People trained in the humanities who study Shakespeare’s poetry, or Cezanne’s paintings, say, have learned to play with big concepts, and to apply new ways of thinking to difficult problems that can’t be analyzed in conventional ways.
– Harvard Business Review, 2011

Explore career pathways and learning outcomes in English

The time that you will spend studying literature– investigating and analyzing and debating its values and forms– is in many ways its own reward.  And luckily for all of us, employers know better than anyone just how valuable that reward is.  

Research from the fields of business, policy, government, education, administration, and even medicine has convincingly shown the marketability of the skills acquired in an English degree. Literary study equips students with advanced skills in communication, persuasion, and presentation; high-level experience in the research, analysis, and evaluation of complex information; innovative and creative problem-solving; and the ability “to play” with “big concepts” in a productive and disciplined way. As the world of work changes almost by the day, employers increasingly prefer lively, creative, and adaptable employees over ones with specific and often short-lived vocational skills.  

Students working on a project

An undergraduate degree in English can also serve as a strong foundation for post-graduate qualifications in law, management, information studies, and other professional fields. Recent graduates in English from the University of Ottawa have pursued successful careers in publishing, journalism, public relations, advertising, web design, museums and archives, education, human resources, commerce, and law.

Learning outcomes

A notebook in front of a laptop

General Skills

  • Outstanding communication skills, in oral, print, and multi-media formats.
  • Expertise in the research and analysis of complex information.
  • Initiative, creativity, and innovation in problem-solving.
  • Ability to develop and sustain complex, persuasive arguments.
Students writing notes

Specific Skills

  • The ability to locate ideas, customs, and cultural artifacts in their social and historical contexts.
  • An informed sensitivity to alternate perspectives, arguments, and worldviews.
  • A deep understanding of language, its forms, and its uses.
  • An awareness of how changes in media change design and effect.  

Our Co-op Program

Students at the University of Ottawa also have the opportunity to take part in one of the best English literature Co-op programs in the country.  Balancing academic study with paid work-placements, Co-op students spend a total of four semesters working with employers in private and public sectors, in roles that include writing, editing, research, analysis, and marketing. 

The placement rate of English students consistently runs at nearly 100%, with students taking up positions throughout Ontario, and as far afield as Vancouver, Calgary – even Paris, Amsterdam, and Malaga. Because of our location in the national capital, our Co-op program offers unmatched opportunities for students interested in public service careers. Recent employers of English co-op students include Bombardier, Foreign Affairs, Alcatel, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the City of Ottawa, and many more.

Learn more about the program and applying
Students studying in Social Sciences Building

Career Paths for English Majors

Here are some examples of jobs where an English degree may be useful:

  • Public Relations 
  • Teaching 
  • Library Science and Technology 
  • Public Policy Research and Analysis 
  • Communications and Analysis in Federal and Provincial Governments 
  • Technical Writing 
  • Consultancy and Project Management 
  • Information Technology 
  • Writing for Digital Media 
  • Journalism 
  • Curatorial and Archival Professions 
  • Human Resources 
  • Legal professions and Law School 
  • Professor of English or other Humanities Fields (via Graduate School) 
  • Social Work 
  • Broadcasting 
  • Marketing and Promotions 
  • Editing and Publishing 
  • Event Planning 
  • Public Speaking, Speech Writing 
  • Community Development 

From around the web: the value of an English degree

Harvard Business Review
Two women sitting at a table chatting
Harvard Business Review

Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities

How many people in your organization are innovative thinkers who can help with your thorniest strategy problems? How many have a keen understanding of customer needs? How many understand what it takes to assure that employees are engaged at work?...
The Atlantic
A notebook in front of a laptop
The Atlantic

The Best Argument for Studying English? The Employment Numbers

Only people who don't understand statistics would question the value of an English degree...
American Express
Books on shelves in a library
American Express

Why English Majors are the Hot New Hires

Years ago while interviewing an English major, I mentioned that—for many reasons—I liked hiring individuals who have a degree in the humanities...
Business insider
Two women in a job interview
Business insider

LOGITECH CEO: 'I Love Hiring English Majors'

Don't fret, English majors: There are employers out there looking for you...
A professor standing in front of a whiteboard

A Top Medical School Revamps Requirements To Lure English Majors

You can't tell by looking which students at Mount Sinai's school of medicine in New York City were traditional pre-meds as undergraduates and which weren't. And that's exactly the point...

Contact us

Department of English

Hamelin Hall, room 338
70 Laurier Avenue E.
Ottawa ON Canada K1N 6N5

Tel.: 613-562-5764
Fax: 613-562-5990
[email protected]

Office hours

Monday to Friday
From 8:45 a.m. to 12 p.m.
From 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
(June to August: closed at 4 p.m.)