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The study of English explores fascinating elements of both literature and language. How we communicate, how words and language have developed, and what this means for us and society. Studying English literature and language gives you the tools to analyse the spoken and written word critically and creatively.  


Keep reading to see if you’d be suited to studying English literature and language at university or check out options to study English at Northumbria University.  





What is English literature? 

When you study English Literature, you’ll grow to understand how books, verse, poetry, and prose contribute to culture. You’ll read a variety of styles, genres, and types of literary work. Learn how to contextualise and evaluate texts to deeper understand the subjects, authors, and readers.  


What is English language? 

When you study English language, you’ll work towards a deeper understanding of the ways we communicate with each other. Learn about the sounds we make, why we have accents and why some parts of language have rules.  


What qualifications and subjects do you need to study English Literature & Language? 

Undergraduate Study 

120 UCAS Tariff points from a combination of acceptable Level 3 qualifications which may include: A-level, T Level, BTEC Diplomas/Extended Diplomas, Scottish and Irish Highers, Access to HE Diplomas, or the International Baccalaureate. 

There are no specific subject requirements usually, but you might benefit from a general understanding of the subject through humanities A-levels like English, History and Drama. 

If you have a qualification from outside of the UK or have equivalent qualifications please check the guidelines and requirements for your chosen course. 

Postgraduate Study 

Usually, to study for a Masters in English, English literature, or linguistics you’d need a minimum of a 2:2 honours degree in English, or a related discipline. If you’ve obtained an undergraduate degree in another humanities subject like History or Politics, you may also be considered. It’s worth checking the specifics of the Masters in English degree you’re interested in for specific requirements.  

If you have a qualification from outside of the UK or have equivalent qualifications please check the guidelines and requirements for your chosen course. 




What are the benefits of studying English literature & language? 


Deepening a lifelong love of books and learning 


If you love books and reading, then studying English could lead to a deepened joy of a hobby. If you’re a prolific reader when you apply to study English, then you’ve already begun to develop one of the key skills needed to complete an English degree successfully. Perhaps you’ve read Tolkien’s complete back catalogue, maybe you can quote Alice Walker by heart, have a secret BookTok account or love talking about John Green. Studying English when you love reading is referred to by many as a luxurious experience.  


Broad skills 


Studying English language and literature equips you with a broad range of skills that can be applied to many jobs and career paths. 

  • You can expect to develop skills in 
  • Research methods  
  • Critical thinking and analysis  
  • Verbal and presentation skills  
  • Constructing arguments  
  • Participating in and leading discussions  
  • Writing and storytelling 
  • Creative thinking and problem solving 

This skill set can make you an asset to many employers as these skills can be applied to many different fields.  


Benefitting you, beyond your studies  


Outside of a work environment, the skills and knowledge that you’ll nurture as part of an Undergraduate or Masters English degree are likely to benefit your friendships, relationships, and encounters with other people.  


Broad knowledge of literature can provide topics of conversation, ways to connect over a shared interest and ways to understand different cultures and worlds more sympathetically. When you study English language, you’ll learn to recognise effective communication methods, hopefully giving you the tools to be a better communicator day to day.  


Creative career options  


Subjects like English literature and English language can open many different, varied careers and many of those will give you the opportunity to be creative in the work that you do. 


English graduates might pursue careers in education, journalism, publishing or writing to name a few. The outcomes of creative work may be wildly different among individuals or the discipline they choose but many agree that creative work can be fulfilling, exciting and varied.  


Find out how English at Northumbria can support you in securing the career you want





What course options are there to study English literature & language? 


Types of Degree

You’ll find that there are lots of ways to study English literature and language. Many universities offer combined English literature and language degrees so you can study both disciplines as part of one degree.  

However, if you want to specialise in either English language or English literature there are lots of options to do that too. You can even combine English literature or language with another subject, popular combinations include creative writing, linguistics, American studies, history, journalism, media studies and other humanities subjects to get a degree that meets your specific goals.  

Most undergraduate programmes in English will see you graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree qualification. A good starting point is to take a look at UCAS English degree listings, to get an idea of all the options available. 

At postgraduate level, there’s options to develop your broad knowledge further, but you can also choose to specialise and really get into the detail of your chosen field. It’s likely that at Masters level you’ll have more options when it comes to types of English qualifications.  

Many universities offer MRes degrees for research Masters in English, this is specifically the case if you’re interested in researching elements of language and literature. Other Masters in English degrees such as a Masters in Literature or Masters in Publishing are likely to lead to a Master of Arts (MA).  

Placements and Study Abroad

Placements are a great way to gain some work experience, give you an insight into the world of work and what job options are available, and you’ll benefit from applying elements of your academic learning in the workplace.  

Popular placement fields for English literature and English language students include marketing, PR, media, journalism, communications, publishing, advertising, education, and local government. 

You might think that studying English literature or English language would limit your options for studying abroad, but you’d be wrong!  

Just like many other degrees, you can choose to study abroad for a full year but there are shorter options too. Studying abroad gives you an insight into different cultures and perspectives, and it gives you the opportunity to develop other skills too: confidence, independence, adaptability, and self-awareness are all beneficial for your personal and professional development.  

Most study abroad options are taught in English, but you may find yourself living in a country where English isn’t the primary language. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone interested in language but for someone who studies English, it could give you a more in-depth understanding of how language is acquired and how culture, location and history affect literature and the written word.  




What career prospects does English literature & language offer? 


Career prospects for English graduates with good results and evidence of relevant experience are excellent.  


A degree in English gives you a great foundation for many different careers. The ability to communicate well is an essential skill to step into any job, and good written communication is an asset that many employers consider vital. The broad spectrum of skills and knowledge that you’ll gain while studying English literature & language degree means that you are likely to be very attractive to potential employers. 


It’s important to remember that in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive jobs market graduates need to ensure that they develop a well-rounded CV whilst at university.  


Placements, study abroad options and internships are a great way to gain experience in your chosen field and give you a competitive edge. Joining student societies can be another great way to build the skills you’ll need to stand out. As an English student, you might enjoy writing for your student newspaper, or joining your university radio or tv station.  


There are likely to be reading, writing and film clubs you can join at university too. Being able to evidence the skills gained from work experience and extracurricular activities alongside your degree can really help boost your job prospects. 


What jobs can I do with an English literature & language degree? 

English graduates can find opportunities in many different employment areas, some relating directly to the subject matter you covered in your degree programme and many jobs where an English degree might not be directly relevant but would be a useful foundation to have.  

Career options that relate directly to your degree might include:  

  • Copywriter 
  • Editorial assistant 
  • Teacher  
  • Publishing executive  
  • Content designer  
  • Lexicographer 
  • Author  
  • Journalist  
  • Researcher  
  • Speech and language therapist  

There are plenty of sectors where an English degree would be a valuable asset, including:  

  • Education 
  • Arts management  
  • Charity 
  • General management  
  • Retail  
  • Journalism and media   
  • Television  
  • Film  
  • Publishing 
  • Marketing 
  • Public relations 
  • Academia and research  



Why choose Northumbria University for English literature & Language? 


English at Northumbria surrounds you with a passionate and creative community of students, researchers, academics, and professionals.  


English at Northumbria sits within the Department of Humanities alongside subject areas like History, Linguistics, Creative Writing, American Studies, and Music. The breadth of the department and the richness of research topics across different fields ensures that English at Northumbria is cutting edge. Driven by new and developing themes like the environment, global connections, the medical humanities, gender and popular culture, activism, conflict and society, heritage, and American and global cultures. Together with classic themes like Shakespeare and Austen, English at Northumbria aims to spark new insight and deeper discoveries.  


Find out what it’s like day to day to be an English Language student at Northumbria by following undergraduate student Alice on a typical day or check out Emma’s student view of an English Literature MA if you’re interested in a Masters in English degree. 




You’ll benefit from modern classroom and lecture theatre facilities and access to the university’s 24hr library, our department’s library resources recently benefited from a £600,000 investment and we’re sure you’ll see the benefits if you choose to study English at Northumbria  

Discover more about the campus facilities at Northumbria University.  

Career Focussed

We’re proud that 90% of students reported that English at Northumbria provided them with opportunities to explore ideas and concepts in depth. (NSS, 2022). This depth of knowledge is an attractive asset to employers. 

You’ll have access to industry networks, placement opportunities, links with employers and access to career coaching and resources when you study at Northumbria University. One such industry connection is with New Writing North, Northumbria’s partnership with New Writing North offers industry-led module delivery, internships, student employability activities as well as hosting the Northern Writers’ Awards to support your creative ambitions.  

Take a look at some alumni profiles and see how studying English at Northumbria could support your future.  


League tables can’t tell you everything about a degree but knowing that you’re studying in a highly rated department is a reassuring start. English at Northumbria University is ranked within the top 50 overall and top 3 in the North East in The Complete University Guide 2023. 

Research Excellence

English at Northumbria is focused on three main areas of activity: Literature, Linguistics, and Creative Writing. Our vibrant research culture and cross-disciplinary approach create an exciting environment for world-leading, transformative research in English.  

English at Northumbria is ranked 21st for research power in the UK, out of 92 institutions.* 

50% of our research impact is rated as outstanding (4*), the highest rank* 

90% of the subject area’s research outputs are rated as internationally excellent (3*) and world-leading (4*) * 

*(Research Excellence Framework, REF2021) 

Learn more about the impactful research we do every day in English at Northumbria.  

Ready to find out more about English at Northumbria? Check out our interactive subject pages






Is an English degree worth it?

Studying English gives you a great foundation for many different ambitious career options, it’s a well-respected academic degree.     If you’re someone who loves reading, and language and wants to harness their literary and creative power in a future career then yes, an English degree is worth it.  

Should I study English literature? Or English language?

This really depends on what you want out of your degree. If you want a broad, critical knowledge of literary works then an English literature course might be best for you. If you want to learn how our communication techniques have changed throughout history and how we even acquire language in the first place, then an English language course may be more appealing.   You may also wish to study both elements as part of a combined or joint degree. Don’t forget that many universities also offer English degrees with elements of creative writing, to help develop your skills as a writer as well as a reader.  

Is teaching English my only option for a career with an English degree?

Not at all! There are so many different fields, sectors and job types that would be suitable for high-achieving English graduates. From arts to publishing, there are a lot of options.  Education is one field, whilst many graduates do choose to go into teaching you aren’t destined for that career path if it isn't your goal. Remember too that teaching covers lots of job titles in itself, traditional teaching in a UK school is one route, but studying English could also lead to international opportunities like teaching English as a second language. 


Please Note

All content is accurate as of the time of writing, the information in this guide is subject to change and will be updated as required to reflect this. 

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