“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat.” This phrase by William Shakespeare aptly describes the plight of every high school student out there who is trying to figure out their plans for undergraduate studies. Could there be a better beginning for this article about careers in English Literature? If you can come up with one – you have found your calling!
In my coaching practice, it is not uncommon to find a student interested in conventional degrees such as sciences, commerce related subjects and even humanities subjects such as Psychology, Sociology, History, Political Science and Economics. It got me wondering why an avid reader hesitates while thinking of a career in English Literature?
In this article, we will debunk myths and clarify facts that will help you get more clarity about this fascinating subject. Read on!
Some of the most common misconceptions around a degree in English literature are:
1) You must want to be a teacher!
This could not be more wrong! Not every student is dreaming of becoming a teacher – Unfortunately, it is considered as one of the very few career options available out there for English literature graduates. Being a teacher is an excellent aspiration but not everyone wants to be a teacher!
2) Oh if you won’t become a teacher – Would you write a book instead?
Another common misconception is that everyone wants to become the next JK Rowling – Fun Fact – JK Rowling herself is not an English Literature Graduate – she studied B.A. in French! Students choose this degree purely because they enjoy reading and writing about literature.
3) It’s easy!
In a country that churns out a huge number of doctors and engineers every year – it is easy to consider English literature as an easier degree. Only a student who is going through the degree can comprehensively explain how untrue this is!
4) You must love Shakespeare!
Believe it or not – An English Literature degree comprises much more than just Shakespeare. A plethora of theories and theorists are covered throughout the degree – with texts from all kinds of periods and countries.
5) You are all grammar nazis!
While this may be partly true for some students (irrespective of what they are studying), it is not a blanket rule for all English literature graduates. Most of them will not bother correcting your grammar and punctuations in the texts that you send them. However, we do not take responsibility for what will happen to you if you can’t differentiate between ‘your’ and you’re’ and ‘there’, ‘they’re and ‘their’.
Following facts are crucial to know before you get on a ride into the career in English Literature :
1) What will you be studying?
There are many well-meaning friends and family members in your life who will assume that for the next 3-4 years all you will be doing is reading books and writing essays. While it is a big part of the program – a degree in English Literature is a lot more than that!
In addition to reading, you will be analyzing and interpreting various texts and presenting them. You will also learn about the different styles and settings, past and present, history and evolution of literature. This is not limited to just English scriptures, you will also learn from Western, Oceana, Contemporary Literature, Postcolonial, Fictional and Renaissance Literature among others.
2) Career options
I hear students often say, “I do not want to become a teacher or publish a book”. These are considered as the only two options for English Literature graduates (which by the way are open to students from all streams and subject combinations!)
After completing a degree in English Literature, students can continue to pursue other forms of education at the postgraduate level such as a management degree or law or choose to get a job. Following are some of the job roles that you can explore.
- Media and Journalism
- Education (With additional studies)/Reading Specialist/Teaching English As a Second Language (TESOL)
- Advertising and Public Relations
- Content Writing/Content Editing
- Entertainment and Theater
- Business Sector
- Social Media Management
- Human Resource
- Scriptwriter/Technical Writer
- Law (with additional studies)
- Bibliotherapy (with additional studies in Psychology)
- Database Developer (For e-book platforms such as OverDrive)
- Book Designer (Combining Your Love For Books And Designing)
- Literary Agent (Helping Other Writers Publish Their Books)
- K–12 Editor (Editor For Children’s Books)
- Museum Curator
- Dramaturg (experts in the study of plays, musicals, or operas. It is their job to provide the cast and crew with vital knowledge, research, and interpretation about the theatrical work in question so that they are—in turn—better equipped to do their jobs.)
Do you see journalism as your future? This will be the perfect time to try out our Virtual internship Program that lets you explore journalism as a career on your own.
3) Skills that you will gain as a result of your degree in English Literature:
Comprehensive written and spoken communication skills, becoming adept at arguing a point, framing a narrative and analyzing various levels of meaning are the more obvious ones that are a direct outcome of this subject. But let’s take a look at some of the additional skills that you would develop:
- Creative thinking & the power of imagination
- Analytical and critical thinking
- Ability to understand and learn large chunks of information
- Ability to understand abstract concepts and ideas
- Being in touch with human psychology and behaviour
- Multicultural & Inter-cultural Competencies
- Precision, subtlety, persuasiveness
- Empathic understanding of human motivation
- Engagement with big-picture thinking that encourages entrepreneurial leadership.
Needless to say that most of the skills listed above are completely transferable and can be applied across various domains and job roles – the world will be your oyster!
4) Where can you study?
Like Switzerland is the home of studying Hospitality, it is a common misconception that one must study English Literature in the United Kingdom. However, increasing demand and awareness has compelled Indian universities to also offer some amazing options with quality programs for this subject. You can consider the following colleges/universities within India
- ST. Stephens College, New Delhi.
- Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata.
- St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
- Hindu College, New Delhi.
- St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.
- Madras Christian College, Chennai.
- Presidency University, Kolkata.
By now, we are sure that you would know if English Literature is the right choice for you. If you still have concerns, talking to professors or seniors/graduates who might be studying this subject can be a great resource to have your doubts clarified! Exploring combinations of the various subjects along with English Literature can also be a great option! The liberal arts & sciences universities in India offer a variety of major-minor combinations which gives you the luxury to design your degree.
You may not be clear about the path you would like to follow after the completion of your degree or perhaps you are still unclear if this is the right choice for you. Wherever you are in your career journey our experts can help you with the decision.
To know more, explore our career coaching programs now!