Is it true that English majors do well in the short- and long-term? YES!
English and Humanities major do quite well in terms of income outcomes according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (1). We earn more than our professional peers (Business and Education majors) in the long-term but business majors make a little more right out of the gate. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau examined a subset of earned wages over time. In examining just the top 10% from each major (not averages), they found that top computer science majors earned $2.95million over their lifetime. Guess what? Humanities majors in the top bracket reached just as high: History $2.65million and English $2.34million (2). History majors tend to become lawyers more frequently than English majors to account for the difference. If you want to know more about income by major over your lifetime, the numbers are available at The Hamilton Project.
And just for fun: English majors at the top of our field make more than those at the top of computer science or engineering (3). This data is skewed because CEOs at Alibaba, Goldman Sachs, and YouTube all majored in the humanities.
And guess what? English major salaries have been increasing as more firms realize the value of our skills. The National Association of Colleges and Employers shows that English major salaries are increasing by over 14% (4). Employers prize our ability to write. And what makes capitalism function? The ability to craft memos, reports, and evaluations. We stand out from the crowd.
We are more than hireable: we are in demand.
English majors find jobs after graduation.
This article describes how and why tech companies are looking for liberal arts majors.
Why study English in the first place: because we contribute to society and business?
CEO's taut the virtues of English majors (5). Imagination and creativity are key to solving complex problem.
The CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the premier investment banks that hires droves of econ and business majors, wants candidates who can WRITE (6). Yup, banks, too, need English majors to run Human Resources, Internal finance operations (not the banking part), Internal employee relations, publicity and communications, marketing, and all the other parts of the business. English majors might not be the bankers, but the CEOs want us there to run the ship because we can WRITE and COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY
The Wall Street Journal praises English majors for being "broad thinkers" and excellent writers. A director of HR at a Fortune 100 company loves English majors because "It is easier to hire people who can write--and teach them how to read financial statements--rather than hire accountants in hopes of teaching them to be strong writers" (7).
This PBS video discusses how humanities majors are finding exciting jobs at tech companies.
The Presidents of Stanford and the University of Michigan discuss how studying the humanities brings purpose and meaning to life.
Experience and Internships Data:
The Council for Independent Colleges suggests that humanities majors seek professional internships, i.e. not camp counselors unless that is your intended career (8). By the summer between your junior and senior year, you should test out a professional workplace internship.
Read with skepticism. The American Enterprise Institute (a political think tank) advocates professional career training over the liberal arts. So, their report is highly skewed in favor of non-critical thinking degrees but professional ones (think: education, engineering, public health, etc.). What is an important take away, though, is that if you know you'd like to pivot into computer science or business after SLU, then simply add a coding bootcamp or a business foundations certificate is key to your success (9). Both of these are easily available online from reputable institutions (like Georgia Tech or UPenn/Harvard, respectively). You might want to take an online certificate in advertising and marketing, for example from Northwestern, if you know that's the career you want to pursue.
Medical schools are looking for humanities majors.
Business schools are also looking for humanities majors.
References (due to accessibility restrictions by the university, we cannot provide the links to documents or post the documents themselves; a quick googling of the titles should bring them up in a new tab):
1. AAUP. "Liberal Arts Graduates and Employment: Setting the Record Straight." 2014.
2. Loosvelt, Derek. "Do Liberal Arts Majors Earn More in the Long Run?" on Vault Blogs. September 12, 2016.
3. Loosvelt, Derek. "When English Majors Earn More Than Engineers" on Vault Blogs, November 7, 2017.
4. National Association of Colleges and Employers. "First-Destinations for the College Class of 2015." (note: this survey is updated annually).
5. Bouee, Charles-Edouard. "Why imagination is a key strategic asset" on LinkedIn. Accessed April 17, 2019.
6. Solomon, David interviewed by Julia La Roche. "Goldman Sachs CEO reveals the valuable job skill he's finding 'less and less'" on Yahoo Finance. March 16, 2019.
7. Anders, George. "Good News, Liberal-Arts Majors: You Do Just Fine." The Wall Street Journal. September 12, 2016, page R2.
8. The Council of Independent Colleges. "Career Preparation and the Liberal Arts." July 2015.
9. Schneider, Mark and Matthew Sigelman. "Saving the Liberal Arts." American Enterprise Institute. February 2018.