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Is an English Major a waste?

tuxedobirdtuxedobird Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
edited February 2011 in Other College Majors
I'm currently a sophmore in college studying Graphic Design & English Literature. I've been listening to past english majors and hearing that they have a hard time finding jobs and it is beginning to make me question my choice in majors. I am considering studying Graphic Design and instead minoring in English and possibly Public Relations or Publishing.

So what are everyone's thoughts on majoring in English?
Post edited by tuxedobird on

Replies to: Is an English Major a waste?

  • URichmond2010URichmond2010 Registered User Posts: 737 Member
    This is from an English major (no double major, no minor, just a concentration of classes in Journalism in addition to the English and an LA curriculum) who graduated last May and got a job at a national magazine three or four months after graduation.

    There seem to be three different kinds of English majors, in my experience: The ones who quickly figure out what they want to do and major in English because it's a good stepping stone for their future ambitions (that's me and a few of my friends), the ones who love studying English literature but don't really thing about the future until graduation, and the ones who major in English because they don't know what else to major in.

    The first kind of English majors seem to have no problem finding jobs in whatever field they like--or go onto grad school, etc--because they are motivated and they know the path they need to take to get where they want to be.

    The other two kinds are sort of lost. They don't know what they want to do with themselves, and they're stuck with a major that teaches you how to read well and write well and analyze well, but nothing terribly occupational.

    My point is that if you major in English knowing what you want to do with it and what you CAN do with it, you'll be fine. But you need to understand how to translate the skills you learn in your English classes--the reading, the writing, the analysis--into real-world skills that employers want in their workforce. You need to intern strategically. And if necessary, you need to use extracurriculars, freelance work, and coursework in other areas to boost your resume. I left college with three years of professional freelance editing and writing work on my resume, in addition to having articles published in the school newspaper and two internships.

    Bottom line? IMO, majoring in English--or in anything, humanities-related or not--and waiting for a job to fall into your lap is foolish. You have to figure out what you want to do, then figure out what you should be doing to make your goal a reality. Then you actually have to go out and do it.

    Have I ever regretted my major? No. Not once. Ever. I loved it.

    Good luck!
  • vonlostvonlost Super Moderator Posts: 24,110 Super Moderator
    From another standpoint, English is said to be one of the best pre-law majors.
  • StitchInTimeStitchInTime Registered User Posts: 1,289 Senior Member
    Food for Thought:

    Offbeat majors help CEOs think outside the box:
    ...Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner never took a single business course, getting a double major in English and theater (Denison '64), and he has nudged his three sons into liberal arts. He was reminded of a favorite English professor, Dominic Consolo, when reading the script for Dead Poets Society, a movie about a passionate poetry teacher starring Robin Williams. Eisner considers it to be one of the best movies Disney has made.

    "Literature is unbelievably helpful, because no matter what business you are in, you are dealing with interpersonal relationships," Eisner says. "It gives you an appreciation of what makes people tick."...
  • jinglejingle Registered User Posts: 1,198 Senior Member
    As an English professor with thirty years of teaching experience, I second everything URichmond2010 has said. I have students doing all kinds of things in writing, nonprofit administration, business, advertising, teaching, journalism, publishing, etc., but they tend not to be the ones who majored in English just because it was their native language. If you don't want to go on to professional or grad school, then pay a visit to your university's career services center sooner rather than later, and get some tips on how to translate your skills into a rewarding career.
  • SnowSunSnowSun Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    I've never second-guessed my decision to major in English! I've had several interesting and successful careers--in the publishing business, the "more-corporate" world, and in teaching. I actually double-majored in English and Communications, and was constantly asked what I was going to do after I graduated (if I wasn't going to be a teacher). I honestly didn't know, but I did try out internships with different career paths. Then, when I got the starter-level job, I worked HARD to move up. You have to figure out how to transfer your education into marketable skills that will bring home a paycheck.
  • liek0806liek0806 Registered User Posts: 3,316 Senior Member
    Bottom line? IMO, majoring in English--or in anything, humanities-related or not--and waiting for a job to fall into your lap is foolish.
    Couldn't agree more. Even with graphic design, which is a "practical major" that teaches you specific skills, you will still find yourself unemployed if you expect a job to fall into your lap.
    What is it that you want to do? If you're in college to get an education to get a job/career, what is that job/career? There are many ways about getting that job/career, assuming it doesn't require specific technical skills which would translate to a specific major, e.g. nursing/engineering/architecture/graphic design/etc.
  • IntervenientIntervenient Registered User Posts: 91 Junior Member
    Can you easily get a job in business with an English major?
  • kwukwu Registered User Posts: 4,759 Senior Member
    Regardless of major, you're going to have to hustle to get those prized internships, and you're going to have to do your research on financial markets.
  • endless67endless67 Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    Publishing is cut-throat. Seriously, if you want to do it, think about going to a grad school with a publishing focus. It's really hard to get into, even if you do get an internship.

    The problem with English degrees is that there are a ton of people with them; I think it's fine to pursue one if you absolutely LOVE it. However, you need to do something to set yourself apart from every other applicant. It isn't enough to have good grades.

    Try starting a book review blog if you want to go into publishing, but keep in mind that it's a lot of hard work. Good luck! :)
This discussion has been closed.