In a world in which much of our communication has been reduced to 140 character tweets or emoji-filled texts, businesses in almost every industry are looking for workers who can help them effectively convey ideas. English majors have just that skillset. They are taught how to read critically, write coherently and communicate confidently -- all things that are in high demand today.
Most English degree programs last four years and culminate in a Bachelor of Arts degree. Some students may go on to study at the graduate level to specialize their skills in writing, communication or literature. However, for many occupations, a bachelor's degree is sufficient.
While some degree fields require on-campus study, English lends itself well to distance education. Online English degrees can be earned at many colleges and universities. For those who need flexibility but still enjoy classroom interaction, hybrid or blended programs include both forms of learning.
Best Colleges for English Degree Programs
English is a major offered at virtually all liberal arts schools, but not all programs are created equal. To determine the best schools for English degrees, we looked at factors such as tuition and graduation rates as well as the prominence of a school's English program. Here are the ten schools that rose to the top.
A small, private school in Vermont tops the list of best colleges for English degree programs. Marlboro College enrolls less than 500 students at both the undergraduate and graduate level and emphasizes interdisciplinary studies that are student designed.
The school tops the list, in part, because of its range of education options. Students at Marlboro College must complete a Plan of Concentration to graduate but have the freedom to combine multiple fields of study. Therefore, students can earn a degree in English-related fields such as writing and literature while also studying psychology, philosophy, religion or any other field that interests them.
Marlboro College's Clear Writing Requirement is another aspect that sets Marlboro College apart from other institutions. The school requires the development of a portfolio of writing samples within a student's first three semester to further hone students' English skills.
Named for the former president, Truman State University lands in the number two spot on this list of best colleges for English degrees. The school, is located in Kirksville, Missouri, and notes it is the state's only highly selective public liberal arts and sciences university.
All students at Truman are expected to take classes that let them walk away with essential skills in writing and speaking. English majors also get to choose from 100 course options that delve into everything from classical literature to modern issues. The college offers an English major and minor as well as master's degrees in English and fine arts.
Truman State University is also notable for ranking fourth among the schools on this list for both its affordable tuition and its graduation rate.
At the University of Mary Washington, new students participate in the First-Year Experience which includes a common read and a seminar class intended to improve writing, speaking and critical- thinking skills. It's just one feature that helped propel the university to a spot in the top three best colleges for English degrees.
Within the English major program, students are challenged with a curriculum that explores great literature of the past and instructs on the modern craft of digital storytelling and reporting. Students at the University of Mary Washington can also create their own special majors such as journalism and digital media studies.
The University of Mary Washington is located in Fredericksburg, Virginia and enrolls approximately 4,000 undergraduate students.
Located in the heart of Manhattan, Hunter College is part of The City University of New York system. It's not only notable for its excellent English program but also for having the third best tuition rate among the schools on this list.
The college's English department offers a bachelor's degree in English that includes a concentration in English literature. At the graduate level, there is a master's degree in English that covers both American and British literature.
Hunter College has 1,100 undergraduates and 200 graduate students enrolled in its English programs. The college takes an interdisciplinary approach to the subject and encourages students to explore their work from multiple perspectives. Students have access to a reading/writing center and can contribute to The Olive Tree Review, the school's literary magazine.
Despite its name, St. Mary's College of Maryland is a secular institution and a public honors college. It was founded in 1840 in what was once the capital of Maryland: St. Mary's City. Today, the school offers a liberal arts education to more than 1,600 students.
The English department shines through its approach to integrating literature with creative writing. Students are encouraged to explore the work of authors from a variety of historic and cultural backgrounds and then develop their own writing skills. The VOICES Reading Series at St. Mary's College of Maryland has been bringing authors to campus to read and discuss their work for nearly 40 years.
St. Mary's College of Maryland doesn't award any online degrees for English, but it does have both an English major and minor available on its campus.
The University of North Carolina at Asheville is an affordable choice for English majors. The school ranks second on this list for its tuition rate.
Beyond the price, the school's robust English department makes it an attractive option. Within its bachelor's degree in literature, there are three concentrations: creative writing, creative writing with teaching licensure and literature with teaching licensure. Literature and creative writing concentrations are also available within the English minor.
Regardless of their concentration, all students participate in a First- Year Writing course which is designed to expand and strengthen writing skills for the years to come. Alumni of the school include popular author Sarah Addison Allen.
Florida State University not only has a quality English program, but it ranks high for affordability and does a good job of helping its students graduate on time. The university has the lowest tuition rate of schools on this list and the second best graduation rate.
At its Tallahassee campus, English majors can choose from three different undergraduate programs. These include degrees in creative writing, literature and editing, writing and media. The school offers graduate degrees in English, literature and creative writing as well as a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.
Florida State University offers its English students a number of resources to improve their writing and the opportunity to showcase it in one of several departmental publications. These include The Southeast Review, Kudzu Review and a podcast series.
The New Paltz campus of The State University of New York system takes the number eight spot on this list of best colleges for English degrees. The English department at the school offers students the opportunity to explore several education tracks as they learn how to improve both their writing and critical- thinking skills.
All New Paltz students start their education with a Writing Intensive course designed to provide the skills needed to successfully complete the other English degree requirements. Then, the 8-semester plan for English majors introduces students to American literature, British literature and critical practices in their first two years while allowing them to explore electives for most of their upper division requirements.
This SUNY New Paltz has its campus, based in New Paltzand enrolled more than 6,700 undergraduates in 2016.
Another SUNY school with a solid English department is The State University of New York at Binghamton. What's more, the university has the best graduation rate of all the schools on this list.
More than 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in classes at this university. The Department of English, General Literature and Rhetoric is housed within the Harpur College. Its undergraduate program offers concentrations in global culture, rhetoric and creative writing. At the graduate level, students can earn a master's degree in English/American literature or a master's degree in English with a creative writing concentration.
London is a popular destination for English majors at SUNY at Binghamton who want to study overseas. The school also hosts a biennial Writing by Degrees Literary Conference which is another draw for those studying English.
Boasting a population of more than 33,000 undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students, The University of Iowa is the largest school in this ranking. It is known for having robust athletic and academic programs.
The English program at The University of Iowa is focused on both writing and literature. Every student within the major takes at least one writing course and seven literature courses. Those are complemented with elective options spanning topics such as critical theory, cultural studies and specific forms of creative expression. Students can pursue a concentration in publishing or earn their teaching licensure along with a bachelor's degree in English.
The University of Iowa also hosts the nationally renowned Iowa Writers' Workshop and International Writing Program and Iowa City, where its campus is based, has been named a City of Literature by UNESCO.
English Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
English majors learn skills that can be applied across virtually all industries. However, there are a few common career paths pursued by students who graduate in this field. Here's a closer look at the occupations favored by graduates with a four-year degree in English.
Career Outlook for English Majors
The skills learned in English degree programs can be valuable in a number of fast-growing occupations. Here's a look at the career growth for some common choices of English majors, but students should remember their skills may be transferrable to a number of jobs.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Interpreters and Translators||$55,230||57,140||19.2%|
|Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary||$79,160||25,590||7.9%|
|Education Teachers, Postsecondary||$73,680||60,930||7.8%|
|English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary||$78,150||68,360||4.1%|
|Proofreaders and Copy Markers||$41,950||9,820||3.8%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in English
While financial aid differs by institution, students may find the English department at their college or university has scholarship opportunities for new and returning students. Plus, there are national scholarship programs specifically for those studying English and related fields. These include ACES Scholarships, the Helen McCloy Mystery Writers of America Scholarship and others.
Q&A with an expert
What are some jobs suitable for English degree graduates that students might not be aware of?
Aside from the obvious jobs in underwriting and editing, looking into tech companies is huge. Search Engine Optimization is a huge industry that benefits from English majors because of the large quantities of content required to optimize websites and copy.
Are there particular minors or extracurriculars that can enhance an English grad's employability?
I think a minor in finance would be very useful. A lot of banks and financial institutions need marketing writers and those who can create marketing plans and strategy, but applicants need the understanding of the financial industry.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015