Real Talk: Things You Learn From Studying English


So, you got the degree that everyone challenges with: “But what can you do with that?”

The scary thing is, sometimes you don’t actually know the answer. Believe me, I’ve been there.

I’ve been at the events where a family friend comes up to you and says, “English, huh?” and you smile and nod and acknowledge the fact you are, indeed, studying English.

And then they say “so you want to be a teacher?”

And you absolutely do not want to be a teacher and you’re so sick of people assuming that this is the only option in your future that you have no fear in telling them straight up that no, you do not in fact want to teach.

Then they drop the famous question:

“So what can you do with an English degree?”

You smile. Maybe you start to laugh a little bit. You get all prepared to explain the many opportunities tucked away in your future – and then you freeze.

Suddenly you realize, what can you do with an English degree?

The truth is, you can do a lot – because while you’re studying Shakespeare (of course), you’re simultaneously building up a plethora of resume-worthy skills:

You’re learning how to think

When you’re dissecting a text like “The Yellow Wallpaper,” you’re doing a lot more work than you think.

The study of literature compels you to think critically – to look beyond the obvious and develop your own ideas and opinions, supported with clear evidence.

Dissecting the motives behind “The Yellow Wallpaper” is actually doing more than you think – it’s forcing you to look critically at the world around you. It’s getting you to look beyond the obvious and develop your own ideas and opinions.

You’re learning how to make connections

It’s all too common to encounter someone who thinks that a completing a degree in English means “reading a book,” as if the entire degree consisted of a series of stand-alone reading tasks.

In fact, even the simplest undergraduate assignments usually task students with drawing connections between different texts.

These connections can be very simple or incredibly obscure – but in either case, you’re building the ability to look at different kinds of information and discover ways to make relevant connections between them.

You’re expanding your horizons

My English major introduced me to Anne of Green Gables, a character who continues to inspire me to this day.

Finding passion is just as important as finding knowledge – and you can find both in a literature-focused degree.

Yes, reading and studying fiction (and doing nothing else) may make it difficult to find a job. But if you choose a field with your eyes open and are ready to develop the extra-curricular experience needed to complement your skills, there’s no reason to hide.

It’s what you know – not what your title is

In this day and age you have a huge opportunity to market yourself, create new opportunities and network in the industry you’re interested in pursuing.

People are going to be impressed by the skills you have and the person you are – not what your degree proclaims.

Don’t define yourself by your degree, and don’t be consumed by the people who do.

What’s the most important degree advice you have to offer? Share it with us!