At some point in your life as an English major, you will be asked this question by a number of people (if they have not already done so): How does a degree in English prepare you for life in the “real” world?
As a matter of fact, a degree in English does give you a good foundation in terms of finding a job in your chosen field and in a number of diverse occupations as well.
First of all, there are jobs for English majors even in the current job market. Like business or finance majors, they can find work in a number of fields that follow naturally from their studies. A career in education as a teacher or administrator is not a stretch for an English major.
Other jobs, like being a writer, an editor, or a researcher are also excellent jobs for a qualified English major. An English degree can also be a pre-professional degree if you have plans to pursue post-graduate education (like going to Law school).
A World of Opportunities
Second, and perhaps more importantly, an English degree gives you skills that are transferable to any number of existing and emerging career fields.
Fundamental skills such as critical thinking, complex reasoning, clear and precise oral and written communication abilities, etc. are skills that are useful in the performance of almost any job in a number of fields. In fact, Michael Berube, director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Pennsylvania State University, categorically states that an English Major is “employable anywhere in the economy where there is thinking to be done.”
Boost Your Major
English major or otherwise, there are several steps you can take to increase your odds of graduating with a job offer. In fact, you would be smart to start laying down the foundation of securing your first job after college during your freshman year.
Seek out opportunities to teach English abroad for the summer or a semester. Technology has turned the world into a global village. Any international exposure will be an added feather in your cap when it comes to applying for your first full-time job.
Write for your college paper or volunteer to be a writing mentor to another student whose first language is not English. Find an internship to a magazine or publishing house. Be persistent in unearthing paid or non-paid opportunities that support your degree. This is one of the best ways to show a future employer that you not only know your material well enough to graduate, you also know how to work hard and think outside the box to put it to practical use.
The Sweet Irony of Truth
By equipping you with valuable skills that allow you to excel in a myriad of jobs, an “impractical” English degree may just end up preparing you better for life after college than any of the so-called “hot” degrees.
So the next time someone asks what you can do with an English degree, you can honestly reply: “Anything I please.”
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