Department of English at Illinois State University

Careers in English Studies

A Liberal Arts degree with an English major prepares students for a variety of jobs in a vast range of professions (see our list of famous English Majors). Graduates of Illinois State University’s Department of English learn transferable skills that make them easily marketable. Students are encouraged to declare a minor that matches their career aspirations with the English major.

According to the Occupational Outlook handbook, from 1994 to 2004 jobs in publishing industries grew by 3.8%. Projections from 2004 to 2014 say the growth will increase by 6.6%. Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers grew by .9% from 1994 to 2004. Projections for 2004 to 2014 show an increase of 3.1%. Internet and other information services are expected to increase by 8.5% from 2004 to 2014. Independent artists, writers, and performers are expected to increase by 3.4% in the same period.

The most recent labor statistics and projections may be found at the Occupational Outlook Handbook website, sponsored by the United States Department of Labor.

Famous English Majors


  • Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
  • Dave Barry (humorist, writer, actor)
  • Tom Clancy (writer)


  • Mario Cuomo (former governor of New York)
  • Clarence Thomas (U.S. Supreme Court Justice)
  • Harold Varmus (Nobel laureate in medicine, Director of National Institute of Health)

Business People

  • Kathryn Fuller (World Wildlife Fund CEO)
  • Michael Eisner (Walt Disney CEO)


  • Conan O'Brien (talk show host, writer)
  • James Cameron (director, editor, producer, screenwriter of "Titanic")
  • Harrison Ford (actor)


Learn more about famous English majors.

Qualities and skills of successful English majors

  • Accuracy, coherence and clarity in speech and writing
  • Ability to understand jargon and make it accessible
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Strong work ethic
  • Teamwork skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Computer skills
  • Attentive to details
  • Abstract thinking and the ability to develop hypotheses
  • Presentation skills
  • Independent thinking

For more information about careers for English major, and help preparing for your job search, visit the Illinois State Career Center.

Career Paths

A degree in English prepares you for many different career paths...


An English major's ability to read critically and write clearly is an asset in a variety of careers in business.

Freelance Writing

Working as a freelance writer (whether fiction, creative, non-fiction or technical writing) is a challenging career choice, but many people find working for themselves to be quite rewarding.

Graduate School

An MA in English is often an excellent terminal degree whether for public school teachers or people working in technical writing or corporate communication.


Students with a strong social justice ethic can use an English or Publishing major as a starting point for a career with a variety of nonprofit organizations.

Professional Schools

Many students use an undergraduate degree in English as preparation for law school or graduate work in library science.

Publishing and Journalism

Our Publishing Studies major provides a strong preparation for careers in commercial and nonprofit publishing.


More high school English teachers in Illinois attended Illinois State than any other school.

Technical Writing and Corporate Communication

Many of our undergraduates use an English major with a minor in writing or a publishing studies major as a starting point to a career in technical communication, training, or corporate communications.


You can also read stories from some of our recent alumni about their experiences after graduation.