Why an English Major is Actually Practical
Updated: Sep 20
When I told people I wanted to major in English in college, I got a lot of strange looks. The immediate response was always, "oh, so you want to teach" or "what are you going to do with that?" While being an English teacher was certainly a viable option, I knew I didn't have the patience for that. So what was I going to do with an English major?
I always thought that I wanted to go into publishing after college. My dream was to move to New York City and work for Penguin Random House. But soon I began to realize just how competitive that path would be. And New York City is crowded. As someone who grew up in a town of 18,000 people, I knew I was not cut out for the Big Apple.
When people hear "English major," they just assume that person is going to be a teacher because they don't understand that there are a multitude of different jobs available to us. There are five major skills every English major learns that can help them land a job.
Wow, that's a shocker, isn't it? English majors spend a majority of our time writing about the texts we read. And this proves to be an extremely valuable skill. In today's world, it seems almost everyone gets confused on the difference between "your" and "you're" or "there," "their," and "they're." With more companies marketing online, talented writers are in demand.
With an English major, you could work as a freelance writer, copywriter, editor, journalist, proofreader, etc. For example, this month I started a full-time position as an Assistant Editor for an aviation company. The company produces three magazines about different aviation topics, and I get to help create them! Pretty sweet, right?
English majors are some of the most communicative people I have met. We know how to write clearly and concisely, which is a major benefit when working with people via email or other written communication.
Additionally, in college English classes, there is always discussion on various texts. It requires great listening skills to be able to actively contribute to the conversation. In my classes, we were required to participate in "panel discussions" a few times per semester. Basically, a few students would be chosen as "experts" on a certain text. Then, our classmates would ask us random questions about it. We had to be able to synthesize the information quickly and come up with an appropriate response. It was great practice for future work environments.
This might be one of the most important skills an English major learns. English majors have to know how to properly cite references, determine which references are credible, how to use evidence to support their case, etc. Companies value employees who know how to do their homework.
4. Organization and Time Management
Sometimes, English majors take four or five English classes at a time while working part-time jobs and participating in sports or other extracurriculars. And, well...reading takes quite a bit of time, especially if we're working with difficult texts. It takes organizational and time management skill to stay on top of all the reading and writing assignments that are thrown at us during the semester.
Organization can also refer to the papers English majors have to write. We have to make sure our argument flows well and we are using the best citations to convey our reasoning.
People who read are more empathetic than people who don't. English majors read perspectives of people who differ from us in gender, race, class, and sexuality. We are able to look at a problem from others' viewpoints and are more sensitive to our peers' needs. Through reading, we are shown the value in diversity among our coworkers, something employers value greatly.
Together, these skills make English majors attractive to potential employers. I graduated in May of 2020 from Mount Mercy University. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, I was able to find a job three months after graduation as an Assistant Editor for an aviation company.
In addition to editor positions, you might look into being a freelance writer, copywriter, journalist, proofreader, etc. There are a multitude of positions open for English majors today. I don't regret my decision to major in English and I don't think you will either.