Perhaps it is the common misconception that there is nothing you can do with an English degree that leads people to assume that all English majors are aspiring educators. What many people, including a number of English students, may not know is that there is a wide variety of occupations available to those with a degree in English.
When people learn that I am an English student with no intentions of becoming a teacher or professor, they usually assume I want to be either a journalist or a librarian. When I tell them that, no, I am interested in becoming neither a journalist nor a librarian, they look at me with a mixture of pity and confusion, as though it is inconceivable that there would be anything else I could do with my degree. But there is!
Although teaching, journalism and being a librarian are all fine career choices, they are by no means the only options for those graduating with an English degree.
What all English majors have in common is an appreciation of language. This zeal for words can be expressed through a love of literature, a passion for writing, an enthusiasm for syntax or a combination of the three. It is through the exploration of language and the study of literature that English majors acquire an understanding of language that exceeds most people’s.
English graduates should come away from university adept at reading critically, writing articulately, thinking creatively, arguing persuasively and interpreting text analytically. They should also possess both above-average knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. With these useful skills at their dispense, literati and linguists fit into a nearly limitless range of work.
English majors who predominantly enjoy writing could look into becoming novelists, copywriters, film or literary critics, technical writers, freelance writers, playwrights, biographers or greeting card writers.
Word junkies may be cut out for a career as a translator, a cruciverbalist (a person who creates crossword puzzles) or a linguist.
And those who prefer reading and researching could look into working as a consumer researcher, a public relations and information specialist, a corporate communications specialist, a policy and procedures analyst, a radio, television or publications researcher, a manuscript reader, an editor or a publisher. Literary criticism is a good fit here as well, which further proves how many careers are open to people with any of the skills an English degree fosters.
The list goes on.
If you are an English major and teaching is just not for you, seek solace in the fact that there are many other opportunities and career paths out there for you. And the next time someone smugly asks you what you are planning to do with your life and your English degree, you can report that you haven’t quite decided, as there are so many different options to choose from.
Graphic: Samantha Braun/The Sheaf