As an English major at Ohio State, you will develop the skills needed to succeed in a huge array of career fields and graduate programs. You can become a copywriter for a local advertising firm, an editor for a New York-based publishing house, a recruiter for an international corporation, a communications director for a government agency, or the lead fundraiser for a statewide nonprofit organization. You can earn a graduate degree in English, creative writing, technical writing, or library and information science. You can secure your license to enter fields such as law, medicine, secondary education, social work, and counseling. In short, your degree in English can take you anywhere; you just have to decide where you want to go!
Here in the English department, we understand that figuring out where you want to go--what you want to do and who you want to be--after graduation can sometimes feel like a daunting task. If you can do anything with your English degree, then how do you decide exactly what to do?
Rest assured, we're here to help! Our faculty are eager to hear about your personal, creative, and research interests and to offer advice on how to prepare for graduate school and entry-level employment. Members of our undergraduate advising team can point you to internship opportunities and connect you with alumni working in fields about which you want to know more. The College of Arts and Sciences Career Success team will review your resume, put you through a mock interview, and show you how to navigate Handshake, the internship and job database maintained solely for students in the College of Arts and Sciences. The university's Career Counseling and Support Services office offers one-on-one career counseling appointments and job hunting resources that you can use far beyond graduation.
We encourage you to begin thinking about what you want to do with your English degree right now. To help you get started, we have put together information on the following topics. We urge you to review this material carefully and to bring your follow-up questions to your English faculty mentors and undergraduate advisors who can connect you with others in the wider university and alumni community.
Each autumn semester, we offer a course specifically designed to assist English and other humanities majors explore and prepare for their post-graduation careers. The course is currently offered under English 2150. It is a three credit course and is typically taught by Senior Lecturer Jenny Patton.
This course is designed for English majors and other students who are interested in exploring and preparing for their post-graduation careers. We begin by reflecting on individual students' strengths and preferences and thinking about job activities and careers that might complement these. We also examine specific work environments (e.g., corporations, universities and nonprofits); the value of attending graduate or professional school; and the role that internships, undergraduate research and networking play in career development. In addition, we look at how to organize and manage an internship and job hunt; how to put together strong resumes, cover letters and portfolios; and how to interview well via phone and Skype and in person.
If you have questions about the course structure or content, please contact Jenny Patton (.220).
Students may earn academic credit through the English department for internships that provide them with opportunities for exploring potential career fields and work environments and/or preparing them for post-graduation, entry-level employment. Academic credit may be earned for both paid and unpaid internships. Students should seek approval of their internships for academic credit prior to beginning the work itself.
To find out whether your internship qualifies for academic credit, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email should contain all of the following:
- Your Ohio State name.####
- Name of the organization with which you will intern
- Name and email address of the person who will supervise your work
- A brief description, three or four sentences, outlining your internship duties and responsibilities
- Dates of the internship and the number of hours you will work each week
- Term in which you hope to receive credit for the internship (e.g., Autumn 2017)
If your internship is approved for academic credit, we will work with you to ensure that you are enrolled in the appropriate number of credit hours of English 5191, the department's internship course. This course is not a traditional, in-person course; however, participating students must meet a few other requirements (reflection exercises, etc.) in order to earn a grade of "Satisfactory" and receive credit for their internships.
If students have questions about internships, earning credit or English 5191, they should contact email@example.com.
We hear often from students who are frustrated by having had to respond, yet again, in conversations with peers, friends or family members, to the question: "English! What are you gonna do with that major?" We understand the source of these English majors' frustration. The question, in its tone, indicates skepticism, a lack of belief that our majors are skilled and employable.
As a department with an alumni community that includes doctors, lawyers, tech and media entrepreneurs, business professionals, successful fundraisers, executive editors and internationally-renowned authors (R.L. Stine, for example), we know exactly how skilled and how valuable our English majors are to the communities, technologies and workplaces of the twenty-first century. Indeed, we agree wholeheartedly with the late Steve Jobs's assessment that "technology alone is not enough — it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing."
The skills you'll get
Like Jobs, we believe that English majors have a crucial role to play in shaping the world for future generations. Having spent much of their undergraduate careers analyzing the arguments and perspectives of some of our most important writers, thinkers and leaders — William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Frederick Douglass, Edith Wharton, William Faulkner, George Orwell, Martin Luther King Jr., Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, Salman Rushdie, Sandra Cisernos and Toni Morrison, to name just a few — English majors are well prepared to think critically about our most pressing social, political, economic and environmental challenges and to gauge the full impact and costs of any proposed solutions. The majority of their coursework centers around small- and large-group discussions, the analysis of others' ideas and viewpoints and the preparation of written arguments and in-person presentations. English majors, then, are armed with the communication skills and empathy necessary to produce compromise among parties with competing agendas, and they are adept at recognizing the subtle, but crucial, complexities that often go unnoticed by others.
Coursework in the English major also, and perhaps most importantly, encourages students to value and draw on their creativity. In addition to traditional essay and writing assignments, our faculty regularly invite students to express themselves through artistic productions as well as multimedia presentations. Students in our courses write television scripts and screenplays. They draft blog posts and film reviews. They write poems, novels, and short stories. They make short films. They prepare technical reports and grant proposals. They develop social media campaigns and public service announcements. They conduct archival research and in-person interviews. In short, our students are constantly called upon to exercise their creativity — to think, write, strategize, and communicate outside of the box.
The world needs you
The emphasis our faculty and courses place on critical thinking, communication, creativity and empathy reflects our understanding of the demands of this century's world and workplaces. As Forbes contributor George Anders pointed out in an article titled "That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket," many companies are now hiring as many, if not more, graduates with strong critical thinking and communication skills as those with expert knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These companies need English majors. Who else is better suited to understanding a company's product, explaining and marketing it to potential clients and communicating clients' concerns and improvement requests to the behind-the-scenes team of programmers and engineers?
As in the tech world, medical schools also recognize the urgent need for more English and other humanities majors in their incoming classes. Recently, Mount Sinai's school of medicine began accepting humanities majors after their sophomore years in college. The school's dean for medical education, Dr. David Muller, explained Mount Sinai's decision to admit these majors early, saying "People who look at the same problems through different lenses will make us better in the long run" (A Top Medical School Revamps Requirements to Lure English Majors). Not only are our English majors skilled in listening for the subtle but potentially critical details in patients' narratives and descriptions, they also are well equipped to empathize with patients and to provide them with clear explanations for their diagnoses and treatments.
As an English major, you have an endless array of job options and career fields available to you. The challenge, then, is deciding exactly what you want to do. To help with this decision process, we've put together a set of questions designed to get you thinking about who you are, what you need in a job or career, and what kind of work environments are best suited to your skills and interests.
Who are you as a professional?
- Are you going to want regular conversations as part of your work?
- Do you want minimal customer service contact?
- Do you want responsibility for deciding what your work is?
- Do you prefer an environment where you know what tasks are ahead?
- Would you prefer your job tasks to change on a daily basis?
- Do you want your day to be about responding to emerging crises?
- Do you need consistency in your job?
- What are your interests? What do you care about? What do you value?
What kind of work environment best suits you?
- Do you really know what jobs in publishing look like?
- What does an Assistant Editor do all day?
- Do you know what people do when they "write for television"?
- What is public relations? Is it different from marketing?
- What is a technical writer exactly?
- Human resources, what's that all about?
- What jobs and career fields are you considering?
- How are you going to find out if they're really for you?
How do you get the job?
- Want to be a lawyer? Go to law school
- Want to be a teacher? Go to a teacher educator/licensure program
- Want to be a doctor? Go to medical school
- Want to be an academic? Go to a PhD program in English
Internships are crucial for students who need to decide on a career field and/or prepare for a successful entry-level job search after graduation. English majors are strongly encouraged to seek out internship opportunities throughout their undergraduate career as a way of exploring different professional environments (e.g., corporate settings, non-profit organizations and government agencies) and different jobs available within those environments. Remember, you may think you know what an editor, copywriter, human resources director and lawyer do, but once you've seen them at work on a daily basis, you may realize that your idea of what they do and what they do are actually quite different. This is why internships are so helpful. They give you an opportunity to check out a career field without requiring that you devote yourself to it permanently.
Ohio State English majors have found internships across the Columbus area and throughout the country. They have interned with the communications teams at Nationwide and the American Red Cross, The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, the development and marketing offices in the university's College of Dentistry and the Guggenheim Museum, the English as a Second Language program in the Ohio State College of Education and Human Ecology, the newsroom and production teams at WOSU NPR News and TV, and the writing and editorial staffs at 614 Magazine and Lucky Magazine, to name just a few.
The goal of internships
An internship should help you accomplish two goals: (1) to find out if a career field, job, or organization is a good fit for you and (2) to ensure you have experience in a professional setting that will help you land a full-time job at graduation. Remember, as an intern, you are very unlikely to have a job that exactly replicates the job you want to have after you graduate. If your internship is actually the job you want to do full time (e.g., writing web content if you want to do communications), then that's great--but even more importantly, you are there to check out the jobs of the organization’s full-time employees. Nearly all internships will require you to perform some administrative tasks like making copies, filing, answering phones, and filling the coffee pot. You may not like all these tasks, and that’s perfectly fine. What really matters is whether you find the jobs of the other people in the office interesting and potentially good fits for you in the future.
Students often have work experience in the retail and restaurant industries prior to coming to Ohio State, and many need to continue working in these areas to cover their college and living expenses. Retail and restaurant jobs are terrific ways for students to hone their customer service skills and their ability to work with diverse personalities in a high-stress, fast-paced environment. The most recent of these experiences should definitely be included on students' resumes. That said, students are likely to increase their chances of securing full-time employment after graduation if they also have at least one or two internship or work experiences in a professional, office-based setting. This doesn't mean that students need to give up their paying retail or restaurant jobs in favor of a lower paid or unpaid internship; it just means that they may need to be willing to devote 5 - 7 hours a week during a given semester or summer term to an internship that will bridge the gap between their current retail/restaurant work and the full-time professional job they want after graduation.
We recognize that students are likely to find it difficult to juggle a full course-load, paid retail/restaurant work, and an internship. This is why the English department offers academic credit for internships that provide students' with professional experience. Students may earn upper-level credit toward their English major for internships and other professional experiences so long as they secure pre-approval of the internships from the department. See "Earning academic credit for internships" above for more information.
Note also that there are a number of jobs for students on campus that will provide them with experience in an office or professional setting. For example, the English department may be hiring a new front-desk student assistant, or the College of Engineering may need a communications student assistant. While these positions may not qualify for internship credit, they are typically well paid and accommodate students' course schedules. To see what positions are availbale, visit the general job board available through the university's Office of Student Financial Aid.
Where to look for internships
English majors seeking internships in the Columbus area and beyond should first use their Ohio State name.### and password to log onto the College of Arts and Sciences Career Success jobs and internships database, called Handshake, and see what opportunities are posted there.
We also encourage you to reach out directly to organizations and companies that are of interest to you. All you need in order to contact an organization is an email address for someone who works there (use those Internet search skills!). Then, you'll want to send that person or office a short email inquiring about internship opportunities for the upcoming semester or summer. Note that you should attach an updated resume to this email so that the organization has some information about your background and qualifications.
Students interested in publishing, for example, might want to look at the websites of publishers based in NYC and Chicago to see if they have summer internship programs. Students who want to learn more about grant writing or fundraising might want to contact the local American Red Cross, YMCA, YWCA, or other area nonprofits to see if their fundraising and development teams would benefit from an intern. Students interested in library careers will want to work or intern at a local library, while a student interested in law should seek an internship that helps them find out what lawyers actually do on a daily basis. Students interested in middle and high school English teaching will want to make sure they find internship or summer camp positions that allow them to work closely with these age groups. Remember, even if no internship opportunities are listed on an organization’s website, you can still contact the organization directly via email to express your interest in a possible internship.
We have created a list of categories and Columbus area organizations that may be useful to students in thinking about places where they might intern. Note that this list is not comprehensive; there are hundreds more organizations and companies in the Columbus area. This list is just designed to help students begin thinking about the kinds of places where they might want to intern or eventually work full time.
What you need to apply
Before you begin the search for an internship, you'll want to make sure you have an updated resume that is well written and free of errors. Remember, you're an English major, so your resume should reflect your ability to write. We have put together a couple of sample resumes for your use and review. You may also want to have a staff member in the College of Arts and Sciences Career Success office review your resume and provide feedback.
Beyond your resume, you'll want to prepare a cover letter that underscores your English major, the communication and other skills developed through your undergraduate courses, your work and other volunteer or internship experiences, and any digital or design skills you may have. Your cover letter should also indicate your interest in the position to which you're applying and demonstrate how your skills and previous experiences have prepared you for this internship position. We have a sample cover letter for your use and review, and you may also want to check out any resources provided by the College of Arts and Sciences Career Success office.
You'll also need to polish your interviewing skills. You may have crafted a professional and well written resume to get that first interview, but you need to be able to talk about your skills and experiences professionally and clearly in person. It's crucial that you spend time before the interview asking yourself potential interview questions and answering them out loud. Remember, when an interviewer asks you a question, they are not looking for one-word answers. They are giving you an opportunity to tell a story about yourself and your experiences that demonstrates your skills and abilities and your enthusiasm for the internship position they have available. It's up to you to prepare for the interview by thinking about what stories and examples you want to share with them and how best to present yourself as terrific candidate for the job.
The most important thing you'll need as you begin your search for an internship is patience and perseverance. Remember, it only takes one interview to secure that first internship, but you may need to apply to hundreds of internships before you hear back from that first organization. Don't get discouraged if you haven't heard back from the first ten or twenty internships to which you've applied. Instead, keep on applying, keep on emailing organizations to find out if they might want or need an intern! And if you have connections through your friends, family members, or mentors, use those. There's nothing wrong with asking a friend or family member to help you secure an internship with their organization. Give them a copy of your resume and cover letter that they can forward to their colleagues directly on your behalf. Sometimes, organizations have never even thought about having an intern, and this may be just the nudge they need to create the perfect internship position for you.
Internships versus independent research or creative work
If you are interested in becoming a Professor of English, we strongly encourage you, first, to sit down and talk with a faculty member about their job and the process of earning a PhD in English. You'll want to find out what they do all day; remember, they're only in the classroom teaching for several hours each week, so you need to figure out what they're doing the rest of the time. Typically, professors spend much of their time alone researching and writing or preparing for a class meeting. If you think this work might be of interest to you, then you should consider doing a senior thesis or independent research/creative project under the direction of an English faculty member. The best way to figure out if you'd like devoting your work life to research and writing is to spend a semester or year doing just that.
Selecting a program that's right for you
- Consult with your faculty advisor and other faculty about graduate programs that might suit your interests.
- Investigate programs you are interested in. Look carefully at department and university webpages. Be familiar with the faculty in a particular program, with the requirements for the MA and PhD. What sort of financial aid, fellowships, and assistantships are offered? What is the range of GRE and GPA levels admitted to the program? Do these suggest that this school is a long shot for you, or a safety school? The best graduate programs are highly competitive, and, all other things being equal, these are likely to give you the best chances on the job market. But there may be reasons — fellowship support, departmental environment, time to degree or working conditions — why another program would be better for you. Apply to a range of schools, five or more, including at least one you consider a safety or backup school.
- If there is a particular scholar whose work has influenced you, find out where they teach, and consider applying there. This may be a good way to choose — or it may not. Consider that particular faculty members often move schools or retire.
- The writing sample is a crucial part of your application, perhaps the most important part. Admissions committees are looking for clear evidence that you're already doing excellent scholarly work or at least have the potential for it. Schools often insist on a page limit or page range. Always adhere to these limits. Your sample should be the best work you've done, though if you indicate your interest as, say, Renaissance literature and you send a sample on Thoreau, an admissions committee is likely to be puzzled. Whatever you send in must be highly polished work, not an old, unrevised five-page essay. Never submit an essay written for a discipline other than English or a closely-related field (comparative studies, for example).
- Write a senior thesis. You'll work closely with a faculty advisor who can help shape your ideas and your research. This is the best way to create a critically sophisticated essay, though then you will be confronted with the painful task of condensing what you've done to meet the page limit. (At Ohio State, incidentally, you do not need to be an Honors student to write a thesis.)
- If you can't write a thesis, select an essay that reflects your interests and that you received high marks for. Ask the professor for whom you wrote the essay to suggest strategies for revision to make it work as a writing sample.
- Revise repeatedly. Give yourself enough time to make sure that you are sending the very best work you are capable of producing.
- Your personal statement needs to stand out, but it also needs to conform to certain standard practices. Notice that the sample statements are all about two pages long. Longer statements are probably not a good idea unless specifically allowed by the program you're applying to. The statement should be a narrative of your intellectual development, interests and plans. It should be professional rather than personal, which is not to say it should be colorless or bland, only that those you're trying to reach are interested in the quality of your thinking and your preparation for advanced study in English, not in you as a person. Never say "I have always been a voracious reader. Why, I remember my aunt Mildred saying, 'Gosh that girl loves to read!'" or anything like that.
- There may be no single best way to write a personal statement, but most effective statements are likely to have several features in common:
- A hook: notice that each of the sample statements avoids beginning "I have always wanted to go to graduate school in English because . . ." opting instead for an attention-arresting, highly-specific point of entry. What the one that comes closest ("I blame Benjamin Franklin . . .") lacks in specificity it makes up in wit. But don't try too hard.
- A detailed account of what you've already accomplished and how it prepares you for graduate work: courses you've taken and work you've done in those courses, and how they fit into a coherent narrative of your intellectual development. Again, skip the personal stuff ("I really loved Professor X" and even "I love [anything]").
- Attention to what you know, but also to what you've argued: show that you know how to mount a literary-critical argument.
- A detailed account of your plans, what you want to do once you begin graduate work. Even if you don't know, you need to pretend you have some idea. Not: "I will write my dissertation on X," but rather "I want to pursue my work on X by reading such-and-such and taking a course with so-and-so." Talking about your plans should include some indication of why you want to attend the school you're applying to. This means that the statement must be customized for each school applied to. You can see how the sample statements have handled this; some spend more, some spend less time on this. As a rule, though, it comes after you've talked about preparation and interests.
- Have your faculty advisor and other faculty read it for you. Get other opinions. Revise repeatedly.
GRE/ GRE Subject Test
- At most schools, the GRE is a very important component of your application. There are secrets to doing well on these tests -test taking itself is a skill you can learn — and you might consider printed or on-line practice guides, or even a GRE prep course, though these are expensive.
- Study for the subject test separately. A study guide might help here too. Not all schools require the subject test (Ohio State, for example, doesn't). But if you take it, any school you apply to will see the score. Scores are generally lower on the English subject test, but since this is true across the board, it's not necessarily to your disadvantage to take it.
- Try to take the exam so that if you don't do as well as you'd like, you have time to take it a second time, though keep in mind that many schools will average your scores if you take the tests more than once. At Ohio State, for fellowship purposes, the university takes the average.
Letters of recommendation
- These, too, are a key part of your application. Ask professors who know your work well and who remember you. Ask them if they feel capable of writing you a strong letter of support. Most recommenders will agree to write for you if you ask nicely, whether or not they 're able to give you their highest recommendation. So make sure before you ask that you can count on a strong letter. All your letters should come from professors who know your work. Never get a letter from a family friend, a TA, or even a professor in another field (unless you've done work with that professor directly relevant to your proposed course of study).
- Give your recommender as much information as possible: A copy of your personal statement, a CV or resume, a copy of an essay that you wrote in their class, etc. Give them this information a couple of months before the letter is due. Professors get asked to write dozens of letters a year, and it's important that you give them sufficient time to get the letter done.
- Follow up with your recommenders to make sure that they've sent the letters on. Be polite, of course; but many of us appreciate a gentle reminder that a letter's due date is coming up. Also, a thank you note is a nice gesture.
- Make sure to look up the requirements for financial aid applications. Many schools have a separate application for aid.
- Fill out your FAFSA. Most likely, you will wind up taking student loans to augment whatever fellowship/assistantship you are awarded.
If you are beginning your job hunt, consider looking for employment at the following institutions and organizations. While the institutions listed here are specific to the Columbus area, you can always search for similar institutions in the city or area where you are seeking employment. For example, if you want to work for a nonprofit organization in the Chicago area, you might begin by performing a Google search on "nonprofits in Chicago" or "nonprofit organizations in Chicago."
Note that when you visit organizations' websites, you will often need to look for links at the top or bottom of their homepages with labels like "Employment," "Careers," "Job Opportunities," etc. Also, note that the lists below are not comprehensive, there are hundreds more organizations and companies in the Columbus area with which you might find employment; these lists are just designed to help you begin thinking through your options.
- CAROL BITZINGER | Carol is pursuing her PhD in English at Ohio State
- RACHEL BUCHANAN | Rachel is pursuing her graduate degree in library and information science at Kent State University
- COURTNEY COFFMAN | Courtney serves as the assistant managing editor with Barbour Publishing located in Uhrichsville, Ohio
- IVY DECKER | Ivy is a freelance writer for 614 Magazine and 1870 Magazine in Columbus
- CAITLIN DECKER | Caitlin is a member of the marketing team with the Stark County Parks District
- CAROLINE HAIMOFF | Caroline is working at City Year in Chicago
- SARAH HOULLES | Sarah is pursuing her MEd in integrated language arts at Ohio State
- ELIZABETH LYLE | Liz is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Loyola in Chicago
- TATIANA TOMLEY | Tatiana is pursuing her MFA in creative writing at the University of Mississippi
- SYDNEY WATSEK | Sydney is a member of the proposal development team at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus