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The English major provides first-rate preparation for graduate study in such fields as English, education, journalism, creative writing, communications, and American Studies. Most of our graduates, however, employ their English degrees as ready stepping stones to professional study in law, business, and medicine or to rewarding careers in teaching, writing, publishing, marketing, consulting, publicity, philanthropy, corporate communications, and film, television, and online media. Whatever the career you imagine, you are encouraged to avoid both over-specialization and a random selection of courses en route. With the help of your English major advisor, you can develop a course of study suited to your career objectives as well as to your intellectual enthusiasms. Along the way, remember that English majors are less likely to be underemployed in their first job than majors in legal studies, business, and biology:

This pie chart, drawn from the Washington University English Alumni Directory, displays the schools and industries chosen by our recent graduates. Approximately one quarter went on to law or medical school; one quarter work in education or pursue advanced degrees in the humanities; one quarter are occupied in media, publishing, or various non-profit organizations; and one quarter have found careers in general business.

Common Career Paths

Law and Medicine

English students who plan careers in law or medicine are advised to consider courses in advanced composition; strengths in writing and communication are similarly essential in both of these fields and should be developed as fully as possible. Courses in literary criticism should not be avoided, however, since superior analytical skills—deduction, induction, reasoning by analogy—are honed effectively by the careful practice of literary interpretation. Lawyers and doctors in training should also keep their eyes peeled for directly relevant, regularly offered English classes on literature and justice and literature and medicine.

Publishing or Other Business

English students interested in publishing and other aspects of the business of literature can begin their undergraduate careers by enrolling in “The Literary Life,” a first-year seminar introducing literature today “through discussions with nationally renowned writers” as well as “units on literary scholarship, book reviewing, and magazine and book publishing.” They can cap their work in the major by interning with a professional publisher for course credit. Each summer, qualified students find internships in editing, publicity, marketing, and web design with major New York publishing houses. Our English alumni directory includes the names of dozens of English majors who have found rewarding positions at companies including Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Google, Knopf Doubleday Publishing, and L’Oréal, and all of them would welcome your questions about professional opportunities.

Communications and Journalism

Worthwhile undergraduate preparation for careers in communications and journalism includes courses in argumentative, expository, and journalistic writing, the last of these offered by the University College. Practical experience and a valuable clipping file in journalism can be gained through the many on-campus magazines and through credit-earning off-campus internships at professional publications including “The St. Louis Post-Dispatch,” a winner of nineteen Pulitzer Prizes, and “The Riverfront Times,” a long-running alternative weekly. Additional information concerning internships in journalism and communications (labeled Writing 298 in the course bulletin) is available from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.


Students who plan careers as teachers of English in elementary, middle, and secondary schools would profit from the department's 400-level courses in American literature: they introduce texts often employed in high school classrooms and fulfill part of several states’ certification requirements for units in American literature. Work in literary theory, advanced composition, and the history of the English language is also especially useful to writing and literature teachers-to-be. Since high school instructors can look forward to teaching a Shakespeare comedy one day and a modernist novel the next, a wide-ranging selection of courses in English, American, and Anglophone world literature remains desirable. Important details about earning professional certifications as a teacher of English can be found through Washington University’s Department of Education.

Graduate Work in English

The best preparation for masters and doctoral-level graduate work in English (or related fields such as Creative Writing, Comparative Literature, and American Studies) is a strong, diverse background in major authors, literary genres, historical periods, and critical approaches to literature and composition. Students preparing for graduate study should take as many 400-level courses as possible, should master at least one foreign language, and should sample classes in closely related fields such as History, Philosophy, Classics, Art and Archeology. They are urged to enroll in the intensive English Honors Program; the original thesis written for this program is the closest thing to graduate-level work asked of undergraduate English students, and may be employed as a writing sample when applying to advanced degree programs.


Register for Handshake

Handshake is a career management system where you can search and apply for jobs, internships, and co-ops, manage your applications, and RSVP for programs and workshops. On Handshake, you can also upload and submit application materials such as resumes, cover letters, and other supporting materials like writing samples and portfolios.

Visit the Handshake website

Browse Resources and Tools

The Career Center has an abundant amount of resources and guides to help you along your journey.

Career Center Resources and Tools

Make an Appointment

Don't be shy - whether you're just starting to think of options or have a specific path in mind, it's easy to meet with a career advisor! The Career Center's online tool lets you schedule an appointment at any time and help find the right advisor to get started.

Meet a Career Advisor

Meet our alumni

Curious about where our alumni have ended up, or what they'd say about our program?

Explore our alumni network


A good way to get your foot in the door in an industry you are interested in is through an internship. Here are some of the companies at which our English majors found recent internships:

  • Alzheimer's Association
  • American Way Magazine
  • Angels Gate Cultural Center
  • Atlantic Media Company
  • Bain & Company, Inc.
  • Browne & Miller Literary Associates, LLC
  • Business Insider
  • Cardinal Health
  • Centene Corporation
  • Children's Miracle Network
  • Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
  • Clinton Foundation
  • Less Annoying CRM
  • River Styx Magazine
  • United States Senate

Recent Graduate School Placements

Columbia University Law School 

Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons

Emory University School of Law

Harvard Graduate School of Education

Marquette University Law School

New York University School of Law

University of Chicago Law School

University of Michigan Law School

University of Pennsylvania PhD Program in English

Yale University PhD Program in English

Post-Graduate Employers

Our majors graduate and go on to great jobs around the country. Here are some of the companies that our graduates have joined straight out of college:

  • 20th Century Fox Television
  • Amazon Books
  • AmeriCorps
  • Bain & Company, Inc.
  • Bloomberg LP
  • Bloomsbury Children's Books
  • Capital One
  • The Clinton Global Initiative
  • CNN
  • General Mills
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Google
  • Hatchette Book Group
  • Johnson and Johnson
  • Knopf Doubleday Publishing
  • LaunchCode
  • L’Oréal
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • ProPublica
  • SAGA Innovations
  • SAGE Publications
  • Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency
  • Teach for America
  • U.S. Federal Government
  • William Morris Endeavor (WME) Entertainment
  • World Resources Institute
  • ZGF Architects

Check out our fuller directory of department alumni on our alumni network page.

All of the former English majors listed have agreed to help you with career ideas and advice—don’t hesitate to contact them. If you are a Washington University English B.A. and would like to be included in the directory, please email

“Majoring in English gave me confidence to speak up in meetings and make presentations, to think critically to find new solutions, and to know when and how to acknowledge my faults or assumptions. I’ve been lucky to find that these skills are just as important in business and non-profits as in academia – and in many cases, they’re what differentiates me from my peers."

―Luke SchielBA 2013, Account Executive, Clinton Global Initiative