It is a truth universally acknowledged that a student in India pursuing English Language and Literature for higher studies must be in want of common sense. Curious neighbors buzz around what they smell to be the carcass of a dead career where jobs are scant and the academic slope is stiff and endless. Vexed parents prepare themselves for an endless barrage of questions on precisely why their child chose to commit (what is seen as) a career suicide. The student, caught in such a quagmire, prepares himself/ herself for a perplexing journey whose end is shrouded in uncertainty. Or so the misinformed fable goes. This false fable, like all false fables, has its roots in incorrect information, and can be countered by adequate awareness of all the available career options for a student choosing to study English Language and Literature. Which this objective in mind, this blog post has a twofold purpose: elucidating the career options available to students of English Language and Literature, and delineating the pivotal role that mastery over the English language plays for students pursuing other careers:
Career Options for Students of English Language and Literature:
- Teaching: Teaching remains one of the most rewarding career options for those studying English Language and Literature. The journey for a career in education may involve teaching in schools or teaching in colleges or universities. English majors wanting to teach in schools may get a Bachelor Education (B.Ed) degree and apply to the large number of (government and private) schools all over the country. A degree in English is particularly beneficial here for it gives the student a pan-India access as English is the connecting language between different linguistic regions. English graduates with an ambition for teaching in colleges can sit for the National Eligibility Test (NET) after completing their masters in the discipline (with a minimum of 55 percent) which qualifies them to apply for assistant professorship in any college in India. Here too, students of English Language and Literature have the advantage of having a larger number of colleges to choose from because they are not restricted by language barriers. Moreover, colleges offering courses in subjects other than the humanities (for example: law colleges, engineering colleges, medical colleges etc) also have compulsory English papers, which further increases the number of colleges students of English can apply to for assistant professorship.
- Research: Those with a passion for English Language and Literature can pursue research in the discipline. It is a common misconception that research is a low-paying, never-ending endeavour. On the contrary, if chosen with awareness and devotion, research can be a career option with provides both monetary and psychological benefits. Apart from the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction one gets in continuing to pursue the field one is passionate about, research provides ample funding opportunities both in India and abroad. In India, students qualifying for JRF (Junior Research Fellow) get a fixed stipend every month. In the UK, there are multiple opportunities for funding in the form of scholarships such as the Commonwealth Scholarship, Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarships, Hornby Scholarships and others. In the USA, most PhD programs are fully funded.
- Journalism: Students of English Language and Literature can also build a lucrative career in print, media and digital journalism. Command over the English language helps the student in constructing hard-hitting, coherent arguments which are imperative to the professional journey of a successful journalist. Further, a degree in English Language and Literature necessaites a strong familiarity with a large number of texts that hone the ability of the student to comprehend a difficult situation, and simplify it into comprehensible sections which can then be studied in a detailed and systematic manner. This ability proves invaluable to students in their careers as journalists, as journalism requires participation in and comprehension of a vast range of complex events and scenarios.
- Content Writing: Students may choose to pursue a career in content writing as a freelancer. A degree in English Language and and Literature equips students with the necessary tools required to be a successful content writer. These skills include, among others, linguistic fluency, argumentative ability, comprehension skills and writing skills.
- Interdisciplinary Career Paths: For a variety of reasons – ranging from globalisation to recent innovations in research – boundaries between disciplines are becoming ever porous, facilitating a rich exchange of ideas across a wide range of streams. The career options for students graduating in English Language and Literature therefore need not be limited to one specific discipline. They can pursue higher studies or explore career paths across a vast spectrum of subjects. For instance, an understanding of the technical and structural elements of the English language (taught under ‘linguistics’) can equip students (once they have learned coding from any of the large number of available sources such as Code Academy etc) with the necessary tools for further research in the field of Computer Science Engineering, or more specifically, in the field of developing Artificial Neural Networks for Natural Language Processing. Further, mastering the nuances of corporate language (taught under the course ‘Business English’) can prepare a student for a rewarding career in the corporate sector. Similarly, mastery over legal English (taught under the course of the same name) can greatly help students achieve optimal performance in careers in the field of law.
It is therefore evident that English Language and Literature is a lucrative and versatile discipline. It prepares students for a vast range of careers that span multiple disciplines. This interdisciplinary nature of the subject is particularly important in the contemporary era of globalisation. To return to the false fable with which the article begins, one can now counter the misinformed premises on which it is founded, and confidently decide to do what one loves and turn one’s passion into one’s profession.
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