You hear it every day: the written word is dead. Those of us who make ends meet by putting pen to paper should pack it all in and find a career more worthy of pursuing.
But it’s not true. The written word is still thriving, despite what people say. It’s just that it’s taken on a new form. With social media and new forms of technology coming out every day, the opportunities available for writers are more abundant than ever – but they look different from the jobs our parents are used to.
Social media managers and content marketers didn’t exist even 20 years ago. But today they’re perfectly viable positions. And if you studied English like I did, they could be the perfect career paths for you.
An English degree gives you plenty of options – and they don’t all involve sitting at a typewriter or keyboard or being in a classroom all day. An English degree gives you the freedom to explore your options while gaining a strong foundation.
Life Lessons in the Classroom
When I told people I was an English major, most people didn’t understand. There’s a certain stereotype people think of when they think of English majors. They picture you as a coffee shop loving, poetry writing, snobby hipster. Or they think you want to be a teacher. Or they think you’re undecided on a career so you took the easy route.
But being an English major isn’t easy. Sure, you’re not solving math problems or working in the chemistry lab, but you are spending time studying great works of art and learning how to be a better writer, communicator and all around better human being.
Literature is a reflection of life, so the lessons you learn reading a piece of literature aren’t just English lessons or writing lessons, but life lessons. “The Great Gatsby,” for example, isn’t just about some guy trying to win back a girl from his past, but about the failure of the American dream.
English classes teach you to go beyond the surface and see what’s underneath. To put a magnifying glass up to life and find meaning. True, this doesn’t exactly translate to a concrete career path, but it does set you up for success in all areas of your life, not just your career.
Freedom to Explore
I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. I didn’t always know what my career path would be – just that I wanted to write. Being an English major was always the obvious choice for me. I never really considered anything else.
But I am definitely the exception to the rule. I think most 18-year-olds have no idea what they actually want to do. Which is why so many people end up changing careers later in life or getting jobs in a field that has nothing to do with what they majored in.
This is where being an English major can be a huge benefit. Because you’re not married to a specific career, you have a myriad of career paths available to you. With a degree in education, your only choice is to teach. But with an English degree you have more options.
The skills you acquire in your English classes are beneficial for a number of jobs. English majors make great lawyers, editors, marketers, salespeople, event planners, journalists, speechwriters and the list goes on.
Choosing the Right Path
With the skills you develop as an English major, you’ll be prepared for whatever career you choose. But while having options is great, it can sometimes be overwhelming. How do you know what you want?
The only way to find out is to try. For awhile I thought I wanted to be a journalist. But when I took a job as an intern at a newspaper, I realized it wasn’t right for me. If you’re just starting out, do as many internships as you can and in as many fields as you’re interested in. Trying careers hands on will give you an idea of what you like and what you don’t.
Eventually, you’ll be able to hone in on what you truly love and want to pursue. And having that English degree will have made all of it possible.
Were you an English major? What kind of career do you have now? How did your English degree help you? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section!