Reasons to Major in English
A number of sources have recently touted the value of the English major in the job market. Click on any of the articles below to read more about how your English major can prepare you for a successful life after graduation.
Slayter, Mary Ellen. “An English Degree Can Translate Into Opportunity.” The Washington Post. June 19, 2005.
As the title indicates, Slayter’s article describes how English majors can be successful in the job market. She observes, “It is true that an English major won’t prepare you for a specific career. Instead, like other liberal arts degrees, it serves as a broad base for a range of careers, many of them quite lucrative.” Slayter includes a variety of interviews with English graduates to demonstrate the usefulness of the skills they gained while in school. All three of her interviewees – Pamela Huffman, Kelley A. Squazzo, and Michael Dinsmore – relate their experiences in applying their English degrees to a variety of jobs. Slayter concludes the article by reminding English majors to see low paying positions, such as retail jobs, that they may take early in their careers as opportunities to gain more marketable experience rather than as predictors of future success.
Driscoll, Emily. “What is a Liberal Arts Degree Worth These Days?” Fox Business. January 27, 2012.
Driscoll uses interviews with education experts to compare the job opportunities for liberal arts majors to those of other majors. Though Driscoll admits that liberal arts majors do not have the highest employment rates, she argues that they gain a number of “soft skills” that allow them greater flexibility in a changing market than the more static majors. Driscoll’s sources further assert that many people tend to misjudge the job prospects of liberal arts majors, evaluating them according to initial salary and position rather than the ability to earn over an entire career.
Matz, Robert. “Dear Garrison.” Insider Higher Education. February 5, 2013.
Matz uses the Garrison Keillor’s jokes about the dim job prospects of English majors as an opportunity to discuss a recent study by the Georgetown University Center for Education. Despite public perception, English majors earn similar median incomes to a number of science degrees. Based on this finding and others from the study, Matz argues that students should choose majors based on their interests and skills rather than on their feelings about what degree is most likely to get them a high paying job.
Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “The Decline and Fall of the English Major.” The New York Times. June 22, 2013.
Despite its title, this article celebrates the English major. Klinkenborg begins by observing the problems he finds in the prose of his students. The problem is complicated, Klinkenborg asserts, by the “vocational emphasis” of schools now, which leads students away from humanities courses. Moreover, the humanities programs themselves have been impacted by external demands to justify their own value. Although Klinkenborg criticizes the humanities for a trend towards “technical narrowness” and “literal mindedness,” he ultimately reaffirms the value of the writing skills and overall literacy that English majors gain in their studies.
Strauss, Steven. “Why I Hire English Majors.” Huffington Post. June 23, 2013.
Strauss, an entrepreneur, examines four characteristics he and others look for in employees: “smarts,” “boldness,” writing skills, and collegiality. Each of these, according to Strauss, is a good reason to hire an English major. He argues that the critical thinking skills developed during study and the strength of character reflected in the choice of major serve English students well on the job market. Moreover, Strauss appreciates the ability of English majors to communicate effectively both in writing and in person.
Martinuzzi, Bruna, “Why English Majors are the Hot New Hires.” American Express Open Forum. July 11, 2013.
Martinuzzi observes that employers are becoming increasingly more vocal about desiring the skills gained in humanities majors rather than in fields such as science and math. She examines five characteristics that make English majors especially good hires: communication skills, writing skills, researching skills, critical thinking skills, and empathy. Because they are so well-rounded, English majors are particularly appealing. Martinuzzi ends her article by observing that successful businesses hire a variety of different types of people, including those described by the IDEO innovation teams as “The Caregiver” and “The Storyteller,” both of which are roles ably filled by English majors.
Edmundson, Mark. “The Ideal English Major.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. July 29, 2013.
Edmundson begins his article by encouraging all students to consider English as a major because it is a major that encourages personal growth. He celebrates the character of the English major as someone who wants to experience life through the eyes of others. The English major loves language and uses that language to find and convey meaning in life.
Gregoire, Carolyn. "In Defense of the 'Impractical' English Major." The Huffington Post. March 15, 2014.
Gregoire draws on the findings of the Georgetown University Center for Education findings about unemployment statistics to indicate that English majors are finding jobs after graduation. She further supports her argument for the importance of the English major by citing research in neuroscience about the benefits of reading fiction and by discussing the importance of the communication skills and empathy honed in English classes. Gregoire also provides a list of successful and famous English graduates from a variety of professions.