Ahh, the question that English majors (and other Humanities majors) hear on a daily basis.
“What can you even do with your degree?”
This is not it either, we are likely to also hear:
“Oh, so you want to teach then?”
“Well, I mean, if it makes you happy…”
“How will reading and writing help you get a job?”
These really are great questions that concerned family and colleagues ask; however, they only are asking because they assume the negative connotation about English graduates is true: that they cannot find jobs.
After doing extensive research, meeting with college professors, and talking with companies, I am here to tell you that this simply is not true. English graduates can – and are – finding jobs in respectable career fields.
Typical careers English graduates are known to enter are Public Relations, Marketing, Management, Publishing, Editing, Freelance Writing, Teaching, and Journalism… just to name a few. Now, how exactly do English graduates land these jobs? The valuable skills they acquire from studying English.
The English degree revolves around reading, analyzing, researching, synthesizing, writing, arguing, and more reading. English majors are used to reading 100-200 pages a night where they must pick out key concepts, find the main ideas, and discover patterns. By doing this, English majors develop strong analytical skills that are applicable to every career mentioned above. This skill is definitely applicable for Marketing Specialists, where part of their job is to discover patterns in sales to maximize profits and develop stronger sales strategies.
In addition, English majors must do extensive amounts of research on a certain topic and synthesize what they find. Being able to do hours of research and then combining that research into a coherent whole is a valuable skill English majors develop. Again, this skill can be utilized in every career choice above whether it is researching information for Marketing, Public Relations, or Journalism.
The third skill English majors master is writing. Being able to write well is one of the most important skills that anyone can have. Imagine an employer looking at a resume and they notice “degree” or “address” is misspelled. Without a second thought, they are going to toss that resume into the trash and move on. Why? Because no one is going to hire an employee that does not proofread their work or have strong writing skills, it will reflect poorly on themselves and the company. Another scenario: an employee sends an important email to a potential investor and he/she misspells “Sincerely.” This would be deemed seriously unprofessional and could lose the investor’s business, again reflecting poorly on the employee and company. Public Relations Specialist require many skills, but strong writing skills are one of the most important. PR Specialists essentially are a liaison between their employer/company and the public or a client. Their array of duties includes, but are not limited to, writing press releases, writing speeches, contacting clients via email or telephone, contacting the media for potential stories via email or telephone, planning and hosting events, and attending events. Notice how each duty requires writing in some way, and they need to have concrete writing skills to use every day on the job. Two other careers that require outstanding writing skills are Editing and Freelance Writing, obviously.
Next, English majors learn how to manage their time to meet the multiple deadlines they have. Instead of reading 150 pages, writing two 14-page papers, and starting research for another paper all in one day, they spread it out over time so they are not bombarded with stress to meet the deadlines. Two career choices this correlates to are Journalism and Public Relations. Both careers require juggling important tasks and projects that all need to be completed on time. The time-management skills English majors develop are helpful and needed in these two demanding fields.
The final skill that I am highlighting (there are way more, I promise) is being able to communicate effectively and efficiently. English majors not only read, research, and write all the time, but they also argue their points and analyses in the classroom. The result of always conveying their thoughts and ideas to other people is strong communication skills. This skill will make a difference when at an interview, conducting a meeting, meeting with investors, discussing work with bosses and other employees, and/or hosting an event.
It is important to note that these are not the only eight career fields for English graduates or five skills they develop. The career choices and skills developed can vary depending on graduate school, double majoring, acquiring a minor or two, and/or doing an internship.
I would also like to point out that majoring in “X” does not guarantee someone a job in “Y.” There is so much more than a degree that gets someone a job. Graduates can make themselves more marketable by volunteer work, completing an internship or two, picking up a hobby that can be valuable in the long run (such as a blog), and taking on as many leadership opportunities and roles as possible.
Just remember, that in the end, a degree does not define whom you are or your future.