What can you do with an English major? Almost ANYTHING. There are certainly careers that one might think of first, where English is particularly useful—law, publishing, public relations, and teaching of course—but most English majors with happy successful careers are in less obvious areas. They flourish in a wide variety of career paths: they work in the private sector in just about any kind of business; they work for the federal government or for the city or state; they work in non-profits; some freelance or start their own businesses. And their English major helped provide them with the tools to get there.
Here is just a selection of the wide variety of job titles held by our recent English graduates. As you’ll see, some graduates go on to careers in traditional fields, such as publishing and writing, but many pursue careers in less obvious areas:
Many of our majors prepared for careers through an internship, which are offered by the University as well as within the English Department. For more information about internships, contact Martha Witt or Caitlin Giordano.
BA English, 2017Law Student, Pace University
“After majoring in English, I went on to law school at Pace University. In my first year of law I can truly say that the skills I gained as an English major have been indispensable. I am able to cope with reading legal cases that have complex sentences, difficult vocabulary, and obscure main points. I am also able to write eloquently, and with a strong sense of analysis. This is because I spent quality time as an undergraduate studying a variety of texts from various centuries. I remember struggling through, but enjoying, reading Shakespeare, Emerson, Keats, Joyce, Jane Austen, and so many other authors, whose brilliant works of art taught me to readin and understand beautiful stories and powerful messages. Whether you move to graduate studies or pursue a career, you will come out of studying English with a profound understanding of the world. People appreciate conversations with those who are cognizant of history, psychology, world cultures, philosophy- all of which are developed in the study of English, and you will have an easy time making new friends and accessing any field of work you'd like. After graduating, you may find yourself so endeared with English you'll go on to teach it. I think that is where I might end up. Anyway, wherever you choose to go, I wish you the best of luck.”
MA English, 2016District Library Med
“I began my journey at William Paterson over a decade ago, when I enrolled in a handful of English courses while working on my Alternate Route Certification to become a teacher. In those classes, I found professors, such as Martha Witt and Philip Cioffari, with knowledge and passion that inspired me to embrace writing with a zeal I hadn't had in years. I was also privileged to take classes with Rosa Soto, who introduced me to the literature of the Transcendentalists, and would stay late after class, chatting with me about Whitman, Emerson and Fuller, and why their work is so relevant in today's society. During one of our talks, she made the suggestion that I consider a Master's Degree in English, because she said I clearly had a passion for writing and interpreting literature.
I took the plunge about a year later, and began my journey towards a Master's Degree in English, with a focus on writing. During the time it took me to get my degree, I gave birth to two daughters, ran an online company, and gained employment as an English Teacher at Ridgewood High School. I taught mostly honors level classes, created several new courses (some of them based on courses I took at William Paterson, such as Nonfiction Creative Writing and a Philosophy and Literature course that spent a semester focusing on Transcendentalists). My writing grew exponentially under the tutelage of my professors, and I was inspired with each class.
Last year, I made the decision to come back to William Paterson to pursue a degree to become a School Library Media Specialist. I am now midway through the coursework, and trading in my high school teaching job for a new one as the District Library Media Specialist in Allendale. Throughout my journey at WPU, I have consistently been impressed by my professors, who took both a personal and professional interest in my well-being and have pushed me to a place where I am truly happy in my career. I'm grateful for all the talks and encouragement I received over a decade ago that started me on this path, and proud to consider myself a WPU success story.
BA English 2012, MA English 2016J.D. candidate, Rutgers Law School, 2020
"My story is about reinvention. While enjoying a long-term career in mortgage finance, I decided I wanted to do something different, so I attended W.P.U. part-time and achieved an English writing B.A. in 2012 (Honor’s Track). I then attended W.P.U. part-time and achieved an English literature M.A. in 2016. I thought about going to another university for a Ph.D. in English, after which I would teach at the university level (I taught as an adjunct after receiving my M.A.); instead, I decided to go to law school. I am currently in my second year of full-time study at Rutgers Law School, and my English degrees continually help me in myriad ways. Legal writing is incredibly challenging, not because of complex terms and legal jargon, but because it is actually designed to be uncomplicated. The goal in legal writing is to take a large amount of information and reduce it to a small amount of understandable – and persuasive – material. Understanding the complexities of grammar and syntax, and concentrating on global structure, local ordering, and word-level editing have been critical to my success in this endeavor. My studies at W.P.U. gave me the requisite skills and confidence to tackle the upcoming challenges of being a trial attorney. Whether you’re interested in exploring a career in law, or teaching, or publishing, or any of the myriad applications of an English degree, consider the following advice:
While you’re a student: Make the most of your time at W.P.U. Explore different subjects you may not expect to like. Be present in your studies – go to every class, and take copious notes. The more engaged you are in class, the more you will enjoy learning.
Post-graduation: Your education at William Paterson University is as valuable as you make it. Your wonderful, highly-educated professors will gladly help you achieve your goals. Take advantage of available resources, and keep in touch with your W.P.U. professors and peers. And, as you search for work, never proof-read your own résumé; have a grammatically-skilled individual review it for errors.
Thereafter: Do not hesitate to explore additional education and career reinvention. Life is a long journey. You may wake up one day, mid-life, and decide you want to find a new job. Or start your own business. Or go to law school.
"You can do it."
BA English, 2012; MA English, 2014Vice Principal
My career up until this point has absolutely been informed and enhanced by my time as an English major at WPU. Most obviously, the MA program in literature provided me with the content knowledge in a diverse body of literary works and critical theory necessary to be a competent teacher of English at first as an Adjunct Professor, then at the high school level. In my new role as a Vice Principal, the research and communication skills the English department emphasized so heavily have been invaluable. Running a successful school requires constant assessment and research of best practices, as well as efficient communication to continuously keep my staff in the know on current trends and resources in education for the benefit of our community. However, more generally, the instruction and guidance of my professors taught me how to truly think critically and unveil the deeper meanings in all forms of texts that I encounter day-to-day. I have been able to pass this on to my own students over the years and teach them to slow down unpack the truths of the world around them. Finally, and most importantly, my time as a WPU English major taught me to look to the margins for those whose voices are not equally represented in the canon, in anthologies, and on the bestseller lists. This notion of seeking out the underrepresented voices gave my pedagogical perspective a clear mission and created a sense of urgency around teaching my Title I students in Passaic and Paterson to use their pens as their megaphones.
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