When most people hear someone say “I’m an English major” or anything related to the Humanities, their response is to scoff at them and assume that the student will never get a job with that degree. That, of course, could not be farther from the truth. In fact, liberal arts majors and humanities majors had 9% unemployment according to a study in 2011, which is on par with people that are in STEM. English majors specifically are not limited to teaching. Those who were English majors in college have actually been known to work for the FBI and CIA. English majors have a wide range of jobs including positions as a policy analyst, real estate, urban planning, investigator, museum curator, and more. And, fun fact, 30% of students accepted to medical schools come from the Humanities. On that note, allow me to what I specifically learned as an English major in college.
I learned multiple skills that are extremely useful outside of an academic setting. The most obvious skill I gained was communication, both written and oral. Believe it or not, we didn’t just write 24/7 but we had a lot of oral presentations to complete as well. I also had to work in many groups, including a content design team, that required high level oral communication skills in order to complete projects. This, of course, can be translated into the workplace in regards to working as a team. I also learned the skill of critical thinking. This allowed me to understand the logical connection between ideas, which is something that can easily seen in my capstone paper. I had to use critical thinking in order to connect 15 secondary sources to one primary source. English majors also learn about global perspectives. In my university, English majors were required to focus on American and British literature and their histories. We were also given the opportunity to explore different regions such as African American literature and Native American literature. I chose to study the US South which mainly consisted of indigenous people. I also enrolled in a course for my minor where we learned how to write in a workplace setting while being conscious about how others from different cultures and countries could interpret what we say and write. Lastly, we learned creative problem solving. This skill allowed us to develop new ideas and solutions to problems, such an environmental concerns.
My university also taught us skills in different elements of literature. For example, we were taught how to identify the different elements of, how to analyze, and how to deep read poetry, fiction, drama, and non-fiction prose. We were also taught how to articulate the major trends of American literature and British literature. Students were also required to learn how to demonstrate writing as a process including prewriting and revision, how to create and support an argument, how to incorporate primary and secondary sources using proper MLA documentation, how to construct a close reading supported by textual evidence that is smoothly and purposefully incorporated into the text, and how to interpret texts from various critical and theoretical perspectives. We also had to learn how to write or a range of audiences on a range of subjects. We had to exhibit sound organizational strategies in written work, which included logical sentence structure and thoughtfully-developed paragraphs. We had to identify the social, cultural, economic, and geographical influences on language change in American and British English. Students were required to conduct intellectually-honest research and maintain integrity in the use of outside courses, which also included gaining the skill to navigate library resources from databases to print to non-print sources. We had to identify the influence of multiple cultures on texts and explain the impact of race on texts. Finally, we had to explain how ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and class had impacts on texts.
In short, this degree was not the cake walk most people seem to think it is. This degree required a different type of skill set than other degrees and had work just as difficult as anyone else but in a different way. I have officially completed my last semester as a full time student and I need to complete one final course over the summer in order to graduate. What will I do with this degree? I still don’t know. I have a decent job right now with good benefits that allows me to also work on an internship. I’m okay with where I am, content with what I learned, and know that I can do whatever I am passionate about with this degree. The amount of English students in the United States has dropped significantly as each year passes and I truly hope that more choose to study what they love because, as I outlined here, it isn’t a useless degree if it’s something you love.