Back to School: The Case for majoring in English

By Maggie Wells on 22 August 2008 48 comments

Let me preface this by saying I’m an online instructor. Nearly every student I come in contact with is either a child development, information technology, criminal justice, business, nursing, or psych major. Occasionally we would get a liberal studies major intent on teaching elementary school. But in the realm of online majors, that’s pretty much it.

(I won’t even go into the whining from my students as they write persuasive essays regarding their fear of immigration and all of India coming over to take their jobs. You want HB-1 visa immigrants to stop taking your jobs? How about majoring in science, engineering, and math? Too hard? Alright then. Shush. )

Today’s online student and increasingly today’s traditional student as well, is treating college not so much as a place of higher learning, critical thinking, and broadening of the mind, but instead a vocational training ground for what are sometimes non-existent job prospects. Remember in the early 90s how everyone was a graphic arts major? Welcome today’s version of criminal justice. My husband is in IT and we've watched companies get rid of their in-house IT people left and right.

Students are spending thousands for very specific majors. Textbooks for these majors can amount to $90 for a paperback book. In four years, the jobs they are training for might be gone, curtailed, or outsourced. I don’t want to burst their bubbles. I say nothing. And personally, except for nursing which truly does have a shortage, I don’t know that I’m too keen on there being more cops, more self-esteem boosting majors like Child Dev. and Psych. I mean, isn’t the great American problem that we can’t take a freaking joke?

So with this all in mind, I offer the best major of all American majors—the one with the most job options, cheapest on books, and frugal on investment—the English major. Don’t laugh. Hear me out. You need reasons?

While in school these are the frugal and quality of life perks you can hope to enjoy.

•Textbooks. While still in college being an English major already saves you money. While most of your fellow college students are schlepping off to the campus bookstore to buy textbooks only found there or on a few college sanctioned websites at jacked up prices, you get to squander hours in used book stores and Amazon and eBay. I have an Elizabethan Prose and Poetry book that retailed in a college bookstore for $65 in 1990 which I bought used on the top of some dusty used book shelf for $2. You don’t really have to worry about which ‘editions’ you pick up. Most of things you’ll be reading are from dead people with little or no royalties owed them. And after your initial surveys you can take things in any order. My best friend sprung for the big Riverside Shakespeare edition in the fall semester and then I borrowed it from her to take the same class in the spring while she borrowed all my Milton. English is the cheapest major for books.

•Depression. While in college, you tend to be less depressed as an English or World Lit major—saving you valuable cash money that could otherwise be squandered on therapy. You get to read Crime and Punishment, so you don’t need therapy. Dostoevsky spells it out for you. That sounds weird doesn’t it? My most depressed moments in college weren’t with English majors, they were those moments in general education classes with future elementary school teachers who said things like “Ohmigod! Do we have to, like, read, all these books in one semester?!” Now that totally depresses me. I don’t want my kid in her second grade class, that’s for sure.

•Non-Impacted. I remember trying to get into some class for my minor and being waitlisted with no chance of getting in. And then it occurred to me in that same time slot was Modern Critical Theory. I ran across campus hoping not to be late. Wait a minute, I said to myself, sweat dripping off my brow, why am I running? Sure enough there were only 10 students in the class and the professor looked at me gratefully as I stumbled in late and asked if I could add it. This doesn’t happen in the major du jour departments.

•Better Parties and Drinking. Sure, there might be keggers a plenty down at the frat house with the business majors, but you just got to try a 30 year old single malt scotch that your Irish poetry and prose professor brought to class to make the class more ambient while you watch slides of his favorite pubs in Dublin. After all, you’ve just finished a slew of Yeats and Joyce. You can’t buy that sort of story.

•Coolest part-time jobs. English majors get hired to work in bars, bookstores, and record stores. We take all the cool jobs you wish you had. There’s a bookstore in San Francisco that seems to only hire college graduates and what did they major in? You guessed it—English.

•Heads up on the Surreal. Let’s face it. Life after college becomes this weird surreal madness of social networking, begging for work, allegiances that might go nowhere and the randomness of landing a job because you sat next to the right person on a plane even though you know next to nothing about the job the nice man in the suit wants to give you. Only great literature prepares you for the absurd.

And after you’ve graduated and you are looking for work and you are wondering just how those seminars on Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner and that other one on the Existential Novels from Germany and France are benefiting you think about this:

Critical Thinking in the Mad, Mad, World. My first job out of college was at a newspaper where the first thing the editor said to me was, “English major? Good! You can think!” Apparently it’s what we are known for. We’ve been writing random papers for four years comparing and contrasting things with no similarities whatsoever. We’ve given esoteric a new name. We’ve written twenty page papers on poems of ten lines. This translates straight into the real world. No task too odd or strange. We are at the desk immediately researching any wacky thing a boss can throw at us and we do it with a smile. After all, we are the kind of people who can play Scrabble for days on end without getting bored. Corporate America loves us for this. You will be hired for your ability to take weirdness and run with it. The creative mind!

•Vague Enough to Encompass Anything. The English majors I know and love from undergraduate days to graduate school to now have a diverse resume of careers: lawyers, politicians, K-12 teachers, professors , writers and editors of all genres, small business owners, web designers, bartenders, singers, waitresses, IT analysts, preschool teachers, librarians, artists, graphic designers, and seasonal forestry workers. None of them have gone into Nursing that I know of, but other than that, they’ve covered all the bases that the more popular majors insist are the only way to fly. The English major yields many more job opportunities. The average person sometimes is even a little afraid of the English major. It works to your advantage.

And so incoming freshmen, it might first appear that becoming an English major is antiquated and useless in our contemporary high tech age, but I think you’d be sorely mistaken to take this view. College should be about experiencing the world and the English major will get you there without the investment of expensive technology or books—and how else will you get to read about bestiality in early American Puritan settlements, write papers on it, and get an A?


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Guest's picture

My major is Criminology with a minor in History. My degree can take me anywhere:

Forensics Investigator
History teacher
Criminology teacher

I love my major.

Guest's picture

I have a degree in English, won a bunch of awards for it, etc, but job offers have been slim. Perhaps it's where I"m located, or the fact I'm too poor to venture out beyond a certain mileage (in addition to too poor to do much of a commute sans bicycle). I approached college wanting to maximize my chances at landing a self-fulfilling job, in whatever field that may be, so I undertook a course of study to teach me to think and communicate at a very high level (English and philosophy) rather then learn a specific set of information that I could probably pick up in a few months on a new job anyway. The more I try to enter the "B.A. Job market", the more I see that it's that latter part in demand, not the former.

Your evaluation of in-college benefits is right on though--I date a Math/Education major, and, while her books are reusable (not to say that novels, collections aren't) the prices are through the roof! As for parties, well, having dinner and drinking with George Saunders, getting drunk with David Dubal (Jerome Rose's student) and getting to interview Lewis Black were certainly highlights of my collegiate English career.

Guest's picture

Being a teacher yourself, you come off highly critical of people in the education field. You are so impressed with your ability to read and write papers "comparing and contrasting things that have no similarities". Who exactly do you think it was that taught you to read and write? Or gave you the foundation for the critical thinking skills that allowed you to write such papers? That would be an elementary teacher. We aren't all idiots who say "Oh my gosh, do we have to like read all those books?" I am currently pursuing my Master's, but just finished up teaching 2nd grade. Coming right out of undergraduate, I had my choice of jobs. A friend from college who was an English major spent that same year looking for a job, and finally decided to go back and get her Master's in something that would offer more job security in the future.

And on the note of mocking your students in the "popular" fields right now...How can you be a good teacher if you don't believe in your students and their goals? I was taught to set the bar high for my students and expect the best, so that then in turn they expected the best of themselves.

Guest's picture

Nope, I wouldn't want the Oh my gosh, do we have to like read all those books?" teaching my children either. How can one "believe in your students" who are majoring in General Education or Criminal Science?

Guest's picture

As humorous as some of the reasons you listed are (e.g. do English majors really have better parties or is that wishful thinking?), I think it is very important to consider what you want to do when choosing a major. Granted, you might not know what you want to do, and I definitely believe that being well-rounded is important. And with an English major, there are definitely many available career paths.

However, not all career paths are easily accessible without a degree in that field. Just look at the minimum requirements on job listing sites! Unless you know someone who knows your skills, you may find it difficult getting your foot in the door. And even then, you generally have to have some specific skills -- many of which are taught in specific degree programs.

Looking at the list of careers you gave, some of those are going to require an additional degree -- or no degree at all. Many require specific skills or experience or knowledge or capital or talent, etc. etc. etc. An English degree won't make you a singer. It probably won't hurt, but if you have the talent, then you're probably better off saving your money and investing in singing lessons. In that respect, having an English major isn't anything special per se.

Now, I'm not against English degrees -- I just don't think that they're one size fits all solution. If you want to take an English degree for professional or personal reasons, that's great, but know why you're taking it as with any major. It's a lot of money to spend if really you're just undecided.

And as an English major (or any other type of major), add on other majors or minors to help differentiate yourself from the crowd, intern as much as you can, get work experience, start projects. Do not think that a college degree entitles you to a job, period.

Guest's picture
Jim T

Earning an English degree is so generic. It's like winning an award for good attendance. All it tells your future employers (if any) is that you managed not to sleep through most of your classes.

Guest's picture

I'm glad I have a BS in chemistry. Now for 6 years of grad school, yippee! And everybody knows chemistry majors throw the best parties... :) Well, we all drink, at least. Speaking of which, I think I need some amaretto...

Guest's picture
poor and broke

I'm not worried about immigrants coming here and taking my job. But I am worried about the EXCESS (illegal) immigrants who are filling vacant housing units and thereby driving up rents.

What's your answer for that?

Guest's picture
poor and broke

p.s. Rents are up here 20-25 percent over the last three years. I used to be able to afford a small studio apartment, now all I can afford is a room in a house with eight other people.

Guest's picture

I think some people missed the message though.

Meg (2): The ability to communicate is an important thing, but not the only thing. Flexibility is just as important.

Guest(3): Lighten up.

Meg (4): likewise

Jim T (5): If you don't think the ability to stay awake during boring presentations (aka meetings) is important, you will probably never reach your full earning potential.

Robin (6): You have a BS in Chemistry and you party by... drinking??? You have never heard the saying "better living through chemistry?"

poor and broke (7 & 8): You could probably find better rent options. what city do you live in?


Maggie Wells's picture

It's all about being able to laugh at one's self right? I'm sorry if people do not have a sense of humor. I go to bat for my students all day long but I also encourage them away from trendy majors and towards the ones that might have more longevity. I'm finding though that majoring in English is paying off in many ways---even though it sounds silly to have majored in the language one be it. 



Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Guest's picture

Exactly what I tell students (about English, Biology, Political Science, Anthropology, Philosophy, Sociology -- any liberal arts major)! Well, not exactly. I have to be a bit more tactful.

Now, if you'll go in and fix the following sentence (Ms. English major!):

"I don’t know that I’m too keen on their being more cops..."

It should be 'there' rather than 'their', I promise to forward this link to the English Department chair at my university. She'll like this.

Maggie Wells's picture

Also couldn't spell for ****. But I count on you guys to find the errors. I actually caught both errors and more but had trouble getting back in to edit.


Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Guest's picture

Uh, some of these reasons seem pretty silly. I was an engineering major but I borrowed books from the college library, too. English majors are not the only ones who can think and have great parties. Engineers have the best nerd parties with board games, video games, and booze.

Oh by the way, English is my second language but I think the word is probably "hire" and not "higher" in this sentence "There’s a bookstore in San Francisco that seems to only higher college graduates and what did they major in? You guessed it—English."

Guest's picture

Oh, and now you changed it to "hirer". That's a noun and not a verb.

Guest's picture

I think some people took this post a little more seriously than necessary.

I'm a high school teacher, and if my students asked me what to major in for job security, I would say a science. A broad category of science, like biology or chemistry. Because I have one friend who has a definite career that came straight out of college, no additional degrees needed, and he's a scientist.

If they asked about something that will make them well-rounded and prepare them for lots of jobs but no specific jobs in particular, that's when I'd offer up the advice to major in English or another liberal art.

Drama has all the benefits of English listed in this post. So if you give English a try but it's not for you, maybe give Drama a go. Double-majoring in Drama was by far my best academic choice in college.

Maggie Wells's picture

Wasn't former Disney CEO Michael Eisener a theatre major?

Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Guest's picture

actually, the most depressed and depressing people i knew in college were english majors. they're the ones who refused to get a job during the summer because "they weren't gonna work for the MAN, man!" and so they'd just mooch off of their girlfriends who work two+ jobs while "the writer" works tirelessly to cultivate their "struggling and introspective artist" image by pretending to have had such a difficult upbringing and tragic life (growing up in Greenwich, CT, of course). Thick framed glasses, lots of handrolled cigarettes, flannel. They all looked the same and all had nothing of interest to say, were constantly complaining that "no one else in this class knows what they're talking about! I'm the only one who knows how to write!" and "i'm soooooo misunderstood, and no one understands that!"

however i do know one (count, one) person who majored in english and was a generally awesome, well-balanced, highly intelligent lady with realistic goals and ambitions. so i wouldn't say that all english majors are obnoxiously pretentious hipster douchebags suffering from some sort of adolescent hangover, but i will say that English majors (almost exclusively) are prone to what I'd call "English Majoritis." Philosophy majors come in as a close second -- but i think their degree is hands-down completely useless.

Guest's picture

I'll have to disagree and bet you've never been to a PRTM party. Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management students (Also referred to as Party Right 'Til May majors) throw outrageous parties and have access to fun locations.

English majors need to be a little more aggressive to get jobs. With a little more ambition, you have a lot of options. I still stand by my profession as a clinical scientist. The parties were nonexistent, the books were expensive, I was incredibly depressed but now I have people begging me to take a job at their hospital.

Guest's picture

I've got two English degrees and I love the hell out of my job. Well, the work is boring, but the people are great.

Professional writing is way different from being a free-loading aspiring novelist, though.

Guest's picture

I also have two English degrees and completed both while serving on active duty in the Air Force. As I start to think about life after the military, I'm a bit lost as to where I might look for work, so I want to begin by teaching some online English classes part-time. What school do you teach for? Do you have any suggestions to help me out?

I enjoyed this article quite a bit and even shared it with my brother who is also an English major.

Maggie Wells's picture

Online colleges usually value 'real world' experience over or in tandem with teaching experience. University of Phoenix is a good place to start online (most online instructors I know started there) however I'd suggest trying your local community college first--especially if you have some sort of tie to the community. It can be kind of like getting your SAG card for actors---you can't work unless you have a card but you can't get a card unless you work.


Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Guest's picture

and I work on Wall Street so go figure. My degree has helped me more than just having a business degree ever would. Being able to see the big picture and not be so narrowly focused has definitely been a benefit. And if worse comes to worse it makes a good story when I talk to clients.

Guest's picture

You may be seeing more of the specialized degrees because that's what employers are willing to pay for.

I'm a Liberal Art major with a big humanities focus (I'm striving to be one of those depressing people that guest #16 met in college) and my employer wants very little part in assisting with my degree. If I were willing to major in business, information technology or accounting they'd be much obliged. Not a complaint really but a thought that might explain at least one aspect of what might be contributing to the phenomena.

What do folks think of a degree in Economics?

Guest 7 - how does your view on housing account for gentrification?

Guest's picture

"I won’t even go into the whining from my students as they write persuasive essays regarding their fear of immigration and all of India coming over to take their jobs. You want HB-1 visa immigrants to stop taking your jobs? How about majoring in science, engineering, and math? Too hard? Alright then. Shush."

Well said.

Guest's picture

You forgot one other really important benefit of being an English major - knowing how to write well. It is such a valuable skill that so many college grads seem to miss out on.

My dad was extremely worried about my career prospects when I declared my major, but in 8 years I went from intern to marketing director. Not bad. Now I'm moving on to my second career (law) and am leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of my class because I can read quickly and write well.

I'm not saying being a science major or any other major is bad, just consider that being an English major can take you really far.

Guest's picture

Books are much cheaper and there are no lectures or labs or homework. You'll need graduate school for a job anyway so you might as well enjoy your BA. I think a humanities BA should take 3 years at which point you can move on to learning plumbing or engineering.

If you do want a job after school make sure your school has an internship program. You need something more practical than "BA in English" on your resume to even have a chance at a job.

Guest's picture

I loved most of my English career in college. Now I'm a technical writer. Writing all of those papers paid off. I've always read a lot and liked to write so getting a degree in English was the perfect fit for me.

I didn't find my fellow grad students as enjoyable as my undergraduate classmates, however. I used to walk across the street to avoid some of them. The prospects of their getting work after more than ten years working on a very narrow topic weren't good, and taking out loans to do so must have been a burden. I was content with my "terminal" M.A. from a respected university. Qualified for the fid, but wasn't interested.

I had a more practical nature--worked as an editor, research assistant for a medical education project, and, yes, at a book store--unrewarding because it was a chain that saw books as fungible products. If the lights went out, x number would still move out the door.

Had exposure to computer concordances in grad school, which led to my being hired as a tech writer (a friend landed my first job for me).

English is an ideal major for certain students. I believe most of
them know if it is right for them.

Guest's picture

As a recent grad with an English major, I totally agree with everything you said except for "non-impacted." That one must depend on the school--at my tiny, understaffed school, English wasn't the hardest major to take classes in (that would probably be poli sci) but it wasn't always easy, either. English was the most popular major and except for classes with particularly unpopular teachers, they were all full.

Another benefit of the English major is that any electives you take are totally relevant to some class you took or are taking. Oh, and when you have to write papers in them, your teachers are blown away because none of the students in that major know how to write!

Guest's picture
Charles M

I majored in English because I really didn't know what I wanted to do. English, journalism, and languages were lumped into the same department, and the chair of the English department was also director of academic computing who taught courses in integrating technology and learning. This was in the early '90s, when the Internet was still an academic tool, and the most popular computers in education were Macs. (I still have a working Mac SE from 1991 that I use for all my creative writing.)

As a result of exposure to four fields (English, journalism, languages, and computing) in one major, my first job out of college was as a copy editor for a newspaper in Louisiana. I didn't even have to apply for that job; they found me before I even graduated because I was editor of the student newspaper my senior year of college – a position I was offered by the chair of the department despite not being a journalism major.

When it came time to build the newspaper's original website, I was the only one on staff who knew anything about the Internet, so I was the one who spearheaded the project. The website won media awards statewide, and that soon led to an offer by a television station to work for them on a temporary basis building their first website. While working for them, I came to the attention of a consulting firm that sold and supported accounting software to technology companies. When that business tanked in 2002, and I was laid off, a business associate mentioned me to a consulting firm in Chicago that also did the same kind of work, but for a larger, more stable industry. I was offered that job after a Friday-evening, 30-minute phone call with the vice president of the company, and drove into Chicago two weeks later. After four years, I left the company (but keep close connections with it) to consult on my own, in a very specialized but high-demand niche. I stay booked anywhere from three to six months in advance, and there's no end in site.

So what was at one time only a hobby – computers and technology – has now become my lifeblood despite having no formal training, degree, or certifications in any tech-related field. What I do have is a degree in English and the critical-thinking skills that come along with it. It's given me a diverse, fulfilling, and profitable career, and I'm only 13 years out of college.

Unlike those with specialized degrees who work in the same field their entire careers, I have no idea what the future holds, but I'm looking forward to finding out. Maybe I'll do some travel writing, or make a few bucks off my photography hobby, or sell some of my short stories, or indulge my interest in marine biology, or – well, you get the picture. The sky's the limit!

Guest's picture

I thought this post was great too :)

I don't know how English majors work in the U.S., but up here you're not limited to studying literature. My major was in language and professional writing, not literature. I took a few lit courses, but I also took stylistics, linguistics, genre studies, rhetoric, critical theory and digital design. Excellent training for many careers.

Guest's picture

I have a BA in English. It has been basically useless as I would have known how to read and write as well as think critically, without it. No one has ever hired me on the basis of that degree, and art majors throw better parties.

Guest's picture

I loved reading this post, it made me smile and wince, sometimes both at once. Written like a true English major! Well done, Margaret!

Guest's picture

All of this is what I've been saying about my English major for years, all nicely pulled together. It's all true, but also humorous, and I'll be putting up a link on my blog shortly.

For people who are a little bent out of shape up in the comments here, no, if you want to be a doctor or an accountant, maybe an English degree isn't the best option. But you CAN major (or minor) in English and still go to med school or run a company. I know someone who did both of those. I think the point is that English, and learning to communicate effectively, is an important basis for any field...grad school can get you into the nitty gritty of your chosen profession. What I always say is that if nothing else, my major taught me to write emails quickly and well. I say it jokingly, but how often have you read a business email from someone that is rife with errors? Even that medium can reflect poorly if not written well.

Thanks for reminding all of us that, although teaching is a wonderful profession, it's not the only option for an English major. I never had any interest in being a teacher (it's just not for me), and I spent my college years defending my lovely major as a result.

For the record, I am an outreach coordinator for a nonprofit. And I love it!

Guest's picture

While in college, you tend to be less depressed as an English or World Lit major—saving you valuable cash money that could otherwise be squandered on therapy.

WTF? Seriously? lol

I would genuinely hope anyone who chooses to explore a degree in English would do it for reasons completely unrelated to ANY of those offered above. If you're going after subjects that have fewer or cheaper textbooks, then maybe further education just isn't for you!

Guest's picture

Maybe I didn't have enough English major friends in college, but the ones I did have (4 or 5) are all working low paying jobs and unhappy with their job situation.At my school it seemed like English was the major people took if they couldn't pick a major.

My mother in law on the other hand got her master's degree in English* ** and has worked for one of the US's largest paper companies, one of the US's largest chemical companies and very high up the ranks for a well known motorcycle company.

* Her undergrad was in communications
** Her master's thesis was titled "The structure of the paragraph". Enthralling.

Guest's picture

"Get a degree, it doesn't matter in what, and you'll be able to get a better job." Ok, so now I have two degrees, one a professional degree, and I still struggle every time it's time to get me a new job. Unless you get a technical degree, plan on spending some good amount of time working your way up the corporate ladder or getting some more post-grad degrees in order to find employment.


Guest's picture

Maybe the "get a degree and get a better job" rule worked in the 70s but now you have to have the right degree, tons of experience even before you graduate and know a lot of people in the right area or you get a McJob!

English majors major in Starbucks. Want to get a real job? Sciences, Math, Engineering, and medical is where the money is at.

Guest's picture

Just make sure you keep the better parties and intellectual discussions from extending from beyond the English major social circle. You might find, as a few of my more pretentious English major friends have, that your superior education doesn't help you nearly as much as you thought it would when dealing with your other, more common, acquaintances.

I had thought that my school was the only one producing English majors with an intense false sense of superiority. Thanks, this will help me to better explain their behavior to my other friends in the future.

Guest's picture

I actually have a Master in Writing so I think I can speak on this debate. I think it's much easier to enjoy "English" and literature on your own time than it is to learn econ or business. Plus, an econ degree will open lots of doors in the professional world. An English degree may give you a lot of tools to work with, but the degree itself is virtually worthless. Kind of like when people say "that was a priceless experience." Actually, just like that.

Guest's picture

It was my English degree that got me a Technical Writing Internship at a Fortune 500 company.

The degree and the work experience it brought me has been extremely valuable.

Guest's picture

Anthropology has the best parties. Cultural anthropologists justify drinking as necessary to "create rapport." Physical and biological anthropologists drink because they spend their days squatting in the dirt. Either way, we rock it! Last anthro party I went to began with (and ended with!) shots of Albanian moonshine.

Maggie Wells's picture

You know....I've heard about you anthro majors...might have to look into that one.

Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Guest's picture

Where is everyone's sense of humor. I'm a nursing student and thought this article was hysterical.

Guest's picture

I'm a high school student thinking about majoring in english, and I thought this article was extremely helpful untill I scrolled down and read then comments.

Being a third party viewer I noticed that the bottom line is you all think you have the best majors and went into the best fields of study.

So I have concluded that since english is what I love I will have to do it because no matter what I do I'm going to think it's the greatest thing in the world. You people make it to complicated for me.

If I read the title correctly, this article is for people who are becoming english majors. It's helped me out, so if you guys want to talk and boast about your majors then you can write your own article geared toward people going into your fields.

So since I am decided, any additional information about being a english major would be nice. I am more interested in job oppurtunities after college, as well as what getting you PHd can offer.

Thanks for the read!!!

Guest's picture

Major in what you love or you will regret it later! Employers look for winners with profit potential and losers will never receive the position no matter what the degree. History shows you don't even need a degree to be a success so don't listen to those idiots who think their future has anything to do with yours.

In all categories of degrees you will find people who make it or not! Five years from now they will not even care what your degree is in so enjoy the process now. You know you are talking to a moron when they try to say that the type of degree has anything to do with your long term success. Study the recent history of the most successful people in this country and the truth will be told. Never ask permission from strangers to live your life your way....The world belongs to the risk takers!!! so go for it!! Love the article....

Guest's picture

If your more analytical of bent it has stricken me that Mathematics Majors have a similar core flexibility in their thinking processes and acumen that the English major enjoys. A course of study open-ended with little (apparent) "snap-in" functionality but yet teaches the graduate-practricianer to think out of the box. Probably it shouldn't surprise me with the ob-stated mathematics is in effect another language. If you can't spell (like me) it's probably a good fall-back major from English....

Guest's picture
Andrew Cole

I am sick of hearing about how valuable a liberal arts/English degree is. Reading, writing and communicating well are only useful if you have something of value to communicate; as highly as you might regard your opinions, they are not vital to society. You might develop critical thinking during school, but not to the exclusion of other majors that also teach valuable skills. Unless you pick it up somewhere else, being an English major will not provide you with the skill, knowledge or experience to engage in any real world problem solving that actually matters to anybody.

Everything in the realm of science, technology, engineering and math will be completely off the table. You might be able to do a few tech related jobs if you receive additional training that you could have gotten without the English degree, but everything else in STEM requires to much math that you will never catch up on by yourself. You can rule out anything medical as well since they also require a firm foundation in science. You won't have any trade skills either, so no plumbing, electrical, HVAC, woodworking, etc. You won't have the foundational knowledge to tackle the social sciences either, especially considering that you've had no statistics training.

In fact, without substantial secondary education or vocational training, you won't be suited to do much of anything; you could go into a closely related field like journalism or be a low paid proofreader for corporate documents and research grants. You can't even become a lawyer without going to law school first. I think it's time for English apologists to smell the coffee; your degree is practically worthless.