Career Options: English Literature

Studying English literature provides you with well-developed skills of oral communication, research and writing. With your enhanced analytical skills you will be used to articulating your knowledge and opinions and using your judgement to weigh up alternative perspectives. With the opportunity to study abroad and encouragement to spend time gaining relevant work experience you could be in a good position to secure work in a relevant field.
English Career Options
Graduate Destinations What did last year's undergraduates go on to do? For job titles and employers see the main Destinations section.
Main Activity - Undergraduates (as %)
Main Activity - Undergraduates (as %)
Knowns only
Full-time paid work 53
Part-time paid work 15
Work and study 6
Full-time study 18
Part-time study 1
Unemployed 2
Other (travel) 6

With such good transferable skills, it is important for you to realise that there are many jobs open to you. You may find that thinking hard about your strengths on the course and being led either by those, or your interests or a combination of the two may provide a career focus. A Careers Adviser can help you work through these considerations. If you look at the data opposite you will see that quite a few of your peers go on to pursue a wide variety of careers from publishing to finance which reflects the many transferable skills developed from studying English.

For more details on all opportunities, look at the data opposite and the details below for more information.


These links show: how the sectors break down; the main graduate recruiters; characteristics of working in the sector and key current issues; as well as lists of job roles available in the sector.

The sectors that most English graduates are drawn to include: publishing, journalism, media and internet, the heritage and art and culture sectors. Charities and the voluntary sector also appeal to many English students' values. Beyond these highly relevant areas you may find yourself venturing into marketing or advertising, retail and often education



The roles below represent the kinds of work English graduates are attracted to. Each job title typically links through to a detailed generic job description which includes a broad job description, salary and conditions, entry requirements, typical recruiters and links to further, pre-assessed, useful information.

Editorial Assistant

Editorial Assistant - Editorial assistants provide support in all stages of the publication of books, journals, magazines, online material, and publicity materials. They support senior editorial staff in the administration of the commissioning, planning and production of publications.

Broadcast Journalist

Broadcast Journalist - Broadcast journalists research, investigate and report news for television, radio and the internet. Their aim is to present information in a fair and objective way through news bulletins, documentaries and other factual programmes.

Media Planner

Media Planner - Media planners identify which media platforms would best advertise a client's brand or product. They work within advertising agencies or media planning and buying agencies. They enable their clients to maximise the impact of their advertising campaigns through the use of a range of media.

Newspaper journalist

Newspaper Journalist - With an increasingly multi-platform press, a journalist develops news stories for a range of media. The core of the job is to research and write news stories. Journalists can specialise in areas such as politics, sport, arts, culture and business and work at national or local papers. See also: Oxford Careers Guide to Journalism.


Writer - Writers are involved in the creation and development of works of fiction and non-fiction. This can include poetry, short stories, novels, life writing, scripts for theatre, screen and radio, non-fiction, magazine and newspaper articles, web-content. Most writers work freelance and are self-employed and often supplement their income with other activities.


Librarian - Public librarians acquire, organise, promote and disseminate a wide range of resources to meet the diverse needs of the community. They support independent learning and encourage reader development. There are also opportunities to work as an Academic Librarian where you may specialise in a specific subject area.

Public Relations Officer

Public Relations Officer - work closely with clients using all forms of media such as on-line and written content to maintain the client's reputation.

English as a Foreign Language Teacher or English as a second language teacher

English as a Foreign Language Teacher - Teaches English to international students in either the UK or overseas. Also known respectively as TEFL or EAL (English as an additional language) in schools and as ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) within adult education.


Lexicographer - writes, compiles and edits dictionaries for both print and online publication. This can involve editing, proofreading and checking the accuracy of their own and others' text, and perform editorial tasks. They reassess existing entries and use evidence and judgement to identify and consider possible new entries.

Advertising Account Executive

Advertising Account Executive - this role is normally based in an advertising agency and acts as a link between agency staff and its clients. You would manage associated administration and campaign activities with an eye on timelines and costs.

Advertising Copywriter

Advertising Copywriter Advertising copywriters work with client briefs to conceive, develop and produce effective advertising campaigns. They provide the verbal or written 'copy' which may include creating slogans, catchphrases, messages and straplines for printed adverts and leaflets. They are also involved in writing text for web advertising, as well as scripts for radio jingles and TV commercials.

Publishing copy-editor/proofreader

Publishing copy-editor/proofreader - ensure that material is clear and consistent, complete and credible, and that text is well written, grammatically correct and accessible. They work on a range of publications, including books, journals, newspapers, websites and other electronic resources.

Arts Administrator

Arts Administrator - Arts Administrators take care of the activities and services that surround the art sector including galleries, museums, arts councils and more. The role includes marketing, finance, insurance, PR, education and sponsorship duties.

Higher Education Lecturer

Higher Education Lecturer - HE lecturers teach subjects to undergraduate and postgraduate students via lectures, seminars, tutorials, demonstrations, field work and blended learning. They typically balance this demand alongside a thriving research career which results in publications that bolster their academic reputation. Administration, and ultimately management, is also an important part of the job.

Marketing Executive

Marketing Executive - This role creates marketing campaigns to improve sales of products or services and involves planning campaigns, organising advertising and PR, research with consumers and new product development. Brand Managers focus on the visual concepts in marketing.

Retail Buyer

Retail Buyer - whilst keeping up to date with market trends and shifts in demand, a buyer must plan and choose products to sell in store or online. A deep and sophisticated understanding of customer needs and the ability to build relationships with suppliers is key as is a firm grasp of costs and budgets.

Other job examples can be viewed in more detail via the Graduate Prospects Types of Jobs.

Finding Opportunities

Many of the above roles are often competitive, but not impossible to access. To work in media, publishing or a career using your writing skills will require you to have evidence of writing outside of your degree eg leaflets for charities, Spark*, Junction 11, local radio, work experience in publishing companies etc. To work in museums, prior volunteering experience is essential, so secure some during your degree. The University also takes many students on as volunteers in one of its museums - find out more: Volunteering at MERL.

To work in teaching you will need to gain relevant experience of volunteering in schools whilst you have been at university. The University runs a Students in Schools scheme which will place you in a local school for a couple of hours a week for 10 weeks. Museum Education Officers, Arts Administrators and Heritage Managers do not require a relevant postgraduate qualification, but having one, plus experience, will make you more competitive. Many heritage properties, galleries, PR agencies and art festivals offer internships which is an excellent way to try out a career area before committing to it, check their websites for opportunities.

If you plan to become an academic, then a PhD is essential and you can get experience through the University Research Opportunities Programme (UROP). Commercial roles such as buying and marketing do not require a postgraduate qualification, but seeking out work experience during your degree is important and studying a professional qualification on the job later on will help you progress.

To secure work experience, permanent work or a relevant postgraduate qualification head to the following sites and remember that you will often need to use a creative job search technique so head to our coaching topic on Accessing the Hidden Job Market for more advice on this.

Further Reading

  • The Council for College and University English (CCUE) supports the teaching of English literature, English language and creative writing across UK further and higher education
  • For information on museums and galleries and associated funding head to the Arts Council website
  • Creative Choices gives access to lots of detailed information about career options in the creative industries
  • For aspiring authors have a look at The Society for Young Publishers which supports individuals with little or no experience of getting their work published. It also advertises relevant job vacancies.

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