Do you wish you could major in English or creative writing — but worry that it would be hopelessly impractical?

Good news! Studying literature and creative writing prepares you for an incredible variety of careers — and we can prove it. We'll start with the myth that English majors all become English teachers.

"What are you going to do with that? Teach?" This question, often heard by English and creative writing majors, reflects a common misconception. In fact, fewer than 10% of such students wind up teaching English in elementary or high schools. If you want one of these jobs, typically you will need specialized training in education as well as expertise in a subject area like English.

So, if most English and creative writing majors don't teach, do they get real, career-oriented jobs at all? Or do they just work in food service or retail?

Another myth! The idea that majoring in English, creative writing, or other humanities subjects limits your career options to asking "Do you want fries with that?" is just wrong. Humanities graduates find employment in almost every sector of the economy. For more on humanities majors’ occupations, earnings, and job satisfaction, visit humanitiesindicators.org.

In fact, people with English and creative writing degrees develop essential skills that employers say they value now more than ever.

These include the ability to find and evaluate information, read critically, write clearly and persuasively, solve complex problems, and empathize with others' points of view. Visit W.W. Norton's web site to view the full poster showing specific jobs that these skills prepare you for.

And storytelling — the bread and butter of literature and creative writing students — cuts across all professions and industries as perhaps the most powerful way to communicate information and influence beliefs, as Nobel Prize winner Robert Schiller's recent book Narrative Economics illustrates.

In our rapidly changing world, employers know they need innovators. Courses in literary analysis and creative writing confront you with challenging problems that defy easy solutions and thus foster the creative, outside-the-box thinking that true innovation requires. In addition, these intense, discussion-based classes and workshops prepare you for collaborating with others — another skill that will endure even as the nature of work changes.

But surely English or creative writing majors earn less than those who study more practical subjects, like business, engineering, or computer programming — right?

Once again, conventional wisdom lets us down. While STEM graduates may earn more right out of college, these salary differences even out over time. Why? Tech skills quickly become obsolete while the "soft skills" developed by humanities students become increasingly valuable, explains public policy expert David Deming in this New York Times article.

Humanities degrees actually provide an excellent "return on investment," according to this analysis of the numbers by economist Jeffrey Dorfman in Forbes.

Now that we've cleared up some misconceptions, let's talk about why you should major in something you love.

When you're passionate about the subject you're studying, you are motivated to do your best . . . which typically results in good grades and other markers of high achievement that impress prospective employers

In Webster's English Department, we offer several opportunities for students to distinguish themselves, including departmental honors; publication and editorial experience with The Green Fuse, our literary magazine; a reading series featuring our creative writing students; and leadership positions within the Literature Club. We've even had students present their research at professional conferences.

And it's not just about impressing employers and other people.

Far from being mere entertainment, literature grapples with the issues most important to human beings, including identity, death, love, sex, and nature. Reading and writing literature will expand not just your skills but also your mind, your heart, and your world.

In the end, this is your life we’re talking about. Yes, you need to be able to support yourself, but the quality of the time you spend on this earth — including your college years — is important, too.

Fortunately, you don't need to deny your desire to study something meaningful to you in order to plan responsibly for your future. Come major in English or Creative Writing at Webster University, and we'll help you do both!

Photo: Pearson House, home to the English Department at Webster University


Created with an image by Olivier Dessy - "Peaceful studying"