Bad Reputation

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.

Happy Monday,

Miss E


11 comments on “Bad Reputation

  1. auntjim says:

    If I had to do it all over again, I would have majored in one of those “worthless” degrees – history – because that’s what I love. I would still have gone into business. The analytical and communication skills developed through a course of studies in the Humanities set one apart in the business world. The day-to-day knowledge of a specific business or industry is all on the job training. Besides, changing jobs and careers is the norm today. We all have to become life-long learners – and that’s what a Humanities degree prepares you to do.

    Also – I love your blog name. Thanks for stopping by my blog – else I’d have missed this gem.

  2. yarnmama10 says:

    I love your reasons for studying the Humanities. They reflect my own and had I gone to college, I would have done the same. I married and started a family out of high school, with no regrets. I have always been a self educated sort, and have continued that as an adult. English Lit is where I have spent most of my Classic reading energy. Admittedly I probably haven’t read as vigorously as I would in a college setting, since it’s done mainly for pleasure, but I believe I get much from it anyway.

  3. kofegeek says:

    Bad Reputation foods? I don’t think its bad, as a student i love simply (read: cheap and fast) food. Looks like my daily menus 😀

    • Nice! Yeah, I eat it too, which explains the picture 😉 Ramen noodles are my secret food weekness actually, and even though I graduated last spring, I’m still on a student-esque budget too. Thanks for your comment!

  4. LoCal Russian says:

    I very much liked this post. The post, as well as the blog itself inspired me to read about Jane Austin and her life, and also to watch the “Bad Reputation” video by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Personally, I am a “troll,” not a “fuzzy” – in other words throughout my academic career my teachers (in fields like physics, mathematics and computer science) have had a strong directive to prepare me for a particular type of career. However, I have always run from that directive as fast as I could. It is heartening to know that there are many people who, with full knowledge of what is ahead of them, choose the opposite path right from the start – a path that never promises the comforts of a particular career path or professional calling. Now I am a massage therapist specializing on nervous tissue – and I love it. I could never have walked the path that has lead me to the profession I love without the inspiration of “fuzzies” (if I may use that expression) such as you. Respectfully, LoCal Russian.

    • Thank you so much! I had never heard the term “fuzzy” to describe us, but it is really neat, and I think I’ll start using that. Wonderful to hear you carved your own path, and I’m so glad you shared your story with us- amazing and very brave, in my opinion! Plus, massage is awesome!

  5. Sheryl says:

    Great post. Years ago I got a degree in another “worthless” major: history. And, I never regretted it. It provided great preparation for all the twists and turns my life has taken over the years.

  6. uncommonprincess says:

    Cool song, thanks for liking my post.

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