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Reasons to Major in English

“I love English majors. I love how smart they are. I love their intellectual curiosity. And I love their bold choice for a major. Most of all, I love to hire them.” – Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss argues English majors are his favorite hires because they are smart, bold, strong writers, and easy to work with. Michael Bérubé only reinforces this with his claim that “Over 25 years of teaching, I’ve had many students tell me – sometimes five, 10, 20 years after they graduated – that their English major gave them the intellectual skills they needed in their careers, while introducing them to some of the most challenging and delightful works ever written in our language.”

If your emphasis is English Teaching or Technical Communication, there exists a fairly direct relationship between the emphasis and particular employment opportunities.

For other majors, the relationship is not as clear because the skills gained are not as concretely described in the emphasis title. At the point at which you decide to seek employment, you may feel frustrated, but you do have strengths that are desirable to an employer, though you may need to prepare a plan to present yourself in a manner that helps potential employers realize those strengths.

Most obviously English majors develop abilities to communicate, to research and complete complex projects, to interpret the intention behind received communication, and to understand other people. What may not be as obvious is that a well-read English major understands that factual knowledge can be complex and require interpretation, interpretation leads to the recognition of coexisting realities in differing spheres of reference, and the acceptance of multiple perspectives contributes to a tolerance for the ambiguity inherent in partial information and the confidence to make decisions, knowing that additional information or new perspective might alter the situation. In other words, English majors acquire the analytic and creative skills necessary to do problem solving.

In practice, it is good policy to research the requirements of positions for which you intend to apply and to anticipate those skills and characteristics employers and interviewers might want. Internships, which are available through the Career Center and the English Department, provide a valuable way to develop skills and knowledge suitable for the world of work.

Jobs for English Majors:

English majors can earn high salaries.

From the PayScale 2016-17 College Salary Report:

Job Title Percent  of  Workers with
English Literature Major
Mid-Career Pay
Corporate Communications Director 14% $128,000
Editorial Director 11% $92,200
Executive Editor 16% $91,200
Senior Communications Specialist 8% $66,800
Writer 16% $56,300

Midcareer salaries of liberal arts majors are higher than salaries of people with degrees in vocational fields such as nursing and accounting.

English majors are positioned well for careers in other fields

  • Humanities majors including English have higher acceptance rates to medical school than social science or natural science majors
  • English majors score higher on the GMAT than Business majors
  • Two thirds of CEO’s say that the most important skills they look for in college graduates are critical thinking and written communication skills, skills which a Literature major provides

To see more about what former English graduates are doing now, check out the Meet our Graduates pages in Technical Communication, English Teaching, Literature, and Linguistics!