The other day, I had a realisation that knocked me for six.
I first started university almost ten years ago.
Ok, if we’re being picky it’s nine years, but the point is the same. I am getting old. Praise the lord for anti-aging creams.
When I first considered going to university, I was the first person in my immediate family to go. To be honest, I’m fairly sure I actually didn’t know anyone who had been to university. I mean sure, there may have been a friend of a friend or a relative you only see at family occasions, but nobody I knew well had pursued a degree.
As such, I made what I thought was a well-reasoned decision and chose to study English & Creative Writing. I liked creative writing. I liked English and it had been my strongest subject throughout school and college.
It was only after starting the course I learnt some of the negative connotations that surrounds an English degree. Some argue that it’s not worth as much as other subjects (especially compared to any maths/science based.) Almost everyone assumes you’re going to become a teacher. And finally, the general consensus stands that yes, you may have read a few books but really you have no transferable skills.
Trust me, all of that is rubbish.
An English Degree Teaches You To Be Open Minded
Obviously, it depends on the university you attend, but studying English opens you up to different perspectives. You study material from different periods of history, different cultures and different levels of privilege.
Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Often writers are inspired by events, whether current or historical, or make reference to their own society and heritage. Whilst studying English Literature I learnt about renaissance art. I learnt more about the slave trade than I ever did in school. I learnt about atrocities the media has forgotten and how many of our modern problems have actually existing for a long, long time.
Not only does this make English graduates great at pub quizzes, it also means we’re used to looking at things from different angles. When it comes to general knowledge, we are well rounded and have vast references that we can draw on to help our work – whether that’s explaining something to a colleague or writing for a target audience. We’ve been taught to understand the value in different opinions and world views.
English Degrees Force You To Be Critical
English grads are also taught to be critical. Sure, this poem might talk about flowers, but what does it actually mean?
When you study for an English degree you learn not to take things at face value. You start to dig deeper and search for alternative interpretations before making your argument. In business this translates to not mindlessly following directions. English grads ask questions. They dig deeper. Instead of following the crowd, they offer a critical eye which can help drive improvements.
During Your English Degree You Learn To How To Write.
Also, I may be generalising here, but English graduates tend to be good at writing. Most of the people I know that have an English degree are just as happy writing as they are reading – and being able to write well is invaluable in any career.
Whether it’s arranging a meeting with the Big Boss or trying to placate an angry client, being able to communicate clearly and in the correct manner is a skill in itself.
I could summon a thousand other reasons why an English degree is worth pursing, but sadly I have a dissertation to write for my current degree. So instead, I’ll leave you with these parting words: if you enjoy studying English, ignore the pressure to enrol in a ‘proper’ degree.
With any degree course there will be hard times, infuriating times and times where you are 99.9998% sure that it is not worth the heartache. It’s these times that you’ll need to remember the joy that the subject can bring. The things it has taught you and passion it has ignited. In essence, if you enjoy English, don’t be afraid to choose it.