English and your career

English and your career – the study of reading and writing the English language is essential in that it will apply to almost every occupation

Nancy Saffer

Reading and writing are basic skills we begin learning at a young age. So why do we need to continue studying them in high school and beyond? Taking English classes improves our communication skills, which are essential to every job.

Communication is the ability to understand information other people give us and to have other people understand what we tell them. In addition to being fundamental for most jobs, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively can help us in every area of our lives. Every time we write a letter, make a phone call, or give someone instructions, we use our communication skills. Studying English helps us develop our reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills, all of which play some part in our everyday lives.

Taking English in high school and college

In high school English classes, most students study basics such as vocabulary, spelling, composition, reading, and grammar. Learning how to construct sentences and paragraphs lays the groundwork for writing effective letters, essays, term papers, and reports. English classes also include exposure to literature, which teaches students to analyze other people’s words and provokes thought by providing insight into the human condition.

College-level English courses are designed to refine the skills learned in high school. Subjects such as literature, writing, and grammar are taught as individual classes. These courses provide additional study and practice of communication.

How English relates to careers

You may think English classes only relate to a few occupations, such as writing or editing. But every job requires workers to understand instructions quickly and to explain problems to supervisors and other workers.

Good communication is essential for most occupations, even those that require little interaction with others. A problem cited by employers of engineers, for example, is that some technically competent workers are unable to explain what they are doing, to understand or explain what their part of a project is, or to relate their task to what others are doing.

Many occupations require frequent communication. Sales workers must be able to speak effectively both on the telephone and in person to present their company’s products well. Lawyers and managers need to express themselves clearly and to analyze large amounts of information to be successful. Health care workers must be able to understand their patients’ questions and concerns and to make patients understand how to maintain their health. Psychologists and psychiatrists must be able to listen and communicate effectively.

Developing communication skills

The best way to begin developing communication skills is to take high school English classes. Reading outside of class is also a good way to develop those skills and to build an effective vocabulary. In addition, getting involved in extracurricular activities improves communication because of the interaction required. Some activities target specific abilities: Joining the school newspaper or yearbook staff is a good way to work on writing skills; the debate team is ideal for developing speaking skills.

The accompanying lists show occupations that require advanced, intermediate, or basic communication skills. Advanced communication requires a strong ability to communicate both orally and in writing; college-level English courses are recommended. Intermediate communication requires the ability to accurately give and follow instructions, to persuade people to a particular point of view, and to write in an organized and grammatically correct manner; both high school and college English courses are helpful in developing these skills. Basic communication requires the ability to interact with others and to follow simple oral and written instructions; high school English classes are helpful but not essential in developing this level of skill.

For more information on the level of education and training needed for specific occupations, consult the Occupational Outlook Handbook, available in most libraries, career centers, and placement offices and on the Internet at http:// stats.bls.gov/ocohome.htm.

Advanced communication

Actors, directors, and producers

Administrative services managers

Adult education teachers

Agricultural scientists

Biological and medical scientists


Engineering, science, and computer systems managers

Foresters and conservation scientists

Geologists and geophysicists

Government chief executives and legislators

Lawyers and judges


Management analysts and consultants

Manufacturers’ and wholesale sales representatives

Marketing, advertising, and public relations managers




Physician assistants


Physicists and astronomers



Public relations specialists

Radio and television announcers and newscasters

Reporters and correspondents

School teachers, kindergarten, elementary, and secondary

Social scientists

Social workers

Special education teachers

Speech-language pathologists and audiologists

Urban and regional planners


Writers and editors

Intermediate communication

Adjusters, investigators, and collectors


Clerical supervisors and managers

Construction and building inspectors

Construction and building managers


Employment interviewers

Financial manager’s

Health information technicians

Health services managers

Hotel managers and assistants

Industrial production managers

Insurance agents and brokers

Library technicians

Licensed practical nurses



Physical therapists

Police, detectives, and special agents

Private detectives and investigators

Property managers

Real estate agents, brokers, and appraisers


Recreation workers

Recreational therapists

Registered nurses

Respiratory therapists

Restaurant and food service managers

Retail sales worker supervisors and managers

Retail sales workers


Securities and financial services sales representatives

Service sales representatives

Social and human service assistants

Travel agents

Travel guides

Basic communication

Bank tellers



Correctional officers

Counter and rental clerks

Court reporters, medical transcriptionists, and stenographers


Flight attendants

Funeral directors

General office clerks

Homemaker-home health aides

Hotel and motel desk clerks

Interviewing and new accounts clerks

Loan clerks and credit authorizers, checkers, and clerks

Nursing aides and psychiatric aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Physical and corrective therapy assistants and aides

Postal clerks and mail carriers

Prepress workers

Preschool teachers and child care workers



Reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks

Routing and receiving clerks

Service representatives

Taxidrivers and chauffeurs

Telephone operators

Title searchers


Typists, work processors, and data entry keyers

Visual artists

Nancy Saffer is an economist formerly with the Office of Employment Projections, BLS.

COPYRIGHT 1999 U.S. Government Printing Office

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group