English degrees hold value

Whenever someone finds out I’m an English major, the response is always the same: “What are you going to do with that? Teach?” 

While it’s an option, it’s not the only one. An English degree can help open opportunities in a variety of fields outside of teaching such as publishing, editing, business and law. Associate Professor Christian Smith, who has a doctorate, said an English degree prepares students for many different things.  

“Employers are always looking for skills in critical thinking, critical reading, analysis. And not only that, but effective communication, which I think is something that an English degree really prepares students for,” Smith said. 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative stereotypes associated with pursuing a humanities degree, even though books, films, video games, music, and art are the things people like to fill their free time with. Smith said our culture plays a role in creating a stigma surrounding humanities.  

“In our culture, the heavy emphasis on business or STEM degrees does not necessarily represent the whole story. This is a dominant cultural narrative, but like many dominant cultural narratives, does not really express or reflect what’s out there,” Smith said.   

Associate Professor Kate Oestreich, who has a doctorate, said the negative take is the biggest challenge that comes with studying the arts.  

“That stigma makes me angry. I don’t know where it started because there certainly isn’t any data to back it up,” she said.  

Professor Dan Albergotti, who has a doctorate, encourages students to “follow their bliss” and ignore the negativity if it’s something they are passionate about. He described some of the rewards that come with studying the humanities.  

“People that enter the humanities just want to explore questions and dwell in the mystery of everything and ask deeper questions. There’s never a finish line. People in the humanities are really looking to stimulate intellectual curiosity, and thought, lifelong,” Albergotti said. 

The stigma surrounding humanities isn’t necessary. Art will always have value in society because whether they realize it or not, people consume it every day.