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English Language and Literature, General

Program Description

Just the Facts

English Language and Literature, General. A general program that focuses on the English language, including its history, structure and related communications skills; and the literature and culture of English-speaking peoples.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Additional Information

English majors study the literature and language of the English-speaking world. This can include writers from all eras and many styles of writing. Courses may concentrate on individual authors, authors from one region, different genres, language or linguistics, creative writing, or theory.

English is one of the broadest majors you can sign up for. It can lead to work in a wide range of employment fields, including publishing, education, government, marketing, business, research and entertainment.

Like other liberal arts degrees, it is well suited to careers do not require a particular major, but rather a diverse set of demonstrated skills and achievements.

"Communication is at the heart of all English studies -- whether students are reading a novel, a poem, or studying the technical 'language' of film, or exploring how the latest interactive technologies, such as blog sites, are changing our uses of language," says Tracy Daugherty. He is a professor and the chair of the English department at Oregon State University.

"English is a diverse and constantly changing field, as language and communication are dynamic and culturally sensitive."

English is available as a major in programs at all levels. From a community college diploma to a PhD, it is not difficult to find an English program in a post-secondary institution. Some programs even offer internships for students to gain practical experience.

But just because it's widely applicable doesn't mean that it's well-suited for everyone.

"It is the kind of thing that you should not study unless you find the subject matter interesting. You also should be good with words, logical in your thinking, and eager to talk about literature and language," says Cameron Louis. He is a professor and head of a university English department.

Daugherty says that English is a great choice for "students interested in critical thinking and in analyzing communication in any number of fields." Because of their flexibility in terms of career placements, English majors sometimes get a bad rap. Some say that an English degree does not prepare students well for a specific job. But those involved in English education say that students are prepared for a variety of career options.

Louis says that recent graduates' feedback about his university's English program indicates that: "Some have ended up as professional writers, and others have gone on to careers in law or business, and especially teaching at all levels -- elementary, secondary, post-secondary."

Some well-known people with English major bachelor's degrees include novelist Stephen King, humorist Dave Barry, actress Jodie Foster and CEO-level businessman Michael Eisner. There are also people in the legal profession, many journalists and politicians, and even an astronaut!

English majors develop cultural knowledge, imagination and strong writing abilities, which are useful for futures in many fields. They may even become more sought after in the age of text messaging shorthand and rapid-fire e-mail exchanges, when fewer people have the skills for thoughtful and well-crafted text interpretation, writing and communication.

"English is a good basic degree for preparing for advanced studies in almost any field," says Daugherty. He adds that by 2011 the opportunities for teachers at both the high school and college levels will improve. "For those majoring in English as pre-law or pre-med, the market is steadily good."

In high school, remember that reading and writing remain at the heart of English studies. Literature and advanced writing classes are useful for assessing your interest in the field of study and for college applications.

Louis adds that acting in plays or joining the debate team would also be a great way to prepare.

"History classes are also useful for a person wishing to major in English, to get a sense of cultural shifts that affect literary production. Journalism, work on the yearbook, any creative writing clubs or reading groups that are available would be good extracurricular activities," says Daugherty.

In college, students can expect to spend extra on literature and textbooks. Although the prices of texts go up each year, English remains one of the least expensive majors.

"The books cost, but there aren't any lab fees or other hidden costs. And if a student doesn't own a computer or a printer, most campuses give students access to computer facilities in their libraries, so that can save some money," says Daugherty.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Writers and Editors

What Can I do With a Degree in English?
A general resource site

Kids Online Learning Resources
Language arts links

Grammar Slammer
Brush up on writing skills


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