Graduating with a degree in English is kind of like not graduating at all. You still read a lot, you still have no money, and you’re still stuck working minimum wage jobs you hate while pursuing a passion that costs you money rather than making you money. English majors may argue, “But I have finely honed writing skills! Reading comprehension! I laugh at the jokes in Shakespeare plays!” While all of this is fine and good, the “real world” has little space for an over-read recent graduate with a pension for poetry, love for literature, and aptitude for alliteration. Finding lucrative work has always been difficult, and the job options for English graduates pretty limited.
According to payscale.com the ten most popular careers for English majors are: high school teacher, administrative assistant, technical writer, paralegal/legal assistant, marketing coordinator, customer service representative, editor, elementary school teacher, copy editor, and managing editor. Most people will look at that list and focus on the glamorous editing jobs, ignoring the much more realistic (yet depressing) positions as a customer service rep or administrative assistant. The national median pay for these careers range from $35,000 (customer service rep and administrative assistant) to $70,000 (technical writer) with the fun editing careers coming in at around $45,000-$50,000.
All of that information is irrelevant, however, in an economy that has been in a recession since (arguably) 2008. In these “trying times” recent graduates would be lucky to get that first job as a customer service rep. When faced with moving back in with mom and dad and defaulting on thousands of dollars in student loans, answering phones in a cubicle begins to look really appealing.
A recent study released on May 8, 2011 by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, polled 571 2006-2010 graduates from four-year colleges and universities about their current employment status. The results were less than encouraging. Of these students, just over half of them are working in full-time jobs, and half of those lucky kids are working in jobs that do not require a B.A. or B.S. degree. That means an unfathomable amount of college grads are still working as baristas, Gap sweater folders, and waiters. 48% said that if they could go back to college, they would have been more careful about their choice of major. Somehow I doubt it was the business or pre-med students that said this.
While the media has been bombarding us with unemployment statistics that waver from “Yippy! The economy is getting better!” to “Oh wait, now it’s getting worse!” those numbers are just barely grazing the surface of how bad the situation really is. To be considered “employed” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an individual needs only to have done “…any work at all for pay or profit during the survey week. This includes all part-time and temporary work, as well as regular full-time, year-round employment.” This means that all of those college graduates working part-time at your local Red Robin are considered employed, with little regard to the quality of the work they are doing…
For the entire article, see the most recent issue of Line Zero.