Check out a message below from our Vice President of Content Innovation, Cam Wall:
Over the next couple of weeks, thousands of young men and women will leave their dorms, meal plans, late-night library trips, and sweatpants collections behind and head on to the working world or the penumbral world of grad school (sweatpants optional). As recent fundraising emails remind me, I was once a student myself, and as a few of you soon-to-be-graduates might, I walked through campus on that last day with absolutely no idea what I was going to do next. Worse still, I was an English major.
I know that some of you are English majors too. In fact, about 47,000 of you will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English language or literature this year. You see, while I don’t have wisdom to offer, I do have data, and as you will continue to learn over the years, good data can help answer some of life’s tough questions, including, but not limited to, “What am I supposed to do with this English degree?”
As it happens, many of you will go to grad school in the fall or within the next few years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half of all English majors—46 percent—have a graduate degree of some kind. This makes sense considering the top five jobs among full-time employees with undergraduate degrees in English are primary school teacher, lawyer, postsecondary teacher, secondary school teacher, and “miscellaneous manager.” You have to go to law school, of course, to be a lawyer, but even teachers at the elementary and secondary school level are increasingly likely to need a master’s degree.
But you probably already know all of this, right? For the English major, after all, there are two standard follow-ups to the “What are you going to do?” question. They are “Do you want to teach?” and “Have you thought about law school?” Yet altogether, teachers and lawyers represent less than a quarter of all English majors in the workforce. Most English majors, in fact, do something else.
Are you are interested primarily in linguistics and the ways in which words take on meaning and can be organized into coherent, relatable structures? More English majors, it turns out, work as software and web developers than as technical writers. There are dozens if not hundreds of programming languages to learn, and they evolve, spread, and even die out just like the languages we speak with each other. Better yet, through self-study or one of the many “boot camps” now available (i.e., without the high cost of grad school), you can learn enough to enter this rapidly growing field where the median salary is almost $100,000.
Are you drawn to literature by a strong sense of empathy? If so, know that counselor, social worker, and community service manager are all among the top thirty jobs for English majors. Just as books need readers, people need others to listen and to help them shape meaning in their lives and connect with resources and with other people. Furthermore, the number of counseling and social work jobs in the U.S. is expected to grow 12.3 percent by the year 2024. The growth rate for all U.S. occupations is 6.5 percent.
Do you like to write stories? More English majors are registered nurses than PR specialists, but hey, there are still thousands of PR specialists out there with English degrees too.
Lastly, if you, like me, are most interested in close reading and literary analysis, you might consider business analytics or market research. Marketing manager, management analyst, and market research analyst are among the top thirty jobs for English majors too, and more English majors, in fact, are marketing managers than librarians. Market research jobs in particular will increase by 18.6 percent over the next decade and you do not need an advanced degree to enter the field. When I graduated, there were a lot of things I knew I didn’t want to do. What I wanted to do was research—to learn new things and get paid for it. I stumbled into a career in market research and haven’t looked back.
Ultimately what I am saying, English major, is that there are many opportunities out there and that by learning to read and think critically and communicate ideas effectively, you have developed some of the skills most essential to success in these positions. That sounds clichéd, I know, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Look at the data. No matter what you want to do, rest assured that other English majors have blazed a trail for you. Now go forth and write the stories you want to tell.
Best of luck to you.