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Another Option for Your English Degree

My B.A. is in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. As John Mulaney once said, "I paid $120,000 for someone to tell me to read Jane Austen, and then I didn't."

I chose the degree, like most starry-eyed 18 year-olds, because I believed in following my passion. I've always loved reading and writing, so it made sense to me that it was the right path to follow. And when my parents asked me just what I planned on doing afterwards, I shrugged it off as a minor detail.

Most people with English degrees end up outside of "the field," whatever that is. Some become English teachers; a select few publish creative works. Others go on to get their MA in Law or Education, and a good chunk find jobs that required a BA, no matter what the major.

I graduated 7 years ago, and I have mixed feelings about whether I'd make the same decision. I enjoyed my time, and left with some good critical thinking skills. And I was lucky enough to graduate with no debt, which I'm sure makes me less inclined towards regret. But even a couple weeks after graduation, hundreds of papers under my belt, I wasn't sure how I could use the degree.

It wasn't a secret in our classes, either. We'd regularly have discussions on why our degree was worth pursuing (though I remember thinking at the time: If you keep having to reassure us, maybe something's up). And, like clockwork, the same options were handed out: novelist, editor, teacher.

I recently wrote one of my old professors and asked him to mention UX Writer to that list.

You can read more about what the day to day life of a UX Writer looks like in my other posts, but the crux of it is making sure users can easily understand websites, apps, and other interfaces. Content, and the hierarchy of that content, makes a huge difference in that experience.

A good English degree program will teach you:

  • How to say what you mean in the simplest way possible;

  • How to structure and organize your ideas; and

  • How to use critical thinking skills to solve a problem.

What it shouldn't teach you, and what I had to unlearn, is how to use flowery, flowing sentence structure, academic vocabulary, or inaccessible language. A good writer (and especially a good UX Writer) knows that the best kind of writing often goes unnoticed, doing its job in a way that isn't obnoxious or showy.

If you're getting your English Degree, give this job some serious consideration. You can see the difference your words make in real numbers, work in the ever-growing tech industry, and learn some elements of design. And if you're like me and consider creative writing to be your true love, UX writing will pay the bills without creative burn-out. You can still use creativity in the job, but strategy, research, and plain ol' common sense muscles are flexed, too.

It's a rewarding job, and one I think needs to be mentioned more when kids are trying to figure out how to turn their loves into lives.


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