Is the English major disappearing?


“What are you going to do with an English major?”

My favorite English professor had the best answer to this. “What are you going to do with ANY major?” he’d grump, albeit with his famous twinkle in his eye.

He was a man of great discernment and humor. He was also right. Speaking personally, you can do anything you want with an English major. I’ve reinvented my career several times while still using what I learned in college.

Yet in The Decline and Fall of the English Major from, not doing what you want seems more than a mere possibility.  A new report shows that students are veering away from a major that supposedly won’t pay the bills, and not just because of parental pressure either; the humanities themselves “often do a bad job of explaining why the humanities matter.”

And it’s a shame. Even if you have no intention of being a writer—which is just one aspect the English major can take–learning how to articulate yourself in print, express your thoughts clearly, and comprehend what you read are still abilities surely (or sorely) valuable today. You don’t have to be an English major to learn these skills, either.

How has your major helped with your career or life in general? If you’re still in school, did you pick something other than what you wanted because you were worried about making a living?

Note: I can’t see that NYT’s headline title without thinking of this (versus the obvious).

What’s a Degree Really Worth to You (and Your Company)?

MBA. MIS. Getting a certification. Updating your certifications. Should you invest your time and money in getting a higher degree? Or is it smarter (not to mention cheaper) to spend that time gaining work experience?

Our Twitter #careerchat wanted to know what companies really think about your education level. Anna Oakes (@aoakes), Lead Organization Development Consultant and Recruiting Manager for Manpower, joined us as our guest expert.

Quick takeaways from the chat:

  • An MBA is like a marathon: There’s no guarantee you’ll finish or even win.
  • Know your goals before starting an MBA or certification program.
  • Pick a school with a network of people who can get you where you want to go.
  • Experience can do more than a certification if you work hard and get good references.
  • Online or not, it’s all in how you articulate what you put into it and what you got out of it.
  • Educate yourrself by reading, listening & being active. Want to learn about social media? Do it. Want to learn about finance, listen to experts. Find out what people you admire are reading from LinkedIn booklists. Copy it!
  • You need to be able to apply what you learned and your MBA into real life situations.


Special thanks to @Kblennon, @aoakes, @ASQ_Trish, @KyleMcShane, @SaleStart, @CaSuPe15, @davecarhart, @KyleMcShane and @WomensAlly.

This way to the chat transcript