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Guide to studying English

An English degree will give you the opportunity to study modern and classic literature, theatre, film, language or even have a go at creative writing.

English students preparing a report together


  1. What's English?

  2. Why study English?

  3. What jobs can you get as an English graduate?

  4. What do graduates do and earn?
  5. What qualifications do you need?

  6. What degrees can you study?

  7. How will you be assessed?

  8. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

What's English?

The English we know today was first spoken in early medieval times and is now one of the most spoken languages around the world.

Most literature courses cover the history of written literature, from pre-Chaucer to postmodernism, whereas language courses are concerned with the words, grammar and sounds of spoken and written English.

Similar courses for English include: 

  • Comparative Literary Studies
  • English Studies

Why study English?

Choose this subject area and you'll expand your skills and knowledge of literature, writing and communication by studying the complexities of the English language.

During your course, you'll get the opportunity to read and discuss some of the best writing ever created. You'll be able to argue their purposes, uncover hidden meanings and perhaps spend time constructing your own stories, poems or plays.

There may not be an obvious path post-graduation for those who study English, but you can use the transferable skills you'll develop during your degree for a huge variety of different professions. Skills include understanding how to investigate and obtain information, communication, writing and self-sufficiency – to name a few. You'll have a wide variety of career choices and the aptitude required to work in almost any industry.

English departments usually offer a number of dual honours degrees, so if there’s another subject you’re interested in studying, it's often easy to combine the two. And despite the name, it's a very international area. This is reflected in the large number of institutions that offer the opportunity to spend time studying abroad as part of a course. 

Top view of young students with books and notes in cafe

What jobs can you get as an English graduate?

English graduates have strong prospects and there are a lot of applicable and relevant jobs available.

Particular job roles include editor, publisher, teacher (in the UK or abroad), journalist, author, librarian, marketer, HR manager and PR executive.

Several professional organisations offer specialised positions for English graduates, such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

What do graduates do and earn?

In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of English have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.

The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate English students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.

Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18

What qualifications do you need? 

Most combinations of A Levels (or equivalent) will get you onto an English course, but requirements are different at each university or college. You may need to have studied English Language or Literature, or an essay-based subject in sixth form.

Always confirm the grades and other requirements for the particular university/course you're interested in.

What degrees can you study?

  • BA English Literature and/or Language
  • BA English and Theatre
  • BA English and a modern foreign language
  • BA Film and English

How will you be assessed?

Assessments consist of coursework and written examinations at the end of the semester. There might also be presentations, projects and a dissertation in the third year but this isn't always compulsory.

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Examples of taught MAs and research degrees at postgraduate level include a straight MA in English Literature and/or Language, as well as creative writing, American literature, ancient literature, English language teaching, linguistics, Black literature, children's literature and many more.

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