Tips for English Majors: How to Flourish with Your Degree

Tips for English Majors: How to Flourish with Your Degree
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

The Great Recession of 2007 saw a significant shift in what college majors students were pursuing. According to data gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the number of students settling for English as their major went down by 25.5%. Meanwhile, computer science majors doubled in population. But while many believe that the career outlook for college students is moving in favor of science and technology majors, American economist and Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller sheds light on the need for communicators and storytellers. 

Other economists agree with Shiller’s idea that good storytellers are just as necessary as number-crunching and code-building professionals. After all, it is through storytelling that people understand how things work, and people who have an excellent command of the language like English majors know how to utilize it to effectively communicate messages that can make a significant impact on the world. And in the midst of continuously evolving trends in various industries, storytellers and communicators are carving their own place.

In this article, we will not only look into how to make money as an English major but also offer you valuable tips on how you can make a solid career out of it. 

Tips for English Majors Table of Contents

  1. Find your purpose
  2. Upskill yourself
  3. Prioritize your passion
  4. Learn other skills that pair well with what you already have
  5. Select a capstone project that demonstrates your skills
  6. Take a risk

English as a college major suffers from the stigma of lacking prestige and the promise of financial security. Many believe that pursuing an English degree, whether in-campus or online, is a waste of time because the career path it leads to is not as concrete as the ones laid out for STEM and even business majors. The value of this major, however, is lost to those who only view it as such.

Source: CollegeVine, 2021

Career Profile of English Majors

The career path for English majors is vast and varied. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, English degree-holders are spread across different fields of occupation. In fact, English majors have a great contribution to the economy. One common thing about the country’s notable songwriters, television producers, film directors, journalists, and CEOs is their English degree roots (GetEducated, n.d.).

The general consensus that English majors are only good for academic-related professions, particularly teaching positions, has also been proven to be a fallacy. Current studies show how employers want graduates to have soft skills training. In the Morning Consult for Cengage survey, results indicate that 69% of employers from different industries look for graduates with good communication skills—skills that English majors possess.

English degrees awarded in 2019

Tips for English Majors

“There are no careers for English degree-holders,” “Writing is not a sought-after skill,” “An English major is only taken by those who want to become teachers,” “English is just like any other humanities degree,” and “Arts degrees do not matter in real life” are common takes from your concerned family and friends. Despite the fact that you love writing or you are good at it, their worry is about you becoming a starving artist someday (Dalton, 2020).

Investing in English as a college degree is risky but rewarding if you are careful enough. Here are some tips on what to do with an English major.

Find your purpose

With an English degree, you can go from analyzing literature to being a business magnate. An accountant might be working solely with a range of ways to compare numbers on Excel, but an English degree-holder has the freedom to pursue historical literature, modern trends in publishing, and technical writing. Yet, that does not mean that you can take whatever class that interests you because some of them will not be of use to you. Embark on your studies with the right purpose.

Think of what you really want to do after college, how would you want to grow as an individual and a professional, what skills would be most helpful to your job, and so on. You do not have to know the exact answers to these concerns, but, at least, have an idea of the path that you want to approach.

If you apply your degree correctly, you can maximize your skills and actually use them in real life. Plan your way in and out of college and take classes that are vital to your major.

Upskill yourself

Improve your English skills, whatever they are that you possess. Choose a class that will help you become a better writer, speaker, reader, or storyteller in the future. Having said that, you also need to be creative in seeing the advantage of certain classes. For instance, your journalism skills may not improve in a literature class, but this class can help you improve your researching, interviewing, and fact-checking skills, which are all useful to journalists.

Developing a specialization is viable if you take classes based on the possibilities of enhancing your skills (Dalton, 2020).

Prioritize your passion

As an English major, you will be tasked to write thousands of words per week. And no matter how much you love writing, you will most likely get tired of it. The desire to write will fade, making cohesive thoughts will be a test, finishing a research paper will be a struggle, and even the simplest writing task will look like a problem. Yes, college can do that to a writer and others. While this feeling is inevitable, you must always remind yourself of the reasons why you took English. Do not let your mind take over your writing.

How about writing a short essay or poem after every research paper? Have you also tried sharing with other people what you have written? Or what about using Facebook whenever you do not feel like writing at all? Published in the European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education is Blanka Klimova and Marcel Pikhart’s 2019 article “Cognitive and Applied Lingustics Aspects of Using Social Media: The Impact of the Use of Facebook on Developing Writing Skills in Learning English as a Foreign Language.” This study discusses how the platform can aid students in learning English and further improving their skills related to it. “Facebook is especially used in developing productive language skills such as writing, which is considered to be the least popular and the most difficult skill to master. Students are not usually motivated enough to develop the skill of writing. However, Facebook can help with the development of this skill because students have a positive attitude towards using Facebook in practicing their writing skills.”

Get yourself lost in your passion. Keep in mind that it is not your grades that will give life to your writing—it is your heart and passion for it.

Learn other skills that pair well with what you already have

A bachelor’s degree in music does not qualify one for a high-income generating job at a technology firm. Similarly, an English degree cannot land you down your dream job right after graduation. Your English-centered knowledge and skills may be appropriate in some situations, but they are not your most treasured tools for professional success.

Writing alone, for example, is not enough to make you employable in most careers. Make yourself more valuable by learning skills that pair well with it. Learn how to research products and present them in a more easily understandable manner. If you are into journalism, learn how to understand politics and predict the readers’ minds. If you are into sales, know the difference between writing for a direct mail marketing campaign, website copies, and social media posts.

Having these skills will show that you can adapt to any business environment. Moreover, you will have an advantage over other candidates with the same degree (Dalton, 2020).

Select a capstone project that demonstrates your skills

Your capstone project is one of the most pertinent choices you will make as an English degree holder. Aside from the fact that obtaining your degree relies on your fruitful project completion, it is also your final chance to distance yourself from the rest and have an edge in getting a job. Therefore, selecting a project that best demonstrates your skills is crucial.

For example, if you dream of establishing a publishing house but are also into business, your capstone project should be about how marketing theories could be used in fiction writing to make reading a trend again across the globe.

Take a risk

An English degree is not the easiest road to achieve victory. It is also not a secure approach, especially if a high salary is the target. Even so, if you feel that this is your path, take the risk and feel contented about your decision.

It is true that your degree should be applicable in the real world and influence what you take in college. Nonetheless, picking a degree based merely on how you can profit from it would be unwise as well. If you do not like a specific field, you would not love or become passionate about it. Without love or passion, the drive to succeed will be hard to come by. First, you will hate one assignment, next the entire class, eventually the subject, then college life itself.

Pushing yourself to do something that you do not want is the gateway to failure. Plus, four or more years in college can be challenging to endure. For these reasons, finding the thing that interests you and specializing in it are the most logical decisions to make.

Source: CollegeVine, 2021

What Matters the Most

Comparing how engineers make more money than writers will only frustrate you. In your search for answers to what to do with an English major, do not stress yourself too much about choosing the most beneficial college degree, because it might not even exist. There might not be one course that is naturally more beneficial than others. Look at some arts major degree-holders who are way more successful than business degree-holders today.

Each degree is beneficial if practiced suitably. If your preferred degree does not belong in the list of the supposedly beneficial ones, make the most out of it by honing your skills, learning new ones, and adapting to new environments that complement your capabilities. The thing is, the real benefits of college education do not just depend on your degree alone, it is what you do with it (Dalton, 2020).

 

References:

  1. Dalton, W. (2020, August 28). English Majors, listen up! Here’s How to Make the Most of Your Degree. Pearson.
  2. GetEducated. (n.d.). 14 Highest-Paying Jobs for English Majors. GetEducated.
  3. Klimova, B. & Pikhart, M. (2019, October 3). Cognitive and Applied Lingustics Aspects of Using Social Media: The Impact of the Use of Facebook on Developing Writing Skills in Learning English as a Foreign Language. European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education.
  4. Rose, H. (2019, July). The future of English in global higher education: Shifting trends from teaching English to teaching through English. ResearchGate.
  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021, December 3). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Field of Degree: English. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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