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My Love-Hate Relationship With My English Degree

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While I was in college, people would ask me why I was an English major. Did I want to teach? No. Not at all. Next question. What did I plan to do with my degree? My response: Well, if I don’t marry someone with money, I’ll sleep in a box with nothing but student loan bills to keep me warm. I had no idea how (almost) right I was.

I wanted, and still want, to be a writer. But every writer needs a day job, because being a writer sucks. Rejection letters suck. Living in a town that doesn’t appreciate creativity sucks. But I keep wanting, so I continue writing in my free time. Unfortunately, my day job has nothing to do with my degree. Apparently an English degree isn’t specific enough to write for the local paper or work at the library–unless you have experience–but it’s broad enough to work for a car rental company.

Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of things that can be done with an English degree, all of which are incredibly rewarding (though not financially). If you don’t need the money, here’s what you can do with your English degree.

1. Tutor

If money isn’t an issue, tutor while you’re in college. Most campuses offer a writing center and they hire students to tutor others. Then, use your knowledge in the real world and work for a tutoring business. Be aware that some learning centers require, aside from experience and a degree, a teaching certification license. So, there’s that.

2. Teach Or Substitute Teach

If you didn’t take any education classes, don’t fret! You can get certified to teach English in your state. If you’re not sure about teaching, try substitute teaching. Keep in mind that if you’re passionate about literature, kids will more than likely try to kill your passion–teaching is not for the lighthearted.

3. Write

Creative writing doesn’t pay well. You’ll want to start out by submitting your work to free contests in order to gain exposure. Once you build confidence in yourself, try submitting to contests that require a small fee per submission. Maybe you’ll win big, but the chances are unlikely. Be sure to save all those rejection letters so you don’t freeze to death come winter.

4. Become A Freelance Writer

This requires a bit of research and a lot of time. If you have a specialty, say cooking, look for blogs, websites, or magazines that pertain to your area of expertise. Pay varies, but it usually isn’t much.

5. Teach English As A Foreign Language

There are tons of online courses that offer certifications to teach English as a foreign language, but make sure to research before you purchase! This is a great way to travel while getting paid. Pay and requirements (some countries require experience) vary from country to country, so be sure to do your research on that, too. It can be kinda sketchy, so this isn’t for everyone. This could be a way to escape those student loans, too.

6. Become A Publisher Or An Editor

Start small, gain experience, and maybe one day you’ll be an editor or publisher. Eventually. Maybe.

7. Go Into Marketing Or Advertising

Remember that car rental company I mentioned? There you go. English majors have a way with words. We can easily pitch sales and promotional ideas. All, of course, for the benefit of the company, not ourselves…

I love my degree but it doesn’t love me back. Why the hell did I choose this path?

You know who have English degrees? Rich people. People who want degrees for the hell of it. James fucking Franco has an English degree. Actually, he has an MFA and is working on getting his PhD in English because why the fuck not?

Do yourself a favor and get a useful degree. If you decide to get an English degree, you better be damn good at something else, because chances are you won’t do shit with your degree.

At least I can pride myself in being a (borderline) alcoholic like the greats: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Poe, the list goes on. That’s about as far as this damn degree will take me.

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