As a former English major whose college studies enabled her to indulge a love of language, I'm always a little sad when I hear people declare an English degree to be useless.
Such was the case, this morning when I read a new survey by career training site Trade-Schools.net. The results showed that 54.3% of those who studied English were not satisfied with their choice of major. So, according to this survey, English turns out to be the most regretted major in America. Close behind are fine arts and political science, showing 51.6% and 38.2% rates of dissatisfaction, respectively.
Meanwhile, only 14.8% of people who majored in accounting were dissatisfied with their choice, followed by 15% of those who majored in computer science, and 21.1% of those who majored in information technology.
It's not surprising, given the insane proliferation of tech jobs and the very high salaries they pay. Jobs in academia and journalism where many English majors land, on the other hand, are infamously hard to come by and not all that lucrative. For comparison, data shows English majors earn less than $1 million over a lifetime while accounting majors earn close to $1.5 million — a difference that becomes even bigger when you take compound interest into account.
Maybe we just aren't thinking about our majors the right way. An English degree won't fully prepare you for a very specific line of work, and a college major doesn't always predict your career. (I mean, how many freshmen really know what they want to do for the rest of their lives!?)
If you attend a liberal arts college like yours truly did, you're not going to major in something directly pre-professional but, instead, receive a well-rounded education that enhances your critical thinking skills, theoretically readying you for a fairly wide range of jobs.
I've spent most of my life post-college getting paid to put words on a page, whether that's been in print magazines or email marketing campaigns, but my fellow English majors are up to all sorts of things: They work in finance or politics or they're lawyers, doctors or software engineers.
Plus, data shows that 73.4% of employers look for candidates with strong written communication skills, making it the third most sought-after trait, just behind leadership and collaborative ability.
Even tech companies can use brains like ours: A prominent Silicon Valley software engineer recently offered a very compelling outline of the reasons why every tech employee should have a liberal arts education. Chief among them was wishing she'd learned earlier on in her career "how to think critically about the world we live in and how to engage with it." Similarly, a former Google and Microsoft exec has argued that a liberal arts education will likely give workers a leg up in the coming decades: As AI makes many other jobs obsolete, these creative thinkers will be sought after for skills robots are less able to replicate.
Sure, English majors probably won't be averaging six-figure salaries anytime soon, but I still think it would be pretty cool if they did.