Attention English majors: You can find a job after college!
These days it may seem tough to be an English major. Amid all the advice being thrown at college students, some of the most common advice has to do with being careful to make sure you’re earning a degree that will ensure a stable, well-paying, benefits-included job. For STEM majors, this task might seem like a breeze, but for some other majors it’s a little bit more difficult to pinpoint where your major and passions will carry you.
As Travis Williams, chair of the English department says, “That’s why it’s a challenge to be an English major now, because people don’t understand on the face of it how being an English major translates into having a job when you’re done being an English major.”
He explains that English majors, due to the widely-applicable and valuable skills that they are developing, have more difficulty determining exactly where their skills should best be put to use. English and other humanities majors have “this hurdle that what we are called [English, History, Philosophy] does not correspond to the career names that our graduates very often go into, and do very well at, compared to disciplines like Engineering, Nursing, Pharmacy, etc.”
To some, though, this wide range of career options is the beauty of being an English major. Junior Nate Vaccaro explains that he finds majoring in English to be valuable because, “it gives a core set of skills that are adaptable to a ton of diverse career paths and life journeys.” He also explains that, though nowadays there is a great amount of emphasis on the growth of STEM fields.
“STEM fields rely on those who study humanity’s cultures, creations and communication in order to operate effectively,” Vaccaro said. “Equal value must be placed on both STEM and the humanities in order for there to be a balance and better understanding of STEM and why we pursue fields in STEM, to better humanity.”
What are these widely applicable skills that English majors use to better humanity? According to Williams, English majors are particularly good at close reading, writing precisely and persuasively, thinking creatively and critically and analyzing situations that may not always have a cut and dry solution.
“Most of the big problems worth our attention today, that need our attention today, are those kinds of problems,” said Williams. “They’re not going to be solved in our lifetimes, they can merely be managed and directed, with intense, deep critical thinking and ethical thinking, and those are the kinds of skills that success from the English major allows people to very easily acquire and deploy”.
As to the prospect of English majors needing to find jobs in this difficult job market, Williams isn’t too concerned. He notes that thanks to their adaptability, English majors are entering almost every industry there is, including accounting, finance, technology, medicine and law.
Vaccaro notes that oftentimes having a degree in the humanities can actually give you an edge when applying for jobs in other fields.
“Having a degree in English lets employers know that you have skills in critical thinking, evaluation and communication, all of which are increasingly rare skills,” said Vaccaro.
Even beyond all the practical reasons for choosing one major over another, Williams’ case for choosing a major is simple: do what you love.
“If you do what interests you, what really interests you… you’re going to do well at it,” said Williams. “And that is the best possible calling card when you’re trying to get a job, I don’t care where that job is… If that’s Classics and English, if that’s biology and math, if that’s any combination you can think of, do it because you like it and you find it invigorating, and you’re excited to turn your attention to that work, because then you’re going to do well, and doing well is the silver bullet.”