When English majors reveal their chosen field of study, they are often met with one of two responses: “Oh, so you want to be an English teacher?” or “Why on earth did you choose English?” both of which loosely translate to “Good luck finding a job. Ever.”
In an economy that favors the scientifically and technologically inclined, the humanities are not only often forgotten, but also looked down upon. Fellow students often look relieved when they hear a peer is an English major, almost like they have one less competitor in the job market.
In reality, an English degree is one of the most versatile and prepares undergraduates for many careers. Yes, analyzing literature is a big part of the job, but with that follows skills such as becoming an effective communicator and researcher, learning applied writing for multiple industries, having knowledge of different cultures and traditions and thinking critically. Having any of these qualities creates a promising job applicant. Having all of them (not to mention knowing a few big words to throw out at cocktail parties) creates an ideal one.
Still not convinced? The following career paths can all be followed from an English degree.
Want to be a lawyer or a legal assistant? An undergrad concentration in English is one of the most traditional pre-law routes, alongside history, philosophy and political science. The American Bar Association notes that the skills needed for a solid foundation upon entering law school include critical reading, writing, oral communication, research and a general knowledge of different cultures and American society. Studying and analyzing writing is a great way to gain these.
Public relations and advertising
Being able to speak effectively and easily with large, diverse groups of people is a necessity for both public relations and advertising professionals. Writing persuasively in order to sell an argument based on a piece of literature is a common task in an English classroom and a great way to gain these skills. Communication classes are often requirements for English majors as well, allowing PR and advertising hopefuls to gain a breadth of writing experience.
Though many doubt the strength of traditional news outlets in the future, the public will always need a trusted source to provide them with balanced information, even if it is found on the Web. While journalism or communications concentrations can provide an undergrad with industry-specific instruction, an English degree creates just as many opportunities for honing writing and research. It also allows students to build a foundation of cultural knowledge and a chameleonic writing style that can be applied to the quickly changing digital media landscape.
When it comes down to finalizing any sort of publication — journalistic, advertising, technical, literary — an editor needs to be at the helm. Who better to comb through a document than the English grammar nerd? After writing dozens of papers over a college career, not to mention peer reviews or work experience, an English major has a discerning eye for correct and effective writing. Editors work with newspapers, magazines, websites, books, medical publications, business-to-business communications and more to create the best writing for any audience.
An often overlooked career is that of the technical writer. They produce documents like instruction manuals and disseminate complicated technical information in industries like the computer science and medical fields. They act almost like go-betweens for designers and manufacturers and their customers, making products easier to use and understand. Undergrads with an English degree and an interest, expertise or even a minor in specialized fields such as engineering or Web design are great candidates for this career, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In a world where everyone and their cat have a blog, effectively researched and entertaining writing is becoming important across all industries. An English undergraduate degree is a great way to gain these skills and more in preparation for the current economy — especially if you want to keep your career options open!
What do you plan to do with your degree? Tell us in the comments below!
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