The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. The Kumulipo. These are just some of the timeless creation stories from around the world that students of literature can explore. These tales help us unravel the cultural practices, art forms, values and ideas of various societies throughout history. Literature majors delve into historical and contemporary works, learning about major eras of creative thought and civilization development.
Literature students have the freedom to explore texts and gain familiarity with various cultures, time periods and groups in society. Graduates can be extremely versatile employees; these skill sets make graduates well-rounded and multifaceted individuals, with strong communication and analysis skills. These abilities can be applied to roles within business, technology, education and marketing.
Undergraduate students exploring literature will typically begin their studies with composition classes, which help them learn how to accurately convey their thoughts, criticisms, and analysis in essay form. English composition classes typically focus on essay form, academic source citation and building rhetorical arguments. Students in their later undergraduate years will begin to focus their studies on immersive literature courses such as modern poetry, Post WWII American literature and medieval literature.
In some ways, literature and history students face similar challenges – there are so many eras, regions and cultures to cover, that these fields can seem too expansive. This is where specialty studies come in. Those who declare this major can choose a comparative literature route, specializing in two very different literary fields. Others can specialize in a foreign language, pairing up language fluency with literary studies and analysis. Students interested in nonfiction and rhetoric might choose to specialize in cultural studies, including African American, LGBT, women’s rights, disability studies and other group discourses.
Students of literature can pursue degrees ranging from the associate to the Ph.D levels, however, a four-year degree minimum is a common requirement for most employers hiring literature majors.
Some colleges offer an Associate of Arts Degree in English Literature. These two-year degrees are generally used by students who wish to apply course credits toward a future bachelor’s degree. Since many writing, marketing and teaching jobs require a bachelor’s degree, it can be very difficult to find work with just an associate degree in literature.
This four-year degree gives students enough time to cover the fundamentals of critical reading and writing practices, while delving into a specialty within literature. People who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in literature can find work as online marketers, journalists, English language instructors and technical writers.
Students who continue on to graduate school with a master’s degree program will typically dedicate an additional one to two years to their studies. These individuals gain further specialization, and might even instruct their own courses as graduate teaching assistants. Master’s degree holders can gain work in professional writing, editorial leadership, English language instruction and marketing.
These students are on track to faculty positions at colleges. They dedicate their time to researching key texts within literature, honing their knowledge on specific themes, time periods and groups within literature. Those who graduate with a Ph.D. can find administrative work within companies and schools, or leadership roles across the publishing industry, but particularly in the academic sphere.
Students should explore networking and funding opportunities with academic groups like Sigma Tau Delta (the International English Honors Society). These organizations award scholars who commit themselves to remarkable academic achievements within literature.
Ideal Candidates for Literature
Students with strong communication skills, both verbal and written, will find they excel as literature majors. These skills can help with the reading, interpretation and analysis of literary texts, tasks that take up quite a bit of time within a student’s course load. Students with a significant interest in poetry or screenplays might discover that strong verbal communication skills can help with the recitation process, which is integral to understanding these works.
Literature majors should also be highly adaptable, since they will often stray outside of their comfort zones to analyze unfamiliar texts. This might include works from various cultures and groups within society. Literature allows students to gain insight into people’s experiences from a different class, race, ability and identity background. At the graduate level, scholars might even be encouraged to travel abroad, especially if their studies involve a foreign language. The ability to adapt can serve students well as they encounter new and unfamiliar texts and environments.
Literature majors have a more diverse pick of prospective careers than most college graduates. They can pursue teaching roles at English language immersion schools domestically and abroad. They can explore writing for publications or for marketing departments. Literature majors can also find roles on writing or editorial teams.
Postsecondary English language and literature teachers can make an average of $67,980, with the majority of these professionals being hired by colleges and other academic institutions. Many of these roles are faculty positions that are available to graduate degree holders.
The median pay for editors is $53,880 a year, with the majority of professionals working for newspaper, book and magazine publishers. Unfortunately, the career prospects for growth in this role are very low, with a job outlook rate of -2% before the year 2022. On the other hand, there is still a slightly higher demand for writers , who make an average of $55,940 a year, with the majority working within the information, scientific and technical sectors.