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Q&A - English Salaries

What are the highest and lowest English salaries that I could earn?

Because jobs for those with English degrees range from university professors to technical writers to reporters, the English degree salary can vary tremendously.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that English professors can earn anywhere from $26,070 to $84,000. Jobs at 4-year colleges pay better than junior colleges or trade and technical schools, as do those in urban east and west coast areas compared to jobs in rural, inland areas. These jobs typically require a terminal English degree such as a PhD or an MFA. Adjunct professors, who are not in tenure-track positions or may lack a doctorate, will earn less.

Technical writers, who develop instruction manuals for software and other companies, usually only need a bachelors degree and can make salaries from $62,290 to $76,410 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Reporters earn an average of $33,840, but can make as much as $54,140 if they work in broadcast media, according to BLS. Reporters seldom need advanced degrees; a BA is all that is necessary, and some with an associate degree in English may also find reporting jobs. The salaries and educational requirements for editors are very similar to those of reporters.

Other types of writers and authors earn a wide range of salaries, with the lowest 10% earning less than $28,610 and the top 10% earning more than $109,440. Thus, with so many job possibilities for the English major available, earnings depend greatly on your chosen career path.

In addition to my English salary, will I earn benefits?

Most full-time jobs in English-related professions offer standard benefits packages, including medical insurance, paid holidays, 2 or more weeks of paid vacation, paid sick leave and 401(k) packages. This would be true for a tenured professor working for a university, a reporter working for a newspaper or a technical writer working for a software development company. Teachers and professors also have the extra benefit of frequently having summers off, depending on the academic calendar followed at their institution.

However, freelance writers, self-employed novelists, adjunct English professors and others who work part-time or on a self-employed contract basis will likely have limited access to employer-paid benefits of this nature. However, what these jobs lack in employer-provided benefits they often gain in flexibility, and they may also include significant opportunities to work from home.

Much has been written about the plight of the overworked and underpaid adjunct professor. An adjunct English professor may teach literature or introductory composition to undergraduates and students of English as a second language. Conditions for such professors typically do not improve until they complete their PhD English programs and secure a tenure-track position.

Will I always earn a salary in my English job?

People working in English-related careers may find themselves paid in several different ways over the course of their careers, and an English degree salary may come in many forms.

A full-time position with a university, newspaper, school or company will normally result in a regular annual salary paid every other week or twice a month. However, freelance writers and editors can be paid by the word or article, and adjunct professors are often paid by the course. In such jobs, no payment is given until the article or course is completed. People working in these types of jobs are considered self-employed, independent contractors who must fund their own insurance, Social Security, tax and retirement contributions.

Novelists get paid in a similar fashion. They might receive an advance if a manuscript is accepted for publication and then earn a percentage of any future book sales. However, for most authors, there is usually no payment while the book is actually being written.

Eventually you must decide if you prefer stability over flexibility or vice versa. Working regular hours for a larger company will result in regular work and a regular salary, while a freelance or adjunct position will result in flexible, often part-time schedules that are paid by the project. However, no matter what path you choose, there are many ways to earn a living as an English major.