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Why English Degrees Are More Useful Than You Think

English majors have heard it before: the note of pity in someone’s voice when asked, “What are you going to do with your English degree after you graduate? Teach?” It has long been a fad to claim that English degrees aren’t useful in the job market, so this loaded question is a bitter one for some students. After all, Computer Science or Business majors often don’t receive the same question, and if they do, it’s not asked with a hint of pity, but awe. Why is it that English degrees have become synonymous with being a waste of time?

According to Yale University, “English [degrees] teach skills not only for approaching texts, but also for approaching the world. Many of those skills, like the ability to read analytically and write articulately, are more and more prized, as communication does and will continue to facilitate our daily engagements.”

We are constantly communicating nowadays by commenting on Instagram posts, creating TikToks, and sharing articles online. Considering how necessary written communication has become in our social media era, it’s surprising that they’re aren’t more college students pursuing a degree in English.

Though English is a valuable, enriching subject, less college students are deciding to pursue it as part of their higher education. According to The New Yorker earlier this year, “During the past decade, the study of English…at the collegiate level has fallen by a full third.” This has allowed for other degrees to rise. Indeed notes Mathematics, Computer Science, Business, and Biology as currently being some of the most popular degrees among college students. Of course, degrees other than English encourage critical thinking, especially when it comes to science-related fields, but English is unique in the way that it encourages students to delve into empathetic interpersonal communication with the goal to understand and synthesize ideas.

If there has ever been a time where critical thinking is necessary in order to survive and thrive, it’s now. After all, the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer reported that trust in news media has decreased in sixteen countries throughout the world, and increased in only six. This is a disheartening statistic considering how much we rely on communicating through the internet. If the constant influx of information found on news sites and social media is continuing to cause individuals to feel a lack of trust rather than an increase in understanding, how will we ever become truly informed and less polarized?

There is an assumption that those with English degrees can’t find jobs, but this is incredibly untrue. Since social media has taken off, the job market has widened rather than narrowed for those who major in English. Coursera lists the following as high-paying options for these individuals with salaries ranging from $50,958 to $91,151:

  • Copywriter
  • User experience (UX) writer
  • Grant writer
  • Technical writer
  • Medical writer
  • Editor
  • Social media manager
  • Brand strategist
  • Public relations manager
  • Consultant

So, no, teaching isn't the only career option for those with an English degree.

In an executive order from President Biden, it’s stated that “[t]he arts, the humanities, and museum and library services…are the soul of America, reflecting our multicultural and democratic experience. They further help us strive to be the more perfect Union to which generation after generation of Americans have aspired.”

Whether people like or agree with the president or not, this statement is true. It’s clear that America would not be where it is today without crucial written documents such as The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and countless other works that have led to the evolution of the country. All of these documents were created through critical thought and careful articulation, skills that, today, are developed through the pursuit of degrees like English and its fellow humanities.

Hopefully with time, more people will understand the benefits an English degree offers and decide to enter the field. The skills learned in this major can encourage individuals to share accurate information with other people, whether it’s through their own writing or through the simple act of posting a factual news article on social media. The point is this: English programs aren’t glorified book clubs; they’re an initiative for the development of empathy and critical thinking in a factually-distorted world.

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