Career Guide


The English major is a department within the College of Arts and Letters.


British or American Literatures
World Literature
Creative Writing

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 be appreciative yet critical readers and creators of language, texts and ideas, attending to the powerful link between the literary arts and the human condition. A degree in English offers all students, wherever their professional and vocational interests, a basis of skills important for any profession in which a mastery of language is important. These professions and paths include, but are not limited to, law, publishing, freelance writing, creative writing, journalism, public relations, broadcasting, government, advertising, business, teaching, and entering graduate study.

More About the Field 

Human interaction is all about communication and the communication we rely on most is 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 involves communication -- explaining, arguing, describing, elaborating, defining, agreeing, questioning, probing, clarifying, and even obscuring meaning as we come together to accomplish our work, to learn about one another, and to express our opinions and emotion. Regardless of the immediate goal the cost, or the technology involved, almost all projects come down to the exchange of meaning between individuals through language. The study of English, though, is not only about effective communication, but also about the study of ideas, cultures, literary art, and human values. English is the core of a liberal education, and the skills acquired and developed through the English major, such as communication, critical thinking, analysis, and creativity, are highly valued by employers in diverse industries.


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. Studying and writing about literature cultivates these essential abilities. The English Department offers concentrations in American Literature, British Literature, Creative Writing, Environmental Literature and Writing, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Language and Theory, Print Culture, Race and Ethnicity Studies, and World Literature with a full range of courses from Old English to the contemporary novel, from Textuality and the History of the Book to Arabic literature, from the History of Film to Literature of the Environment, from Linguistics to Native American Literature. The English faculty is dedicated to making literary studies an exciting and rewarding pursuit with emphases on creative writing, theory, gender and sexuality, race, linguistics and history of the English language, drama and film, ecocriticism, the Caribbean and South Asian writers, and postcolonial and Ethnic American works.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

English easily combines as a second major or a minor. Some common combinations are: Africana Studies, American Studies, Book Arts, 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.

Characteristics of Successful Students

The most successful English majors are curious, open-minded, self-disciplined, and articulate. They are good time-managers, they like to be confronted with many perspectives, they enjoy writing, and they are not afraid of unfamiliar concepts, abstract thoughts, or ambiguity. 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 information and ideas, communicate clearly and creatively, and perform research. These are 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.

  • Admissions Counselor
  • Advertising Account Executive
  • Advertising Copywriter
  • Advocate
  • Archivist
  • Assistant Coach
  • Attorney
  • Bank Officer
  • Business Administrator
  • Business Consultant
  • Community Affairs Director
  • Computer Consultant
  • Corporate Recruiter
  • Creative Director
  • Critic
  • Donor Services Coordinator
  • Editor
  • English Teacher
  • ESL Teacher
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • Free-Lance Writer
  • Government Officer
  • Greeting Card Writer
  • Journalist
  • Librarian
  • Linguist
  • Literacy Instructor
  • Literary Agent
  • Lobbyist
  • Magazine Publisher
  • Management Analyst
  • Marketing Representative
  • Media Planner
  • Media Relations Representative
  • Multi-Media Designer
  • Newscaster
  • Newspaper Editor
  • Online Magazine Editor
  • Paralegal
  • Personnel Administrator
  • Poet
  • Political Aid
  • Press Secretary
  • Production Coordinator
  • Program Developer
  • Proofreader
  • Proposal/Grant Writer
  • Public Affairs Officer
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Publications Editor
  • Publisher Sales Representative
  • Radio Newscaster
  • Reading Specialist
  • Recruiter
  • Research Director
  • Researcher
  • Sales Representative
  • Screen/ Script Writer
  • Speechwriter
  • Stockbroker
  • Systems Analyst
  • Technical Editor
  • Technical Writer
  • Travel Agent
  • Underwriter
  • Youth Programs Director

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.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

The English Department offers a 1-3 credit course, ENG 294 Internships in English, which allows students to gain hands on experience in many different fields. The English faculty sponsor several literary magazines: Iris (poetry, fiction, and art), Hopscotch (children’s literature), McGuffin (film studies) and Sister Speak (a feminist journal). English majors are invited to apply for posts on the editorial staff on these publications (as well as on The Breeze, the JMU student newspaper). 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.

View our list of  internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Authors and Writers Lawyers
Teachers – Post-secondary
Technical Writers

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to

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