When we think of English as a subject, I’m sure one thinks of Shakespeare, Chaucer and many famous writers, poets and novels. In one way or another, English forms a large part of secondary education, from poetry anthologies to analysing texts to the brutal over-analysing of a simple sentence in a haiku – after all, if there was one person who could read so much into the line “The sky was blue”, it was sure to be your English teacher.
For me, the study of the language and the literature that it spawned was never the most interesting thing in the world.
I never studied media and in hindsight perhaps I would have found that more interesting – after all, the many different platforms used in contemporary society have fascinated me. How we communicate to mass audiences appeals to me more than the analysis of books that are read less and less as we slip into a digital age.
Perhaps it killed my interest in learning English, which is a shame because it remains a pretty popular subject to study – 12,300 students graduated last year with a degree in English-type courses and a further 6,560 graduated in Media Studies. Overall, quite a popular subject then.
So what is the potential reception you could receive when applying for a job with either of the two subjects? Well, literature and language studies in English are very traditional and, let’s face it, kids in schools have been studying it for a vast proportion of their life, especially if they took it on as a degree as well. If you count it out, that’ll be a total of 16 years of looking at the finer points of language. Anyone who has that kind of experience without actually working is going to be admired.
Literature is often appreciated as being a traditional subject – my family still refers to it as ‘studying the classics.’ For some reason, a knowledge of some of the greatest literary works in history is something to be appreciated. It has known to make people very articulate and gives them a great knowledge of how to use English to the best effect.
When you get down to the gritty details, English language and literature are both very analytical subjects that will test you. When it comes to finding a job, a prospective employer will like the fact you know different techniques and that you can easily pick apart subtle messages and ideas.
Of course, some may question the practical value of English language in the real world – there is an argument that it lacks the practical basis of something like mathematics or one of the sciences. Some people also consider the study of literature to be outdated in an increasingly digital world.
At the end of the day though…. it is entirely up to you and the statistics are promising for English graduates at present. The unemployment rate, for instance, stands at less than 9% for graduates in English after six months.
A staggering 35% of English graduates enter onto a PGCE course within six months, paving the way pretty firmly for a career in teaching.
The Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU) gives several examples of where graduates started working after graduation:
- Many found themselves working at ‘international schools’ as an English teacher. This is perhaps one of the more interesting ideas around, though requires a sound knowledge of another language usually.
It’s well known that not everyone in the world speaks English and there are projects across Europe and indeed further afield to help children learn the language. Such teaching experience can be valuable when searching for a teaching job once you’ve finished a PGCE.
- Interestingly, a couple of graduates found their creative sides coming out in designing jobs. Besides all that analysing of texts and poems, English students do get to let out a bit of creativity once in a while. Graduates have found work designing things such as kitchens, believe it or not. Others find their creative side comes out in the form of being a writer or doing something around creative journals.
- Literature and Media students sometimes find that their analytical skills leads them into research-type work, such as working in consultancy or in market analysis. In the latter, their creative writing skills can be used to actually develop marketing plans. Perhaps in this case it comes down to the idea that graduates have a capacity to learn beyond that of many other people. The idea of an English student working in marketing makes complete sense on paper, even though they have probably not done much towards marketing in their degree. It is their present skills that allows them to take on the role effectively.
- For those English students who are looking for a placement abroad, the British Council could be a great place to start looking. The number of potential teaching roles is excellent and it may be a great way to get into teaching – just be prepared to learn a new language as well!
If you’re looking for summer work, you could take a look at English online tutoring. At all levels, you’ll find school kids being given texts to ready for the holidays, and your analytical knowledge will be invaluable.