5 Unexpected Career Paths for English Literature Graduates


Bachelor of Arts degrees are sometimes considered soft subjects, turning out unemployable graduate after unemployable graduate. Fortunately, that’s not at all true: just 6.2% of ex-English students are unemployed (not in work or further study) after graduation.

It’s no secret that English students go on to make great journalists, copywriters, editors and authors, but what if you don’t fancy any of those? Luckily, your degree hasn’t closed any doors – if anything it’s propping them open! Here are some career ideas you might not have considered to get you started:


1. Public Sector

As every English student quickly figures out, there are very few right answers in their field of study. Juggling opposing viewpoints and handling complex arguments is what you do best, and this is what work in the public sector is all about.

English grads are usually great communicators too. That’s a valuable skill in every walk of life, but even more so here, as public sector work affects a lot of lives.

It’s a really varied field; there are jobs at national and local levels, in everything from politics, to project planning, to public relations, to admin. Generally the pay is a little lower compared to private sector jobs, but there are plenty of high-octane grad schemes as well (like the Civil Service Fast Stream).

Plus, you’ll get to leave work every day knowing you made a difference to the country you live in. That’s pretty cool too!


2. Marketing and PR

Okay – so this one might have occurred to you already, but if you think you’re not business-savvy enough for marketing, think again. In a survey of English students in full time work six months after graduating, 15.4% were working in this sector – that’s the second biggest intake for the subject across all sectors.

Really, it’s no surprise: it all comes down to what English students do best: communication. Marketing is all about the way words and images influence people, and who else been studying exactly that for the last three years?

As with every job sector, there are more options than you’ll know what to do with. There are roles inside businesses, doing their marketing, as well as stand-alone PR businesses which might manage campaigns for dozens of other companies.

Every organisation – charity, retailer, manufacturer, you name it – needs a marketing presence. In this sector, the world really is your oyster.


3. Law

There’s a lot more to the legal sector than lawyers: behind each court case is a whole network of paralegals, legal secretaries, ushers, court reporters and more. The best part is, you don’t need a law degree for any of these.

As an English grad, your attention to detail, ability to make sense of complex written material, and the researching skills you gained during your degree could make you a valuable asset to a legal firm or courtroom.

The legal sector can be competitive, so if you can show a long-standing interest in law, such as involvement in a society at uni or a political blog, even better.

If you’ve decided that you do want to be a lawyer after all, it’s not too late. Law conversion courses – like the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) – are designed to set non-law graduates on their way to becoming practicing lawyers. Check out TotallyLegal's guide on how to become a Solicitor for more details.


4. Social Media

English students have always had a big presence in the media industry, with many going on to work in film, television and radio. Famous director Christopher Nolan was once an English Lit undergrad, y’know?!

In today’s graduate market, the internet has given media a whole new dimension. Businesses now have the means to communicate with their customers in-real time, all of the time, and of course they need someone to manage this challenging process for them.

That’s where English grads come in: they’re great judges of audience reception and they know how to get a message across. What more could a business want from their social media mogul?

These kind of jobs are also great if you think you might be interested in journalism. Social media is an important news platform these days (for better or for worse) and getting involved in blog writing and management will give you a solid foundation in content creation too.


5. Finance and Administration

Numbers? For a BA student? Surely not! As long as the thought of a sprawling Excel spreadsheet doesn’t fill you with fear (and you have a solid GCSE in Maths) your English degree could make you a great fit for a data-heavy job.

Remember when you had two novels, three papers and four entire textbooks to sift through for your end-of-module essay? English students are accustomed to dealing with large volumes of information; they can see broad patterns and themes across different mediums without missing out on the fine details. Swap letters for numbers and you’ve got a job in finance.

If you liked getting stuck into research during your degree, a career in accounting could be perfect for you. Linguistic students might be a little better-suited to these kinds of jobs, but there’s nothing to stop a data-loving Literature grad choosing this path too.


So next time your relatives ask if you’re going to be a teacher, you can surprise them with a few alternative suggestions (unless you do actually want to become a teacher – in which case, power to you!)


Jen Anderson writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.

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