Not just good for proof-reading friends’ papers!
“What are English degrees good for? Do you want to be a teacher? Why didn’t you just go into Education?” This is probably the most common string of questions an English major will incur after telling someone, whether it’s family or a complete stranger, what they’re studying in school. It’s irritating enough when people ask what you want to do when you’re done your degree, but it’s just that little bit more disheartening when the majority of the populous has no idea what someone can do with an English education.
The fact of the matter is that knowing how to write, and write well, is a very important skill that everyone needs to have. Maybe not to the extent of an entire degree centered on literary analysis and sharpening your personal writing skills, but writing is everywhere. Being able to coherently express your thoughts can go a long way. That’s why English degrees are so valuable. You’re able to write efficiently, critically analyze, and think for yourself. Not to say that English majors don’t go on to become corporate drones, but there are many different paths that we can take that lead to interesting careers where we do what we love to do most: write.
When I spoke to the University of Regina’s English Graduate Chair, Dr. Susan Johnston, about what English majors can do once they’re done their degree, she had no shortage of examples of cool jobs that are available for us. At the drop of a hat, she listed as many as twenty people she knew when I asked for some avenues for English graduates. She named people who worked in the government, the school system (“which everyone thinks of”, she says), in editorial positions, newspapers, radio, law, as well as actual writers and those in academia. Hurrah for writers! For the sake of anonymity and privacy, I won’t disclose the names of the people she mentioned, but there’s clearly no shortage of jobs for English students. There are plenty of opportunities for anyone who wishes to pursue a career doing the things they love, and with a degree as versatile as English, there’s no knowing where you’ll get swept off to… (That’s totally a Lord of the Rings reference, if no one got it). English Students’ Association President, Avnee Paranjape, agrees, saying, “Many people would be surprised at the options that English students have for prospective jobs.”
So, English majors, don’t close your doors on any option that isn’t your goal, because, despite just looking snazzy on your wall next to your pile of books, English degrees are immensely useful in the 21st century. Long paragraph short, if you need any testimonials from English graduates, look no further than Dr. Johnston for help.
When I think about what I’m going to do with my degree after I’m done school, I’m not fraught with worry and panic because I know that the world will always need writers. Even in the digital era, there needs to be some sort of description of the latest iPhone that will captivate audiences. Who better to come up with that than a creative writer? I’m not saying that we’ll be working for Apple anytime soon, but the possibility is out there if you’re able to coherently organize your thoughts. Thanks, English 100!
Although I’m too scared to leave the academic realm and I do plan on becoming an academic at present, I am fully aware of the other opportunities that await me if becoming a professor doesn’t work out. That’s a very comforting thought that is brought about from getting an education. Even if people don’t want to acknowledge the importance of English as a subject, you can’t deny how important it is to be grammatically correct, analytical, and creative in the grown-up world. These are all things that we possess, fellow English majors. So give yourselves a pat on the back for choosing both a practical and creative avenue to spend the next four-odd years of your life crying, laughing, and thinking about.
My advice is to live in the now. Opportunities present themselves better this way. The English department has so many resources for their students, whether they’re just starting out, joining the Honours program, or graduating to new things beyond school. They will help point you in the direction best suited for your life. Don’t let anyone tell you that your degree is any less valuable, because it’s your time, money, and passion that you’ve put into it. And if that doesn’t matter to others, who cares? You’re the one that’s going to look like a badass who knows all about book learnin’, as demonstrated by your mounted BA in English Literature.