"Majoring in English made me a more insightful reader and a more effective writer. In both business and design, being able to craft a compelling narrative has helped me get where I wanted to go . . . even when I wasn't exactly sure where that was. It's also sharpened my ability to understand other people's perspectives, which helps you navigate all kinds of ambiguous real-world situations with compassion." Anitra Appa, BA 2011, User Experience Writer, Google
“To unpack and enjoy complex texts; to read with a critical eye; to write and communicate with concision and purpose -- these are skills invaluable to my pursuit of the law, my pursuit of meaning, and without them I would be lost.”
Ryan Foreman, BA 2014, Paralegal,
The major in English provides strong preparation not just for graduate study in English or American Studies, but for graduate work in journalism and communications, for professional study in law, business, and medicine, and for careers in teaching, publishing (editing and writing for publishing houses, government offices, house journals), public relations and advertising, radio and television. Regardless of the career being planned, students are encouraged to avoid both over-specialization on the one hand and random selection of courses on the other. With his or her advisor, a student is expected to develop a course of study suited to personal objectives. Some of the following broad suggestions might be helpful in planning the major. For actual careers of actual majors, see our alumni directory.
Law, Business, or Publishing
Students who plan careers in law, business, or publishing would do well to include courses in advanced composition; writing and communications skills are essential in these areas and should be developed as fully as possible. Courses in literary criticism should not be scanted, however: professional analytic skills - deduction, induction, reasoning by analogy - can be honed effectively by the careful practice of literary interpretation. These students might also want to consult offerings in the Business School, Economics Department, and Political Science Department.
Communications and Journalism
For careers in communications or journalism a good undergraduate background would include courses in advanced composition (E Comp 311 and 312). Students might also want to consult offerings in Communications and Journalism in University College (credit toward the major to be determined by the Department). Valuable experience can be gained through an internship in journalism/communications (see E Comp 298), which would help a student determine the desirability of a particular field or environment. Although internships do not count toward the major (since the kind of work done varies considerably), a project that involves extensive composition can be proposed as E Comp 500 and, if approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies, will count toward the major. Additional information concerning internships is available in the English Department Office.
Teaching in Secondary Schools
For students who plan careers as teachers of English in secondary schools, American Literature in the 321-322 series or a selection from the department's 400-level courses in American Literature are strongly recommended because they introduce texts frequently used in high school teaching and because they will fulfill part of the Missouri certification requirement for 6 units of American literature. Work in advanced composition (for example, E Comp 311 or 312), in practical criticism (E Lit 301E), and in linguistics and the history of the English language (Linguistics 172, 201, E Lit 471, 472) will also be useful. Since the high school teacher can look forward to teaching Shakespeare one day and a modern novel the next, a broad selection of courses in English and American literature is desirable. Detailed information about the credential program may be obtained from the Graduate School of Education, McMillan 221, 935-6776.
Graduate Work in English
The best preparation for graduate work in English (or related fields such as Literature and History or Comparative Literature) is a strong background in literary genres, historical periods, critical approaches to literature, and major authors. Students preparing for graduate work should take as many 400 level courses as possible, master at least one foreign language and take course work in related fields such as History, Philosophy, Classics, Art and Archeology.