About English at Cal Poly

Kathryn Rummell, Chair of Cal Poly English Department

Why Major in English?

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Why major in English at a polytechnic university? Why major in English at all? These are questions you might be asked when you express a desire to study English at Cal Poly. The answers to these questions will vary for everyone, but I offer some insight into our program on this page, and I invite you to explore our website more completely to determine if our program is the right fit for you.

When you join our English major, you will immediately find a supportive and welcoming home at the University. In your first quarter you will be assigned a faculty advisor to help you navigate the curriculum so that you can graduate in four years.  Indeed, our curriculum is designed with that goal in mind; its flexibility ensures that our students make timely progress to their degree.  Your faculty advisor will remain with you throughout your four years here, and that relationship is just one of many you will have in the department.

English majors bond with each other, as well, through our innovative transatlantic Core Curriculum. Beginning with an Introduction to Literary Studies course in a student's first year, the Core Curriculum moves chronologically through British and American literature, studying the ways in which the two traditions influence each other. Students proceed through this seven-course sequence as a cohort, enabling them to form a learning community designed to help them succeed. Leading these learning communities are our outstanding faculty members—knowledgeable, dynamic, and talented teachers and scholars. All of our faculty are passionately committed to teaching, and we currently boast four recipients of the University Distinguished Teaching Award.  When you study English at Cal Poly, you are joining a close-knit community of the best and brightest faculty and students.

In addition to our Core Curriculum sequence above, our program also offers courses in creative writing, linguistics, film, and technical communications.  Majors can pursue an emphasis in creative writing (fiction or poetry), a certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language, or a minor in linguistics. We encourage our majors to take advantage of their 36 units of free electives, too, in order to pursue a minor in a different discipline or to study abroad. Cal Poly partners with numerous study abroad programs, and our majors have studied in places as diverse as Australia, Thailand, Chile, France, Scotland, and Germany. And of course, many of our majors choose to study in England, either through Cal Poly’s own faculty-led program in London or through another study abroad program.

Your educational experience in the English major at Cal Poly will be top-notch and will prepare you for a number of different careers. Our majors often pursue graduate study, either to obtain a teaching credential or an M.A. or Ph.D. An English major is also an excellent foundation for the study of law or medicine, as both rely on the critical thinking and analytic skills English promotes.  Many of our students also become writers—freelance journalists, technical writers, advertising copywriters.  To help our majors learn about the opportunities afforded by an English degree, we have instituted a Career Connections program that showcases the variety of diverse careers our alumni have pursued.

You will find that the English Department at Cal Poly has much to offer you—an innovative and rigorous curriculum, knowledgeable and dedicated faculty, bright and enthusiastic majors, and a four-year experience that will last a lifetime.

Where can English take me?

These are just some of the career directions that our students can take.

Writing / Editing:

  • Creative writing
  • Journalism
  • Freelance writing

Technical Communication:

  • Technical writing and editing
  • Science and medical writing
  • Grant and proposal writing


  • Editing
  • Advertising / sales
  • Circulation
  • Production
  • Publicity
  • Marketing
  • Promotion

Advertising and Public Relations:

  • Creative services
  • Account management
  • Media
  • Writing / editing
  • Media relations
  • Social media
  • Fundraising

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Catalog year specific forms below. 

Upcoming Course Offerings

Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society

Additional student forms & helpful links
GWR Information 
Helpful Links
English Learning Goals
Major Transfer Criteria

Robert E. Kennedy Library

University Writing and Learning Initiatives

Tentative Course Offerings

English Minor Application

Linguistics Minor Application 

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