Is Pursuing an English Degree a Good Choice?

Is pursuing an english degree a good choice?A popular meme on social media sites features Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, usually making a casual observation and then following it with a good degree of snark: “Oh so you thought since it was 80 degrees in December, it would be warm on Spring Break…how long have you lived in Texas?” One that I have not seen – yet: “Oh so you got a degree in English…how is poverty suiting you?”

English majors are in decline based on a misconception about the endgame: post-graduate employment.  Although I firmly believe that the arguments for why a Humanities degree is more enriching than ANY talk about economic realities, making them would be lost.  Quite frankly, many people do not want to hear about the search for truth, living a life worth living, finding the good and beautiful, etc.  “That is all fine and dandy, but it won’t put food on the table.”

Financial Woes Myth

Getting a degree in English does not doom one to a life of employment woes and financial assistance.  According to a Drury University study of Humanities and non-Humanities graduates, both sets “really don’t differ by much with respect to unemployment rates” (“Human”).  This means a matter of one or two percentage points.  According to Georgetown University’s report, Hard Times, this percentage reduces to fractions of a point on average with field experience or graduate study (Weissman). In short, those concerned stakeholders (parent, friends, etc.) of potential English majors should not worry themselves about a perception based on the supposition that English majors face high unemployment.

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English “Professions” Outside the Box

Another prime misconception is the notion that the only jobs available to English graduates are in education or what we call “words professions” (writing, editing, publishing, etc.). This is so far from the truth.

English graduates possess a unique combination of skills which many employers value: communication (oral AND written), critical thinking, global perspectives, and creative problem solving.  Although many agencies call these soft skills, they are highly valued. The FBI and CIA recruit English majors for this very reason. That’s right (cue dramatic action music), the F–B–I!

Of course, if this line of work is not a student’s cup of tea, then the following is just a sample of career opportunities:

  • library sciences
  • communications manager
  • policy analyst
  • purchasing agent
  • special events coordinator
  • insurance
  • real estate
  • urban planning
  • investigator
  • lobbyist
  • museum curator

This list does not include the various occupations associated with education and writing. The English degree accommodates a wide variety of interests, passions, and gifts whether in, among others, administration, arts and entertainment, non-profit agencies, law, or medicine.

30% of students accepted to medical schools come from the Humanities – yep, you read that right!

Thus to all of those apprehensive students, friends, and family, do not fret.  Although some jobs are more lucrative than others (did you know that Matt Damon was an English major?), the English degree is not the kiss of death.  In fact, in so many ways which I cannot explain in this posting, it is immersion in life. Moreover, with the many career opportunities out there for those adept in the “soft” skills, the chances for employment are far from limited.

Of course, being an FBI agent still sounds cool!

References

Are you convinced and ready to pursue a degree in the humanities? The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor offers exciting degrees through the College of Humanities. We invite you to stop by for a visit, and see if UMHB is a fit for you.
Dr. Jacky Dumas

Dr. Jacky Dumas

I have been teaching at UMHB since 2007 and currently serve as the English Department Chair. I am a Comparative Classicist by training and a pop culture scholar by choice.
Dr. Jacky Dumas

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Dr. Jacky Dumas

About Dr. Jacky Dumas

I have been teaching at UMHB since 2007 and currently serve as the English Department Chair. I am a Comparative Classicist by training and a pop culture scholar by choice.

  • Elise M.

    I graduated with an English Literature degree last year- I had absolutely no intention of ending up in the field that I currently work in, but I couldn’t be more grateful for it. I currently work in events as an Executive Assistant for an international car rally company- a fast-paced, exciting job which has me working in various locations, constantly meeting and dealing with new people, and being paid to deal with the likes of nightclubs and hotels around the world, as well as being paid to travel and work around the world. Whether anyone thinks that an English degree is useful is irrelevant (unless you’re seeking to go into something specifically related to English- such as the likes of lecturing), if it’s something that you’re passionate about, and you’re driven enough to go after what you want in life once you’ve finished, as well as being proactive enough along the way to get yourself a broad spectrum of work experience, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Likewise, the same goes for fields that are directly related to English degrees and similar qualifications.