English and Writing
"Being a true English major is knowing a little bit about everything, always wanting to learn more and being able to use the knowledge that you have to analyze, interpret, draw conclusions and make verifiable arguments in a way that no one else has before."
- Madelaine Hoptry '12
Students in the English major and English or Creative Writing minors develop strong skills in critical thinking, analysis, written communication, research and reading--skills that are essential in a range of careers. USC Upstate alumni are working as lawyers, journalists, sports writers, business owners, professors, teachers, military officers, film-makers, bloggers, bankers, novelists, poets, public relations writers, fashion merchandisers, coaches, Peace Corps volunteers, librarians and much, much more. Find us on Twitter at #UpstateEnglish or follow us at @LLC_Upstate.
Alumni of English programs listed the following reasons:
- "Mastery of language gives you pleasure in life along with success in business."
- "What better way is there to learn about life?"
- "It helps in all areas of any career path you choose--writing, speaking, listening, creating, thinking."
- "It gives students an opportunity to explore who they really are."
- "As an English major . . . you have the ability to communicate ideas clearly, think on your feet, and read Middle English in the original language. Okay, that last one I haven't had the chance to use yet, but I'm ready!"
- "I would not have enjoyed studying anything else as much--there's just so much to embrace in English."
The most common alumni response: "Anything you want to." English majors are non-profit administrators, corporate executives, wine consultants, restaurant or film reviewers, attorneys, secret service agents, stand-up comedians, musicians, librarians, governors, writers, editors and much more. Minors and internships can supplement traditional English coursework and help students develop a specific set of skills that can give them an edge in specialized job markets.
- Writer Shonda Rhimes
- Actor Jodie Foster
- Actor Matt Damon
- Actor Vin Diesel
- Actor David Duchovny
- Actor Harrison Ford
- Actor Paul Newman
- Actor Julia Stiles
- Actor Sigourney Weaver
- Actor Reese Witherspoon
- Astronaut Sally Ride
- CEO Michael Eisner (Disney)
- CEO Andrea Yung (Avon)
- CEO Judy McGrath (MTV)
- CEO Bracken Darrell (Logitech)
- Coach Marty Shottenheimer (San Diego Chargers)
- Comedian Conan O'Brien
- Director Steven Spielberg
- Director James Cameron
- Director Martin Scorcese
- EPA Director Carol Browner
- First Lady Laura Bush
- Mario Cuomo, Governor of New York
- Pete Wilson, Governor of California
- Journalist Bob Woodward
- Musicians Paul Simon, and Sting
- Newscaster Barbara Walters
- Newscaster Diane Sawyer
- Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus (Medicine)
- Office of Strategic Services (became the CIA) counterintelligence officers Joseph Curtiss and Norman Holmes Pearson, Yale English professors
- President of Nickelodeon Networks and MTV, Herb Scannell
- Radio Host Garrison Keillor
- Superman (Christopher Reeve)
- Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice
- World Wildlife Fund Director Kathryn Fuller
- Douglas Adams, writer of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- Gwendolyn Brooks, writer of The Anniad and A Street in Bronzeville, and the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize
- Tom Clancy, writer of The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and The Sum of All Fears
- Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Suess, author of Green Eggs and Ham
- Allen Ginsberg, writer of HOWL and Beat poet
- Stephen King, writer of The Shining,Stand By Me, and Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption
- Arthur Miller, writer of The Crucible and Death of a Salesman (and ex-husband of Marilyn Monroe)
- Toni Morrison, writer of Beloved, Sula,Jazz, and The Bluest Eye, and first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize for Literature
- Philip Roth, writer of American Pastoral, The Human Stain, and The Plot Against America
- Amy Tan, writer of The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife
- John Updike, writer of The Centaur and Rabbit at Rest
- Eudora Welty, writer of Delta Wedding and short stories "A Worn Path" and "Why I Live at the P.O."
English Studies and Your Future
English Majors develop skills in critical thinking, analysis, communication, writing and research that serve them well in a variety of career fields from business, government and non-profit to higher education, law and publishing.
Most writing careers require the development of a portfolio of related writing samples. Students are encouraged to enroll in internships and contribute to on-campus publications to develop these portfolios.
- Commercial writing for magazines, trade journals, newspapers, travelogues, political campaigns, non-profit organizations, technical manuals, business management reports and strategic plans. (B.A. or M.A)
- Creative writing in fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, drama, video games, and screenwriting. See Pursuing a Career in Creative Writing below for more information. (B.A., M.F.A., or Ph.D.)
- Grant writing for non-profit organizations, government organizations, and other groups to secure funding for special projects. (B.A. with internships)
- Technical and science writing for businesses, health professions, computer/technology magazines, and science media outlets. Technical writers and science bridge the communication gap between the public and expert engineers, computer scientists, researchers, and scientists in a variety of fields. They may write instructions, public announcements, brochures, community guidelines, or other examples of informational or feature writing focused on science and technology topics. See Science magazine's guide to Careers in Science Editing for a glimpse into these careers.
- Producing public relations and business communications. (B.A. with internships)
- Reviewing books, music, arts events. (B.A.)
- Writing for media in television, radio, video games, or the World Wide Web. (B.A. with internships)
Pursuing a Career in Creative Writing
Students who wish pursue careers in creative writing may begin during college by participating in writing courses, on-campus and off-campus creative publications, and community-based writing groups. After graduation, becoming a creative writer takes determination to keep submitting your work until you find a publisher and inspiration to keep writing original projects. National organizations like the national Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and local groups, such as the Hub City Writers Project and the South Carolina Commission Literary Arts Program can connect you with other writers through conferences, publications, readings, writing groups, workshops, and other programs.
Students interested in publishing and editing are encouraged to
- enroll in Understanding English Grammar (ENGL U252) as well as Topics in Professional Writing focused on editing (ENGL U345),
- enroll in graphics design courses,
- complete an internship with local or national publications,
- serve as a tutor in the Writing Center and
- participate in editing on-campus publications to develop experience.
See the University of Kent's guide to Publishing Careers for more information about entering the field.
Some career options for graduates with strong editing skills include the following:
- Copyediting (B.A.)
- Proofreading—often freelance (B.A.)
- Manuscript reading (B.A.)
- Indexing (B.A.)
- Book acquisitions (B.A., M.A. or Ph.D.) See "The Realities of Jobs in Publishing" from The Chronicle of Higher Education for advice from working acquisitions editors.
- Book promotions (B.A.)
- Literary journal publications (B.A., M.F.A., or Ph.D.)
- Editing online and/or print publications (B.A. with internships)
Graduates may also pursue master's degrees in Digital Publishing or Literary Editing and Publishing in order to gain more experience and expertise before entering the job market.
Students may pursue careers in teaching English at a range of levels and settings. Students interested in teaching should consider age range, context (e.g. industry, non-profit, higher education, K-12) and areas of specialty, such as a writing focus, literature focus or focus on teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for at home or in other countries. Find out more about preparing for careers in Teaching with an English Degree.
- English Education (pre-K-12).
- Elementary education (grade school) (B.A. with certification)
- Non-profit literacy and reading programs (B.A. with possible certification, additional training or graduate work in special education or literacy education)
- Secondary education (middle and high school) (B.A. with certification with possible M.A.)
- English for Speakers of Other Languages programs (B.A. for work in China, Spain, Latin America, and other locations around the world, B.A. with possible certification, additional training or graduate work in ESOL)
- Higher education (community college and university) (M.A. or Ph.D.)
- Literary studies (M.A. or Ph.D.—Ph.D. preferred).
- Cultural studies/Film Studies (M.A. or Ph.D—Ph.D. preferred).
- Rhetoric and composition (M.A. or Ph.D.—Ph.D. preferred for tenure-track jobs).
- English education (M.A., M.Ed. or Ph.D.—Ph.D. preferred).
- Library instruction (M.A., M.L.S., M.S.L.S. or M.S.L.I.S.).
- Training and development in industry (B.A. with possible certification or additional training or graduate work in business administration, workforce education or other specialized fields).
- Book sales (B.A.)
- Non-profit reading and literacy programs (B.A.)
- Community arts programs and book clubs (B.A.)
- Book stores (B.A.)
- Library occupations, especially in preservations and collections development (B.A., M.A., M.L.S., M.S.L.S. or M.S.L.I.S.).
Students are encouraged to enroll in internships and to develop cognates or minors that expand educational experience in these areas
- Law-related professions (B.A., J.D.).
- Non-profit organizations (B.A. with possible additional training or graduate work in business administration, non-profit administration or public policy)
- Government professions in intelligence, research and communications (B.A. with possible additional training or graduate work in law, criminal justice, public policy or other specialized fields).
- Advertising (B.A. with internships)
- Business management and communications (B.A. with internships and possible additional training or graduate work in business administration, strategic communications, crisis communications or other specialized fields)
- International programs in education, foreign service and Peace Corps (B.A. with possible study abroad experience and world language skills)