A fully tested and proven response
Telling people you are majoring in English will automatically elicit an immediate thinly-yet-politely-intended disguised response of disbelief, something along the lines of: “Really? So what exactly are you planning on doing with that after graduation?”
What people are really wondering, and trying to wrap their brains around, is how exactly you plan on making any money or career out of an English degree.
The School of Humanities is oftentimes the most underappreciated collegiate field of studies. As a senior English major, I understand the all-to-often scenario every humanities student will eventually find themselves in: constantly having to defend their major against the skeptical stereotype of that their degrees are nothing more than a highly-expensive and complete waste of time.
But who is really to blame for these views of the humanities, your acquaintances reverberating information and statistics they have read online or the websites that continually denounce the humanities? Well-known websites, like Forbes and BalanceCareers, have published numerous articles evaluating college majors in regards to employment rates and average salaries before ranking their values. Repeated majors on the “top 10 worst majors” list include:
- Archeology and Anthropology
- Film and Art Studies
- Religious Studies
- English Language and Literature
Really, with statistics like these, is it shocking that few people appreciate a major that seemingly stamps your future as a destitute life scavenging for jobs and career options?
The values of an English degree
At some point during college, you will find yourself asking the question “is all of this worth it?” This is true, even more so, for any humanities student, who is always running into more skepticism than encouragement.
As interest in English, literature and the humanities continue to wither away, largely due to the plethora of pejorative opinions across the web, the extensive values of an English degree fall into the shadows.
It is true that in such a technologically-driven world there is a crazy proliferation of tech and computer jobs (which offer quite appealing high salaries). So why the need for English majors, the people who simply call others out on grammatical/spelling errors (who are just replaceable nuisances, since we now have spellcheck, right?) and randomly quote Shakespeare or Ovid’s Metamorphoses?
Wrong! At least according to any Doctor of Humanities or even a recent Time article discussing humanities degrees as a popular choice among CEOs.
How does an English major get you a successful career? As it turns out (after sifting through heaps of cynical outlooks), English majors really do learn and cultivate some very important skills applicable to various aspects of the working world.
So, those skills I was talking about…
Between conferences, meetings, advertisements, and social media outlets, the world of business is centered around communication. Without the ability to communicate well, a company is left trailing behind the successes of others.
Companies seek out and covet people with superb communication skills, in terms of writing and speaking. This gives English majors the upper hand, as they scrupulously study and practice the art of writing crisply and concisely in an engaging manner.
Thinking Critically and Crafting Solid Arguments
If there is anything an English major must be good at, it is reading. If you ever take an English class, you will definitely be told (at least once) that there is no “correct answer” or “right interpretation.” That does not mean that your opinion will fly, rather it means that there are many possible and arguable interpretations if you spend time questioning everything.
English majors dedicate hours in Literature classes to analyzing difficult texts, forming original opinions and ideas, formulating arguments, researching for evidence to support their arguments, and clearly communicating that argument. These skills are transferable to any workplace project, as they are ultimately learning to analyze and understand issues, frame an argument or solution that addresses the issue, and to present this information effectively.
Work Well on a Team
As I mentioned above, much of the time English majors spend in class is devoted to deconstructing texts and constructing arguments. Since there is never a “correct interpretation,” so it is certain that people hold different perspectives and opinions, often leading to civil disagreements and informative discussions. Present your position, defend your position with a solid argument, and consider the opinion of others—a daily routine for English majors. These healthy debates help English majors to understand how to argue their ideas, gracefully take other constructive criticism, and reach the best decisions by working through potential outcomes and ideas as a group member.
Literature opens the door to other worlds, cultures, peoples, and ideas that we may never come into contact with in our daily lives. Understanding and respecting is essential for anybody that spends time in any form of public environment, and what better way to learn about (the step before understanding) others then entering into their perspectives and experiences communicated through their writings.