"You're majoring in English? What are you going to do with that?" If you're studying English in college or are considering it as a major, you've probably gotten this reaction. English majors are often stereotyped as introverts who lock themselves away to endlessly read and analyze outdated literary works. On the contrary, an English degree has numerous purposes, including developing better written communication skills, establishing strong interpersonal relationships and understanding the critical and creative nuances of language.
Critical Reading Skills
In fields such as law, business and advertising, the ability to carefully read and interpret writing is a crucial element. Ouachita Baptist University even declares that the best way to prepare for a pre-law degree is to study poetry, a skill that forces you to concentrate on the profound meaning embedded in a strategically arranged grouping of words. Studying literature can help students discover ambiguity, irony and true intentions behind the use of language. Critical reading also challenges students to apply larger questions of humanity, ethics and faith to the world around them.
In an age where social networking, email and texting have reduced complete sentences to abbreviations, the ability to structure a creative, well-composed written document is increasingly sought after. Along with critical reading, your time as an English major is spent in relentless pursuit of developing stronger writing skills, including writing essays for classes, participating in group projects and working closely with faculty mentors. Purdue University writes that one of an English degree's key functions is teaching students to write clearly, concisely and effectively, focusing on composing fluent paragraphs rather than zeroing in on grammar.
Practicing clear writing skills isn't the only way an English degree develops your ability to relate to others. Bradley University states that one aspect of an English major is learning to understand different points of view. Many English programs require a world literature component, as well as other electives that focus on different cultures, human experiences and belief systems. Reading these texts enables English majors to be more adept at relating to different kinds of people and being open to new ways of thinking.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average person will have three to five different jobs throughout his adult life. English may not have a specific profession associated with it, but one of the degree's goals is to prepare students for a variety of opportunities. Along with obvious careers in writing, English majors have had careers in law, politics, business, special interest groups and sales. English majors are also prepared for work in other countries, such as teaching English as a second language.
In a testimony about an English degree's benefits, a University of Southern Indiana student describes the joy in sharing a lifelong passion for writing and reading with a close-knit group of students. One purpose of an English degree is to let lovers of books and language explore their interest alongside other like-minded students. Bradley University encourages its English majors to relate to and understand each other, not "champion" their views and work over that of others. English degrees offer students a forum to share their interests and work with others, making them able to grow alongside each other.
Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.