Originally posted February 22, 2016.
Photo, left to right: Lisa Sisley (BA ‘92), Business, Public Relations, and Marketing; Melia Fritch (MA ’04), Library and Information Services; Ashley Brown Morris (BA ’09, MA ’12), Museum Services; and Cheryl Rauh (MA ’11), Technical and Professional Writing, College Teaching, and Student Services. They shared the professional possibilities of a degree in English at our annual Alumni Connections panel, Oct. 2016.
Last September, The Washington Post published an article titled “Meet the Parents Who Won’t Let Their Children Study Literature” (2 Sept. 2016). Its claims prompted Cheryl Rauh (MA ‘11, pictured above) to offer a set of counter-arguments based on her own experience. Cheryl has allowed us to share her response here.
Think students should study “practical” things in college? It’s hard to beat my English degree. Here’s why:
It transcends all industries.
I have skills in research, writing, and analysis. I am useful to everyone and can teach myself a lot on the job. I’ve worked for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, a medical billing company, a tech company specializing in aviation training, the University, and done freelance work in several fields. My work spans tech writing, marketing and promotions, teaching, editing, and program coordinating.
Every job changes with technology, so studying for a job means hoping the school has the resources to keep up with the latest trends in industry. And then hoping your employer does the same so you’re marketable elsewhere. My skills don’t rely on technology or practices; they make me highly adaptable.
I graduated into the recession, but I was only a barista for 1.5 months before I got a job in web content. Since then, I’ve only had 1 month without work while I completed a lengthy interview process for a job I got despite not having the required experience in the industry. My research and writing skills were worth that much.
You can make good money.
It’s possible to work your way up to pretty good pay. It does start low, but if I had been so inclined, I could be making really good money in tech writing right now. If I needed to, I could go make more and my current job is opening new doors for how I might do that.
Perhaps most important to me…
It can lead to satisfying careers.
Investment in what you do improves the quality of your work and makes you more successful. I thought about a computer science degree to get my self on a faster track to a good income. I am good with code, but I don’t enjoy it as more than something I dabble in a bit. Let’s stop encouraging students to move on to unsatisfying yet lucrative jobs by perpetuating myths that lead them away from the satisfying careers available to those with humanities degrees.
– Cheryl Rauh, 2 Sept. 2016