Employability with an English Degree?

(25 Posts)
jojosholt Sat 13-Oct-18 18:28:27

DD is looking at doing an English degree (Manchester, Warwick, Leeds and Bristol said at open days they would give her an unconditional offer and were very enthusiastic, to the extent one head of school said "please come" and that she was exactly what English degrees were looking for; Oxford said the research she's been doing over the summer sounded like it was what they were looking for) but I am concerned about employability afterwards. Does anyone have any advice, which universities are better for this? What can she do to improve her job prospects? What sectors do English grads go into?

OP’s posts: |
costacoffeecup Sat 13-Oct-18 18:34:27

I'm in finance. I enjoy it. Completely irrelevant to my degree but it's a good degree so helped me move up the ladder. Probably wouldn't really be relevant now if I moved on to a different role but I'm late thirties.

I always fancied teaching or lecturing but glad I didn't go down that route now to be honest. If I could have been decently funded (well, enough to pay the rent) I would have done a PhD but it's not so easy with an arts degree.

If I had my time again I'd choose a vocational degree though. I was a bit of a snob about doing an 'academic' degree and I enjoyed it but it's a shock when you leave university and realise you're not really trained for anything!

LIZS Sat 13-Oct-18 18:46:42

Ina practice it rules relatively few career paths out other than the obvious science and vocational ones. Depending on her interests any work experience and society committee membership can show a commitment to a particular sector and the degree will develop plenty of transferrable skills.

AndromedaPerseus Sat 13-Oct-18 18:58:05

My concern would be if they’re giving out unconditional offers how many students are they taking on and the oversupply of English degree students coming out at the other end all looking for graduate jobs.

Sophia1984 Sat 13-Oct-18 18:58:17

I loved my English degree but it was more the volunteering stuff I did at uni that helped with job applications. I’ve ended up in education charity sector.

JosellaPlayton Sat 13-Oct-18 19:19:46

I’m an English graduate and amongst my former classmates there’s a very diverse mix of occupations including; investment banker, lawyer, museum curator, business consultant, academic who is teaching at a university, PA, teacher, buyer at a major fashion retailer, legal secretary, marketing executive, accountant, fitness instructor/lifestyle blogger, store manager at a supermarket chain... Some of those listed obviously did post graduate study though. The point is that it’s a well respected academic degree and if she gets at least a 2:1 from a decent uni then she’ll have plenty of options.

JosellaPlayton Sat 13-Oct-18 19:20:53

And yes to what Sophia said about volunteering and doing thing whilst at university to improve her employability.


catenthusiast Sat 13-Oct-18 19:29:39

I'm another English graduate (from a uni similar to the ones your DD is looking at) - I've worked in universities since graduating and am now a Communications Officer. My classmates are now in really varied roles - off the top of my head: several journalists/copywriters, a couple of teachers, quite a few in marketing, quite a few in uni admin, and some went onto postgraduate courses.

Definitely worth working or volunteering throughout the degree - I worked in IT at the uni while I was studying and that experience is definitely what got me my first job after I'd finished.

Kit10 Sat 13-Oct-18 19:47:21

English and humanities degrees are hugely reliant on the work experience on the side. There are plenty of jobs she could go into, specialisms that could lead to masters programmes etc. But the most important thing is that she volunteers or works on the side gaining work experience along the way. She will have very few hours of actual lessons compared to other more technical degrees, make sure she utilises that time to differentiate herself from the large number of graduates. Don't let her make the mistake of graduating and only then beginning to look ahead, especially if it means volunteering. Summer internships etc are great. That would be my advice.

corythatwas Sat 13-Oct-18 20:01:02

As a lecturer the advice I would give would be to make the most of any resources at the uni she goes to: careers officers, careers fairs, opportunities to talk to older students (clubs, societies etc) to find out what they are doing. And to start early. Our students in humanities go out into all sorts of jobs, but as others have said, you need to be proactive. And work experience/volunteering on the side is almost certainly a good idea.

Kayet Sun 14-Oct-18 17:25:04

@costacoffeecup do you not think an English degree is helpful then?

Kayet Sun 14-Oct-18 17:26:10

@AndromedaPerseus DD is applying with her grades so it's not so much unconditional as she's already met their conditions! I hope

jojosholt Sun 14-Oct-18 17:34:27

@kayet I think you might be on the wrong thread? But yes @AndromedaPerseus DD has (with a bit of juggling that the unis are happy with), weirdly enough, already met her grades so hopefully that isn't too much of a concern

OP’s posts: |
jojosholt Sun 14-Oct-18 17:39:20

I didn't go to uni myself so I might be asking a stupid question here, but most people have mentioned work experience/ volunteering. Thanks so much for your advice but is this something the uni will organise/ give support with and if not any pointers for how she should start looking for it?
I'm not 100% this is how mumsnet works but I'm just going to @ everyone who's mentioned it, sorry if that's not protocol! @costacoffeecup @LISZ @Sophia1984 @JosellaPlayton @Kit10 @corythatwas @catenthusiast

OP’s posts: |
LIZS Sun 14-Oct-18 17:47:20

There may be a volunteering team which outreaches into local community events and charities during termtime and a careers office which advertises internships and local work opportunities. However it is really up to the student to seek out opportunities which are relevant to them. Some courses will include placement modules but the student has to do the legwork to apply, interview and tie up the paperwork.

corythatwas Sun 14-Oct-18 17:50:40

it depends on what she wants to do, OP; on more vocational courses it is more common for uni to organise work experience as students go into a few limited fields, in something like English it will be more up to her to find out what is going on and going for it

so yes, she should attend anything going in the way of careers fairs etc, decide what she is interested in and then start thinking about what might be good in terms of volunteering/work experience

she should have a personal academic tutor, who will not be a careers expert, but may be able to help point her in the right direction

talking to older students is often a good idea: encourage her to join some kind of society where she will meet the older students in her subject; networking is a good skill to learn

if she is interested in e.g. journalism, there may well be a student magazine she can help edit

jojosholt Sun 14-Oct-18 18:00:31

@LISZ @corythatwas ah that makes sense! Thanks so much!

OP’s posts: |
AndromedaPerseus Sun 14-Oct-18 18:26:11

I think the graduate employment landscape has changed so much in the last 30years with the doubling of the number of graduates in the jobs market. 30years ago graduates when a lot of MNetters graduated graduates were a rare breed and just having a degree regardless of subject/ university could get you a graduate job where the employer would train you on the job.

However the number of graduate jobs have remained roughly the same as 30 years ago but there are now twice the number of graduates. I do think if you are going to do an academic non vocational degree you do need to think seriously about making sure you have some employable skills gained via part time jobs, networking and internships.

catenthusiast Sun 14-Oct-18 18:37:30

Hi OP, I had a few different jobs including seasonal work - some of them I found through the student employment team at the uni, one was a job I had at college that had me back for Christmas and holidays. There are usually job/volunteering fairs in the early weeks of uni starting, it's worth your DD going along and seeing what she can get involved with and signed up to. I was lucky with my main student job through the uni as they were really supportive and gave me lots of staff development opportunities.

The other thing she can look at are summer internships, depending on the sector she's after - I know a few people who came out of the internships they'd done between 2nd and final year with a job offer for when they graduated.

I definitely use the skills I got from my degree in my job and I had a great time doing it and learning about something I cared about.

catenthusiast Sun 14-Oct-18 18:38:47

And I graduated in 2015 so not so very long ago! smile

Kit10 Sun 14-Oct-18 19:51:52

@jojosholt it'll depend on what she what's work experience in, I looked for all my placements myself. I knew I wanted to work in the heritage sector so I contacted museums, libraries and archives directly. They are all versed in using volunteers so had their own protocols. Communities usually have volunteer bureaus and the uni may well do itself. But it'll be down to her to seek them out x

Kit10 Sun 14-Oct-18 19:52:19

*wants (my degree wasn't in English ha!)

Xenia Sun 14-Oct-18 20:17:46

I know good lawuyers who read English. If she were going to do that then she would arrange it but the university will have talkes and events she can go to (n that and many other careers) So go to those. Then first university summer holiday fix yourself some experience if you can just informaly with someone or do something law related. The September of the second year early on in that first temr of the 2nd year you can apply for hard to get vacation palacements in law firms for the summer after your 2nd year. Those placements are paid. Lots of lawyers are recruited from them.

Then the law firm sponors you over about 2 years at law school . In other words for law there is that set timetable years ahead (and no one hand you antyhing on a place and it is very competive.). Some other jobs are sumilar very competitive placements which are usually paid fought over by students put on by banks and the like and pelople recruited from those

RueDeWakening Sun 14-Oct-18 20:53:14

I went into Internal Communications, also some PR.

BubblesBuddy Sun 14-Oct-18 23:02:00

Whilst at university my DD ran a MFL society and was chair of a ball committee. In the holidays she volunteered for the National Trust. She joined several choirs at university. Her third year at university was spent abroad as she was studying MFL but universities also offer a year abroad in English speaking universities to non MFL students and, if possible, I would grab this opportunity. It is a real plus on a cv. After Y3, DD worked at a mid sized Solicitors in the holidays.

Post degree she did the GDL and spent two days a week volunteering at the CAB and the law school’s volunteering programme. After that, and having completed 12 mini pupillage over 2 years, she did the BPTC and some pro bono work. Before she started the BPTC she did a 6 week internship over the summer at a barristers’ Chambers where she had done a mini pupillage. She also started singing in the choir at her Inn of Court and attended the required training events there to network (and learn).

So, you can see where all that was going: she’s now a barrister and got her pupillage at one of the chambers where she did a mini pupillage. I accept this is a niche career but it shows what you have to do to get where you want to be. She did all of this herself. We know no-one who could do her any favours. She was able to attend the law careers fair at the university and it’s one of few targeted by barristers.

So for anyone doing English, whatever you want to do after the degree, it is necessary to put yourself out there! Be proactive. Get to know people. Get an internship. Think early about what you want to do but join in at university in a meaningful way. Be proactive and organise something. Sometimes it’s not possible to get the career you want easily. Journalism and working in the film/tv industry are very difficult to crack and seem a popular choice for English grads where they can use their degree. Teaching uses the degree but sometimes English grads have to really think hard about transferable skills and how to get that cv looking great in view of the immense competition.

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