Literature Degree: Impacts to Society | Shane Hummus

In an era dominated by STEM fields and technology-driven careers, the pursuit of a liberal arts and humanities degree in literature may seem like a quaint choice, evoking images of dusty libraries and ivory towers. However, as we navigate the complex tapestry of the modern world, the question arises: Is a literature degree still a viable and valuable option for today’s college students?

The world of literature has always been a reflection of the human experience, offering insights into different cultures, historical periods, and the complexities of the human psyche. While the value of a literature degree may not be as immediately apparent as degrees in more pragmatic fields, its benefits extend far beyond the pages of classic novels and poetry.

This article investigates literature degrees in all spheres, and I hope this will help you decide whether to take it as a degree as you enter college. Read on!

What is Literary Art?

Literary art is the craft of molding words into a form that transcends mere communication, becoming an expression of the human experience. It encompasses diverse forms like poetry, a dance of rhythm and emotion; fiction, a realm where imagination breathes life; nonfiction, the art of truth-telling; and drama, storytelling on the stage. These genres, each a brushstroke in the vast canvas of literary art, capture the essence of life, emotion, and thought, creating a tapestry that weaves through cultures and ages, resonating with the collective heartbeat of humanity.

Examples of Literary Art:

  • Poetry: Expressing feelings and ideas through rhythmic and concise language, poetry often employs vivid imagery. An example is Emily Dickinson’s concise yet powerful poems, like “Because I could not stop for Death.”
  • Fiction: Creating imaginary worlds and characters, fiction includes novels and short stories. Think of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, where magic and adventure unfold in an intricately crafted universe.
  • Nonfiction: Grounded in reality, nonfiction tells factual stories. In “The Diary of Anne Frank,” Anne’s firsthand account captures the harsh realities of life during World War II.
  • Drama: Performed on stage or screen, drama brings narratives to life through dialogue and action. Shakespeare’s plays, like “Romeo and Juliet,” are timeless examples.
  • Essay: Offering thoughtful analysis, essays convey the author’s perspective. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays, such as “Self-Reliance,” delve into individualism and philosophical reflections.

What is a Literature Degree?

A Literature Degree delves into the art of written expression, exploring the rich tapestry of human thought and emotion through various literary works. Students dissect classic and contemporary texts, honing analytical skills and understanding diverse perspectives. Genres like poetry, fiction, and drama become their playground, and discussions range from unraveling complex narratives to decoding nuanced symbols.

It’s a journey into the human experience, fostering critical thinking and communication prowess. Graduates often emerge as adept storytellers, equipped not only to understand the written word but to contribute meaningfully to the ongoing narrative of human expression.

Here are the most common requirements for pursuing a Literature Degree:

  • Educational Background: A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for admission. A solid foundation in literature or related subjects in high school is beneficial.
  • Admission Tests: Some institutions may require standardized tests like the SAT or ACT for undergraduate admissions. For graduate studies, the GRE may be necessary.
  • Transcripts: Submission of academic transcripts is common. A strong academic record, especially in literature-related courses, enhances candidacy.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Applicants often need to provide letters of recommendation from teachers or mentors familiar with their academic abilities.
  • Personal Statement or Essay: A compelling personal statement that reflects the applicant’s passion for literature and articulates their academic goals is usually required.
  • Writing Samples: Some programs may request writing samples to assess the applicant’s writing skills and analytical abilities.
  • Interviews: In some cases, an interview may be part of the admissions process, allowing the applicant to discuss their interest in literature and academic goals.
  • Language Proficiency Tests: For international students, proficiency in the language of instruction (usually English) may be assessed through tests like the TOEFL or IELTS.

Meeting these requirements ensures that students entering a Literature Degree program are equipped to engage with the academic rigors and discussions inherent in the study of literature.

Book Opened on White Surface Selective Focus Photography

Types of Literature Degree

Embarking on the literary journey offers various academic destinations. From the foundational Associate Degree to the pinnacle of Doctorate studies, each level presents unique perspectives and opportunities for aspiring literature enthusiasts. Let’s dive deeper per degree levels:

  • Associate Degree in Literature: This is an introductory level that provides foundational knowledge in literature. It’s a great starting point for those exploring literature but not seeking an extensive commitment. It’s beneficial for entry-level positions in fields like education or writing.
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Literature: A more comprehensive study that delves deeper into literary analysis and critical thinking. It opens avenues for various career paths, including teaching, publishing, or entering the corporate world with strong communication and analytical skills.
  • Master’s Degree in Literature: This degree allows for specialization and often involves research and thesis work. It’s suitable for those aiming for advanced positions in academia, research, or specialized roles in fields like editing or content creation.
  • Doctorate in Literature: The highest level, a Ph.D. in Literature involves extensive research, often resulting in a dissertation. This degree is for those aspiring to be scholars, professors, or leading figures in literary research. It opens doors to academic leadership and advanced research opportunities.

Each level builds upon the other, offering increased depth and specialization. Choosing the right level depends on career aspirations and the depth of engagement one seeks in the world of literature.

Person Behind Books

English Literature Degree Vs. Literature Degree

Choosing between an English Literature Degree and a general Literature Degree involves navigating nuanced considerations. An English Literature Degree immerses you in the rich tapestry of English literary traditions. Pros include a deep dive into the language’s evolution and cultural significance. However, its scope is inherently narrower, focusing primarily on English-language literature.

In contrast, a broader Literature Degree encompasses a global panorama, delving into diverse cultures and narratives. Pros include a more expansive understanding of world literature. Yet, it may lack the intense focus on the specifics of English literature that an English Literature Degree offers. Your choice depends on whether you prefer a specialized or a more inclusive exploration of literary realms.

Significance of a Literature Degree

A Literature Degree isn’t just a journey through books; it’s a profound exploration of human expression, culture, and the kaleidoscope of human experiences. Here’s why it’s a significant academic pursuit:

  • Cultural Insight: A Literature Degree offers a passport to various cultures, enhancing your understanding of diverse perspectives through the lens of literature.
  • Critical Thinking: Analyzing complex texts cultivates critical thinking skills, honing your ability to dissect, interpret, and synthesize information.
  • Communication Skills: It refines communication skills—essential in any profession—by fostering the art of crafting compelling narratives and arguments.
  • Empathy Development: Literary characters invite you into their worlds, fostering empathy and a nuanced understanding of human emotions.
  • Timeless Relevance: Literature explores timeless themes, making your degree a perpetual conversation with the most profound ideas in human history.
  • Versatile Career Pathways: From writing and editing to teaching and research, a Literature Degree opens doors to diverse career paths.
  • Intellectual Agility: Studying literature demands intellectual agility, training your mind to adapt to different styles, periods, and genres.

In essence, a Literature Degree isn’t just about books; it’s a multidimensional exploration of the human experience, equipping you with skills and perspectives that resonate across various domains of life.

Adult frowned male writer working on typewriter at home

Literature Degree Jobs

Literature degree opens up to creative and relevant career paths that any degree holder can traverse into. Here are some of the most common yet highly notable literature degree jobs in the professional scene today:


Role: Editors polish and refine written content, ensuring it meets standards for grammar, style, and overall coherence.

Societal Impact: Editors play a crucial role in maintaining the quality and clarity of written communication, contributing to the dissemination of accurate information.


Content Writer:

Role: Content writers produce engaging and informative materials for websites, blogs, or marketing purposes.

Societal Impact: They contribute to the flow of information and entertainment on the internet, shaping how businesses and individuals communicate with their audience.



Role: Educators in literature nurture the next generation, imparting knowledge of literary works and fostering critical thinking.

Societal Impact: Teachers and professors contribute to the intellectual development of students, fostering a love for literature and honing analytical skills.



Role: Librarians manage and organize literary resources, guiding patrons in accessing information.

Societal Impact: Librarians facilitate access to knowledge, playing a vital role in preserving and disseminating cultural and intellectual heritage.


Literary Agent:

Role: Literary agents represent authors, negotiating book deals with publishers.

Societal Impact: They play a crucial role in bringing diverse voices to the literary landscape, helping authors navigate the publishing industry.



Role: Journalists research, write, and report news stories for various media platforms.

Societal Impact: Journalists contribute to an informed society by investigating and disseminating news, playing a critical role in shaping public opinion.


Public Relations Specialist:

Role: PR specialists manage an organization’s public image, crafting compelling narratives and managing communication.

Societal Impact: They shape public perception, ensuring organizations present themselves positively and transparently to the public.


With each job smoothly combining critical thinking, creativity, social interaction skills and other valuable skills, these career paths are adventures that are genuinely worth exploring.

Are Literature Degrees Worth it?

A literature degree is undoubtedly worth it for those passionate about the written word and its profound impact on society. Beyond the development of critical thinking and analytical skills, a literature degree cultivates an understanding of diverse cultures, historical contexts, and human experiences through the lens of literary works. 

The ability to analyze complex narratives and communicate effectively is invaluable, translating well into various professions, including education, publishing, journalism, and more. The enduring significance of literature in shaping societies and fostering empathy underscores the enduring relevance of a literature degree.

While the immediate career path might not be as linear as some specialized degrees, the broad skill set acquired makes literature graduates adaptable and capable of contributing meaningfully to various fields. The intrinsic value of deepening one’s understanding of humanity through literature is immeasurable, making a literature degree an investment not just in a career but in personal and societal enrichment.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Literature Degree

What is the point of a literature degree?

A literature degree opens portals to diverse worlds, refining analytical and communication skills vital for navigating the complexities of human experience. It nurtures an appreciation for cultural diversity, deepens critical thinking, and fosters a profound understanding of the human condition.

What happens when you study literature?

Immersing yourself in literature is a journey through cultural landscapes and historical nuances. It’s an exploration of the intricate tapestry of human existence, promoting profound insights, empathy, and a nuanced worldview.

How do I start a career in literature?

Embarking on a literary career involves cultivating robust analytical and communication skills. Practical experience gained through internships, combined with a rich understanding of literature, sets the stage for meaningful contributions to the vibrant literary community.

Is an English Literature degree difficult?

While undeniably challenging, an English Literature degree is intellectually rewarding. It offers a profound exploration of diverse narratives, refining critical thinking and communication skills—essential tools for navigating various professional arenas.

What can I do with a degree in English literature and creative writing?

An English literature and creative writing degree is a versatile passport to numerous career paths. Beyond education, it opens doors to publishing, journalism, marketing, and more. Leveraging your analytical and expressive prowess, you become a storyteller, communicator, and interpreter, making a meaningful impact in diverse fields.

While you are here, you might also be interested in knowing about an English Degree, which is closely related to Literature Degree. I made a video about it and you can check it here:

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