What kind of job can I get with an English/History?

I am about to graduate with a English degree(major) and History degree(minor). I also will have an Education degree and be certified in the state of Michigan to teach secondary school.

I am having second thoughts regarding becoming a teacher because I do not know if I have the passion and compassion that are required.

On some level, this is a very stressful time for me. I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I also don’t want to appear to be a slacker. I still live with my parents, but I actually do want to move out. I just don’t want to get a job I hate and regret it.

What kind of jobs are out there for English majors? I appreciate your help.

The jobs in the real world have odd titles and duties, and won’t use your education as directly as academia would.

But it’s still the real world. People making things and serving each other’s needs and processing each other’s paperwork. And smart people are always more valuable than slackers.

Repeat after me: “Do you want fries with that?”

I have an English degree with a Psych minor. I’ve worked in customer service jobs since graduation. I’m now back in school getting a paralegal certificate, so that I will be able to charge a hell of a lot more for ansering the phone.

Good Lord. You’re just now asking this.

Teacher is almost your only immediate viable option assuming that you don’t want more education. You could get a low level admin job at a large corporation. While you are there pay attention and learn a lot about what they do, if you’re smart and lucky you could move up in the company somehow. I’ve seen it happen. Law school or getting an MBA wouldn’t be a bad idea either.


Be a journalist. I’m a biology major and still found my way into the world of journalism.

There are a gazillion jobs out there for someone with a liberal arts degree. A lot of employers are just looking for something with a degree, not necessarily someone with a degree in a specific subject area. You might have trouble finding a job in your field, but there are a lot of opportunities out there for liberal arts majors. I have a history degree and am currently working as a copyeditor/proofreader, for example. Just search the listings, there’s lots of stuff out there.

Regarding getting a job you hate and regretting it: you can always find a new job if you get one that you hate. Your first job does not have to be The Perfect Job, and in fact probably will not be. It will most likely be a step up to your next job, which will be more desirable. Entry-level jobs are seldom the exact job you’d like, but they’re a way to build experience so that you can GET the job you’d like.

Think about occupations that interest you and things you might like to spend much of your time doing, and focus on searching for jobs that include those tasks as part of the job description.

And don’t feel bad; there are lots of us out here who didn’t know what we wanted to do until shortly before or even after graduation. I was dead set on being a teacher until I moved out here to Seattle and suddenly decided to try finding a proofreading job, as it was something I’d always been interested in. So here I am.

Good luck to you!

stock market analyst. Seriously, they need people who can string at least 4 words together.

Grade school teaching, from what I have seen, is going to do a lot less than high school teaching to challenge whatever sanity you may or may not have left, for what that’s worth.

But you will most likely leave the job detesting grapes, sand, gum and anything that can stain on any level, not to mention the possibility of trauma on some level, so perhaps it isn’t good for you to enter that field so soon after the trauma of college:)

Ok, my friend and I have a running joke that if you have a degree in English or History, you either end up in banking or teaching.

She’s got a history degree, and passed the CPA last year. I’ve got a history degree, and I’m an internal auditor.

You can get a job in many fields with a basic liberal arts degree. It depends upon what you’re interested in. And sometimes, like me, you end up in a position that fits you almost perfectly. In many industries, internal audit is used as a stepping stone into management, because you get an overview of the entire company, and from there you can figure out what sort of positions interest you. Me? I’m rarity. I’ll be a career auditor.

I’ve got the English major and the History minor. I found my balance in librarianship with a Masters of Library Science (MLS). I love the research aspect of History and the writing styles afforded me in English; both of which are found in librarianship.
Before I got my library degree I did research and technical services in a Federal library.

Have you thought about your local Park Services? The minor in history could at least get you a Curatorial position.


To all the people of the ‘would you like fries with that?’ ilk.


Speaking to you is a man with a history degree (in developing world history even) and a mass communication minor (I spent a lot of time getting credits by working at the campus radio station) from a two-bit nothing state school.

And I’ve been climbing the corporate ladder ever since. Started at the bottom, moved into management and now I’m paid in the top 10% of my field with good prospects for making top management by the time I’m 40.

Anyone want to argue with that? Don’t bring the kid down.

Mahaloth, while it’s true that a technical degree opens doors easily to an entry level job if you’re not into a technical field (computers, engineering, chemistry, etc) then a Bachelors degree is just a working card.

I hire people. Sometimes more, sometimes fewer. And I don’t even look at the type of degree. A degree is just a working card. It says you’ve completed school and are now a hireable candidate. I run a marketing department right now (a small one) and of the people who work for me exactly NONE have marketing or business degrees. There’s a speech major in there, a recreation major, heck, one guy doesn’t even HAVE a degree (he’s in sales).

FAR more important to your career than your degree is your talent and brains. If you show those in your entry level job the sky is the limit.

I encourage you to try all sorts of things. If you don’t know what you want to do yet try many different things. You’ve got time to experiment. Enjoy it.

The thing about an English degree is that you have a really broad background.
I’ve even more screwed than you history minors because I’m going to be a…wait for it…philosophy minor! I’m not too worried about it though, as a I plan to go to law school.

Listen to Jonathan Chance. I double his bullshit, and I also challenge you to defend your “fries with that” assertions with hard data.

In the short term, a liberal arts degree can seem like you are qualified to do nothing specific. That might be true at first, and you’ll find yourself working at jobs that don’t seem related to your qualifications. But in the long term, the things you learn from any liberal arts degree will serve you extremely well. An English major, I believe, is particularly sound preparation. Being able to read, write, think on your feet, think critically, process information from different sources, and switch gears to learn new things will make you an invaluable employee. Employment statistics back this up. If you look at “Right-out-of-college earnings” liberal arts majors look disadvantaged. But in the long term, they are successful.

This is sooooooo true. And also true is what Jonathan Chance said:

I graduated in journalism last year, and I’m currently working an entry-level marketing job for a grand total of $23,000. Yeah, that doesn’t go as far as you might think.

In my case, I’ve realized that I will have to go back to school eventually to get the education to realize the life that I thought I’d be getting with a college education.

I’ve learned that a college education is what a high school education was a generation ago: a working card; i.e.----> "I am qualified for coalating papers, answering the phone, and making copies." It turns out that the factory jobs of yesteryear have become the customer service/administrative assistant jobs of today… except a college degree is a prerequisite now; not a high school diploma.

My advice is to really ask yourself what type of life you’d like to lead, how much money that lifestyle will cost, and go from there. You may find that you’ll need to go back to school eventually. I am learning this currently. That is, if you believe that money is the means to an end. If money isn’t the issue, then work at odd jobs until you find your calling. (From what I’ve seen of my friends, this is much easier to do when living at home.)

Some words of warning:

Don’t expect too much from your first job. You will likely be itching to get in there and show 'em what you got. Many around you will not appreciate this, and remember to play your cards right in office politics. They are as important than your actual job performance.

Excuse the cynical tone of my post… my hopes were dashed and I’m still getting over it.

Take from this what you will, and may you have better luck finding satisfying, life-affirming work that I did!

You can also get a fed job (assuming you’re in U.S. and citizen) with a 4 year degree in many areas. There are 2 web sites: usajobs and fedworld. The new sky marshall position is also available to you. Good luck!

I’m with the “you’ve got a degree, that’s what counts” people. The fact that you’re a historian shows that you’ve got the research/analysis skills that are highly valued right now; and the English shows that you can present your analysis in an understandable fashion. Nobody cares what you know of the Reformation or Modern Lit, what they care is whether or not you can present your arguments in a clear and concise manner, and be able to come to the correct answer through what you’ve learned in university.

I’m in a field that does a lot of work in various state legislatures. Being Canadian, I knew doodly-squat about American legislative procedure, but I could figure it out. My boss was an accountant, and he hasn’t touched a calculator in years.

You’re not going to get your dream job right away, and it could be years before you get to where you want to be. What counts is experience and how you got it. Not how you got your first job in the mail room. In the long run, however, the skills you’ve picked up now could serve you better than people who are very specialized. You’ve learned how to learn, how to analyze and how to present yourself.

Congratulations on your graduation, and the best of luck in what you choose to do.

I am about to graduate with a history major, criminal justice minor. I plan on working as a teacher, and taking summer and evening classes to go towards a master’s degree.
Get a job that permits you to continue your education. A liberal arts bachelor’s degree is a “working card”, but it’s also a gateway to furthering your education. Most companies or organizations worth working for provide tuition reimbursement and other incentives to employees who further their education at the graduate level.

I know teaching may be a stressful, time consuming, and very thankless position. But it’s one of the few jobs that allow you to continue to be a student, even in mid-career. And one can always move into an administrative capacity, with a Masters or Doctorate.

The “you want fries with that” crowd is matched by the “those who can’t - teach” crowd. But I am planning to enter a program called “Teach for America” that places college graduates who do not have courses in education in areas where teachers are badly needed. Well I am attracted to it largely because I am Spanish speaking, and live close to many of the low income rural areas that they serve in Texas and New Mexico…therefore I feel somewhat needed. I know it will not make me rich. But I can defer that for a few years now. However, they will help me pay off my loans and arrange for housing and moving expenses.

University of Wales, Bangor
Temporary Lecturer in Medieval Archaeology
Salary: £20,267 (on Lecturer Grade A) p.a.
Applications are invited for a full-time temporary
Lecturer in medieval archaeology c. 400-1500. The post will commence on 14 January, 2002 and is available until 30 June, 2002. The successful candidate should have a good
honours degree, and relevant experience of undergraduate teaching and research. Applications would be particularly
welcome from those with an interest in Viking archaeology. Application formsand further particulars are available by contacting:
Personnel Services,
University of Wales,
Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DG; tel: (01248)
382926/388132; e-mail: pos020@bangor.ac.uk
Please quote reference number 01-1/70 when applying.

Closing date for applications: Friday 9th November, 2001.


Jonathan Chance and CrankyAsAnOldMan have it right. Forget the fact that your cohorts who majored in engineering or computer science or business are going to make double or triple what you do starting off. You’re going to be better off in the long run, unless you talk yourself into buying the “want fries with that” crap.

If you did your job in college, you learned:
[li]to quickly process new information;[/li][li]to connect that information with things you already knew;[/li][li]to think cogently about that information;[/li][li]to synthesize new ideas from your thinking;[/li][li]to communicate effectively to others the results of your thinking.[/li][/ul]

(If you didn’t learn these things in college, you shouldn’t have graduated, and you’re in for a tough life).

These five skills are essential to long-term success in the working world. With them, you can do anything. Without them, you’re doomed to a lifetime of assembly-line level jobs (or the intellectual equivalent thereof).

I majored in English at a small liberal arts college. I entered a Ph.D. program in English lit at a major university immediately afterward. To pick up some extra money, I started working as a part-time proofreader at an advertising agency. I hated grad school and loved work. I started working full-time as a proofreader, then moved up through a variety of positions. Was fired and started over as a proofreader at a type shop. Learned typesetting and took on the responsibility for learning desktop publishing and PostScript-based production, and ended up managing the PostScript-based portion of the business. Got tired of production work, and took a job doing technical support for one of our software vendors. Rose through a variety of positions there to vice president and ultimately to a sixteen-month stint as acting president (kept turning down offers to make it permanent in an effort to get the parent company to hire someone better suited to the role). Negotiated the sale of that company and moved on; in my next position I garnered three raises and a promotion to department head in less than fourteen months. Left there for what promised to be my dream job, though it hasn’t worked out as well as I’d hoped.

My first full-time proofreading job paid less than $15K/yr, in 1987. I now make well over six times that. You may have to start at the bottom, but if you’re smart, communicate well, and work hard, you shouldn’t have to stay there long.