5 Reasons to be Proud That You Majored in English

I’ve always been baffled about why the English major gets such a bad rep. Perhaps this is because it’s an open-ended degree that requires the recipient to ask him or herself, “what would I like to do with these skills I have acquired?” rather than existing as a degree with a built-in career path like marketing, finance, or real estate. DegreeInEnglish

If you majored in English in college like I did, then you’re probably used to people asking you if you want to be a teacher… all of the time. While some English majors follow their own individual desire to work in education, teaching in secondary schools is actually only the third highest occupational field that employs individuals with only a B.A. in English. The first?  They are artists, broadcasters, writers, entertainers, and public relations specialists. The second? They are top and mid-level managers, executives and administrators. As I mentioned, teaching in secondary schools is the third occupational field shown on the list (and all teaching combined is only a bit more than one out of every ten English majors). Despite all of the occupations listed here, I’ve still heard time and again that there isn’t much that one can do with an English major.

Are these people crazy?!

For all of my Oscar-Wilde-reading, Shakespeare-reciting, Plato-referencing, journal-scribbling, fellow English majors out there in the professional world, here are 5 reasons why you can be proud that you received your undergraduate degree in English:

 

1. You are a good writer.

Being a good writer is one of the top ten most important skills that job candidates are encouraged to have in order to be competitive in the job market. Companies are looking for good writers, and there’s no question that English majors heading out into the workforce have this skill in the bag. It’s nearly impossible to succeed as an English major without being a good writer. Moreover,  students choosing this major probably really like writing. When you like something, you do it more often and the more you do something, the better you become.

 

2. You are an effective communicator

English majors tend to be overall successful communicators, which is why it makes sense that so many of us go on to work in media and communication. The major provides individuals with the critical thinking and public speaking skills required to excel in these positions. Even if you aren’t planning to work in communications, the argument has been made that oral communication competency is the most important skill for business students in the workplace. It may also go without saying that having keen communication skills is absolutely necessary in order to be a good manager in the workforce.

 

3. You are capable of processing complex ideas

English majors are well practiced in uncovering themes and complex ideas in texts. The kind of thinking that accompanies studying humanities grapples with both big ideas and details. Businesses and hiring managers acknowledge the benefits of this type of thinking. Ernest Suarez, professor and chairman of the English department at The Catholic University of America states in this article that, “Businesses tell us they like to hire English majors because they feel that they can think. They’ve got the writing and analytical skills they need. The rest they can be trained to learn. “

 

4. You understand people and are able to connect with them

We generally got to read a lot of fiction as English majors, which may have had a positive impact on our ability to connect with people. A study by the Journal of Research in Personality uncovered that frequent readers of narrative fiction score highly on tests of empathy and social acumen. Another study finds that people who read narrative fiction stories score higher on tests involving social reasoning skills than those who are assigned to read a non-fiction essay from the same magazine. This article sums it up, describing English majors as “outgoing, community-spirited individuals who strive to understand culture, society and human interactions.”

 

5. You are a philosopher, artist, editor, historian, and a provider-of-content.

I’ve based this last point off of a great blog post by Alex J. Tunny called, “In Defense of the English Major.” The wide array of texts that we study as English majors have introduced us to the traditions, values, and methods of thinking from various cultures and points in history. As general Jacks-of-all-Trades, we tend to know a thing or two about several different subjects. Check out this list of famous English majors. You may be surprised by the diversity of the career paths of the folks on this list. If you are an English major, though, you probably won’t be too surprised.

A Bachelor of Arts in English is an open-ended degree providing versatility that might scare folks who are hesitant to pave their own career paths. For those who are willing to take matters into their own hands, though, an English major provides students with skills that are critical in the workplace. Let’s continue to be proud of the skill set that we’ve acquired and keep proving to skeptical folks that English majors have the ability to succeed and excel both inside of the classroom and in the working world.

Posted on by colleendilen in Education, Graduate school 16 Comments

About the author

colleendilen

MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore

16 Responses to 5 Reasons to be Proud That You Majored in English

  1. Alex T.

    Thanks for the mention!

    You also have a wonderful blog which I definitely keep tabs on.

     
  2. Jackie

    Thanks for the reminder Colleen! Sometimes I wonder if I’ll be able to do anything else with my English degree besides teach!

     
  3. mwinikates

    As a fellow museum educator who was an English major, now working in a science/children’s museum, I say ‘huzzah!’

     
  4. Pingback: So you think you can think? « Sea Dreams and Time Machines

  5. A.Y. Siu

    I totally get that it’s easy to peg the English major as a useless major, but I also went to a liberal arts college because I wanted to get an education, not vocational training.

    College, for me, wasn’t a way to get career training. It was a way to hone critical thinking skills and connect with peers and future professional colleagues (one of the main benefits of college, regardless of what you major in, is networking with people who get your jobs or leads on jobs). It was also just fun!

    Both my wife and I were English majors. I went into it thinking I’d end up an English teacher (which I did for a while), but then ended up working in admissions (and learning a lot about databases in the process, even though I previously hadn’t been much of a computer person). My wife went back to school to learn design and get a “real job.”

    I think your list of five things is a great list, and I would never discourage anyone from majoring in English.

     
  6. alice liu

    The thing is that those skills you mentioned aren’t exclusive to english majors, regardless of your major, you have to take gen ed courses in the liberal arts, not to mention you had to take english every year from k-12, that’s already plenty in order to develop strong writing and communication abilities. plus, people can always just read novels/literature on their own time for leisure as a side hobby. also, there are areas where english majors may not be as strong at, such as math/quantitative reasoning, scientific literacy, and objective program solving. if anything, i think a more rounded major would be the likes of economics or even chemistry, since they stress both qualitative and quantitative skills. and remember, english is only one language of many in the world, i think there may be more benefits for a native english speaker to major in a foreign language such as japanese or even russian, so at least you’ll come out of school knowing one more language than the just the one you already knew how to speak.

    so where those skills/traits you mentioned are indeed valuable, you don’t have to major in something like english in order to acquire them.

     
    • colleendilen

      Hi Alice,

      You are exactly right! These skills are nowhere near exclusive to English majors. Folks majoring in other areas also need not feel that their degrees are useless and should also be proud of these skills, to be sure. I am proud to have majored in English- but I’d be proud to have majored in other areas where these skills are harnessed as well.

      Thanks for your comment. It’s a good point!

       
    • Tmar

      When you have a english major an employer wouldn’t have to assume or take your word for being an effective communicator or having analytical skills needed for most jobs today. Just because you took english from K – 12 and college english does not qualify you as an effective writer or communicator. I’ve seen so many college grads take so long to write a simple paragraph. I majored in English and it’s so much more than what you think. My boss CEO come to me often to proof read, reword all sorts of documents and e-mails before he sends it company wide; and he has a PhD.

       
    • david kim

      I agree and disagree with Alice. She is right in saying that we are provided with a general English education from k-12, and that those formative years do give us satisfactory writing and communication abilities. I disagree on her (and many others) supposed ability to predict the long term effects of a specified education in the art, craft, and development of the English language. For instance, the structure or form of a specific book (maybe Faulkner and his stream of consciousness for instance), in combination with some technological platform, may set off a chain reaction of thought that might lead to the next great consumer product. Steve Job’s well-documented fascination with ancient calligraphy certainly provided him with the right mindset that helped him create his valuable Apple products. Or perhaps a study into the development/thematic content of the English language itself may help one understand the shifting political and cultural attitudes of those nations who partake in the language since its birth. This may lead to a whole other host of associations. The chain reaction of thoughts and ideas goes on and on.

      In terms of value judgement, English may not be as valuable in terms of employment, but that does not mean that it is not intrinsically valuable in other hard to understand or unforeseen ways.

      :)

       
  7. huda

    thank you so much ,I’m non native speaker ,majored in English, I was sort of frustrated about my major but your lines, words make me feel superior
    Thumps up
    thaaaaaaaaaaanks

     
    • colleendilen

      I’m glad to be of service! Congratulations on your useful degree!

       
  8. Huda

    U r more than welcome ,,in fact,I finished my degree in English , and now I work as a teacher assistant and only one semester is left then I will be having my MA degree in English language too .!

     
  9. Gio

    sorry for my english but .. .whats’ “majoring in English”? did you mean english people dont know properly the language they use?
    BWHAHHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAHHA
    no comment……

     
    • colleendilen

      Ha! What I mean by “majoring in English” is getting a degree in “English Language and Literature.” It is primarily the study of literature and texts.

       
  10. Lisa

    Thank you for posting your list. I have been on the fence between majoring in Biology or English. I know they are two very different fields of study but I enjoy both and I love the fact that this major not only comes in handy for teaching but it also comes in handy if I wanted to work in the corporate world.

     
  11. Shahrin

    “We should just not study in English and forget about the English language. Moreover, we should definitely study other majors besides English.”

    ^Whoever thinks like the statement above does not understand what they are missing out because they give up on their life too fast. If students do not learn the English language and major in English in college with a degree, there wouldn’t be that many Teachers, people in Business, and many others in a non-Scientific and non-Technical profession. The language English would be completely lost because majority of the students might have knowledge up to High School level and not so much after High School.

    The good thing about the college I am attending is that they offer the major in English and the major in English/Law so if any student who wish to study English/Law then they can receive job opportunities in the federal, state, and local government.

    Another fact is that location is not that important. If you believe you are in the middle of nowhere and can’t find jobs anywhere nearby then travel to other places. If in New York, travel to New Jersey or Connecticut. Feel comfortable with what you are doing, not something that just will bore you out.

     

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