While the most obvious link between an English degree and a career is teaching, the skills that English majors develop–in analytical writing, critical reasoning, creative thinking and expression, etc.–are desirable in many fields on the general job market. Commercial businesses recruit English majors because they develop a broad-based understanding of social, cultural, and literary perspectives, as well as accomplishment in critical thinking–the ability to read a body of work, critically evaluate the work, and articulate an audience-appropriate response to it. In this sense, potential employers will learn as much about your level of educational achievement and professional potential from your proficiency with language–whether spoken or written–as they will from your transcript and list of grades.
The biggest challenge of the degree, of course, is discovering how to make it work for you. During your time at U.M., you might consider adding a minor (Business? Computer Science? Communication Studies? Political Science?) that will increase your versatility and options as you begin your job search. You might also think about attaining some practical experience during your undergraduate years: for example, you might seek out a leadership role in a campus organization, volunteer to assist with event-planning on campus, seek out an opportunity to work with a faculty member on a research project, write for or contribute to the Kaimin or the Oval, gain volunteer experience by working with children at a summer camp, etc.
Our majors have achieved a great level and diverse range of accomplishments in recent years: they have continued on to nationally ranked and recognized graduate programs, started businesses, gone to law school, traveled abroad to teach, begun work in nonprofits, entered the publishing industry, become freelance writers and/or journalists, found jobs as marketing specialists and computer analysts, etc. If you would draw your inspiration from the example of cultural luminaries, consider that the following individuals were also English majors: Alan Alda, Dave Berry, Carol Browner, Chevy Chase, Mario Cuomo, Michael Eisner, David Duchovny, Jodi Foster, A. Bartlett Giamatti, Chris Isaak, Paul Newman, Joe Paterno, Joan Rivers, Diane Sawyer, Marty Shottenheimer, Paul Simon, Steven Spielberg, Brandon Tartikoff, Clarence Thomas, Grant Tinker, Barbara Walters, Sigourney Weaver, and Bob Woodward. You might also wish to consider the professional opportunities for English majors outlined on the chart, English: What Can I Do With This Degree?
If nothing else, be assured that English provides a versatile and well-rounded field of study that can position you favorably for the job market as surely as it can make you more alive to the beauties of our world and the possibilities of language. As you move through our program, take every opportunity you can to talk to other students about their experiences and plans. Also, don´t hesitate to visit with your professors–and with our faculty, especially–during their office hours; many have experiences that might surprise you, as well as advice that might help you. You might also wish to visit with the staff of the University´s Career Services (in Lommasson 154) and/or explore the resources they offer on their website.