Careers for Students of Literature

What sorts of employment might be available to you as a student of literature?

Literature has traditionally been a preprofessional major that prepares students for entry into graduate programs, professional schools (law, for instance), and careers in education and communication. Today’s literature majors, however, find employment in many fields outside those traditionally associated with the degree. The study of literature not only can help you refine skills in reading, writing, and critical thinking, but also can provide insight into character and promote sensitivity to language and cultural differences. So, as a literature major you have options for an increasingly wider range of professions that value human understanding and excellence in written and oral communication skills.

Some English majors, of course, still follow traditional paths and go directly into teaching or graduate programs, or seek further training in law and other professions. Other literature majors find employment in government service, advertising, publishing, professional writing, finance, personnel, library science, public relations, media, medicine, arts and entertainment, international relations, business, and many other fields.

For information about careers for English majors, visit the Iowa State Career Services Website. You may also be interested in learning about some famous English majors.

If you are interested in graduate study, especially in English or the humanities, investigate options no later than your junior year. In many areas of literary study, skill in foreign languages is important and knowledge of theoretical approaches is essential. Choose a variety of courses to develop your knowledge of periods, authors, and genres, since the Graduate Record Examination in English requires familiarity with literary history. Consult your advisor about your plans so that he or she can help you plan your schedule appropriately.