“What Can You Do With A BA in English? More Than You Think.”

March 21, 2014

By: Stephanie Diana Wilson

So, I have been working in the Financial and the Real Estate industry for upwards of five years each.  Now I have always been looked at as though I am one really odd duck because; my BA is in English Literature and a minor in Business Communications.  Thus I get asked a lot “Why didn’t you go into teaching?” or “Why are you in this industry?”.  I have even been asked these questions from my MBA adviser!  Now I used to question if it was because I don’t do my job well or am I lacking a skill set?  Especially since I have done Operations and Office Management where there is really no room for doubt I asked one of my managers why people were always asking these questions of me?  She explained it was not because I am bad at my job especially since so many regarded me as talented and adaptable.  However, she felt that my degree is what held me back and attracted questions like that.  Also she said even if I finish my MBA in Operations Management I would always be asked these questions.

With this in mind I did research because I firmly believe all knowledge is relative and we all just need to learn how to apply what we learn to real life.  Also all college students and hiring managers should be aware that more often than not you won’t end up in a career field that mirrors your degree type.  It just tends not to happen.  However, a degree period should never hold an employee back but, rather lift them up.  So, I went online and did some research at alternative careers that can be done with a degree in English and I was shocked at how many business type degrees can be done with such a degree! 

For instance Dawn Rosenberg McKay wrote in the article on  About.com’s career planning section a list of jobs that are applicable with said degree.   The following jobs were business related and outside what one might expect for this degree type.  You can read the whole article at http://careerplanning.about.com/od/exploringoccupations/a/degree-in-english.htm.  But; here is the list that I found most interesting:

  1. Entrepreneur
  2. Attorney
  3. Public Relations Specialist
  4. Reporter
  5. Advertising and Sales
  6. Marketing Manager

The website for Roosevelt University gave a more detailed list of career fields and sub topics for these career fields.  Many were logical and some a bit unexpected.  On the website it listed many that were typical career fields you would think of for an English degree, however, the ones listed below are from that website that those of us with this degree with no wants what so ever to go into teaching can pursue.  For the full list and details on each career type go to their website: http://www.roosevelt.edu/CAS/Programs/LIT/CareerGuide.aspx   

This research may be surprising to those who went for a business degree or another fluffy science.  However, the true test of the worth of a degree and those who “earned” it is if they can apply what was taught in the classroom with real life and build from that.  Careers are what you make of them and the materials or in this case a degree is whatever you choose.  With the information presented I stand up to those who ask “What do you do with a BA in English” and say “a lot”!  


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