An English degree is a desirable option for students looking to earn an education that will make them a desirable candidate in a wide variety of job fields, those devoted to the humanities and literature, and students looking to teach English. In addition to a deeper understanding of the literary landscape, English degree seekers are often more creative and analytical, in addition to being stronger writers and presenters. A wide variety of challenging coursework is required to earn an English degree, which is available at most traditional and online universities.
General Education and Foreign Languages
While pursuing their general education, English majors should choose elective courses that compliment their degree field. Strong choices include history and philosophy courses, which allow English majors to better understand the context of work they will study in upper division coursework. Students looking to major in English should also be aware that most English degrees require four semesters of a foreign language of the student's choosing. This foreign language requirement is significant because most graduate colleges require English students to have taken foreign languages.
World literature courses often include literary works from classical antiquity, including those produced by the Greeks and Romans in the Classical Period. Other selections might include Eastern literature and philosophical works. Some colleges offer world literature as an introductory course where a broad selection of works are covered.
According to Washington State University, British literature usually begins with "Beowulf," an epic poem likely written sometime around 750 C.E. Courses in British literature are usually broken into a series of classes covering such topics as the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Romanticism, the Gothic, Victorian literature, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Irish and Scottish writings. Though these are not the only subjects English majors will cover, students should expect to encounter these topics.
Beginning with literature produced before the American Revolution, by settlers and Native Americans, and later by slaves, American literature covers a wide variety of topics. English students should expect to enroll in courses such as American literature to the Civil War, American literature since the Civil War, the American novel, the American Gothics, African American literature, Jewish American literature, American women's literature and contemporary American literature.
Rhetoric and Composition
A popular concentration for English majors who choose to pursue graduate work, rhetoric courses are offered as both general education and advanced coursework. Rhetoric topics include both classical and contemporary rhetoric, as well as coursework on specific rhetorical figures, such as Aristotle. Students looking to advance their understanding of composition will benefit from rhetoric coursework. Additionally, courses in advanced composition and rhetoric are common.
Though technical writing is often not a required course for English majors, some universities offer a concentration in technical writing. Technical writing may also be used as an elective course. Technical writing courses include introductory technical writing, digital publishing, and technical writing and publishing. Advanced grammar and linguistic courses are also available as technical skills courses for English majors.
Many schools offer coursework in children's literature, genre studies, cultural studies, seminar courses and courses specializing in poetry, the novel and creative writing. Not all programs are exactly alike and coursework will vary from school to school. English majors should expect to study the categories of literary criticism, as well as the approximate name and dates of each period beginning with Classical Antiquity.
Kristyn Hammond has been teaching freshman college composition at the university level since 2010. She has experience teaching developmental writing, freshman composition, and freshman composition and research. She currently resides in Central Texas where she works for a small university in the Texas A&M system of schools.