I was at a Law School Fair on campus a couple of weeks ago and had a recruiter tell me she loves English majors. She told me they make great law students, and that English majors actually make up a good percentage of her school’s law program. Hold the phone–English majors in LAW SCHOOL? You mean you can be an English major and actually have a career beyond teaching or serving coffee?! What strange blasphemy is this?!
English majors have gotten a bad rep. People assume English majors are really undecided, and they are just wasting their time reading books all day. As a college senior, I’m asked all the time what I’m studying. Admitting to studying English is like admitting to enjoying the taste of battery acid. People look at you with an “oh dear, what a lost soul” face, and they hesitate to ask what you plan to do with your life. The bolder individuals skip the career question altogether and just assume you want to teach. Yes, I’m an English major. No, I do not want to teach. No, I do not need to listen to your story of your great niece who dared to study literature and has been unemployed for a zillion years and now scrapes gum off of shoes for a living. No, I don’t need another lecture on the importance of choosing a “reasonable” profession. Studying English is important and worthwhile, and I shouldn’t need to explain why, but I will.
I get a lot of emails through this blog from young women confused about what to study. Many girls are really interested in English and would love to pursue it in college, but they’re facing a lot of backlash from parents or peers. There’s a lot of nonsense in the news and media about the difficulties of studying liberal arts, and this, unfortunately, scares a lot of prospective students away from these disciplines. Look, I’m not saying we don’t need computer science majors, engineers, or biology students. We definitely do! Those are super important fields. However, people need to start acknowledging the value of a liberal arts degree. English majors can do ANYTHING! Okay, maybe we can’t be astronauts, heart surgeons, or architects (or can we?!), but a world of options are available to those willing to think outside of the box! The communication and analytical skills from studying literature make English majors the perfect candidates for successful careers in journalism, business, management, marketing, humanitarianism, design, politics…you get the idea. So let’s stop saying that English majors can only be teachers or Starbucks employees.
You might be surprised to find that the unemployment rate for English majors is on par with that of computer science and engineering. In fact, more and more companies are looking to hire English and liberal art majors who bring a useful set of skills to any industry. This is because studying literature is about more than just reading T.S. Eliot and quoting Shakespear. English majors have top of the line writing and reading comprehension skills. Nobody in my Advanced British Literature class bats an eye at 100 pages of nightly reading or 10+ page essays. Our classroom discussions revolve around important issues and universal themes. English majors are thinkers and problem solvers. We are planners and organizers. We are empathizers and understanders. And we are really, really, really well read.
Some of the most influential people of our time were English majors! Barbara Walters studied English Literature at Sarah Lawrence. Politician Mitt Romney studied English at Brigham Young University in Utah. The former CEO of NBC studied English at Dartmouth. Even James Franco decided to pursue an English degree at UCLA. As you can see, English majors come in all shapes and sizes. You’ll find English majors anywhere from the board room to the big screen!
I enjoyed checking out that law fair, though I’m not planning to apply to law school anytime soon. That admissions representative was the first person who reacted positively to my English major, but I suspect she won’t be the last. I’m graduating in a few months, and while that’s terrifying, my English major opens a lot of doors. I’m looking into corporate internships and publisher positions. My interests go beyond just reading books. I am passionate about marketing and web design. That is something I have loved exploring through this blog. I love the environment and traveling. My English major allows me to pursue all of my passions.
I’m not sure where I’m going to be in a few years, but I know I will graduate with all of the skills I need to succeed in any industry! I’ve learned so much in these past three years, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. If you want to study English, go for it! Ignore the stigma, it’s all nonsense. This world needs more English majors.