English Major and what it means for your career success. We explore the topic at the Student Research Foundation

Rethinking the Lowly College English Major 

When college students decide to major in English language and literature, common wisdom holds that their parents are unlikely to react less than positively. Some of the most stereotypical responses students can expect, according to common lore, can be expected to be . . .

  • “I’m paying all that college tuition so you can major in English?”
  • “What kind of job are you going to get as an English major?”
  • “Couldn’t you think of a major that stands a better chance of getting you a high-paying job?”

The Real Worth of a College English Major

Is any wisdom or real-world knowledge reflected in reactions like those? In fact, not as much as you might expect. Here are some statistics that you should know about the job prospects for English majors, based on data gathered by the Brookings Hamilton Project . . .

  • English majors who become secondary school teachers can expect to earn about $58,000 a year
  • English majors who become elementary school teachers can expect to earn about $51,000 a year
  • English majors who become postsecondary school teachers can expect to earn about $56,500 a year
  • English majors who enter business management can expect to earn about $77,000 a year
  • English majors who enter the legal professions can expect to earn more than $100,000 a year

To Quote from the Study . . .

“Students’ career paths after college are often surprising and difficult to predict given students’ majors. Not only do students from the same major transition into a surprising variety of occupations, they also earn very different incomes: to take one example, the 3.4 percent of English majors who become managers earn a median salary of $77,000, while the 8.3 percent of their counterparts who become elementary and middle school teachers earn $51,000. Different career paths and the associated earnings differences for students with the same college major are pervasive and important for understanding both the benefits of college majors and of college itself.”

So the lesson seems to be that what students choose to do after majoring in English has a lot more to do with their earning potential than their decision to major in English did.

Ready to see bigger issues about the relationship between college majors and career success? Participate in a Student Research Foundation Career Pathway Study and you will be empowered with new information to make career and educational decisions that ultimately align with your interests, passions, and aptitudes.


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