Hope you are all having a great Monday evening (or potentially Tuesday for some readers across the world). I’m writing at night instead of this morning- got caught up with work-related writing. Hope you had a great weekend!
In the last post when I asked for your opinion about what you most wanted to see us highlighting on Looking for Pemberley, a surprisingly high percentage voted “Advice for English Majors.” So, when I came across this scathing yet satirical article from Holy Taco today listing “The 10 Most Worthless College Majors,” I was dismayed but not surprised to see English Lit as number 3 on the list.
English gets a bad reputation, not because it is academically “worthless.” It is fact, it is quite the opposite, and may be one of the most rigorous courses of study one can take in the College of Arts and Sciences (I am admitting some bias here, of course). One of the reasons English is tough is that English majors are not trained with skills for one specific career. For example, if you get a degree in Accounting, you will probably become “an accountant.” Likewise, if you get a degree in Paralegal Studies, it is because you probably would like to become a paralegal. I think you get the point.
Bad Reputation foods (Kool Aid and cookie) at Bauhaus Coffee shop, Seattle
If you are majoring in English, you can be almost anything, which leaves many at a loss for what to choose after graduation. Generally speaking, it is difficult to establish a career in literary analysis or essay writing. This is the case with many Humanities degrees, yet people still choose to pursue them. Why? In my opinion, degrees in the Humanities are fun, and also because they challenge students to become well-rounded citizens who question, analyze, think creatively, write and communicate effectively, present (literally and in writing) coherent arguments, and look at issues holistically.
In an earlier post, I mentioned a few helpful sites for English majors to look at, one of which is called 4 Humanities. In recent years the validity of the Humanities has been heavily questioned and disputed by academics. This is in large part because although the Humanities departments at a university level are responsible for the largest percentage of core course instruction, the research coming out of the Humanities doesn’t procure the same level of grant funding for the academe as the sciences. Also, since the level of research considered “publishable” is much more rigorous in the Humanities (solo-written 15-30 page monograph researched and written and edited by one individual) than in the sciences (rigorous and time consuming direct research is often performed by a team of people who all get author credit and a line on their CV), scholars in the sciences often have many more “published” articles.
Outside the route of graduate study and teaching at a college level, (and even those options are limited), the world can look pretty bleak for the unprepared English major. I remember that when I graduated from college I was extremely excited, but had a hard time finding a job that directly related to my skill set. I worked in a restaurant and also in a winery for a little over a year before returning to school. A lot of my fellow English grads either did the same, or pursued graduate study right off the bat.
If you major in English, you will often hear the questions, “oh. do you want to teach?” and “what can you do with that major?…teach?”
Let me just say that I believe teaching is an incredible profession, and many people I know did in fact pursue English degrees in order to become better educators. But, if teaching is not your passion, there are many other options for English majors, and possibly many more than pursuing a more specific field of study.
More good news: businesses are beginning to notice that hiring English Majors and people with other “worthless” degrees helps them convey specific messages, improving inter and extra company communication. and many of the jobs I have seen on craigslist recently require my skills.
I am proud of my major, and I feel lucky to have gone the route I did (trust me, I am well-aware of what a privilege it is to be able to pursue an education). My English major has helped me grow in countless ways. I have explored, and am still exploring career options in writing, editing, content writing, blogging, proofreading, teaching (yep, and I liked it!), private tutoring, marketing, researching, and transcribing for different authors and companies.
Since my reading and writing workload in both college and graduate school was so intense, I have drive and passion to do a wonderful job at any task which requires comprehension, mastery, or use of language. Furthermore, many of the jobs I have seen on craigslist recently require my specific skill set.
English Majors and other majors in the Humanities with a bad reputation (such as Philosophy) are often students who choose to pursue their degrees without a set career path or a job guarantee after college. Their professors expect them to study for the sake of learning, to read and present well, and to attempt to write more perfectly. To me, those goals are admirable and brave, not foolhardy.
What can I do with my major (and Masters Degree) in English? Anything that interests me. Just to prove that others can do the same, here is some inspiration about other English Majors who went on to do varied things in the world after graduating.
Oh, and here is a song for you:
Hence, in my (admittedly biased, yet research-based) opinion, English Majors are badasses, who often don’t give a damn about their bad reputation. Let’s keep it that way and carry on with what we love.