Some of them you’ve probably heard of, like Jodie Foster, Conan O’Brien, Sting, Martin Scorsese, Steven King, and Barbara Walters. Add astronaut Sally Ride and Nobel Laureate Harold E. Varmus, former director of the National Cancer Institute. And then there are the CEOs, past and present, such as Michael Eisner (Disney), Anne Mulchany (Xerox), and Grant Tinker (NBC). What do all of these people have in common? A degree in English.
We can’t guarantee you’ll be famous, but whatever your career plans, an English major will help you prepare for success. Why? To start with, English majors write clearly and persuasively. If you’ve written a research paper in English, you know how to find and synthesize multiple information sources, analyze complex documents, and organize your ideas so that others will understand them.
“If you teach students one trade, that skill might be obsolete in a few years. But if you teach people how to think and look at lots of information and connect dots – all skills that a classic liberal education gives you – you will thrive.” — Vivek Randave, “A Liberal Arts Degree Is More Valuable Than Learning Any Trade”
Every writing assignment, class discussion, and group project has also honed your ability to solve problems through critical and creative thinking.
“Critical thinkers can accomplish anything.” –David Kalt, former CEO of optionsXpress
And as an English major, you have been immersed in literary traditions that span the globe, giving you the ability to understand multiple viewpoints and to work effectively in a diverse world. In short, as an English major, you have the tools you need to be leaders in the workplace and in the world.
“Literature is unbelievably helpful, because no matter what business you are in, you are dealing with interpersonal relationships […]. It gives you an appreciation of what makes people tick.”– English major Michael Eisner, former Disney CEO
Want to see how this plays out in the real world? George Mason University created a heatmap to show the career paths of a variety of liberal arts majors, including English. As Robert Matz observes in his article “What Can I do with an English Major?“, “Not surprisingly, the biggest portion of students with a BA in English go into the teaching professions, at 22.6%. Another 17.2% go on to work as managers of some sort. It’s worth noting that 3.2% end up in computers and mathematics, while only 1% end up working in food service. To the myth of the English major barista we can say, you’re three times as likely to being working with computers or math than in any kind of food service profession!”
For more information on the value of an English major in today’s workplace, check out Villanova University’s “English majors at work: testimonials from the business world”
Many English majors are interested in careers in writing and editing. If that’s you, you’ll want to bookmark Alyssa W. Christensen’s Dear English Major:
English majors have always offered strong preparation for law school; recently, medical and veterinary schools are also good bets for English majors. See “A surprising number of doctors were undergrad English majors — and it’s not just about GPA.“
English majors are also increasingly sought after in technology fields. In “Why Every Tech Company Needs an English major,” Matt Asay argues that tech companies need people who can “construct an interesting thesis and synthesize it in a few hundred words”
“Technology alone is not enough…It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that make our hearts sing.” Steve Jobs, founder of Apple,
Our English majors go on to be many things: ministers, entrepreneurs, technologists, musicians, teachers, writers, actors, public relations specialists — and so much more. The hard thing for an English major isn’t getting a job; it’s deciding what kind of job they wish to pursue.
“I know that there is concern about whether a liberal arts education is the right choice right now in this economy. Let me tell you something. It’s the best choice. In a tough economy, it is important to have the broadest set of marketable skills possible. And the broadest set of skills that one can develop over a four-year undergraduate education comes from the liberal arts.” –– English major Rob Cain, CIO, Coca-Cola Company.