Lake Forest College’s English majors pursue many different careers, running the gamut from software developer at Epic to art director at the New York Times; from lecturer at the University of Wisconsin to film producer and editor; from corporate communications writer at Abbott Labs to the local state’s attorney. Read their success stories here.
Many majors combine their passion for reading and writing with other majors, such as education, and become great primary and secondary teachers.
In recent years, our majors have been admitted to and attended top graduate and professional schools such as Boston College, Emerson College, Northwestern University, New York University, Marquette University, University of Denver, and Indiana University in fields as diverse as arts administration, library science, post-secondary education, journalism, law, medicine, and social-service work. Many have received fellowships or assistantships to support their studies.
The sky is the limit for what you can do with an English major. In the current economic climate it pays to have critical writing, reading, and imaginative skills. We are happy to help you develop these skills and pursue a career that fits your goals in life.
English and specific career paths
Sometimes college students, even English majors, don’t recognize the flexibility of an English degree or the myriad career paths to which it might lead. To help you envision those career paths more concretely, below is just a sampling of possible career paths for an English major.
English and Advertising
Thinking about a career in advertising? Well, an English major will help make you a perfect fit for the job. Of course, you’ll need excellent writing skills, but did you know that as important are critical thinking skills? Translating the demands of the client into a creative script for a TV spot or a good selling point for a print ad all require critical thinking skills. And what better discipline than the English major to hone those critical thinking habits and develop competitive writing skills? Additionally, reading good literature is not only enjoyable, but can also guide you toward an understanding of human motivations. And that understanding will help you target the best products to the most interested audience! —Associate Professor of English Judy Dozier, Chair of African-American Studies, and former advertising professional
English and Corporate Communication
All corporations, even those devoted to finance or areas seemingly unrelated to English, depend on employees who can communicate well. Often corporations will have a department wholly devoted to corporate communications, either internal communications or external communications (such as marketing). In the former case, a communications director takes responsibility for directing internal communication and shaping messages sent to employees. These internal communications must be crafted skillfully because a poorly crafted or managed message could foster distrust or hostility from employees. Likewise, a corporation’s marketing specialists are central to the company’s success because such marketers create the text—the story—that brands a company and sells its value to the outside world. For students interested in making a strong salary right out of college, this corporate communication area is an excellent one to pursue.
English and Education
Perhaps the most obvious way to use your English background is to teach or work in the field of education. Many of our students double major in English and education, preparing for work as elementary or secondary education teachers. Lake Forest College even offers an M.A.T. program, which enables students to obtain both a master’s degree and Illinois teacher certification simultaneously; over 95 percent of students certified to teach through Lake Forest College are employed in schools making a difference in student lives. In addition, some English majors may be interested in joining the Teach for America program after graduation. Still others pursue graduate study of English to train for teaching in higher education (colleges and universities). And some students may be interested in working in the education industry in ways other than teaching—for instance, as an admissions counselor, a career counselor, a development/fundraising specialist, or a human resources coordinator, to name only a few important jobs at colleges and universities.
English and Law
Here’s how our own college president describes the value of English for a career in law: “I majored in English because I could satisfy my interest in people and the world more naturally and completely by reading literature than by reading anything else. Other subjects or disciplines would give me parts; literature could give me the whole. After college I studied law and then worked for a national law firm based in Philadelphia. Both in law school and as a practicing attorney I found that my English major served me very well. To gain their full benefits, for example, I had learned to read novels and poems very closely, and this habit of careful reading prepared me to read important legal texts without missing key points. The stories that so appealed to me in college, moreover, helped me recognize and understand the human dramas and disputes that lay beneath many legal conflicts. The analytical and persuasive writing I did in English courses – and my professors’ critiques of that writing – also gave me a solid foundation for the legal briefs I had to write and submit to various courts. Finally, I believe my English major made me a more interesting person, one who could converse easily with clients, appreciate their challenges, and merit their confidence.” –Stephen D. Schutt, President of Lake Forest College and Earlham College English major.
English and Library Science
At Lake Forest, we are luck to have many librarians who can speak to the value of an English degree for a career in library science. One librarian with a background in English describes the value of an English background thus: “A love of reading often leads students of English to careers in Library Science. And rightly so! A background in English can directly influence a librarian’s ability to recommend literature or lead book discussions. Jobs in library science today, however, are diverse in setting and job responsibilities. Librarians work in public libraries, schools, corporate offices, or research organizations. Your day may include researching or cataloging critical approaches to Shakespeare, current market data, or geological sea level changes. In a profession with a broad range of services and settings, it is the skills learned through the study of literature and language—being able to research, articulate meaningful questions, and understand complex arguments—that provide a solid foundation to the work of any librarian or information professional.” –Michelle Oh, Reference Librarian, Lake Forest College
English and Medicine
Double-majoring in English and biology as preparation for medical school may at first seem like an unlikely combination, but in fact it may be the best preparation for becoming a physician or nurse. The art of medicine is not just a technical exercise in manipulating lab tests or x-rays or surgical instruments. At its heart, it involves listening to the stories patients have to tell, drawing the most significant details from those stories, and weaving them into a narrative about the patient’s illness. In addition, a good physician or nurse is able to respond to patients not as a mechanic fixing a car, but as an empathetic human being—in fact just the kind of empathetic respondent the reading of literature trains one to be. To the extent that the field of medicine needs more medical professionals who are caregivers and not just technicians, a study of English offers the opportunity to develop the humanistic side of future healthcare professionals. Note, too, that a double major in science and English may distinguish you from the pack of applicants applying for medical school. Almost every medical school applicant will have a biology or chemistry degree; not every applicant will have a humanities degree as well. And medical schools themselves have shown interest in integrating the humanities within their curriculum because they recognize their work as a science rooted in humanistic endeavor. For instance, Penn State’s Hershey School of Medicine has its own humanities department, and Harvard Medical School has recently been discussing the need for a humanities component in its curriculum.
English and Technical Writing
Some of our English majors have recently gone on to work in the field of technical writing. Here’s how a recent alum describes the synergy between English and technical writing: “Technical writing is where your logic, reasoning and technical skills pair nicely with your inner muse. While the corporate ladder may not seem like the obvious choice for an English major, there is a desperate need for those who can read and write critically in virtually every industry. Fortune 500 companies and small-time software developers alike employ teams of technical writers who act as a hybrid of freelance writer, editor, designer and researcher. A typical work day can include designing user manuals for new software, aiding marketing in writing new content, and sitting in on review sessions for the latest books. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in technical writing, then your valuable language and literature skills are often best supplemented simply by having a diverse undergraduate career. A course in basic web design and introductory programming, as well as basic design or computer art courses that provide hands-on experience with design software, such as InDesign or Photoshop make for excellent accompaniments to your creative writing and literary studies.” –Stephen “Buzz” Beeaker, Lake Forest alum and English major
English and Publishing
Lake Forest English majors have an especial advantage in preparing for careers in publishing because of the English department’s in-house press and the many opportunities it presents for students to gain hands-on knowledge of publishing during their college careers. Here is how one of the co-directors of our press describes the value of an English major for work in publishing: “The publishing industry has changed rapidly in the last twenty years. The e-book and web revolutions have changed the way we read, what we read, and where we read. More books are published now than ever before, and this is true for both print and digital editions. The process of turning words into print and the process of “making a book” now involve copyediting and editorial skills, but also graphic design, web programming, event planning, and viral marketing, among many others. The English major at Lake Forest College is the best place to develop the core critical thinking skills to appreciate the changes that have overtaken this field, and to discover how best to leverage those changes for future success. English majors interested in publishing will have the chance to work with Lake Forest Press / &NOW Books, distributed by Northwestern University Press, and these students might consider a complementary minor in Print and Digital Publishing and/or Digital Media Design. These experiences all provide a “practical arts” opportunity to prepare students for this changing field. Student in Lake Forest College’s “In the Loop” program—our Chicago semester—will have the opportunity to engage in publishing “next step” beyond their campus experiences. In 2013-14 for instance, our students are interning at the University of Chicago Press among other prominent literary venues. This placement was made possible because of our thriving on-campus publishing programs.” —Davis Schneiderman, Associate Dean of the Faculty, Professor of English
English and Sales
Here’s how former Harvard English major Elizabeth Jameson describes her hiring story: “Back when I was applying for a sales position at Xerox Corporation just out of college, the District Manager nearly refused to hire me. Why, he said with some disdain, would I hire someone who was an English Major? “Well,” I scrambled to respond even while wondering that very same thing myself, “because all of life is story. It is about listening deeply to the story of the other and seeing the ways different stories overlap and intersect. Sales is about creating a story that connects and responds to the yearnings of others as expressed in their stories.” I’m not sure where that came from….but I was hired.” To put it more directly, sales is all about listening to the story of what they buyer needs, and telling the story of how your products or services will suit their needs. The possibilities for English majors are endless in the area of sales—with possible areas of employment ranging from insurance companies like All State and State Farm to technology giants like IBM and Apple.
English and Computer Technology
One of the most creative and influential figures in the computer industry, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, was also one of the most passionate spokespersons for the marriage of technology and the humanities. As Jobs once remarked, “Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.” This has certainly proved true with the success of Apple, but other technology companies have also attested to the value of humanities departments such as English for their technological ventures. A few years ago, for instance, Google announced its strong interest in hiring humanities students with liberal-arts backgrounds. See this recent article by Professor Theresa MacPhail at renowned Stevens Institute of Technology https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1073-the-importance-of-writing-skills-in-tech-related-fields . As well as the the following link for an article on a humanities hiring initiative http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/416190.article in the liberal arts.
To Write Better Code, Read Virginia Woolf by J. Bradford Hipps
For further reference:
- Course Descriptions
- Student Learning Outcomes
- Literature Track
- Writing Track
- Lake Forest College Press / &NOW Books
- Madeleine P. Plonsker Emerging Writer’s Residency Prize
- Lake Forest Literary Festival
- Opportunities After Graduation
- Why Study English?