Bachelor of Arts - English

Degree Overview

English majors select one of four options within the major:

  • Creative Writing (Macomb only)
  • English - Teacher Education
  • Literature and Language
  • Professional Writing

Students in all options take a variety of courses while pursuing their particular focus, from exploring literary form, traditions, and theory, as well as film; to practicing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry craft; to developing and honing skills and expertise in professional, technical, digital, and multimodal forms of communication. Additionally, students explore social justice issues as they discover the role of English studies in responding to racism, gender identities, class conflict, disability, cultural power, and politics.

The benefits of an English degree are grounded in its versatility—English majors are known for being strong communicators, critical thinkers, and creative problem solvers, whether working solo or in a team setting. They bring their curiosity and inquisitive minds to a variety of pursuits as educators, project managers, grant writers, creative writers, and more. They can be found in many fields—education, the arts, entertainment, media, nonprofits, law, health, and business. They are also successful freelancers, creating unique, rewarding careers they love based in their unique blend of skills and abilities.


View the specific degree requirements and course descriptions in the Undergraduate Catalog.

Creative Writing

students writing

Students in creative writing benefit from an approach that emphasizes both art and scholarship, with intensive workshop experience informed by the study of literature, film, and culture. Creative writers in our program have the opportunity to focus their craft on a genre of their choice (fiction, poetry, or nonfiction), exploring a variety of media for their art, while studying literature and theory through the diverse lenses of race, gender, class, ability, and culture. Students explore the tools, inspiration, and possibilities for their craft as they develop a broad understanding of genre and literature and experiment with different styles and forms.

English majors in the creative writing option benefit from working with a faculty who are deeply engaged as readers and artists, and who provide feedback and guidance informed by expertise in the field and a network of mentors and writers.


In the English Department, students with an interest in creative writing have many opportunities to hone and experiment with their craft:

  • Contribute to Elements, the department’s creative publication for over 50 years
  • Submit to department (as well as external) creative writing contests
  • Engage with visiting published writers through the Fred Ewin Case and Lola Austin Case Writer-in-Residence and Reading Series
  • Participate in department-sponsored readings and creative writing events

Creative writers find careers in a variety of fields, from education and cultural institutions to media, marketing, nonprofits, and business. They work as advertising copywriters, creative directors, digital copywriters, editors, journalists, web and social media content managers and developers, librarians, and educators, in addition to pursuing publication of their creative work in print and online.

English - Teacher Education

group of student teachers

The Department of English, in conjunction with the College of Education and Human Services, offers a degree in English Education leading to licensure that enables WIU graduates to teach secondary English Language Arts. The program is designed to provide our students with substantial content and pedagogical knowledge—knowledge that will prepare them for a lifelong career in teaching. Our goal is to help students develop habits of critical, reflective, and creative thinking around all areas of English Language Arts and Social Justice Pedagogies.

English Education majors have unique opportunities to work closely with faculty across the campus. Within the English Department, majors take content and methods courses that prepare them for teaching English Language Arts. Coursework in the College of Education gives English Education majors a strong background in educational philosophy, working with diverse populations, classroom management, assessment, educational psychology, and working with learners with special needs. View the Teacher Education section of the undergraduate catalog for details.

We encourage eligible prospective majors to participate in the Centennial Honors College in a program designed to provide the exceptional and motivated candidate with additional opportunities for individualized educational experiences. Candidates complete research-oriented projects within required department courses and participate in seminar discussions on current issues with faculty and fellow honors students.


We provide students opportunities for professional development, field experience, and hands-on learning experiences during their time at Western.

  • The English Education Program hosts an annual Writing Festival for area high schools.
  • Students regularly attend and present at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Conference.
  • Students work with English Education faculty offering after school Writing Clubs at local schools.
  • English Education candidates have a number of opportunities to teach and observe in local schools and classrooms.
  • English Education majors often take part in study abroad programs. Learn more at Study Abroad and Outreach .
  • Students have the opportunity to student teach abroad or as part of the Tribal School Initiative .

We take great pride in our focus on teaching for Social Justice. Our national standards state that teacher education candidates must “demonstrate knowledge of how theories and research about social justice, diversity, equity, student identities, and schools as institutions can enhance students’ opportunities to learn in English Language Arts.” Throughout their time studying English at WIU students are engaged in social justice in both content and methods courses where instructors spend time working closely with students discussing issues of social justice and teaching social justice in the classroom.

English Education Alumni and faculty

English Education Alumni reunion June 2022

WIU English Education graduates have high job placement rates in schools throughout Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. Some go on to teach in other areas of the United States and abroad. Many candidates have jobs prior to finishing student teaching. We strive to work with students to prepare for the teaching profession and placement throughout their time in our program. We work closely with alumni and schools throughout the area to help students find teaching positions.


English Education Program
WIU Department of English
1 University Circle, Simpkins Hall 226
Macomb, IL 61455-1390
Phone: (309) 298-1511

Literature and Language

students outside talking

Students in literature and language benefit from study of literature and film across a wide span of historical contexts, cultural traditions, and forms. Coursework brings together theory and practice, preparing students with the tools needed to engage texts in critical and creative ways that are fueled by their curiosity and sensitive to cultural and political implications and diverse perspectives. The literature and language option in English provides students with many benefits:

  • The joy– more than a love of reading, the study of literature and language evokes the pleasure of absorbing words as well as playing with ideas, searching for meaning and truth, discovering connections and patterns, and expressing new thoughts that build on a larger conversation connecting many voices.
  • The challenge – reading and writing about literature and film through diverse cultural lenses challenges the mind to be engaged, sharp, and reflective, navigating the complex situations, stories, and challenges of our multifaceted world. Language shapes and is shaped by our world, and teasing out the meaning and implications of language and human expression, of lived and imagined experiences, presents a challenge with infinite reward and multiple points for connecting with those around us as well as those of our past and future.
  • The perspective – stepping outside ourselves, examining other possibilities, lives, ideas, even worlds, helps us as individuals build nuanced and multifaceted perspectives that enrich our inner personal lives while enabling us to put our best selves forward in our relationships with others, building into the fabric of our lives and thoughts a flexibility grounded in an understanding that difference and diversity underly resilient, adaptable individuals and communities.
  • The skills – while there is pleasure in discussing and writing about literature, the study of literature and language develops highly sought-after skill sets that make English majors versatile and successful in a variety of professional pursuits. These skills will never lose their relevance: the ability to critically examine texts and situations to discern fact from fiction, truth from falsity; the ability to innovate based in training of the mind to imagine and create; an understanding of the value of dissent and critique and when and how to apply them constructively; the ability to analyze and produce arguments; the ability to explain our world, or a piece of it, to others; the ability to communicate clearly, effectively, and compellingly, with cultural sensitivity, in a variety of media for different audiences.

Literature and language students benefit from working with faculty whose training spans many areas of English studies, from popular culture and film to the study of language itself to American, British, world, and ethnic literatures of different periods and forms. Our faculty are committed to fostering curiosity in their students and mentoring them as they explore their interests and develop their scholarly and professional identities.


In the English Department, students with an interest in literature and language have many opportunities to express their ideas, develop their skills, and explore their interests:

  • Department publications – Elements, Mirror & the Lamp, and Western Voices
  • Involvement in the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society
  • Presenting at local, state, and national conferences
  • Individualized projects and study with our faculty
  • Funding to pursue research projects
  • Essay awards and scholarships

English is one of the most versatile majors an undergraduate can have, with many career options. Because of their hard and soft skill sets, these creative thinkers and savvy communicators are highly sought after across many fields from education to business. English majors work for law firms, government think tanks, banks, large corporations, small nonprofits, advertising agencies, publishers, entertainment industry, real estate firms, and more. They are educators, business owners, politicians, and community leaders, too. The possibilities are endless for shaping a fulfilling career that suits your interests and strengths.

students collaborating

Professional Writing

Students in professional writing benefit from coursework that consistently connects learning and doing—theory and training are immediately applied through projects and experiences tied to real-world needs and scenarios. Professional writers are problem-solvers, using their creativity and skills as well as cultural awareness to meet the needs of their audiences:

  • Delivering information clearly and effectively
  • Persuading decision makers
  • Encouraging action
  • Facilitating usability
  • Solving problems

English majors in the professional writing option benefit from teaching approaches that are culturally engaged, fostering cultural awareness and sensitivity that is essential to delivering effective communication that satisfies audience and stakeholder needs.

Professional writers’ work has an impact because it is essential and consequential across many facets of our personal, professional, and civic lives, from instructions and procedures to laws, policies, reports, calls for action, proposals, grants, and so much more. Whether the writing is meant to ensure safety, promote equity, foster understanding, effect change, secure support, or bring in money, a professional writer must be able to craft text and documents specific to their audience, purpose, and context.


In the English Department, students with an interest in professional writing have many opportunities to develop their skills and expand their experience in writing, editing, and document design:

  • Department publications – Elements, Mirror & the Lamp, and Western Voices
  • Social media development
  • Special projects for department programs and events
  • In-course experiential and service learning
  • Internships on and off campus
  • Individualized projects and study with our professional writing faculty
  • Opportunities to attend conferences

Students can also join a variety of professional organizations across professional writing (many of which have discounted student membership rates): American Medical Writers Association, Association for Business Communication, Education Writers Association, IEEE Professional Communication Society, National Association of Real Estate Editors, National Association of Science Writers, Outdoor Writers Association of America, Society for Editing, Society of Technical Communication, Society of American Travel Writers.


Because professional writing is tailored to audiences and meant to have an impact, professional writers are in demand almost everywhere. Professional writers find careers in a variety of areas:

  • Law
  • Science and Engineering
  • Healthcare
  • Retail
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Publishing
  • Military
  • Government
  • Nonprofits

They work as public relations specialists, instruction writers, web content developers, writers and editors in technical, scientific, and medical fields, grant specialists, foundation development specialists, social media coordinators, freelance writers and editors, document design and usability specialists, and more. Additionally, they often combine two interests—their love of writing and another area, like environment, music, health, knitting, or art—into a career where they write on, about, and for things they are passionate about.