Getting a degree in English is not something most people are familiar with. They hear your major, and boom! Teaching is the only possible career that pops into their head. You know that old saying about, “If I had a nickel for every time….” Well, if I had been collecting five cents every time someone asked me if I wanted to teach over the past three years, I wouldn’t have any student loans to pay off.
With technology and new means of accessing information, most people don’t read for pleasure anymore. This has attributed to the slight decline of physical book sales, but not to the point of total destruction. In addition to publishing books, the rise of online literary magazines, due to a lack of funding for a printed version, means there are still a lot of stories to be told. With so many potential masterpieces and unknown writers, someone has to dig through all the hay to find that tiny gold needle. This is one of the jobs that people with an English degree may want to pursue.
The world of publishing and editing is tougher than ever to be a part of. As I’ve learned from others with experience in the field, you have to suffer before you get anywhere. Unpaid internships, expensive shoe boxes they call apartments, and cheap beer are all components of any college graduate working towards a competitive position. In order to work in the publishing and editing realm, these college graduates have to obtain an extensive knowledge of the English language. My fellow peers and even some coworkers like to let out a snide remark whenever I talk about my major. I have learned to not take it seriously considering most of the people I know don’t understand that there’s a different between “your” and “you’re.” Semesters of grammar, phonetics, literature, and professional writing classes are never easy. In fact, are you aware that English only has two tenses and not three?
Along with the intensive studies of Shakespeare and 18th century British writers, there’s the mostly dreaded foreign language requirement. When working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree, students are forced to take four semesters of a foreign language of their choice. In addition to the heavy reading and writing load of English classes, you also have the weight of learning a second language’s twelve tenses and finicky vocabulary. To round it all out, there’s also the pressure of oral midterms and finals. If I never hear the word “conjugate” again, it would be too soon.
In addition to publishing, editing, and obviously teaching K-12, those with English degrees can also work in public relations, speech writing, web design, and with further schooling, there’s a possibility to work as an attorney, counselor, or professor. (I found this information on NAU’s degree catalog page so don’t quote me on it.)
I am appreciative to those students who do want to teach because God knows we need them, but for others who don’t like to work with kids, create lesson plans, or work early mornings five days a week, there are other options. Although I am not one to be offended when someone asks if I’d like to be a teacher, the question does get old. The reaction to my answer is even more frustrating because a lot of people I encounter seem to dumb down the degree. My fellow English connoisseurs and I put in a lot of time and effort to finish school in those four years. Passing three capstone classes, an additional 400-level class, and an intensive writing course is added to the liberal studies and elective courses all students are required to have. Although I may have not stayed up memorizing formulas, equations, theories, or The Constitution, that doesn’t mean that my potential field of work should be limited to one job. Talk to an English major today and instead of asking if they’d like to teach, take that opportunity to learn more about the program that many don’t know much about.
Photo credit: Perks of Being an English Major