Putting English Literature to Work
What subject do you like best at school? Which one do you think will be the most useful for your future career? If you want to be an accountant, your mathematics courses will probably help you get into the right training program. For medical professions, your science courses could be the best. How about your English literature courses? Except in a few cases, studies in poetry and fiction don’t lead to any specific job. In that case, why would you study literature in university? There are many reasons why an English degree can be a good career move. The benefits come, not just in the specific topics you study, but in the skills you learn along the way.
Studies in English literature can help people learn how to read in a new way. When you first learned to read at age five or six, you probably looked just at the most obvious meanings of the words or sentences. Did you ever think of how many meanings words like “run” or “set” can have? What if an entire sentence can mean two or three different things?
If you study English literature, you’ll learn to see possible hidden meanings behind even the simplest sentences. This skill could be very useful if you become a lawyer or an editor, where the exact meanings of words are important. Understanding words could help you teach English as a second language or to work as an interpreter. You could even become a crossword puzzle maker.
Besides learning how to read, an English degree will teach you how to write and to speak. Writing a story or an e-mail to a friend can be difficult enough, but how do people learn to tell their ideas to others? If you write a report for your supervisor at work, you’ll need to know how to present your ideas clearly. If you give a presentation about what you’ve done, you’ll need to have practice in organising your ideas and telling others about them.
Courses in English literature can teach you the power of words. Even if you’re giving a presentation on Shakespeare’s plays or writing a paper on Stephen Leacock’s stories, you’re learning the communication skills that you’ll need later in life. If you learn to express yourself as briefly as possibly, that’s even better. An English degree also teaches students the ability to analyse and compare documents, which could be useful in many different types of work.
An English degree normally requires reading a variety of stories and poems, from the earliest available writings to the most recent texts. Studying the ancient writings could lead you to a career as a museum curator or librarian. Reading books by authors such as Charles Dickens could teach you about human nature and lead to a career as a social worker or a psychologist. Through literature, you can learn valuable lessons about life.
An English degree can help in so many ways, no matter what career you choose. Why don’t you consider it when you finish your high school studies?
Korkki, Phyllis. “Graduates’ First Job: Marketing Themselves.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/jobs/23search.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=english%20degree&st=cse
McGill Career Planning Service. “What can I do with my studies in ENGLISH (English Literature, Cultural Studies, and in Theatre)?” http://www.mcgill.ca/files/caps/english.pdf.
Slayter, Mary Ellen. An English Degree Can Translate Into Opportunity http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/18/AR2005061801428.html.