English B.A.

An English B.A. provides you with transferable skills in writing, interpretation, and critical thinking, while you explore the power of the English language in all of its historical, persuasive, and expressive ranges. 

The degree is easily combined with other majors and prepares students for employment in a range of fields including publishing, education, public service, law, advertising, and business.

When pursuing a major in English, you gain cultural expertise and work with faculty who study everything from science to religion, business to popular culture, politics to philosophy. 

In the Department of English, you'll find novelists, lexicographers, biographers, poets, rhetoricians, and critics--experts in everything from performance theory to professional writing, from Shakespeare to Elvis.

The requirements for the English major provide you with in-depth training in literary history and culture, helping you develop advanced skills in writing, interpretation, and critical thinking. 

In addition to core requirements, majors choose from a diverse array of elective options in the literary genres, post-colonial literatures, the study of the English language, digital media studies, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, creative writing, and public and professional writing.

The department also leads exciting study abroad programs in Dickens' London and Chaucer's Canterbury. It coordinates internship opportunities at IU Press and other publishing venues on- and off-campus.

The Department of English offers two undergraduate minors for students majoring in other fields: a minor in English, a minor in Creative Writing, and a minor in Communication and Public AdvocacyCheck your bulletin for more information about major and minor requirements .

Together with the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, the department offers an interdepartmental major in English and African American and African Diaspora Studies.


Getting started

Your gateway to the major is ENG-L 260: Introduction to Advanced Study of Language and Literature, a class that introduces the four principles essential to the advanced study of literature: attention to the nuances of language and linguistic expression, understanding of the structures and variations of literary genres, interpretation through historical and cultural contexts, and analysis via traditional and contemporary theories of literature.

You are also required to take a genre class of your choice: drama, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction prose. This requirement focuses your training on a specific form of literature, introducing the terms and issues of genre analysis while preparing you for advanced writing in English.

Tracks and concentrations

Students wishing to pursue a more focused line of inquiry may elect to participate in one of the department's concentrations. To complete a concentration, you typically need to complete four courses in a specific area of inquiry, with at least three of these at the 300-level or above.

The department has designated three concentrations, reflecting the specializations and unique talents of its faculty. Upon completion, your Creative Writing, Culture Studies, or Public and Professional Writing concentration is included on your IU transcript.

Upper level coursework

The required literary history sequence introduces students to the diversity of literatures in English as they unfold in time and in different parts of the globe. Taking these courses early in the degree and greatly enhances understanding of the general evolution of literature, providing a framework for future coursework on more specialized topics.

ENG-L 371: Critical Practices introduces students to cutting-edge theories of literature and culture, enhancing your skills in the analysis and appreciation of language and literature.

Beyond the core curriculum, majors are free to pursue a wide range of topics and forms of cultural expression through elective courses.

Some electives are devoted to specific authors and literary periods (Chaucer, Austen, Wallace, Romanticism, Postmodernism, for example), while others focus on the advanced study of specific genres (such as science fiction, nature writing, literature for young adults). 

Some electives are committed to a specific technology or media (the history of the book, film, the Internet), while others examine forms of literary culture (women and literature, Caribbean literature, African American literature, Queer literature, and so on).

The department also offers exciting workshop courses in creative writing, composition, and digital media.

Given the diversity of elective offerings, students are encouraged to think seriously about their course of study, choosing courses that build on each other and deepen learning over time. A dynamic course of study balances general concepts with specific approaches, deep tradition with new forms of expression, familiar ideologies with alternative perspectives.

Majors are required to take one 400-level English course in their third or fourth year. These courses, limited to fifteen students, offer a more intensive look at specific literary topics and serve to hone all of the student's skills as a reader, writer, and researcher. They give you a valuable opportunity to work hands-on with an instructor in applying specific methodologies to the study of literature and culture.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

Your major represents about one quarter of your degree requirements. Students frequently combine their English coursework with other majors, minors, and certificates. Recently, the most commonly paired majors have been: Gender Studies, History, Media, Political Science, Psychology, Spanish, and Theatre and Drama.

The most common minors are: Business, Criminal Justice, Folklore and Enthnomusicology, French, HistoryMedia fields, Music, Psychology, and Spanish.

Students majoring in English regularly pursue the Journalism certificate and the Liberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP) certificate.

Check your bulletin for more information about these minors and certificates.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing an English degree, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in many fields. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of readings and assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

You can get involved in research as early as your first year. Many incoming freshmen apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker. 

As your interests develop, you might want to take an independent readings course under the guidance of faculty. Talk with the academic advisor or your instructors about this possibility.

Teaching internships provide opportunities to participate in planning a course and lecturing or leading classroom discussion. They involve approaching a faculty member the student knows and making a proposal, typically in a course you have already taken with that instructor.


The English Honors Program allows outstanding majors to explore the skills and independence needed to craft and complete advanced scholarly work or creative writing. It culminates with the production of a formal written project, a defense before two members of the English faculty, and presentation at the English Honors Conference.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

English faculty recognize outstanding majors by selecting them as recipients for annual awards and scholarships:

  • John W. Ashton Scholarship
  • Margaret Banks James Award
  • Mary Elizabeth Campbell Scholarship
  • Culbertson Prize for Critical Writing
  • Richard L. Edwards Memorial Scholarship
  • Bertha F. Eikenberry Scholarship
  • Lillie E. Fosbrink Scholarship Fund
  • Paul E. and Mary F. Howard Scholarship
  • Barbara S. Markman Memorial Scholarship
  • Albert Wertheim Essay Prize
  • Jo Anna Wittman Arnott Memorial Scholarship
  • James A. Work Undergraduate Award

Writers of poetry and fiction may compete for Creative Writing Program awards, including the Ruth N. Halls Prize and Keisler Poetry Prize for poetry, and the Myrtle Armstrong Prize and the Bertolt Clever Award for fiction writing.

Each year English offers the Elizabeth O. Wooley scholarship to two high school seniors, one each from Bloomington High School North and Bloomington High School South, enrolling as freshmen at Indiana University Bloomington.

Other scholarships and awards that relate to English include:


Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their first year.

The department coordinates a number of internal internships related to editing, publishing, and communications. In addition, recent external internships undertaken by English majors have included work in law offices, advertising agencies, radio and television stations, newspapers, and public-relations firms, among others.

Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships.

Foreign language study

Proficiency in at least one foreign language is required for admission to most graduate programs in English. Ph.D. programs usually require proficiency in depth in one foreign language or reading proficiency in two foreign languages.

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.

Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in an increasingly interconnected world. English students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:

  • Adelaide - Australia
  • Canberra - Australia
  • Canterbury-IU - England
  • Dublin-IES - Ireland
  • London-IU - England
  • Oxford-St. Anne's - England
  • Perth - Australia
  • Wollongong - Australia

The College of Arts + Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with English faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Participation in a student group is a good way to make connections between your coursework and co-curricular activities. Student organizations that are relevant to students in English include:

Residential Programs and Services at IU offers a variety of learning communities, which allow students to select to live among peers with a common interest. Some of the following learning communities may be of interest to English students:

Getting involved with student groups grants you opportunities to further develop your leadership, communication, organizational, and teamwork skills. Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Professional associations of interest to English majors include:

You can use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations and much more.

Build your skills

Through the major

The English major provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Critical reading: read, analyze, and interpret texts of all kinds, with an appreciation for complexity and nuance
  • Critical thinking: understand and apply various methods and theories related to the study of literature, rhetoric, and culture
  • Literary expertise: understand and analyze the major historical and cultural frameworks of literature as well as the conventions and features of various literary genres
  • Research and source analysis: conduct research, evaluate appropriate methods and sources for that research, develop effective written arguments and make informed oral presentations
  • Communication and leadership: inform and interact, both orally and in writing, with experts and non-specialists

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path: 

  • Question critically
  • Think logically
  • Communicate clearly
  • Act creatively
  • Live ethically

These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your worklife. Not only are these skills that employers say they most value in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change. 

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical and quantitative skills
  • Ability to take initiative
  • Being detail oriented
  • Demonstrating adaptability
  • Technical skills relevant to the field
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Computer skills
  • Organizational ability

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with a career coach.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation, and prepare for job interviews, too.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

Maximize your career preparation with a career course. English majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to the Arts and Humanities provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!

The job market

As the world becomes more connected and interdependent, employment opportunities have greatly increased for students who can communicate with understanding the complexities of one of the world's main languages. 

Employers want students who can be analytical, adapt to changing needs, and synthesize large concepts into succinct language. Students who study English have a tenacity for finishing projects with detail under a deadline and an ability to express themselves orally and in writing.

Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: Students with the English B.A. degree take their education in many directions. They are well prepared to work in editorial/publishing/writing, public relations, government, education, advertising/marketing, sales, management/administration, development/fundraising, and technical communication.

Graduates with the English B.A. have become technical writers, editorial assistants, copy editors, bookstore managers, journalists, market researchers, convention planners, advertising sales managers, reading specialists, curriculum planners, foreign services officers, publications coordinators, public relations representatives, volunteer coordinators, and management trainees.

Talk with English faculty, your academic advisor and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Department of English and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center's First Destinations survey!

Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with a career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Teaching positions give you a chance to hone language and communication skills. Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as Center for International Education Exchange, Institute of International Education, and LanguageCorps.

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.

Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

An English B.A. degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as creative writing, secondary teaching, journalism, library science, university teaching, and social work/counseling.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.

Students who pursue graduate studies in English have gone into careers as writers, journalists, professors, librarians, K-12 teachers, lawyers, archivists, preservation specialists, paralegals, social workers, and counseling psychologists.

You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:

Alumni connections

Join the IUB English Facebook page to view upcoming related events, departmental news, read articles of interest faculty are sharing, and connect with other English majors. Catch up on alumni paths through the English department newsletter found at the bottom right of the department website page.

The College of Arts and Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts and Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.

Is it for you?

The English B.A. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:

  • Academic interest in literature and writing
  • Appreciation for literary theory, analyzing texts, and communicating opinions
  • Desire to learn and perfect universal skills of analysis and communication that can help them succeed in any career
  • Aspiration to go into a literary field such as editing, teaching, or writing
  • Interest in law school or post-graduate certification to teach
  • Intellectual curiosity and imagination

Learn more

Meet with the academic advisor in English to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address