to structure different forms of media and how media is evolving while utilizing new language and writing skills and mold them for different mediums.
Literature for the Adolescent (if your school offers this) looks at the ways YA literature uses culturally found ideas of what an adolescent to create their intended character and how these works as a whole are targeted towards teenagers.
If that doesn’t make you want to sign up immediately, discover the writing voice you never knew you had with Fiction Writing. You can develop your plot, characters and overall story while helping others workshop through theirs. It’s nerve racking to sit there and have others critique your story right in front of you, but as a writer you know that you need constructive criticism in order to grow.
You should also definitely take a Survey of Literature course on a genre you have interest in since there are so many and its likely you’d only enjoy the class if you enjoy the material. This means, despite my earlier claims, if Shakespeare isn’t your cup of tea, don’t drown yourself with him because you feel like you should. Take advantage of the different classes offered in your major and tailor them to you.
Internships for this major
You mastered the arts of oral and written communication which benefits more jobs and internships than you’ve realized. The versatility of an English degree allows you to make it whatever you want, while tailoring it to the job at hand and your own personal goals.
As a writing intern, you can use your writing skills and work for literally anyone. Openings exist for magazines, clothing companies, and even Disney that could use strong writers. In an editorial internship, you’ll learn all the ways to proofread, edit, fact check, write and pay attention to detail.
A marketing internship should be a breeze for you; you have a way with words, now utilize them. You need to successfully and clearly communicate with consumers and clients and gather research data about products while creating creative content based on the research conducted. You can also help construct and promote a marketing strategy for a certain organization.
Despite popular belief, not every English major has to become an English teacher or professor upon graduation. Job markets everywhere desperately need people with skills like yours, they just haven’t realized it. The skills that were beaten into you during college—your intense knowledge of writing skills and rules, including your adept way of analytical reading— are skills needed for many positions.
You just have to find the one most applicable to you. You do have career opportunities— just learn how to sell yourself with your English major degree.
- “One of the best things about an English major, I think, is that I don’t have to take exams! I usually have classes with the same people so you get to know your major, and you can often take a number of classes with a professor you like,” said Beth Heidrich, a senior English major at UF.
- “The thing I love the most about being an English major was recognizing that no two people ever read the same book. When we read, we fill the pages with our own history; our own social, political, racial and economic history. So when you don’t like a text, it’s because you didn’t connect to the history you brought to the pages. Texts are more about us than what is written,” said Rachel Harnett, an English PhD student at UF.
- “The best part about studying English was getting to understand the purpose and mechanics of stories. I guess most people hear the word story and associate it with some childish thing like a fairy tale, or at least I did. But everyday I saw a little more clearly what stories are meant to do, which makes us feel connected. Studying literature is a beautiful thing because it not only shows us how people are, it shows us what human language can really do: make us laugh, make us cry, put a picture in our brains and give it life, take us places we’ve never been and might never go. It’s amazing,” said Shelby Fintak, a recent FSU English graduate.