For the individual who harbors a passion for reading and often spends weekend afternoons curled up with Toni Morrison’s latest, majoring in English is a chance to turn a hobby into a course of study. English majors will read countless works over the course of four years (though some degree programs may be longer or shorter than this, depending on the student’s work load and school), including novels, poetry, plays, and short stories. These works often provide insight into life in different time periods and in different societies, so English majors cultivate their understanding of human civilization and history. A single work can be interpreted in a number of ways, and students will analyze these works and literary critiques, sharpening their critical reading and communication skills in the process.
English majors will not only read great works of literature; they will also have opportunities to develop their writing. It’s no secret that avid readers make better writers, and English majors have many opportunities to develop this skill. Assignments will include writing extensive papers, in which students will analyze and interpret works by comparing and contrasting readings and highlighting important themes. Students will learn how to create and develop arguments, using contextual evidence to support their theses. Class discussions will allow students to share their interpretations and learn the points of view of others.
English programs include courses in ancient literature, American literature, British literature, and contemporary world literature. Classes may be devoted to studying the works of specific authors, such as Shakespeare and Tolstoy, as well as specific books, such as the Bible. Students can study specific periods and genres of literature, such as the works of the early 17th century or African American literature. Many programs will allow students to develop concentrations that focus on the periods, regions, genres, or authors that pique their interest. The best online colleges for English majors provide a number of courses and several areas of study.
While in school, English majors may gain practical experience by writing or editing their school newspaper or a literary journal and can pursue internships in a number of fields. But while it may seem only natural and fitting that an English degree would lead to a career as a writer or author, there are a number of other, non-writing fields that English majors are more than qualified to pursue. Equipped with a strong liberal arts education, English graduates may pursue futures in law and publishing, among others. For law, though, students will need to continue on to law school to complete their legal education, though an English degree can serve as an excellent undergraduate foundation. An English degree is offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels, but graduate degrees in English are geared toward students who plan to pursue careers in academia, teaching at colleges and universities. Most universities will require at least a master’s degree to teach.