In a modern society where the average liberal arts education costs well over six digits, the newest generation has quickly become programmed to view their college years in terms of ROI rather than experience. And this shift in expectations affects everything from where they’ve sent their college applications to the specific courses they take.
But few aspects of college were as drastically affected as the perception of an English degree.
Social media has most of us believing that a parent’s worst nightmare is their soon-to-be graduate coming home to tell them, “Mom, Dad– I think I want to be an English major.”
In fact, some of the most common misconceptions about English degrees cause parents, teachers, and even guidance counselors to encourage students interested in English to apply under a different major “that they won’t regret.”
Why People Think There’s No ROI In English Degrees
A quick review of the misconceptions about English degrees mentioned above includes:
- You’ll never make any money
- You can only be a teacher
- You won’t learn any skills for the “real world”
- You’ll never find a job that uses your degree
- You’ll live paycheck to paycheck
- All you’ll do is read books
- To repeat: You’ll never make any money
After all, how does knowing the proper use of an Oxford comma make you any more of a qualified candidate for a job in the real world™? And how can you explain to your prospective employer that your analysis of George Orwell’s literary works merits you a job offer?
Society is quick to remind us that jobs are hard to come by, and even faster to declare that English majors have almost no hope at all.
And this is very, very wrong.
For those with enough grit and determination to stick out their 4+ year English degree (and focus to drive them forward), there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Time and time again, English degrees prove to be one of the most versatile and applicable concentrations around.
This is because English degrees typically guarantee three valuable (translation: billable) skillsets: critical thinking, creativity, and communication. And these make up the building blocks of stand-out candidates. To break these down further:
Valuable Skillset #1: Critical Thinking
Socratic seminars, analytical essays, and peer reviews give English majors highly developed critical thinking skills. This development in reasoning and analysis, in turn, makes them sound problem solvers in the world of business.
Critical thinking is also one of the most sought-after asks on job postings. And it’s more than just a buzzword. Critical thinking is what leads to product innovations, the discovery of new markets, and prudent business decisions. Yet few graduates have had as much practice, and within a collaborative setting, as an English major.
Valuable Skillset #2: Creativity
English is full of new ideas. Whether it’s the creation of a vast fictional world or a new angle on an old literary analysis, English majors quickly learn to think outside the box.
And when it comes to the world of business, there’s little room for the same old, same old. In fact, showcasing the same ideas and type of work that you *think* has traditionally succeeded is a common pitfall in becoming a forgotten applicant. Say it out loud: Creativity is memorable.
Valuable Skillset #3: Communication
If there’s one thing an English degree guarantees, it’s some degree of communication skills. And there may be no more valuable skill than communication within our globalized society.
Better communication means better interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. It means more impactful interviews, more productive meetings, and easier alignment on projects. It often means better career advocacy, growth, and in the end: success.
Picture those in your life that you consider excellent communicators. More likely than not, they’ve done well in their careers. Now picture those who avoid communication and interaction with others. Barring some exceptions, they may not have performed as well within collaborative environments.
What Places Can English Majors Go?
So with these three essential skills– where might English majors expect to succeed?
The answer is both exciting and frustrating: there are few limits to the types of jobs an English major may find themselves. But to give a little clarity to the vague and vast opportunities available, we’ve created a list of common career paths an English degree may take you. These include:
- Photo Journalist
- Copy Writer
- Ghost Writer
- Human Resources Manager
- Public Relations Specialist
- Speech Writer
- Corporate Communications Manager
- Editorial Editor
- English Professor
- Preschool Teacher
- Executive Assistant
- Web Content Manager
- Content Marketer
- Business Strategist
- Professional Blogger
- Technical Writer
- Publishing Agent
- Grant Writer
- Social Media Manager
- And more!
The only things limiting opportunities for English majors are their imagination for possibility and personal skill development.
So if you’re an aspiring English major or a discouraged English degree recipient, take the common misconceptions of your major and let those challenges become your motivators. Take your skills and showcase them to potential employers in a way that shows how you can uniquely succeed in a role.
Ask for feedback and use your communication and critical thinking skills to improve on your already solid career foundation. Don’t be afraid to get creative in order to stand out.
And most of all, don’t limit yourself. There’s plenty of places to go.