Please stop telling me I’m going to be unemployed

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I have been at Stanford for a whopping five weeks. One of the go-to small-talk questions among new frosh is, “What’s your intended major?” I intend to major in English and based on people’s reactions, I’ve already gotten the feeling that humanities majors are slightly less welcome here at Stanford. For example:

  1. “But how are you going to get a job? You’re going to be unemployed. Why don’t you minor in something useful? The only thing you can be with an English degree is a teacher. Nobody is going to hire you.” This was said by one of my actual friends. I love being hyped up by my besties! When I told him I planned to quote him in this article, he said, “I support you majoring in English! I just think you should add a minor!” I plan to minor in Theater and Performance Studies. I assume that’s not what he had in mind. 
  2. “So… what job are you going to do? Teach?” Absolutely not.
  3. “So, what, you’re gonna be a writer? That’s an unreliable career choice.” Well, somebody has to do it. Otherwise, who would write the books you complain about reading?
  4. “Wow. You’re part of a dying breed at Stanford. There’s major grade inflation in STEM courses at Stanford, but I’m sure you won’t be in any of THOSE classes.” You know, in order to graduate, I have to complete the WAYS requirements, whether I want to or not.
  5. “Wow. I don’t think I’ve met any humanities majors yet. That’s refreshing.” His tone indicated that it was not actually refreshing and instead, slightly repulsive.
  6. “You’re wasting your degree because you’re not going to get a job.” Thanks Mom and Dad! All that money for nothing. At least, according to this supportive classmate.

Now, I’ve always known that every company needs people who can write, and not many people write well, so I’ll be refining a skill needed by every employer. But I decided to go further and research jobs for English majors. Apart from experiencing a self-inflicted crisis and considering changing my major, here’s what I’ve learned: 

  1. English majors have a lower unemployment rate than Computer Science majors, according to the National Center for Education Statistics! This one made me laugh because half of the rude comments listed above were made by those intending to major in Computer Science.
  2. The large majority of English majors don’t become teachers. And even if the majority did, would that be such a bad thing?
  3. You can go to law school with an English degree. Why doesn’t anyone ask me if I want to be a lawyer?
  4. You can go into Public Relations. People think of this as an actual career! People apparently do not think of writing as an actual career. 
  5. English majors tend to dominate the fields of news and media. There’s a constant need for reporters! (As evidenced by how The Daily literally accepts everyone.)

Although being an English major might not seem like the most “sensible” choice for career options, I can’t change what I’m passionate about. I want to take classes that I’m genuinely interested in, and if they’re English classes, then so be it. Overall, please be nicer to humanities majors! Nobody likes being told a month into their college experience that they will be unemployed in the long term. And what’s with all the negativity? You competitive STEM folks should be delighted that there’s one less person in your job market. When you need someone to edit your essays, we’ll be here! 

Contact Katie Buntic at kbuntic ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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