Why Major in English?

December 10, 2010

“Why should I major in English if I’m not going to teach?” is one of Dr. Robert Prescott’s favorite questions. Chair of the English Department, Prescott advises students pursuing paths outside of the education world and emphasizes their marketability in many careers, particularly law and business. All students entering the workforce must have a certain skill-set, says Prescott. English majors in particular develop their set through critical thinking, conducting research, expanding computer skills and matching messages to their targeted audience.

“73% of English majors do not intend to become teachers,” Prescott said, noting that BU English majors boast a five-year, 100% placement rate into law school. Of the 63% of majors who enter the business world, many focus on entrepreneurship. Recent graduate Jared Bartman ’10 is a prime example of Prescott’s English major entrepreneur. Bartman paired with four other students to take the $7,500 second place prize in the 2010 Project Springboard entrepreneurship competition. Bartman, a Music and English double-major, helped create Evening’s Empire Recording Company. The organization’s business plan was designed as an affordable method for undiscovered musicians to access music industry resources.

From his office outside the English Department’s comfy student lounge, Dr. Prescott emphasizes the Department’s dedication to serving career needs for its students. Prescott’s textbook “Why To Major In English If You’re Not Going To Teach” is comprised of salary information, famous English majors, and, like any good book, stories. One story is that of Jennifer Major ’95 who applied her skill set to businesses including local publisher Spoon River Press and “Big Four” accounting firms Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers. At PwC, Major works as a Client Driver Leader, where she frequently applies her message-audience skills. “In my work as a consultant, we feature first the ‘Huh?’ question. This is the services that we are offering to our clients…Then we move to the ‘So what?’ which to my clients means ‘What is the value to my company, and what will be the return on our investment?’” In his textbook, Dr. Prescott features Major’s career path and highlights how she “does English” in her workplace, every day.

Bookending the non-education major’s curriculum are ENG 181 and ENG 480. Introductory course ENG 181 is designed to orientate students to their coursework as well as impress upon them the importance of their internships and summer jobs. During the fall of senior year, students enroll in their senior project class, ENG 480. This course is tied to both the Fall Job and Graduate School Fairs, so students may showcase their work. The primary product of ENG 480 is what Prescott refers to as the mini-encyclopedia of job opportunities, the senior project portfolio. He displays portfolios to encourage ENG 181 students to explore their career options while they are freshmen.

Prescott credits the unique curriculum at Bradley for helping students realize their goals while still undergraduates. “Whether it’s publishing, law, or even owning a coffee and bookstore, Bradley English majors pursue their dreams soon, rather than 20 years after graduation.”