Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Department of English
Why English?


It’s not always easy being an English major. Even Garrison Keillor gently makes fun of us on A Prairie Home Companion ("brought to you by the Professional Organization of English Majors . . .").

But, of course, he is one of us (B.A. in English, University of Minnesota), and he’s done alright for himself. Hasn’t he?

The study of literature and language provides a context for developing the communication skills necessary to be successful in many different career fields, including broadcasting. English majors learn how to analyze language, to appreciate and understand complex and sophisticated texts, to solve rhetorical and logical problems. In brief, English majors learn how to learn.

That’s why English majors can do just about anything. And they do do just about anything, finding demanding jobs in banking, education, government, publishing, entertainment, communications, and many other fields.

Really, what can’t an English major do?

Many degrees offer specific preparation and training for certain fields, but a degree in English develops critical thinking, critical writing, and problem solving skills that are applicable to most fields of work.

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree,"; Abraham Lincoln said, "and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

English majors are sharpening their axes. They’re becoming smarter, more skilled, wiser. When it comes time to cut down the tree—to perform the work of a technical writer, magazine editor, press secretary, director of a non-profit foundation, public relations manager, or whatever—English majors are ready to go to work.

When somebody asks our students, "What are you going to do with a degree in English?";they will have answers ready:

  • Whatever I want!"
  • "I don’t know yet. But when I get there, I’ll be ready."
  • "Do with it? I’m going to live with it!"
  • "I’m going to chop some wood . . . with a sharp axe . . . ." 

What can you do with a degree in English? Check out the helpful list of career areas, employers and strategies here: