Student Futures

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Student Futures

Our students go on to many futures. Some, go on to distinguished academic careers, like Dr Maria Christou (BA, 2010), now Presidential Fellow in Modern Literature, University of Manchester, and Andrew McMillan (BA 2010), winner of the 2015 Guardian First Book Award, now Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University; some go on to be celebrated poets like Camille Ralphs, author of After You Were, I Am (Faber 2024); some become screen-writers like William Thacker (BA 2008), co-author of England is Mine, a bio-pic based on the early years of singer Morrisey; and some become novelists, like Daisy Johnson (BA, 2012), one of the youngest-ever authors shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Indeed, since 2020 at least 20 of our undergraduates have gone on to publish books of literary criticism and/ or poetry or fiction.

Others go into a host of other careers closely related to literary study -- like Nichi Haydon (BA, 2008) who teaches English at Cheltenham Ladies College; Lucy Richardson (BA 2013) who is Deputy Publicity Director at HarperCollins Publishers; Lauren Snooks (BA, 2020) who works with archives for the BBC Studio’s Global Operations Department; Ed Rowlands (BA c.2008) who is Amazon’s Movies Lead and Head of Studio Advertising; Amrit Bhullar (BA, 2019) who is Publicity Assistant at Penguin Random House; or Anna West (BA, c. 2020) who co-founded the award-winning digital media studio, 'idontloveyouanymore'.

A selection of books by former undergraduates
A selection of books by former undergraduates

Alternative Student Futures

A degree in literary studies can, though, lead to other, less obvious futures – for example:

A counsellors office

Psychotherapy

“After my literature degree I trained to become a counsellor. Although I trained alongside people who had completed psychology degrees I didn't feel behind in any way. My dissertation, as it happens, was on Pat Barker's Generation trilogy, which opens with the psychiatric treatment of WW1 shell-shocked soldiers, including the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.’” --Alexander Clay (Cambridge), Accredited NHS Counsellor

A laptop illustrating global emerging markets

Emerging Markets Consultancy

“My degree in English Literature, specialising in medieval literature, gave me the intellectual confidence to go into, first, publishing and then financial journalism with the Financial Times, and ultimately into consultancy work with developing countries seeking to make use of the internet within industry.” --Martin Mulligan (Lancaster).

Data Analysis Sheet

Data Analysis

“The skills I developed as a literature student, above all the capacity to cope with multiple unknowns and to discern trends or narratives in statistics, are crucial to my work in data analysis.” --Julian Westwood (Liverpool), Head of Market Insight, Lancaster University

A calculator and a data sheet

Finance

“After studying English, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant. At the time, employers in the fields of accountancy and business were keen to have graduates with skills across the spectrum, not just numeracy. It seems to me that this is at least as important today. My degree in English Studies has certainly benefitted me in being comfortable to absorb written information quickly but also to enjoy writing reports, often something that non-arts graduates find more difficult. I have enjoyed this blend throughout my career - all numbers tell a story” --Sarah Randall-Paley (Nottingham), Director of Finance, Lancaster University.

A picture of university student accommodation, used to illustrate chartered surveying.

Chartered Surveying

“After graduating with a joint honours BA in English Literature and History, I completed a summer placement with a Chartered Surveyors and Property Consultants company which resulted in me being offered a Graduate Training Surveyor role, working towards chartership. The company was keen to move away from their usual candidates (graduates with RICS accredited degrees), finding that arts students were more well-rounded individuals. I found my communication abilities - with an emphasis on interpersonal skills and being able to read a room - extremely beneficial in much of the day to day tasks of a surveyor.” Molly Fowles (Lancaster)

Support

Here in the Department of English Literature & Creative Writing, led by our own Careers Tutor, we are always seeking to support our students as they move toward many kinds of careers. For example, we offer various first-year mini-modules that explore the relationship between literature and the world of work; we offer a series of literature-specific careers workshops drawing on alumni; we have an annual study day in the Wordsworth Museum in The Lakes focussing on curatorial and archival work; and offer work placement modules based in schools or the cultural and heritage industries.

Placement Term

‘A highlight of my final year was undertaking the one-term placement module, which gave me the unique opportunity to bring my research interests to a professional setting. I spent a week in the beautiful village of Chawton, working alongside the curators at the Jane Austen House Museum – gaining hands-on experience designing and maintaining exhibits, as well as creating a tour of the house based on my research around Austen’s posthumous fragment, Sanditon. From sourcing the placement independently, to putting together my work proposal, the experience was highly valuable. It was especially gratifying, and inspiring, to be welcomed as an equal in a professional environment that so directly mapped onto my literary interests. I even handled Sanditon manuscripts written out by Cassandra Austen – which was truly incredible.

This placement opened my eyes to the inner workings of the heritage industry, whilst expanding my understanding of how literary research can be translated into a public-facing environment. It was fascinating to see, and contribute to, the JAH team’s work towards developing and expanding the narratives around Jane Austen – especially in terms of thinking about preservation alongside accessibility, and how to balance honouring her legacy, and ensuring that the experience of visiting the house feels relevant and engaging for a variety of audiences. I highly recommend the placement module to anyone wishing to expand their understanding of what opportunities lie beyond the English degree, as I found my experience both challenged and solidified my confidence in my professional and academic skills.’

Cat Thomas, BA English Literature and Creative Writing 2023

Placement Year

‘I have just completed a year-long work placement at the London-based broadcast TV company A+E Networks as an On Air Intern. My main responsibilities included preparing schedules for a variety of UK and international channels, liaising with voiceover artists, completing high-profile launch campaigns, and compiling graphic plans transmitted on air. The placement year has enabled me to enhance many of the skills that I am developing within my degree, such as critical thinking, high-quality writing, and organisation. A+E prides itself on ‘sharing stories that matter’ through its people and its programming and therefore, ideas and words are at the core of their work.

As an English student, I brought both curiosity and creativity to the placement, particularly to the launch campaigns that I have led. One of these included a company-priority launch for one of our best performing UK channels. This responsibility gave me the chance to use, within a business setting, many of my reasoning and verbal skills. Indeed, my background in literature gave me a unique perspective and one that helped produced successful results. The placement has been an invaluable experience, and given me the skills, industry knowledge, and workplace etiquette to feel confident in my job-search after university. And I am looking forward to building on these skills when I return to Lancaster for my final year!'

Jess Thomas, English Language and Literature.

Statistics

Finally, below are some statistics comparing graduate outcomes for students in S.H.A.P.E. subjects (i.e. Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and Economy -- which includes English) with student in STEM subjects (Science Engineering and Medicine).

• In 2017, 88% of SHAPE graduates were employed, whilst 89% of STEM graduates were employed.

--British Academy, “Qualified for the Future,” 2020.

• SHAPE graduates comprise 55% of global leaders (Prime Ministers etc) and 58% of FTSE company execs.

British Academy, “Understanding Humanities Career Paths,” 2019

• Average starting salaries: English Literature, £23,000 -- versus, say, Biological Sciences, £23,489; Business and Management Studies, £25,000; Chemistry, £25

--Complete University Guide, 2021

• Annual average wage-growth: English is joint 4th at 6.2%, versus say Physics (6th) at 5.9%.

--British Academy Report, “Qualified for the Future,” 2020.