English language

If you’re fascinated by the sounds and origins of the English language, choose this subject. It can lead to a range of interesting careers in different sectors.

If you study English language, you’ll learn about its words, sounds, grammar, and origins. You may also get involved in research projects around things like language variation and change in different parts of the UK. You can also combine English with other subjects like history, biology, psychology or a modern foreign language. Some courses also offer a year abroad.

You could end up working in a variety of sectors, including teaching, journalism, web content editing and management, copywriting, public relations, and publishing. Employers will be attracted by your skills in communication, writing, or undertaking research. You could also choose to study further for an MA or PhD, or choose a vocational postgraduate qualification such as law, journalism, or teaching. 

The impact you could make
  • Write features and articles for a blog, magazine, or journal on topics you’re passionate about.
  • Travel the world teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
  • Choose further study and conduct research into an era of English language you’re interested in, like medieval linguistics.
What you could study
  • Nature and structure of language
  • Linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Language and communication
  • Sound, structure, and meaning
  • Reading and writing in the digital age
  • Language variation and change
  • Understanding culture
  • Mind and language
  • Language minoritisation and revitalisation

Study options

Options to study in this field include:


Chat to a current English language student

Chat to a current English language student using UniBuddy.

Some conversation starters for you:

  1. Ask which modules they really enjoyed.
  2. Find out how easy it was for them to make friends on their course.
  3. Do they have any tips on your personal statement?
  4. Did they do anything to prep for uni before they went?
  5. Are there books, podcasts or YouTube channels they would recommend?

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Example module
"I liked learning BSL as one of my modules. I felt it was a very useful skill to have and I feel lucky I was able to learn it as part of my course.”
Second year English language and linguistics student, York St John University
Example assignment
"I liked the blog posts for current affairs where we wrote about current topics of our choosing. I also enjoyed the forensic analysis of handwriting I chose for forensic linguistics."
Second year English language student, University of Winchester

Second year English language and literature student, University of Leeds

What are some things you didn’t expect about your chosen subject?
How applicable it is to the real world, how much you develop knowledge in other subject areas, the level of involvement academia has in pushing/representing minority voices and changing unfair legislation.

Subjects it's useful to have studied first

Some English language courses or apprenticeships will have requirements for previous qualifications in certain subjects. Entry requirements vary, so always check with the provider.



Hard skills you'll develop
  • Effective communication
  • Copywriting
  • Marketing
  • Linguistics
  • Language translation and interpretation
Soft skills you'll develop
  • Communication
  • Writing
  • Research
  • Organisational skills

Careers: Where it can take you

Find out more about your career prospects from studying English language. The following information is based on a typical author, writer, and translator role.

Available jobs
32,773 vacancies in the past year
7.13% growth over next eight years
Average salary
Up to £57,162

Career options

Writing and editing
Journalism and publishing
Marketing and public relations

What is an… editorial assistant?

You may never have heard of an editorial assistant, but they’ll usually work for a publisher, or sometimes a newspaper, as a contact for authors and journalists. Editorial assistants work for editors, reading books or documents and correcting mistakes, editing texts for print and online, compiling social media posts, dealing with rights and permissions, and other editorial duties. You’ll use your English language skills every day and could progress into a more senior editorial position, or decide to work as a freelancer. 

Getting in: Entry requirements

Find out more about what you'll need to study English language at university or as an apprenticeship.

Average requirements for undergraduate degrees

Entry requirements differ between university and course, but this should give you a guide to what is usually expected from English language applicants.

A levels
Scottish Highers
Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma or SQCF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative

The expert view

Natasha Hirst, President of the National Union of Journalists
Journalism is about communicating and storytelling. Our words shape people's understanding of the world and can empower whole communities. Studying English is a common pathway towards a media career, including broadcasting, reporting or digital content creation. Words are exciting, but being able to express yourself clearly, logically and to the point is essential in journalism. We need storytellers from all backgrounds, but having those basic skills and being well-read creates many opportunities for a fascinating career in the media.

Considering an apprenticeship?

Applying for an apprenticeship is just like applying for a normal job. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Deadline

    Apprenticeships don't follow the same deadlines as applying to uni, the deadline is down to the employer.
  2. Where to apply

    You apply directly through the employer.
  3. No limits

    You're not restricted to one apprenticeship application; you can do as many as you like.
  4. Apply to university and apprenticeships

    There's nothing stopping you applying to university through UCAS, while also applying for apprenticeship vacancies.
  5. Find out more

Let's talk about... creative and design apprenticeships

Explore further

Go deeper into topics around English language with the following:
  1. Where did English come from?

    Get the lowdown on the history of the English language with this TED-Ed animation from Professor Claire Bowern. There are also TED-Ed videos on things like how English evolved. 
  2. The Adventure of English

    Read this biography of the English language by famous broadcaster and host of Radio 4’s In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg.
  3. Steven Pinker: Linguistics as a Window to Understanding the Brain

    If you’re into linguistics, and thinking beyond your subject, watch this YouTube video with linguist and Harvard Psychology professor Steven Pinker. Be warned, you may go down a rabbit hole of other BigThink videos afterwards! 

Application advice

Whether it's personal statement tips or what to write in a cover letter for an apprenticeship application, our application advice will help you get ahead in your English language journey.
Skills, experiences, and interests to mention
  • English courses are hugely popular, so universities are looking for evidence that you’re well informed and passionate about the subject. Can you show you’re fascinated by language through a blog you’ve written, or a book or content you’ve read? Can you critique them or further elaborate on what you’ve learned?
  • What school or college clubs have you done, like writing for a school newspaper or magazine, writing scripts for radio, or researching language in your area, that further demonstrate your interest?
  • Can you get some work experience teaching or volunteering in a school or in the community, or working at a local newspaper or website, that show your existing ability to communicate well, and use language effectively? You could also apply for a summer internship if there’s a sector you’re keen to work in after studying.
  • Show you’re a well-rounded person by mentioning any other hobbies and extracurricular activities you’re involved in, whether that’s music, a sport, or other passions and interests.
  • Re-read your statement, and ask someone else to proofread it, as this is your way of showing off your existing written and communication skills.

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