Today’s English major – a person pursuing an undergraduate degree and majoring in English – has it rough. Despite the valuable skills people learn while studying for it, it’s a degree that is, unfortunately, not taken seriously in the real world – and therefore deemed utterly useless and impractical, like a Philosophy or Political Science degree. A course of study centered on writing, reading, thinking and speaking, the English degree, at first look, does not seem highly valuable. To the ignorant, noticing an iambic pentameter in a poem is just not a much-need skill in today’s workplace. People think this is all English majors are good for – for having irrelevant, outdated skills. Today, employers look for marketing, business and computer science degrees instead. Graduates with these degrees supposedly have learned skills that employers need on a day-to-day basis, so many times the highly versatile, intelligent and well-read English majors are overlooked and victim of prejudice. It is understood that today’s undergraduates feel the pressure to choose majors that will lead to good jobs. But that often means skipping majors in the Humanities, like English, which leads to good jobs, as well.
What about the employability of English majors? Most people who major in English enjoy, or at least excel in reading and writing. It’s what they enjoy, and what comes easily to them. But along the way, they will learn skills that make them quite employable after they graduate. Employers feel that those with English degrees are not as valuable and can do little to contribute to a company that depends on 21st-centry skills to grow and prosper. It’s hard for an employee to see why reading Moby Dick is an important skill to have, or why an English major skilled in reading and writing – which just everyone does in the white-color working world – should be hired over a marketing major. It is assumed that those with English majors will either be working at a coffee shop, a restaurant, teaching – and, if they’re lucky, maybe something to do with writing. But today’s English majors are politicians like Mitt Romney. They become writers: Toni Morrison, Stephen King and plenty of others. Or they enter Hollywood: director Steven Spielberg, actors Chevy Chase, Tommy Lee Jones, and Hugh Grant.
The truth is, those who graduate with English degrees are equipped with several skills and tools that will aid them in the real world, regardless of the career path they ultimately choose. In their 2013 New York Times column, “The Decline and Fall of the English Major,” Erlyn Klinkenborg writes: “What is an English major good for? … it is a real answer, one that reflects the versatility of thought and language that comes from studying literature,” she says. “Former English majors turn up almost anywhere, in almost any career, and they nearly always bring with them a rich sense of the possibilities of language, literary and otherwise. … That gift is clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.” Yes, English degrees are good for more than careers in teaching. Because English majors graduate with developed skills in writing, communication, researching, critical thinking and even empathy, they are not earning a “useless” and impractical degree; in fact, people with degrees in English are, and can be, eligible for jobs in almost every field and industry.
When they are not dissecting books, poems, and short stories, English majors spend most of their time writing in the English language. They become experts of the language. Trained to write anything. When they graduate, English majors have spent a majority of the last four years writing essays, papers, responses to exam questions, emails, letters and the like, and are eligible for a number of jobs. One is a journalist, who interviews people, compiles information and writes articles for a living. The English major has been doing just this (not interviewing, but certainly obtaining relevant information) for most of their academic careers. Also, because the profession involves writing, they can become public affairs agents or publicists – people who spend time writing press releases to gain publicity for an organization, event or product. The list goes on. English majors can write about almost anything and get paid for it. Writing is a highly valued skill in today’s workplace. The same goes for any job that requires research, something the English major excels in. Just about any job that requires one to find, then compile, relevant information is a job that English majors would do quite well. They spent a majority of their time in college doing this exact thing: incorporating information into a cohesive essay or research paper.
English majors make good editors, too, since they are so highly skilled in the semantics of the English language – punctuation, sentence structure, spelling, etc. They are trained to spot errors, inaccurate information, and inconsistencies – skills sought after by any publishing house or company. Because of this, English majors also make good web content editors and managers. Each website needs content to maximize Search Engine Optimization, and because that content reflects the organization, it generally has to be well-written, professional and accurate – all things that would be a walk in the park for an English major, but probably a real challenge for a web designer with weak language and communication skills. As the working world becomes completely digitally based, the need for those with English degrees will increase as more employers come to understand them as valuable.
A person with a degree in English could be eligible to work in fields like marketing and advertising, too. Whether writing Social Media posts to promote an organization, compiling a copy for an advertisement, or using their language skills to pitch a product or an idea to a business, the English major’s training is ideal for an employer needing a smart, creative, detail-oriented person to market their product or organization. In college, English majors are given a vast amount of reading assignments, the comprehension of which they are generally evaluated. And because they have given presentations, made debates, participated in classroom discussions, English majors are good orators, as well, because reading and writing skills often translate over to speaking skills.
English majors are good thinkers, too, according to an article published last year on Americanexpress.com called, “Why English Majors Are the Hot New Hires” by author Bruna Martinuzzi. She says that, due to their rigorous academic workload, English majors have well-developed and advanced critical-thinking skills – the ability to analyze an issue and question how assumptions apply to all kinds of information in a business setting. English majors are taught to deconstruct and analyze a problem and share their findings with others who can understand their line of thought. These are highly transferable skills that are vital to the success of a business, she says.
To conclude, the English degree is a mark of employability in today’s society, despite the negative, expedient mindsets that an English degree is useless and impractical. Indeed, the opposite is true. Just about every business, organization, enterprise, what have you, could use, and needs, English majors. Because of their highly trained background in language and thought, because they are bright, well-read, versatile and trainable, English majors – when they graduate with a Bachelor’s degree – are highly qualified for a number of jobs, including ones in education, journalism, business, marketing, government, research, publishing. The list goes on – and generally depends on an internship. More and more employers are beginning to see the value in people with English degrees. The secret is out. College is a hard time to pick a career path. Not everyone knows they wanted to be a doctor from the time they were seven years old. It often takes real-world experience for one to figure out their career path. Many undergraduates, feeling the urgency to graduate and get a job, pick degree paths because they are good at something, enjoy it and feel they excel at it – not necessarily always because it means they have a better chance of finding a job once they graduate. In fact, a degree – even if a much-valued one like Science or Engineering – doesn’t mean a person is employable. It is ultimately left up to that person to get the job. The degree only means they are qualified for a job. Not meant for the job.
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