I am very happy about the education that I received from USM, but if I had to voice one complaint it would be about the way that they attempted to sell the English degree program to prospective English majors. They opted not to explain what writing centered jobs are available, but to describe how the skills learned in pursuit of an English degree can make you marketable for any job regardless of the degree that the employers expect. And as a holder of an English degree, I do have many marketable skills. I know how to research and write and yadda yadda, blah blah. But I studied English because I want to write. I want to have a job that gives me writing experience that I can use to improve my writing ability, so one day, I can transition into a novelist.
Yet, when I search through the job postings on Monster.com and other similar websites, I come to realize that I have no idea how find writing jobs. I know that it is my fault for not having figured these things out before graduating, but I did try. Every time I asked the faculty, looked through brochures about an English degree, or searched the internet about the writing jobs that I can get after I graduate, I was told the same very unhelpful platitude, “You can do anything with an English degree.”
Shure. Fine. I can do anything with my degree, but I wanted to know titles of writing jobs. Of course, there are the titles of jobs like poet or novelist, but these are not jobs that you can just send in a resume to get an interview for. You have to work your way up paying your dues for several years, publishing short stories. Then, if you are lucky, you might publish a novel, and If you are very lucky, your novel might garner a following. And if you are able to publish a second novel that garners as big a following as the first, then you might be able to quit the “day job” and call yourself a professional novelist. And the same thing goes for professional poet. But instead of going into any detail on the writing jobs that one can actually do straight out of college, they skip rite to, “You can do anything.”
While it may be true that you can do anything with an English degree, students don’t go into the English major because they want to become an assistant store manager at Walmart. People that are interested in managing a Walmart pursue a business degree. Generally, students that pursue an English degree love to read and think deeply about the things that they read. Thinking about things you read leads logically into researching the work of literature, and once you have done the research you might as well write about it. Reading, researching, and writing, sure sounds like there might be a job in that. But no one mentions what the name of that job might be. And if you do manage to find an actual writing job on one of the many job search websites with these weak keywords, they expect five years of experience in the field of writing and a degree in the field that they are writing about. So what they should be telling you when you think about becoming an English major is “With a degree in English, you will be well suited to put aside your true love of reading and writing for a job where you never do either just so you can pay the bills.”