The english major in the real world

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Emily Bush

Arts & Lifestyle Editor

The English major, along with other humanities, is typically full of misconceptions, stereotypes, and uncertainties. Many people believe that if you have an English degree, the only thing you can do after school is teach English. While education is a beautiful field and we should be very appreciative of the teachers in our lives, that is not the only field an English major can pursue.

“[English majors] are well-suited to adapt to today’s techno-cultural conditions because they are trained to be nuanced, insightful readers and effective writers,” Kelly said, “[along with] qualitative research in the form of close textual analysis and historical/archival research.”

According to Benjamin Schmidt’s “The Humanities are in Crisis,” the 2008 Financial Crisis caused students to run to STEM and turn away from the humanities simply because they believe they have limited job prospects.

However, as Beckie Supiano’s research shows, humanities and social sciences eventually match up in wage with professional and pre-professional programs by mid-career. In the long run, majors like English are just as profitable and successful as majors like Engineering or Biology.

With all of these statistics, there has to be a reason why English majors are successful, despite how unpopular it once was. While the English program is still growing back to what it once was, workplaces seek people with the skills English majors learn during their undergraduate period. Those skills include:

  • Communicating thoughts clearly

  • Analyzing text

  • Thinking critically

  • Understanding other people’s perspectives

  • Lateral thinking (taking an indirect, creative approach to a problem)

  • Researching

Meanwhile, Susan Adams shows in her 2013 Forbes article “The 10 Skills Employers in 20-Something Employees” which skills employers seek the most. Surprisingly, these overlap quite well with the skills English majors learn in college. These skills are, but not limited to:

  • Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization

  • Ability to analyze quantitative data

  • Ability to create and/or edit written reports

  • Ability to make decisions and solve problems

  • Ability to obtain and process information

  • Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work

Employers seek these skills because they need employees who can communicate and work together. While working together can still be learned in the STEM field, communication is definitely a strong suit for the humanities majors.

Also, with new minors that integrate technology into humanities majors, it is easier for English majors to have proficiency in technology, another valuable aspect.

In fact, the university has such a diverse set of minors for English majors that shows the technological opportunities of the major very well, especially the new Language and Technology minor.

“[This minor] trains students how to properly interpret and analyze texts beyond traditional print literature” according to Dr. Matthew Kelly, professor of English at The University of Texas at Tyler.

Aside from just knowing how English majors tick, Kelly explains how technology shapes the English field.

“The English department here at UT Tyler has done a wonderful job creating brand new courses that further reinforce the benefits of majoring in English while also giving students an opportunity to explore ideas and issues they find important,” Kelly said. “The emergence of new types of digital texts require new types of reading and writing practices.”

Director of English Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Ann Beebe, also shows what she feels are great transferable skills for English majors in an online convention.

Big surprise, these skills also match up with what many employers seek out of potential employees. However, she goes more into detail about how we learn these kinds of skills, whether they are hard or soft.

“Soft skills are the skills… that you simply learn from the experience,” Beebe said.

On the other hand, hard skills are somewhat like the skills listed earlier in this article, something specific that employers want that can be learned in the classroom or in the workplace.

Some of the skills, both hard and soft, that Dr. Beebe lists are:

  • Creativity and empathy

  • Analyzing texts and information

  • Editing

  • Establishing priorities

  • Reading critically

  • Finding solutions to intricate problems

Having these skills is very important, but it means nothing if you cannot articulate those skills and show that you have them.

So, even if you think you already have these skills, make sure you show them more in order to get used to showing them in the workplace.

“The English degree is one of the most flexible, adaptable, and practical degrees out there,” Beebe said.

If you have any questions, get in contact with Dr. Beebe at

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