Monday, March 25, 2024

English majors and Career Preparation (transcription)

[The transcript from this episode of Remarkable Receptions.]

“What are you going to do with a degree in English?”

“Can you do anything other than teach?”

Versions of these questions haunt English majors and members of English departments at universities across the country. Concerns about job prospects and career options may even have led to a decline in the numbers of people who select English as a major. 

Fortunately, the Modern Language Association just released a report highlighting encouraging possibilities for English majors, especially when students receive adequate support and preparation.  

You’re listening to Remarkable Receptions—a podcast about popular and critical responses to African American novels and more. 

Although we usually focus on African American novels and literary history, we decided to take a slight detour to mention some key findings from the MLA’s “Report on English Majors’ Career Preparation and Outcomes,” which was produced by an ad hoc committee of the Association of Departments of English (known as ADE). Here’s how the executive summary for the report begins: 
The sources and data this committee reviewed offer compelling, decisive evidence that students who major or minor in English find jobs and earn respectable salaries and that the skills and abilities that these students develop in their courses of study translate into a wide variety of professional opportunities. 
And just as important, the authors of the report go on to point out that: 
High percentages of alumni of English departments report that they have fulfilling careers and lives. The information included in this report, in short, overturns the persistent negative myths that surround the topic of English majors and career outcomes. 

This ADE report provides a large body of useful information about the varied routes for English majors after they graduate, and the authors showcase approaches taken by innovative English departments as they support their majors with career preparation. 

Listen: career preparation activities did not always hold a central place within the English major curriculum. But these days, such activities should. The landscape for careers and post-graduate possibilities have shifted from 20 and 30 years ago. Moreover, apprehension regarding future employment opportunities is a significant factor that leads undergraduates away from considering humanities majors. 

English majors pursue a wide variety of occupational pathways. However, as the authors of the ADE report explain, 
Making this career diversity comprehensible to our students requires us to do a little bit of organizational and interpretive work for them.

The “Report on English Majors’ Career Preparation and Outcomes” is available on the Modern Language Association website. 

This podcast was written by Howard Rambsy, who majored in English as an undergraduate. The episode was edited by Elizabeth Cali, who also majored in English.

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