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What you can do with a Literature Degree

Updated on June 7, 2010
Photo credit: Google images
Photo credit: Google images

"What do you do with a B.A. in English, what is my life going to be? Four years of college and plenty of knowledge have earned me this useless degree..."

So sings the hero of Broadway's "Avenue Q." However, he is happily mistaken, as those with a literature degree have a staggering array of careers available to them after college.

Why is English a useful major?

If you're a liberal arts major surrounded by engineering and science students, you've probably had your intelligence mocked on numerous occasions. For those who find more joy in calculating derivatives than delving into Shakespearean subtext, your decision to major in English is an admission of insanity.

Literary concept #1: Irony

It is ironic that you are the one being mocked because as an English major you are taught critical thinking and effective communication... not to mention superior writing skills. All of which is extremely important to employers, who are in need of your creative and flexible mind. When analyzing texts, literature majors look for new ways to understand the author's meaning and intent. This translates well to the workplace where executives applaud fresh analysis of existing and potential situations.

Literary Concept #2: Characterization

Passionate. Motivated. Profound. Employable. By pursuing a literature degree, you signal to employers that you care about more than just money; you chose this major because you have a deep appreciation for what you study. Potential employers recognize these traits and assume you will show the same enthusiasm for your job as you have shown for literature.

Remember, when you study literature, you are also studying aspects of philosophy, psychology, sociology, history, culture, race, sexuality, gender, and religion, which allows you to be flexible in your job hunting.

What careers are available to literature majors?

Literature students find careers in teaching, publication, the arts, public relations, politics, administration, fundraising, advertising, broadcasting, and other professions that require critical thinking, interpersonal skills, and exposure to a wide range of subjects.

For years, studying literature has been a great way to prepare for law school. In fact, the two most common majors for students accepted to law schools are study of the classics and mathematics.

Literary Concept #3: Authorial Intrusion

How's this for a shocker? The Harvard Alumni Magazine reports that, on average, "literature majors outnumber biology majors for admittance to medical schools in the United States."

Moreover, if you're a bookworm who likes burrowing into technology, many industries are seeking employees with terrific writing skills and cultural knowledge. These qualities are valuable not only for editing or manual writing, but also for tasks like new media scripting and website production.

Want to help the world? As English is considered an international language, there is a high demand for those who can teach it abroad. There are several programs that offer opportunities for graduates to teach in countries all over the world, so when combined with a few courses in ESL (English as a second language), your degree can fling open doors to exciting cross-cultural adventures.

How to get the job you want after graduation:

  • Narrow your focus- Employers want to know your professional aspirations, because they assume that if you like what you do, you'll do it well. Although many options may be available, you're more likely to get the job if it's what you know is best for you.
  • Know thyself- Be able to identify your skills and market them to the interviewer through effective communication, and your resume/cover letter. For instance, if you were required to take a foreign language and you excelled in these studies, now is not the time for understatement. The ability to understand another language is very important in this era of globalization and outsourcing.
  • Be fearless and creative- Don't feel intimidated by a lack of specific vocational experience. Remember, most skills can be learned on the job, but critical thinking and good written and verbal skills will always be in demand.

Finally, check out this link from the University of North Carolina for a list of occupations, Internet, and career resources tailored to meet the needs of all you dexterous (aka "clever") literature majors.


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