English has been a controversial academic field for decades; even authoritative sources have questioned the pursuit of the English language or literature at the university level. Many people have come to believe that the pursuit of an English degree represents a "useless" program, leading to a degree with a conspicuous lack of employability. The common perception is that, if you have a degree in English, you're going to wind up teaching English.
In fact, English does represent a field with a great deal of diversity and employment potential; some of it is simply in areas where a student might not think to look, at least not right away. Here are some of the things you can do with an English degree today:
Editors at news publications are typically drawn from the ranks of veteran reporters. Few people outside of the industry, however, are aware of the distinction in skill sets between a good managing editor and a news presenter, or even an investigative journalist. A managing editor needs to be able to delegate responsibility, direct a team, and maintain two-way lines of communication. They're a behind-the-scenes presence, not the star of the show. Many managing editors have degrees from outside the field of journalism, including such fields as business management and English. The median annual starting wage for a managing newspaper editor is around $55,000, but circulation and promotion allow for the possibility of professional growth.
Sales and Marketing
Sales and marketing are closely related communications specialties, with a little bit of basic psychology (and strong analytical skills) thrown in for good measure. A college degree in English comes on strong in this area, particularly in terms of communications and linguistic analysis (writing, particularly in marketing, is a big part of the job). A median introductory salary of just under $60,000 per year makes this an extremely appealing position for a young professional, particularly in view of the fact that an English program's administrative qualifications also prepare one admirably for merit-based promotion.
Nonprofit organizations typically focus on a combination of business-related attributes and personal disposition, with "the right stuff" meaning a lot more than business savvy in terms of executive-level positions. The director of a nonprofit organization requires strong administrative, analytical, and communications skills; they also need to be good at picking up on new ideas, and be able to educate themselves as to the particulars of the cause they are supporting. A flexible, free-thinking mindset, coupled with businesslike acumen, is invaluable; an individual with an advanced college degree in English is a shoe-in. The median annual salary for this position is around $60,000 to start.
Web design and development is a field which has classically relied less on college, and more on independent certifications and self-taught professionals. A demonstrable skill level does help, but universities are slowly beginning to catch on, and today's web developers are often backed by accredited college degrees. An analytical grasp of the English language gives one a leg up in understanding a variety of basic computer protocols and interfaces, and being able to write content for the sites you build can only add to your value as a professional. Median introductory salary? Around $64,000 per year, with some independent professionals earning a great deal more than that.
By broadening your horizons, and thinking outside the box a little, you will find a world of opportunities being made available to you through the earning of an English degree. Far from being stuck in an academic career, you will have an assortment of rewarding and satisfying career options scattered within a diverse and fascinating range of industries.