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Study English, why & how to study

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. What English degrees can you study?

  3. What do you need to get onto an English degree?

  4. What topics does an English degree cover?

  5. How will you be assessed?

  6. Why study English?

  7. What do English graduates earn?

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

  9. What are the postgraduate opportunities?

  10. Similar subjects to English

  11. Have any questions?

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.

What English degrees can you study?

Undergraduate degrees in English include combinations with languages, humanities or social science subjects:

  • Classics and English BA
  • Comparative Literature and Film Studies MA
  • Education and English BA
  • English and a modern foreign language BA
  • English Literature and Philosophy BA
  • English Literature and/or Language BA

Options may include an integrated foundation year, placement year, or year abroad.

What do you need to get onto an English degree?

Typically, entry to an undergraduate English degree requires between 96–165 UCAS points. Some courses may have lower or higher requirements, and not all unis base their offer on UCAS points. Qualifications may include:

  • A Levels: A*AA–C
  • BTECs: D*D*D*–MMM (or in combination with A Levels)
  • Scottish Highers: AAAAA– (Advanced Highers: AAA–D)
  • International Baccalaureate: 42–24
  • Universities will usually ask that you have studied: English language or literature A Level (or equivalent)

Other good subjects to have studied include:

  • Essay-based subjects such as history or politics
  • General studies A Level may be excluded from offers

Experience that would look good on your application:

  • Work experience with a publisher or advertising agency, communications department in a charity or university, in a library or archive, or shadowing an English teacher
  • Entering essay or other writing competitions, writing for student magazines or blogs
  • Reading a wide range of genres and types of literature covering different themes and time periods, and reflecting on your learning
  • Further reading on careers from the websites of professional bodies such as the Publishers Association or the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ)
  • If eligible, summer schools run by the Sutton Trust or UNIQ

Other requirements for this subject include:

  • Interview and entry assessments may be required by some universities

What topics does an English degree cover?

Typical modules for courses in this subject include:

  • Beowulf
  • Drama: reading and performance
  • English literature and its contexts 1300–1550
  • Hyper-contemporary literature and the book prize
  • Introduction to drama
  • Introduction to poetry
  • Introduction to the novel
  • Literature in English, 1910–present day
  • Practical criticism and critical practice
  • Shakespeare
  • The early Tudors: literature and reformation
  • The history of the English language to c1800
  • Tragedy, from ancient Greek drama to contemporary writing
  • Victorian literature and science

How will you be assessed?

Courses are assessed in a variety of ways, depending on the module:

  • Coursework
  • Creative writing portfolio
  • Essays
  • Exams
  • Presentations
  • A dissertation may be a final year option

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.

Career-specific skills:

  • In-depth knowledge of English literature, its history and development, and its diverse forms
  • Knowledge of other works written in English from around the world, as well as their context and influences
  • You may have developed skills as a creative writer or gained other subject-specific skills, depending on your degree combination

Transferable skills:

  • Clear and persuasive communication
  • Creative imagination
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • IT skills
  • Organisation
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Self-discipline
  • Team working
  • Time management

What do English graduates earn?

English graduates can expect an entry-level salary of £17,000–£23,000.

If you become a journalist, your starting salary may be around £21,000 – though unpaid experience and internships may be required to gain entry to the career. The average salary for an experienced journalist is £35,500, although there are reports of salaries in excess of £80,000 for senior roles.

Train to teach, and as a teacher in England your salary will start at £25,700, climbing to £41,600 for classroom teachers with experience. There’s extra pay if you take on additional teaching and learning responsibilities. Move into school management, and earnings can increase to £117,000 for those in top leadership roles.

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. Some roles will require further qualification. Particular roles include:

  • Advertising account manager
  • Author
  • Civil servant
  • Copywriter
  • HR manager
  • Information manager
  • Journalist
  • Librarian
  • Magazine editor
  • Marketing executive
  • Media researcher
  • Policy advisor or analyst
  • PR executive
  • Press officer
  • Psychotherapist
  • Publisher
  • Retail manager
  • Social worker
  • Solicitor
  • Teacher
  • TESOL tutor

What are the postgraduate opportunities?

Postgraduate courses are widespread and wide-ranging, from straight MAs in English literature and/or language to courses focused on American literature, ancient literature, Black literature, children's literature and many more. Graduates with an English degree will require a PGCE if they wish to become a teacher.

Examples of taught MAs and research degrees at postgraduate level include:

  • Contemporary Literature and Culture MA
  • English Literature MLitt/MRes/MPhil/PhD
  • Medieval English MLitt
  • Shakespeare Studies MA
  • Victorian Literature and Culture MA

Similar subjects to English

Other subject areas that might appeal to you include:

Have any questions?

If you have questions about studying English, you can email our experts at We’ll be happy to hear from you!

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