"You're an English major, so I assume you want to be a teacher?"
If you are a humanities major, you have probably heard the statement above more than a few times. I personally get some sort of variation about 9 out of 10 times I tell people I am an English major; it usually brings me great pleasure to be able to say that I have no intentions of teaching after graduation. I certainly am not the only one who feels this way -- so many people are misled by popular media into thinking that choosing English, history or art as a major will doom them to a life as impecunious schoolteachers.
There is nothing wrong with being a school teacher. It is a field that is greatly underappreciated in America. In fact, we might be needing more school teachers in the near future. Needless to say, when I first declared English, my emphasis of study was education. I loved writing, but I didn't believe I had any other job prospects besides teaching. After about one quarter in education, I quickly realized teaching was not for me. Once I dropped out of the education emphasis, I was able to start exploring all the endless possibilities of employment with a humanities degree. Contrary to popular belief, there are many careers you can pursue with an English degree.
Fellow Odyssey Content Creators Sarah Chute and Ella Mahoney both had similar experiences as history majors.
"After thinking about it for a while, I felt that I didn't actually want my career to be at a school." Sarah realized how much she loved historical research, and although she hasn't ruled out education, the idea of working in a museum one day is much more appealing to her than a classroom.
Ella knows that history will prepare her for a career where she is able to look holistically at the world around her. "History is about theory," she says, "the cause and effect and how people lived back then, not just what happened." Debates on many campuses continue between those who advocate for the content of a practical major like education and others who think that the skills of a humanities major are the best insurance in a rapidly changing world.
There may be bleak news in the media for the liberal arts with programs being cut and low job prospects after college. With the most popular undergraduate major today being business, where do the humanities graduates fit into the mix? Employers want a workforce educated with a focus on creativity and solving problems. In the humanities, we are trained to write, research and verbally communicate and package conclusions so others can understand the information. A study done by the university of Toronto concluded that those in the humanities have higher levels of cognitive empathy. Interpersonal understanding and building relationships are some of the most important characteristics a person can have with customers and business associates.
If there is one thing I have learned in my short time at college, it is this: a degree is what you make it, because choosing a major does not choose or guarantee your career. Those passionate about their degrees won't hesitate to pave their own paths. For the brave souls willing to take matters into their own hands, an English major or any other humanities major provides students with skills that are critical in the workplace.
Keep reading novels, researching history and studying art. Humanities students have the power to shape global culture and conversations. Whether you want to be a teacher or not, people in the humanities will continue to help solve, understand and engage in cultural differences and world problems inside and outside the classroom.