What do Michael Eisner (former Disney CEO), Toni Morrison, Steven Spielberg, Mario Cuomo, B. F. Skinner, Diane Sawyer, and John Legend have in common? They all majored in English literature!

There are few majors more practical or flexible than English and Comparative Literature. Employers in nearly every field prize the skills gained in this major: written and oral communication, editing, problem solving, critical thinking, and analysis. ECL majors prove proficient in key areas: they can write effectively for a variety of audiences and purposes, they are capable of nuanced interpretation, and they know how to work independently.

Unlike students of nursing or landscape architecture, for example, in which training is focused to one particular field, ECL majors develop a wide range of transferable skills that prepare them to work in countless fields, including education, communications, government, non-profit, philanthropy, business, high technology, the arts, health and human services, or law. This variety means that it is important that you translate your major-based skills into language that broad audiences can understand to ensure that your wide range of options is an advantage in your career planning and job search!

Who Can Help Me with Career Planning?

Career planning is a process, and it takes time. It begins with self assessment (what am I good at? what do I enjoy? what’s important to me?) and research into career fields, sectors or industries, and employers. It’s a process in which you’ll attempt to match your values, needs, ethics, aspirations, talents, and abilities with the needs of an agency, organization, or institution.

To help you with your planning, the Department of English and Comparative Literature holds information and networking sessions, allows you to pre-arrange academic credit for internships (see below), and provides one-on-one counseling with the departmental faculty advisor, Dr. Hilary Lithgow, to supplement the resources offered by the university’s Career Services office, the Director of Undergraduate Studies and your other professors and advisors. You can make an appointment with Dr. Lithgow via the Academic Advising website at advising.unc.edu.

University Career Services are another crucial resource for you in this planning process.  For additional career related information, assistance in choosing a career, and a comprehensive list of internship possibilities, visit University Career Services here.


offer you a sneak preview of what it’s like in the real world of employment.  They give you a chance to see what it takes to succeed in your chosen field and make important contacts that can result in permanent employment. Even if the internship doesn’t work out it may produce a new interest or take you in a different career direction.  In some cases, it is also possible to get academic credit for internships that can count toward your English and Comparative Literature Major—just be sure to get help from one of the dept. advisors listed below in order to get the paperwork for that process completed BEFORE the first day of classes in the semester for which you are hoping to get credit.

For more information on finding internship opportunities or getting academic credit, make an appointment with Dr. Lithgow at advising.unc.edu or with Professor Richards, director of the department’s new initiative on internships, at ecr@email.unc.edu

See the New York Times article, “Six Myths about Choosing a College Major”

What do Carolina English Alumni Do?

UNC-CH English and Comparative Literature alumni engage in an astonishing range of careers from all employment sectors and at all levels. We are working on building an online alumni database, but in the meantime, check out the 7000+ profiles of UNC English alums on LinkedIn or some of the alumni spotlighted on ECL’s website.