English and Humanities graduates sometimes take a while to settle on their career paths, as these stories reveal, but once they have discovered what they want to do, they often go into interesting and challenging roles in a range of different spheres. Their stories reveal what their undergraduate studies in English have contributed to their working lives.
English and Drama, Manchester
I took a long way round to the job I do now – I started out with a year in the student bar, then lived in Ireland for a few years where I worked in more bars, with theatre companies, as a freelance writer and did a Masters in English. After a few years I came back to the UK and joined the Civil Service graduate scheme, the Fast Stream.
After five years in the civil service I left and joined the BBC, where I work as a Senior Adviser in the Corporate HQ. This means I’m constantly dealing with policy issues, correspondence, communications and Board papers – an eye for language, structure, evidence and tone are all essential skills in my job and are all things I can trace back to my time in the library researching papers, building arguments and interpreting classic texts.
English Literature with Creative Writing, University of Surrey
I did a six-month paid internship in the TV & Radio department of The Telegraph – I’m not sure whether the programme is still running, but I’d really recommend it; it was a pretty amazing first professional experience to have. After the internship, I was able to freelance weekly for The Telegraph, writing weekly TV previews while doing another internship in PR.
I soon realised that PR wasn’t for me, and after working as a digital writer for Now Magazine for a year and a half, I came to my current role as the Entertainment and Features Editor of Pride Magazine, the UK’s leading magazine for black women. As well as getting the chance to interview people I’ve looked up to for years (Naomi Campbell and Jennifer Hudson, to name just two!), I’ve been able to travel (covering the St Lucia Jazz Festival) and write features on topics I really care about. Without skills learned on my degree such as an ability to research well, and to use language to tell stories in a meaningful and memorable way, I doubt this all would have been possible!
BA English Language and Linguistics at University of Roehampton; MSc Language Sciences at University of Reading; MSc Speech and Language Sciences (also known as Speech and Language Therapy) at University College London.
I always had my current profession in mind, though I knew this required some work experience and postgraduate study. Following my undergraduate degree I worked as a special needs teaching assistant supporting children with developmental language disorders, including working abroad. I also did voluntary work as a conversation partner with adults recovering from a language disorder called Aphasia following stroke. My studies have enhanced my interpersonal and listening skills and equipped me with the strong oral and written foundations to communicate effectively across my working roles and in everyday life.
I am a newly qualified Speech and Language Therapist, and I work for the NHS on an Acute Stroke Unit. My job involves assessment, diagnosis and treatment/ therapy of difficulties with swallowing (eating and drinking) and communication (voice, speech and language) which come as a result of acquired brain injuries. I work within a multidisciplinary team who treat patients in hospital during the earliest stages of their recovery.
English Language and Linguistics BA, Anglia Ruskin; MLitt Publishing, University of Stirling
After I completed my BA, I knew I was going to be doing a Masters later in the year so I did an internship at Sweet & Maxwell London and worked in a call centre for a short while. I then moved to Scotland to do the postgraduate degree which was a year-long course.
I now work in the Cases department at Thomson Reuters, and have done for about 18 months. I publish judgments from courts to our websites, as well as overseeing many day-to-day projects. I have absolutely no legal background, so my Linguistics and Publishing degrees are what got my foot in the door in the first place. Legal publishing is very interesting niche, but my university background (both transferable skills and subject knowledge) has equipped me for any issues I deal with at work.
English, University of Cambridge
I decided to focus on visual work (rather than writing-focussed work) after graduating, which is more common than you'd think! Weeks after my graduation ceremony, I completed two self-organised, expenses-paid-only internships back to back. The first was for a start-up company that no longer exists but at the time it was a video dictionary service: think YouTube but full of videos of people explaining what words mean to and for them. As someone who loves language, this job was fascinating, allowing me to develop my practical camera skills as well as use the breadth of knowledge I'd gained both from studying literature and being personally interested in slang terms. After that, I worked for the documentary film distribution agency, Journeyman Pictures, and they offered me a job on the back of that work experience. There, researching skills gained from my degree came in handy, and both internships helped me shed an academic way of writing. I was at Journeyman for a while before realising how much I missed writing-focussed work, so I returned home if you like.
I now work for a national Church magazine, where I write a range of material as well as conduct interviews. The skills I learned at degree level (to name a few, research skills, textual analysis, writing to argue, using quotations effectively) are put into practice daily in my current role, and I'm kind of the oracle in my office when it comes to grammar and house style. English certainly wonderfully impacts on what I do now; long may that wonderment continue.
BA English at University of Birmingham
Graduate Teacher Programme at Tuxford Academy, facilitated by Sheffield Hallam University. Then worked as an English teacher and pastoral leader for 4 years there. Then worked at an inner city secondary school in Birmingham as Head of English and Languages for 2 years.
Curriculum Director for English and Communications at UTC Sheffield City Centre
BA English, Hull University; MA Modern and Contemporary Literature, Newcastle University
After graduating, I worked as a researcher for 2 Labour MPs in the House the Commons. This involved research, speech writing, case work and assisting with legislative scrutiny. The skills I learned in my English degrees, namely analysis, presenting considered opinions and use of primary and secondary sources of information were particularly helpful in this role.
I’m presently a Policy and Partnerships Manager for a housing organisation in the North of England leading work sharing best practice across the sector; working to create new relationships within and external to the sector as well as liaising closely with NGOs and Government on matters of housing policy.
English BA, University of Birmingham
I didn't know what to do for a long time after University so I waitressed whilst doing internships to figure it out. I tried an internship at a Publishing house for a couple of months and found it wasn't for me. I then got an internship for a small advertising agency who were looking for someone who was passionate about creativity, and loved it immediately.
Now, I'm a Senior Client Manager at a Brand Design Agency. I've just finished a 5 month stint in our New York office and I've been living and working in Amsterdam for the past 2 years. I love working in design as I get to work with and learn about such diverse businesses (charities, FMCG, arts organizations and big corporates) on so many different types of projects; packaging, brand strategy and environmental work. Working in design feels like an unexpected move for an English graduate, but I find the creativity of the industry really appeals to my storytelling side - after all, every brand needs to tell a story to connect with consumers. And being able to formulate a strong narrative and argument are invaluable skills when you're working in client service.
MA English Literature, University of Edinburgh
(Then MSc Nature, Society and Environmental Governance, University of Oxford)
I moved to Vancouver, Canada for two years where I worked for an outdoor equipment company, travelled around North America, spent a lot of time in the mountains, and did some volunteering and campaigning for local environmental NGOs. I moved back to England and did a Master's degree in environmental politics; it was soon after that that I got my current job.
I work for a start-up that advises governments around the world on artificial intelligence policy. I've travelled a lot with work, including almost a year in the Middle East. I find that I'm continually tested on my ability to clearly summarise lots of complex information: just what I was taught to do in my English degree. I've also learned a lot about quantitative data analysis, realising that it requires the sort of attention to detail needed in close reading. I'm having a fantastic time: every day presents a new challenge, and I'm learning all the time.
English Literature and History of Art, University of Reading, 2013
I started working for a top media agency in London 3 weeks after graduating. I wanted a role that was people facing and also creative. I studied English and History of Art as I have a strong creative flair and enjoy writing - these skills were very relevant to working on client pitches and generating ideas for media campaigns.
I work for a marketing agency in London as an Account Director, managing all brand partnerships with many luxury fashion and beauty companies, helping come up with innovative solutions to complement their marketing goals. I think the skills gained during my English Lit degree have been transferable to a marketing role in order to present my ideas succinctly and structure all client communications in the best way to suit the client needs to win business.
English Literature at The University of Reading
I travelled for a few months then came back and became an Administrator at a GP Surgery. I then went part time, working both at the GP surgery and at Kier Construction as a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and Bid Writer Assistant.
I am now in a permanent role as a Regional CSR Coordinator. I do this for our Southern Region, which comprises of three offices. I really enjoy this role as it is varied, mixing PR, events, marketing and other skills together. My degree gave me great skills in communication and organisation which I have carried into my job. The ability to give presentations, write reports and newsletters has been extremely useful. My persuasive writing module has proved especially useful in understanding what words to use in certain circumstances.
English Literature at Newcastle University
I moved to London to start a Publishing MA and began an internship at Hachette. This then secured my first full time job at Macmillan Publishers where I was a Rights Assistant, licensing book rights to publishers internationally. This job was a lot of fun!
10 years on I’ve made the move from publishing to IT and I’m now working in software sales. I’m currently an Account Manager at Salesforce where I work with Media companies to evaluate the technology they need for their digital transformation. The communication and interpretation skills I learnt at university have been absolutely key to my success in this role!
English Language and Literature, Oxford University
I ‘converted’ to Law, undertaking two years of legal study and two years of on-the-job training with a City firm. I qualified into the Commercial Property department (Real Estate) and, in between routine matters, worked on a number of high-profile transactions. All the while, I continued to read a huge amount of literature and to write. I lived abroad for a while – on returning to the UK, I trained as an English teacher. Much of the work that I have done since graduating has been connected, in some way, with the writing, analytical and research skills that I acquired on my English degree course.
I am an English teacher! I am engaged, on a daily basis, with the authors and poets who inspire me. I teach at a fairly old school and I love going into the depths of the English cupboards and finding books that were signed out (and sometimes defaced) by pupils over fifty years ago! The job is tough at times – convincing a class of Year 11 students that Victorian literature is actually great fun has been a recent challenge. I still love the Law and am glad to have access to two deeply interesting subjects – doing an English degree has given me these options.
English Language and Linguistics, Anglia Ruskin University
When I was in my third year at university I came across Computational Linguistics and I knew I wanted to work in the tech field. After finishing university, I spent a few months looking at jobs such as becoming a technical author, then decided to focus on conversational AI. I got a job as a Temp Data Analyst at Amazon and was lucky enough to be selected to join the linguist team shorty after.
I am currently working as a lead linguist for Amazon Alexa, working on improving her speech. This role mainly focuses on phonetics and phonology but other modules from the course come in handy too. I was lucky enough to find a job in a department I was interested in three months after finishing university. I am now looking at improving my technical skills, with the hope of doing a Masters in Speech and Language Processing, or something similar.