Why Study English?

Why Study English?

What do students learn in English classes?

Ideally, over your course of study…

  1. You will come to understand and appreciate how literature interprets the human condition in its various social, philosophical, ethical, and/or political dimensions.
  2. You will learn to write more compellingly, in both critical and creative modes.
  3. You will gain a deeper understanding of literary history, genres, periods, and major authors.

What kinds of careers are open to English majors?

Graduates have been recruited in many fields, specifically because their English major insures that they have speaking, writing, and critical thinking skills; jobs will train you for the rest. The Office of Personal and Career Development is especially focused now on working with liberal arts majors from their freshman year with self-study, and internships to help students prepare for careers. Check our their page for English major resources here. In addition to being a foundation of a liberal arts education, the English major or minor provides an excellent platform for post-graduate study in fields including law, medicine, literature, business, and the creative and performing arts. Our majors and minors have careers in publishing, business, finance, accounting, human resources, consulting, social work, civil service, film, the arts, education, and more. You can see alumni stories on our Alumni News page.

Why should I be an English major?

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Relax, English Majors. You’re Still Plenty Employable.”

Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed: Shocker: Humanities Grads Gainfully Employed and Happy

Jeffrey Dorfman of Forbes: Surprise: Humanities Degrees Provide Great Return On Investment

Derek Loosvelt of Vault: When English Majors Earn More Than Engineers

Rohan Maitzen in Los Angeles Times: Study English Lit to acquire ‘marketable’ skills? That’s a bad argument

Jeffrey J. Selingo in The New York Times: Six Myths About Choosing a College Major

Nikki Wiart of Maclean’s: Why a liberal arts education pays off

Georgette Phillips and Donald Hall in The Washington Post: Liberal arts or business education? Both, deans say.

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker on why you should study English

Christina H. Paxton in The New Republic on the tangible benefits of studying the humanities

Carolyn Gregoire in The Huffington Post on the practicality of an English major

Jordan Weissman in The Atlantic on the employability of English majors

Are employers looking for English majors?

CBS News Moneywatch on how employers prefer English majors over occupational majors

Bruna Martinuzzi in Open Forum on why English majors are the hot new hires

Steve Strauss in The Huffington Post on why he hires English majors

Jeffrey Dorfman in Forbes on the return on investment for English majors

Business Insider on successful people who majored in English

The Wall Street Journal on Companies seeking English majors


Have Wake Forest English majors gone on to successful writing careers?

Yes. In 2016 we celebrated a program called Words Awake, which is a reunion of the many Wake Forest alumni who went on to great writing careers, such as Ben Brantley, the chief theater critic for The New York Times; Frances O’Roark Dowell, an award-winning writer of young adult fiction; Doug Waller, a best-selling nonfiction writer and former Time magazine correspondent; Iraq War veteran Matt Gallagher, author of the novels YoungBlood and Kaboom; novelist Clint McCown; and YA novelist Emily Giffin. The next Words Awake will be in 2020!

The English Department is a tight knit-group of majors and minors who get to know their professors (successful writers themselves), and have opportunities to learn from guest authors and speakers brought in regularly.

What kinds of events does the English department coordinate?

The English Student Association organizes film screenings, socials, career panels, and scholarly and creative presentations. English majors and minors sometimes intern at the Wake Forest University Press, which focuses on the publication and promotion of Irish poetry. There are also some opportunities available at WFDD, the local NPR station, which is also housed on campus. In their spare time, English majors hear from scholarly speakers and authors such as Gillian Flynn, author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Gone Girl, or, Ta-Nehisi Coates. MacArthur Genius Grant Recipient Ben Lerner recently spoke as part of our poetry and fiction reading series.

Other career-related resources

WFU Office of Personal and Career Development

WFU Pre-Law

We encourage students interested in applying to graduate programs (MA and/or Ph.D) in English to consult Dr. Omaar Hena, director of our MA program, for general advice about graduate programs in English.

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