Career Guide to JMU Majors: English
British or American Literatures
Admission and Progression Standards:
Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.
Description of Major
English is offered as a major and minor at JMU. The program offered by the Department of English is designed to prepare students to enter graduate study; to prepare them for the teaching profession; and to serve as basic preparation for many professions in which skillful use of language is important, for example, law, publishing, free lance writing, creative writing, journalism, public relations, broadcasting, government, advertising and business. Moreover, it offers to all students, wherever their professional and vocational interests lie, an appreciation of the great literary heritage of civilization, with particular emphasis upon American and British literatures, and, through the humanistic study of these masterpieces, a better understanding of themselves and their culture. The program also promotes global awareness and the appreciation of cultural diversity through numerous opportunities for world or multicultural studies. The program’s goal is that, through the humanistic study of a variety of literature, students will obtain a better understanding of themselves, their culture and other cultures with which they must invariably come into contact. American Studies, Creative Writing and Film Studies are interdisciplinary minors offered through the English Department.
Tell me more about this field of study
Human interaction is all about communication, both verbal and nonverbal. But the communication that we most rely on for messages are those that are spoken or written. Whether we are trying to outline to a computer specialist the kind of database that needs to be constructed or are attempting to convey to an executive caterer the relaxing mood for a business function, we must rely on our understanding, appreciation, and mastery of the English language. Almost every work situation you can think of is about people communicating. It is act of people explaining, arguing, describing, elaborating, defining, agreeing, questioning, probing, clarifying, and even obscuring meaning as we come together to get work done. Regardless of the project or goal at hand, the cost, or the technology involved, almost all projects come down to the exchange of meaning between individuals through language. English as a subject provides students a comprehensive acquaintance with English literature and American literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A study of ideas, cultures, mores, and concepts through time. English is studied to be truly educated, and the English major brings to his or her employment setting a high level of general information about the ideas of people and how those ideas have been expressed.
Tell me more about specialization
The most important professional skills are the ability to read well and the ability to express ideas. The person who can do those two things is most likely to rise to the top of any career. Such a person is best equipped to change with the times, to adapt to the needs of his or her profession, and to assume a position of leadership. In addition to teaching these basic skills, the English Department also emphasizes the study of British and American literature. A full range of courses from Chaucer to the contemporary novel is taught by the English faculty who are dedicated to making literary studies an exciting and rewarding pursuit. In addition to traditional literary areas, majors often concentrate some of their electives in creative writing, professional and technical writing, and the study of drama and film.
Common majors or minors that complement this major
English easily combines as a second major or a minor. Some common combinations are: Africana Studies, American Studies, Classical Studies, Communication Studies, Creative Writing, Criminal Justice, Economics, English as a Second Language, Environmental Studies, Film Studies, History, Human Resources Development, International Affairs, Justice Studies, Management, Marketing, Modern Foreign Language, Philosophy and Religion, Political Communication, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Theater and Dance, or Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.
What makes good liberal arts graduates, and particularly English majors, attractive to businesses, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and to professional schools is their ability to synthesize, communicate and research, skills essential to moving beyond an entry level position. One financial executive, quoted in a Washington Post article, remarked, "If I could choose one degree for the people I hire, it would be English."
Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.
Who employs graduates?
Advertising Agencies, Book Publishing Companies, Businesses & Corporations, Colleges/Universities, Consumer Product Companies, Federal/State/Local Government Agencies, Firms Marketing Consumer Goods, Greeting Card Companies, Insurance Agencies, Law Firms, Magazine Publishing Companies, News Agencies, Non-Profit Agencies, Political Organizations, Professional Associations, Public Relations Firms, Public and Private Schools, Radio/TV/Motion Pictures Studios, or Travel/Touring Companies.
The English Department offers a 1-3 credit course, ENG 294 Internships in English, which allows students to gain hands on experience. Involvement with gardy loo!, a literary magazine, or Sister Speak, JMU’s feminist journal, both sponsored by the English Department, provides students with excellent publishing and editing experience. Students involved in the teaching licensure program are required to do student teaching during their senior year. Students can also gain experience by getting involved in student organizations where writing or publication skills are needed, volunteering these skills at community agencies or submitting written work to various literary agencies.
What are JMU graduates doing with this major?
A Day in the Life of a Librarian
A Day in the Life of a Writer
JMU English Majors' Career/Internship Blog
Authors and Writers
News Analysts, Reporters, and Correspondences
Public Relations Managers and Specialists
Teachers—Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Teachers – Post-secondary
A broad range of resources on career fields, internships, and job search information is also available in the Career & Academic Planning Resource Center.
Make an appointment with a CAP career counselor to learn more about this major and your career options.
A few titles from our Resource Center related to this field include:
© Career & Academic Planning, James Madison University, 2013