How Do I Apply My English Degree?

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By Nick Mount
english degree, picking up book from shelf
Photo by Christin Hume via Unsplash

Students going for an English Degree gain rigorous training in the skills of critical thinking. Reading and interpreting texts, analyzing complex data, making judgments, marshaling evidence and presenting arguments of their own.

You’re learning to think clearly and critically and to write with grace, precision, and force. International organizations, governments of all kinds, professionals, large and small businesses all depend on these skills. Besides many professors and authors of English literature, we count among our alumni publishers and editors, radio and television producers, journalists, business executives, filmmakers, lawyers, judges, and many other professions. Check out what best-selling author Joy Fielding has to say in a short video about her U of T English degree at http://alumni.utoronto.ca/

That’s the official line, pretty much direct from my Department website. Unofficially, it’s true that students with an English Degree end up in these and many other rewarding careers. (A guy I did my MA with is now a spy with CSIS. I’d tell you his name, but then I’d have to kill you.)  But no post-secondary degree is a guarantee of any job, especially today. Besides, an undergraduate degree isn’t really about getting a better job. It’s about having a better, richer life, while you’re here and after. It’s about the books you read, the ideas you encounter, the friends you make—both intellectually and socially. If you’re willing and able, an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts lets you join a conversation that’s bigger than here and now, and much bigger than yourself.

University graduates shouldn’t be the ones looking for work for themselves. They should be the ones who fix our broken societies to make sure there’s work, play, and justice for all.