Why Study English Language and Literature?

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English is a core subject at school, which we must all study at least up to GCSE level. If you're soon to have that under your belt and are thinking about your A-level options, you may well be asking yourself, "Why study English?"

Most employers and universities will want you to have a grade C in English and maths at GCSE, so, in 2013, the government announced that all students in England have to achieve this (or level 2 functional skills) and keep on studying the subjects until they do.

But why is English so important and where can it take you outside the classroom?

I’m fluent in English, so why all the focus on study?

English is the primary language of communication in the UK. Most of us grow up speaking it fluently or learn naturally as we become immersed in the classroom and society around us. So, we here you ask, if I'm already fluent, why study English at school?

Well, there's a lot more to English than the words we speak. To learn the rules of spelling, punctuation & grammar, and to construct a sentence on a page, takes everyone a lot of time, study and patience. Learning these rules can help you to study other foreign languages at the same time too.

Employers say that one of the most valuable things they look for in the people who work for them is good communication skills and this means writing and presentation as well as talking. Being able to write a good cover letter, which is free from mistakes, can also be key to getting that job in the first place.

Essentially, whenever you need to persuade, inform or connect with someone, English is your best friend.

OK, that’s English Language, but why study English Literature?

Studying English Literature helps to sharpen your analytical skills. If you can take a text and find the themes plus connect it with other texts, theories and historical events, you are showing that you can handle complex ideas, search for patterns and interpret information in a wider context.

You will also develop your planning and research skills as well as gain knowledge of history, culture, philosophy and even human behaviour.

What careers can I get with English?

English is good for any job that involves communication, writing and / or literary knowledge. These include: advertising and marketing, writing and journalism, law, consultancy, business, teaching, performing arts, academia, government, linguistics, foreign languages, media and design. You could even be a freelance writer, which we think is one of the world's best jobs!

Careers in the sciences, engineering, technology and maths also need more English than you think. Writing proposals, academic papers & articles and communicating with others is key to getting funding for projects and reaching people with your work.

For more information on English language and literature careers, take a look at this post which offers careers advice for students studying English.

What subjects does English go with?

In a nutshell, English goes with everything. In fact, English was the second most popular A-level subject in 2013*. It’s especially helpful with essay subjects like history or politics and goes well with social science subjects that look at human behaviour, such as psychology or sociology. If you're good at and enjoy English language, you could consider studying another language, which can lead to many careers for language enthusiasts.

*All English subjects combined

What degrees do I need English for?

English Literature A-level is an essential subject for an English degree.

Some Drama, Media Studies, American Studies and Law degree courses will also ask for an English Literature or Language A-level.

The Russell Group informed choices guide further recommends English Literature for: Classical Studies; French & other Modern Languages; Teacher training; History; History of Art; Politics; Religious Studies; Speech Therapy (English language);

If you're thinking of studying English at university, check out our 60 Second Interview with an English Language and Literature Student.

Useful Links

Where can English take me? INFOGRAPHIC

Law career zone

Publishing & Media career zone

Advertising & Marketing career zone

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