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What the World is Saying about English

A sampling of media that makes the case for English degree, including a close look at the economic and employment surveys that demonstrate that English works.

Know the Facts about Economic and Employment Outcomes

There are clear economic arguments and practical reasons for getting a degree in English. The conventional wisdom of the moment is to encourage students to get degrees in STEM fields, or fields that are perceived to lead directly to careers. And we've all heard the jokes. But it turns out that getting a Bachelor's degree is still a good idea and that fresh-out-of-college employment rates for English graduates are in line with the average employment rate for all graduates, and even outperform some STEM majors, like Biology. See Figure 1 below:

  All Graduates English Biology Math Sociology Psychology
% Employed Overall 62.0% 55.1% 33.4% 55.7% 53.0% 49.4%
% Continuing Education 16.4% 19.8% 37.5% 28.0% 14.2% 25.9%
% Seeking Employment 13.9% 14.8% 10.9% 9.4% 17.8% 11.7%
% Seeking Continuing Education 3.6% 4.4% 12.0% 3.0% 9.0% 7.3%
% Not Seeking 2.2% 2.6% 3.2% 2.2% 2.3% 3.3%

Figure 1. National Association of Colleges and Employers, "First Destinations for the College Class of 2014" (2015).

According to a 2013 study by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, the skills most employers desire are "critical thinking," "the ability to analyze and solve complex problems," "the ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing," "the ability to locate, organize, and evaluate information from multiple sources," and "the ability to innovate and be creative." These are all skills emphasized by USCB's B.A. in English. See Figure 2 below:

Employers Say Colleges Should Place Varying
Degrees Of Emphasis On Selected Learning Outcomes
Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills 82 7 11
The ability to analyze and solve complex problems 81 6 13
The ability to effectively communicate orally 80 8 12
The ability to effectively communicate in writing 80 8 12
The ability to apply know ledge and skills to real-world settings 78 6 16
The ability to locate, organize, and evaluate information from multiple sources 72 9 19
The ability to innovate and be creative 71 9 20
Teamwork skills and the ability to collaborate with others in diverse group settings 67 11 22
The ability to connect choices and actions to ethical decisions 64 9 27
Knowledge about science and technology 56 9 35
The ability to work with numbers and understand statistics 55 10 35
Proficiency in a language other than English 43 18 39
Knowledge about global issues and developments and their implications for the future 40 15 45
Knowledge about the role of the United States in the world 35 18 47
Knowledge about cultural diversity in America and other countries 33 22 45
Civic knowledge, civic participation, and community engagement 30 18 52
Knowledge about democratic institutions and values 27 20 53

Figure 2. American Association of Colleges & Universities, "It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success" (2013).

Yes, the typical engineer or computer scientist will make more money over the course of a career than a teacher, librarian, or journalist. The conventional wisdom suggests that's merely because of supply and demand, but it more reflects policy decisions our society makes (underfunding schools, for example) and highlights areas in which our advocacy for change is needed. Still, the salaries that liberal arts majors earn and the prestige of the positions they hold do rise over the course of their careers, as the Wall Street Journal recently notes: "It might take liberal arts students a little longer to settle on a particular career path than it does graduates who were gunning for accounting or nursing jobs from freshman year, but they often take similar jobs in the end, including in finance, education and social work."

English majors, like all university students, can best position themselves by exploring career options, reflecting upon their values, dreams, and ambitions, gaining relevant experience, and learning how to translate the good work they do to different audiences. For some audiences, English majors may have to do the heavy work making the connections clear, but as English majors at USCB, they will get the opportunities for advising, education, and experience they need for whatever success means for them.

Media Reports and Commentary

Robert Matz, "The Myth of the English Major Barista" (2016). Inside Higher Ed.

Robert Matz, "What Can I Do With an English Major" (2016). ADE-ADFL Commons. [Includes cool interactive charts using census data about career outcomes.]

Valerie Strauss, "Enough with Trashing the Liberal Arts" (2016). Washington Post.

George Anders, "That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket" (2015). Forbes.

Paula Krebs, "Step Outside the Major, Please" (2015). Chronicle Vitae.

Hunter Rawlings, "College is Not a Commodity. Stop Treating it Like One" (2015). Washington Post.

Julie Rovner, "A Top Medical School Revamps Requirements To Lure English Majors" (2015). National Public Radio.

Loretta Jackson-Hayes, "We Don't Need More STEM Majors. We Need More STEM Majors with Liberal Arts Training" (2015). Washington Post.

Jeffrey Dorfman, "Surprise: Humanities Degrees Provide Great Return On Investment" (2014) Forbes.

Noah Kulwin, "The Employability Myth of the Humanities" (2014). Daily Californian.

Melissa Korn, "Liberal Arts Salaries Are a Marathon, Not a Sprint" (2014). Wall Street Journal.

Bruna Martinuzzi, "Why English Majors are the Hot New Hires" (2013).American Express OPENforum.

Jordan Weissmann, "The Best Argument for Studying English? The Employment Numbers" (2013). The Atlantic.

Vivian Giang, "LOGITECH CEO: 'I Love Hiring English Majors'" (2013). Business Insider.

William Pannapacker, "A Liberal Arts Foundation for Any Career" (2013). New York Times.

Robert Matz, "Dear Garrison" (2013). InsideHigherEd.

Annie Murphy Paul, "Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer" (2013). TIME.

Tyler Vendetti, "Yes, I'm An English Major. No, I Will Not Be Working At McDonald's" (2013). Thought Catalog.

David M. Shribman, "What is Knowledge Worth? A Liberal Arts Education has Enduring Value" (2013). Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Steve Strauss, "Why I Hire English Majors" (2013). The Huffington Post.

Nancy Colasurdo, "Why English Majors are Just as Important as Engineers" (2012). Fox Business.

Tony Golsby-Smith, "Want Innovative Thinking? Hire from the Humanities" (2011). Harvard Business Review.

Philip Nell, "Humanities Majors Learn More" (2011).

Audio: Stephen Smith, "Who Needs an English Major? The Future of Liberal Arts Education" (2011). American RadioWorks / American Public Media / PRX.

Gregory A. Petsko, "A Faustian Bargain" (2010). Genome Biology.