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Why Study Literature?

Choosing a major means thinking about today and thinking about the future. For today: what do I want to know more about? Which courses will I do well in? For the future: what kinds of GPA will I have when I graduate? What kind of career will I want in four years? Students pursuing literature or English discover a field that richly engages them in the today and prepares them for a variety of careers tomorrow.

Verlyn Klinkenborg, an editor at the New York Times, recently noted how “Former English majors turn up almost anywhere, in almost any career, and they nearly always bring with them a rich sense of the possibilities of language, literary and otherwise.” A recent Business Insider article describes a handful of surprising former English, Literature, and Liberal Arts majors who have gone on to be CEOs, high ranking Government Officials, and even media moguls. Journalists Helen Thomas, Diane Sawyer, and Bob Woodward were all English majors. Directors Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese and James Cameron all studied Literature. Actors, comedians, and other creative people like Conan O’Brien, Matt Damon, or Gweneth Paltrow also majored in Literature, as did the first American woman in space, physicist Sally Ride. So did former NY Governor Mario Cuomo. Before earning his Nobel prize in medicine Harold Varmus was an English major. The same is true of two former CEOs: Anne Mulcahy (Xerox) and Andrea Jung (Avon). A literature degree offers invaluable skills in writing and research as well as unique insights into human history, culture, and psychology. No wonder it is considered excellent preparation for fields from finance to law.

A recent survey conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges

and Universities (AACU) found that most employers value employees with skills that a literature degree can give them. “Nearly all those surveyed (93%) agree, ‘a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.’” A literature degree offers all of these skills.

  • Ramapo’s literature and liberal arts degrees also offer the flexibility the 21st century demands. Liberal arts degrees are simply more versatile than most other degrees. The same survey found that most employers value employees with a liberal arts education:
    • “when presented with a description of liberal education…, fully 94% of employers say it is important for today’s colleges to provide this type of education, including half (51%) who say it is very important to do so.”

Ramapo College offers all of the benefits of a liberal arts education (period).

For more information on the versatility and value of Literature and liberal arts at Ramapo read the articles below.

  1. 30 People With Liberal Arts Majors Who Became Extremely Successful lists many well-known and influential people who lead very rewarding careers. Journalist Carolyn Cutrone aptly remarks that they are “people who prove that success is about the person, not the major.”
  2. It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success is a survey that lists what attributes employers look for in college graduates. “It also reports on changes in educational and assessment practices that employers recommend.”
  3. A Recruiter’s Take on Hiring Students found that “it matters not at all where they got their degrees but rather what they did with their time in the colleges they did attend. It matters what kind of person they are, how persistent they are, how hard they work, how creative they are, and how they present themselves.”
  4. The Road to Wall Street: English Major or Finance Major? “Simply put, liberal arts majors can fare better in graduate business school admissions than finance majors do.”
  5. English majors’ communication skills in demand highlights Tim Lemire’s new book, I’m an English Major—Now What? “The three big myths Lemire tries to dispel are that English majors’ career options are severely limited, that they will never make good money and that they will never find work outside academia.”
  6. A Note to An English Major lists eight careers that aren’t education related. The author remarks, “So, from personal experience, I think an English major can pursue any career path he/she wants to pursue.”
  7. What to Do With a Degree in English also lists careers that graduates with an English degree can have.
    8. Going to Law School with an English Degree explains why English majors often succeed in law school. “According to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), ‘Law schools want students who can think critically and write well and who have some understanding of the forces that have shaped the human experience.’” Literature can instill those skills.
  8. A Liberal Arts Degree Is More Valuable Than Learning Any Trade contends that “the people who will succeed in more expensive labor markets like the U.S. will be those who can think creatively and generate the IDEAS that will propel economic growth. Such skills are best fostered in a traditional liberal arts environment.”
  9. 5 Reasons to Attend a Liberal Arts College contends that liberal arts colleges offer as much —if not more—quality as Ivy league schools. Liberal arts schools are student focused, they have small classes, they give great grad school preparation, and employers value liberal arts.
  10. Where Professors Send Their Children to College cites a study asking why college professors’ children often attend liberal arts schools. “These insiders understand that liberal arts colleges focus exclusively on educating undergraduates and offer a boutique education with small classes and personal attention from professors.”
  11. Do Undergrads Learn Much in College? argues that most university students don’t grow that much academically in college. However, “students who majored in one of the liberal arts did experience ‘significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.’ Students who majored in business, education, social work, and communications showed the tiniest gains.”
  12. Verlyn Klinkenborg, an editor at the New York Times, recently noted how ‘Former English majors turn up almost anywhere, in almost any career, and they nearly always bring with them a rich sense of the possibilities of language, literary and otherwise.”
  13. The Wall Street Journal’s Nikki Waller explains the value of a liberal arts degree (Literature in particular) in Hunting for Soft Skills, Companies Scoop Up English Majors
Ramapo

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