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Category Archives: 10 Things I Wish I Had Known as an English Major
We are finally at the last of the topics for the “10 Things I Wish I had Known as an English Major.” This particular part of the presentation dealt with how to prepare for grad school. While I’m not currently thinking about grad school since I took the job route after graduation, more than likely I’ll be going back for my master’s degree in the future (although I’ll probably go for communication). Therefore, I am going to rely on the information in the PowerPoint to provide tips for those who are preparing for the post-graduate college search.
Most college graduate application deadlines are between early December and mid-February, although some colleges accept applications all the way up to July. You should check to make sure what the deadlines are for each school you are applying to in order to give yourself time to prepare. You will need your application packet, including reference letters, gathered and submitted by the deadline date. Therefore, you need to make sure you have given yourself (and your professors and other references) enough time to gather all the documents you will need for your application packet before you send it in.
Your GRE score counts – the higher you score, the better chance you have to get into the college or university of your choice. The scale for the GRE is 200 to 800 for quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning and 1 to 6 for analytical writing. If you are going to grad school for English, some English programs overlook QR (math) scores for high VR and AW scores. Therefore, if you score high in those areas you may have a chance. Some universities want a combined score of at least 1000. You should make sure you know what the minimum requirements are for each school that you want to apply to.
Graduate schools require that you submit an analytical writing sample (or creative writing sample for MFA programs). The writing sample is typically 10 to 20 pages in length. You will need to submit one long or two short papers depending on the university. In 400 level classes you will generally have to write a 10-20 page paper so you should fill this requirement; if not, then taking the English honors class is a good way to tackle a long research paper that you can use for applications. It’s better to get this done ahead of time so you can have professors look at it and give you critiques on how to improve your writing.
You will need to submit three professional references from professors as part of your graduate application. Remember how I suggested earlier in the posts that you should get to know your professors? This is just another reason why. Since you need recommendations from professors to go to grad school or get a job, it’s better to get to know them so they can write a really good recommendation letter for you. Trust me, they’ll be happy to do it for a student they think is worth the effort. The more you go to them for advice or help during their office hours or show a willingness to improve and learn, the more you build up a relationship with them. It will be worthwhile in the long run.
Most grad schools require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA or a 3.5 GPA. Grades are important but are not always proof of your abilities as an English student. You should also focus on your test scores and writing sample. The better your test scores and the better quality your writing sample, the greater chance you will have even if your GPA is a little low.
Most universities allow you to apply and submit material online. Your GRE scores and transcripts will have to be mailed, however, which can take as many as two to three weeks, so start applying early! The more universities you apply to, the better your chances of being accepted. Most first-time application fees range from $50 to $65, but can be as much as $90 (Stanford U.), so you’ll need a good bit of money saved for the application process.
The MFA Writing Program
- Three letters of recommendation.
- Writing sample: 20-30 pages of fiction, usually from a single novel or a collection of short stories; 10-20 pages of poetry.
- Statement of purpose.
- Most programs recommend GRE scores, but not all programs require them. Subject test rarely required.
- Some universities recommend you research their faculty and apply to their programs if their tastes in writing are similar to your own.
Tip #4: Build Your Portfolio
The reason why I actually got my internship (which has led to my full time job) is at my job interview I brought my portfolio to show my boss. My portfolio contained examples of projects in my InDesign and advertising classes, pieces I had written for the communication department’s newsletter, and memos I had written for classes among other things. You could include papers to give an example of your writing and editing skill or you could bring in a literary magazine/school newspaper with the article or piece you wrote for it. If you want a job more related to art or design you could bring in examples of your work. If you’re a business minor and you had a big end of the year project you can bring in the portfolio for that. Any time you bring an example of the skills or work you have done it gives your possible future employer an example of the type of work you can do and it may give you that extra edge to get the job.
Tip #5: Prep for Interviews
The more experience you have doing interviews, the more comfortable and prepared you will be for them. You can practice interviewing by having your friend practice with you, talking in front of a mirror, or going to job fairs. Job fairs are also a great place to get resume tips and to network with possible future employers.
In fact, one reason why you should join different organizations is they sometimes have events where you can network with people. For instance, I went to some PR conferences while in college and am involved in Sigma Tau Delta (the English International Honor Society) which has a yearly conference. Conferences are great places to network, have people critique your resume, and practice talking to people/interviewing. The more you throw yourself out there and gain contacts, the more likely chance you have to land yourself a job.
Here are some interview tips from the PowerPoint:
- Dress in a suit or conservative dress attire. No visible piercings or gaudy jewelry. Minimal is more
- Bring a pen and writing pad – if possible, get a professional portfolio for them.
- Practice potential interview questions before the big moment, on a friend or in front of the mirror.
- Have questions of your own to ask your interviewers, either about the company or your position. This shows engagement and interest. This means researching the company you are interviewing for.
Tip #6: Never Give Up!
If your job interview didn’t go well or you didn’t get the job then don’t let it get you down. By simply going to the interview you have gained valuable job interview experience. The more job interviews you go to, the more you get exposed to different types of questions and interview styles so in the future you can prepare for them better. After an interview you should assess what you did well and maybe some questions you could have answered a little better. If you didn’t have enough job experience, go out there and build up your resume more. Use the interview as a learning tool so the next time you go in for an interview you do it better and increase your chances of beating out the competition.
If you missed the first part of this post, you can find it here.
This post is dedicated to those like me that may not want to go to grad school right after graduation. Maybe you want to work first to pay off your student loans. Maybe you don’t want to teach and you’ve realized that if you go to grad school for English you’re pretty much going to get your Ph.D and become an English professor. Whatever the reason, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for the job search while still working on your undergraduate degree. I’m going to use tips from the PowerPoint and based on my own experience to hopefully help you get prepared for that job after graduation.
Tip # 1: Strategy
Try to figure out now what types of careers you are interested in. You can use this post to get some ideas of possible job choices for English majors, but don’t limit yourself here. There are lots of different ways you can use your English degree.
Tip #2: Experience
You should start gaining experience for your resume; experience is very important and can be just as useful (if not more so) than a degree. Experience helps you gain skills to market yourself and also helps you gain contacts that can land you your job.
Ways that you can gain experience include writing or editing for your school’s literary magazine or newspaper. I did both in high school and college since I knew I wanted a job related to writing and/or publishing. You can also start a blog or send in articles to online or local newspapers or magazines. If you’re interested in secretarial or office work then get position as a student worker for a departmental office. See if the English department is hiring student workers to do desk work for them. If you’re interested in law then try to get an internship at a law office. There are lots of different avenues you can go to find ways to spruce up your resume.
Tip #3: Build your Resume
Make sure you get involved in different activities so you can gain skills that you can use to market yourself. If you want to prove you have leadership capability, get a position as an officer in a club or run for a position in the SGA. I was always involved in different clubs in college and usually wound up working as an officer since it meant I was more involved. Learning a foreign language can be very important depending on the field you want to go into; Spanish can be useful if you live in an area with a large Hispanic population and French is used a lot in business. If you want to do something related to foreign relations or study then you should definitely learn the language of the country you are interested in working in/with.
You can also learn special skills related to the field you are interested in. For example, I learned how to use design programs such as Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator because I wanted to work in fields such as advertising and public relations where you have to design and create publications. Knowing how to use Microsoft Office products such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are also useful if you want a job in business. Another important area you can focus on is community service. Community service work for different organizations and non-profits is not only spiritually rewarding it can also lead to important contacts and experience for future jobs.
Now, the other important part of building your resume is good design. If your resume is visually pleasing that can be the difference between your future boss actually looking at the document or throwing it in the discard pile. You also want to make sure that there are no spelling or grammar errors on your resume; many times if a potential employer spots an error, that resume is going to be thrown away and forgotten. Try to have as many eyes see your resume before sending it in – I had some of my professors help me build and proof mine because I wanted it to be the best it can be. And remember, your resume is a living document – you will be constantly adding on to it and revising it as time progresses. You want to make sure you tailor your resume for the job you are applying for. I am going to provide an example of the resume I used to get my internship – I made sure I put information relevant to the job first and picked the clubs and activities I had been involved in at college that were relevant to the job on there.
If you want to read more job search tips, continue on to Part II.
Although public schools require state teaching certification, some private schools will hire English grads with only a Bachelor’s under their belts. Various factors impact salary: teaching experience, the number of years employed at the current school, merit and performance, teaching load, and degrees and credits.
Wages in each industry:
- Elementary and secondary schools: $53,190 – $55,210 (annual mean )
- Public school teacher: $27,300 – $74,550 (2007 )
- Private school: $32,935 – $68,933
- High school teacher: $43,496 (annual mean )
- Elementary school teacher: $40,437 (annual mean )
- Middle school teacher: $42,308 (annual mean )
Universities and community colleges hire adjunct instructors to teach composition and developmental studies reading and writing.
- You will need a Master’s Degree in English.
- Wages range from $1500 to $2000 per class, per semester. That comes out to $500 a month (at best!) per class.
- Most colleges are only interested in hiring part-timers, which means you can only teach two or three classes at a time at each college.
In 2-year colleges, master’s degree holders fill most full-time teaching positions, but these positions usually require extensive teaching experience.
Online tutoring companies like SmartThinking and Tutor.com hire graduates with BAs and MAs to head their online sessions with a wide range of students, from high schoolers to adults. The application process and all work is online. Work is paid hourly. Some companies require you work part-time only. Wages usually start at $10 per hour.
Raters with only a BA typically earn around $10 an hour. If you have an MA and plenty of experience, you can make $20 to $30 an hour. Work is online and work hours are flexible, as you decide what shifts you want to work.
Companies are increasingly relying on computer software to score essays. Human raters are less in demand these days, which means there is no guarantee you’ll have a reliable source of income.
Marketing is actually what I am currently doing for my job. I am doing marketing for a private school and have to work on designing publications, writing feature stories, sending press releases, etc. In marketing I get to use both writing and creative skills which I really enjoy. If you also feel a strong connection with your product or company it really helps and makes you feel like you’re doing a great thing.
Just think about how much research you’ve completed as you pursue your degree! Academic researchers need a Ph.D. to work for universities. There are businesses that hire researchers, like certain oil and leasing companies.
Honestly, there are a lot of different jobs that require research. My aunt is a research librarian for a university. In advertising and PR jobs there are a lot of research jobs especially for creating surveys, researching the market before a campaign, and researching how well a campaign did. Also, pretty much every industry needs to do research for something or other so you can find a job researching something you enjoy.
At some point most businesses (especially non-profits) need to hold fundraisers in order to raise money. You need someone who writes well and inspires people to donate to work on a fundraising campaign. Jobs that require fundraising ability could be through marketing and PR or some other communication based job.
Click here to be linked back to Part I.
This section of the presentation covers some of the different career opportunities for English majors. These are only a few of the possible jobs you can apply for with a degree in English; do not limit yourself to only these possibilities.
According to the PowerPoint, “Many of the following slides were drawn from Esther Lombardi’s essay, “A Note to An English Major Contemplating a Career,” published online at About.com Guide, as well as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, which can be found online at http://www.bls.gov/oco/.d.”
A writer can be anything from novelists, to screenwriters, to editors, etc. You can write for print, broadcast, or online writing. If you plan on writing online, having Web or multimedia experience is a plus. If you are writing about a particular topic (say for a magazine) you will want to have formal training and/or experience related to that topic.
Annual wages for salaried writers and authors: May 2008:
- Lowest 10%: less than $28,020
- Middle 50%: between $38,150 and $75,060
- Highest 10%: more than $106,630
Tip from the PowerPoint: “Accrue experience now. Begin writing for The Oracle (school literary magazine), The Vanguard (school newspaper), online magazines and blogs, etc.”
A technical writer basically takes technical information for a business or industry and translates it into easily understandable language for documents. Most jobs in this occupation require a college degree. Job prospects for this career are pretty good, especially if you have web and/or multimedia experience. Traits desired for this field are excellent communication skills and attention to detail.
Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest number of technical writers:
- Software publishers: $71,640
- Computer systems design and related services: $64,380
- Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $62,920
- Employment services: $61,810
- Architectural, engineering, and related services: $60,140
Tip from the PowerPoint: “Take professional writing classes!”
A grant writer helps non-profits, individuals, and businesses find funding opportunities. They research funding sources and write proposals to request funds. You need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related area and experience is usually required.
Median expected salary for different businesses:
- General: $56,772
- Private Corporation: $30,000 to $60,000
- Non-profit: $23,000 to $35,000
Tip from the PowerPoint: “USA offers a Special Courses class on grant writing, called Grant Writing: The Step-by-Step Process, also available online.”
The requirements to be a lawyer are a 4-year college degree, 3 years of law school, and a written bar examination; some requirements may vary by State. Prospective lawyers should develop proficiency in writing and speaking, reading, researching, analyzing, and thinking logically.
Median expected salary for different levels of law:
- All graduates: $68,500
- Private practice: $108,500
- Business: $69,100
- Government: $50,000
- Academic/judicial clerkships: $48,000
Tip from the PowerPoint: “Students interested in a particular aspect of law may find related courses helpful. For example, prospective patent lawyers need a strong background in engineering or science, and future tax lawyers must have extensive knowledge of accounting.”
A paralegal helps lawyers prepare for closings, hearings, trials, and corporate meetings, investigate the facts of cases, identify appropriate laws, prepare written reports on findings, etc. In order to become a paralegal, an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor’s degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies is required.
Median expected salary for different businesses:
- Federal executive branch: $58,540
- Insurance carriers: $52,200
- Legal services: $44,480
Click here to be linked to Part II.
New Historicism/Cultural Studies (1980s-present)
New Historicism is an attempt to reevaluate how Historicists approach a work. Historicists like to focus on the historical background of the time period that the text was written in order to try to come up with a reading of the work. History is considered objective and a concrete background for the text.
New Historicists, on the other hand, do not believe history is concrete. History is another form of a text or literature since it is always told from a specific perspective. Therefore, history and literature are linked and can influence each other and be used to come up with conclusions about each other. Thus, New Historicists are interested in how literature is used to interpret history or on what particular perspective a writer has on history.
Post-Colonial Criticism (1990s-present)
Post-colonial criticism is most interested in looking at the relationship between colonial powers and the countries they “colonized.” Post-colonial criticism looks at literary works by countries that were once colonized and how they are still influenced by the colonizing power and also looks at how colonialism was portrayed by the colonial powers.
Post-colonial criticism is interested in the power structure and struggle between both groups and the clash of culture, religion, economics, etc. that occurs between them. Critics are critical of the prevalence of Western literary canon and history and try to provide an alternative perspective.
Feminist Criticism (1960s-present)
Feminist criticism is focused on how literature reinforces, undermines, and portrays the oppression of women. It is focused on the patriarchal aspects of our culture and how they must be changed.
- Women are oppressed by patriarchy economically, politically, socially, and psychologically; patriarchal ideology is the primary means by which they are kept so.
- In every domain where patriarchy reigns, woman is other: she is marginalized, defined only by her difference from male norms and values
- While biology determines our sex (male or female), culture determines our gender (masculine or feminine).
- Moral Criticism and Dramatic Construction (~360 BC-present)
- Formalism, New Criticism, Neo-Aristotelian Criticism (1930s-present)
- Reader-Response Criticism (1960s-present)
- Structuralism/Semiotics (1920s-present)
- Post-Structuralism/Deconstruction (1966-present)
- Gender/Queer Studies (1970s-present)
- Purdue University’s helpful Online Writing Lab – http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/722/1/
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on Literary Theory – http://www.iep.utm.edu/literary/
- Introduction to Literary Theory Video Lecture Series, Dr. Paul Fry, Yale University. (http://www.academicearth.org/courses/literary-theory)
- The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, edited by Michael Groden, Martin Kreiswirth, Imre Szeman (2004).
- Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, by Jonathan Culler (2000).
In case you missed it, here’s the first half of this post.