And What Exactly Can You Do With an English Degree?

By: Shelby Hillers, Online Editor

Somebody recently asked me, “Hey, isn’t a degree in English like the next General Studies major?”

I was slightly offended and angry at his accusation. To me General Studies meant I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I took random classes. I wanted to snap back “Oh and what exactly are you going to do with a philosophy degree?” but I didn’t want this conversation to turn into battle of the majors. And I’m sure philosophy majors get a bad reputation just like English majors do.

But still I was offended and angry. I asked him, “Why would you say that exactly?”

The person simply stated, “You can probably do a lot with an English degree kind of like General Studies.”

I let out a sigh and a smile. I wanted to hug him and give him a thank you speech. Realizing his statement was intended as a compliment for all the English majors out there, I continued my conversation with the guy but his small, simple comment was like a planted, growing seed in my mind.

The first question English majors are faced when they tell others of their degree is, “Oh so you want to teach?” If you say no, then the second question is, “Then what can you do with an English degree?”

For some English majors this might be when they have an existential crisis and question their life. The question echoes in their minds, “Why are you an English major?”

Somewhere in their late high school/early college career somebody told them “Hey, you can write pretty well.” So they stuck with it because that’s what you do-you stick with something you’re “pretty well” at until you become the best. So the young English majors start taking some writing classes, read some poetry here and there, and maybe take some serious classes like analytical writing and grammar. Before they know it, they’re graduating and people are asking the same question, “What can you do with an English degree?”

And as the guy I mentioned so nicely put, “You can probably do a lot with an English degree.”

Last year The Atlantic posted “The Best Argument for Studying English? The Employment Numbers” that featured a graph representing unemployment rates as of 2010-2011 (the most recent data at the time).


And guess what? Humanities and liberal arts majors had a 9 percent unemployment rate. That’s right about the same as students in computer and math fields with a 9.1 percent, psychology and social work at 8.8 percent, and the social sciences at 10.3 percent. And as the article points out, “It’s just a bit above the average across all majors of 7.9 percent.” So really we’re all pretty unemployable and in the same boat.

But those numbers aren’t to encourage parents or others to say you shouldn’t major in English. Just doing a quick Google search will show all the career-related articles listing what an English major can do.

World Wide Learn lists top five careers for English majors ranging from public relations specialist to marketing manager.

Last year, the Huffington Post posted “What to Do with a B.A. in English?” that provided English majors with hope. The article explains the careers English majors can explore such as writing for publicity and publishing reports to stockholders and clients. A lot of businesses hire English majors. The article provides a variety of job ideas, “Ad agencies, which need clever writers. Politicians and some CEOs need speechwriters. English majors are also hired by major investment banking firms because the firms see potential to grow capable young adults…”

So next time someone asks the dreadful questions that brings on anxiety attacks and makes you question your  existence, show off the data, graphs, and articles proving them wrong. Then go snag that job whether it’s becoming an author, editor, journalist, or anything you dream of because hey, you’re an English major. You can do it.

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3 thoughts on “And What Exactly Can You Do With an English Degree?

  1. LOVE IT! Passing it on to all my friends in the Bucknell U. (PA) English department. . . -and to all my friends (and to my younger son) in the College of Charleston (SC) English Department. Thanks for sending!


    Marilyn R. Mumford 911 Colonial Ln. Lewisburg PA 17837-6626

  2. An interesting dialogue is value comment. I feel that it is best to write extra on this subject, it won’t be a taboo subject but generally persons are not sufficient to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers cadbakkdaekd

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