Getting an English degree: A Ticket to Successtown or Doomsville

October 24, 2016

 

I’m getting an English Literature degree. It’s been official for over a year now. I walked into my adviser's office and told her I wanted to change my major from Biology to English Literature. Somehow, I’ve not come to terms with my decision yet. I still stay awake at night wondering whether I threw away my life in that one instance. Almost every week I find myself looking up jobs and career options for people with a Bachelor’s degree in English Lit. Every time, the amount of options calms me down a bit. It appears that there are more options for people with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature than those with a Biology one. That only helps for a short while, though. As soon as I hear something or I reevaluate how many of those options are actively hiring, I fall back in depression mode.

            I should probably clarify that the English degree is and has always been just a backup plan. However, I’m nothing if not thorough even with my backup plan. My primary career goal is to become an obstetrician-gynecologist. It’s been my goal since before high school and I worked for it. My love for literature has always been looming in the back of my mind but I never considered it as a career path until my sophomore year in high school. That was the year I wrote my first short story and discovered my love for writing and creating stories. I went to college seeking a major in Biology and a minor in creative writing.

            When I went to my orientation, my adviser gave me the idea of pursuing a major in English Lit when she told me that a science or math major is not required for medical school. It took me a year of struggling with the idea before I decided to make the switch. I was excited after making the switch. I was looking forward to my literature classes. I thought that they would be perfect to balance my high-pressure pre-med classes. They did. Any time I want to take a break from chemistry but don’t want to fall behind in my work, I simply go to my literature classes. Although the readings are way more boring and tedious than I was expecting, I think I’m enjoying reading them.

            Enjoying working toward my degree doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing. In today’s economy, most fun degrees are a direct pathway to a livelong debt with no way out. And the most popular job for English majors is high school English teacher. I’m fairly certain that I don’t want that job. I want to be a writer. A story started all this mess and I think it’d be pointless if I stay on the literature path instead of the medical one and not publish the dozen stories inside of me.

            I’ve come to make peace with one important fact, though. It’s very hard to be a writer for a living. Not all writers become Stephen King even though that’s what I thought my future was going to be like when I published my first novel right after high school. It was pretty disappointing but I’m persevering. I’ve completed about five stories in total and the first two are published even though they were absolutely not market ready. I’m restarting the process in one of them. I know that an English degree is not required for writing but seriously, I’m running out of options.

            According to my current adviser, a major in English Literature will make me look more interesting in my medical school application. I don’t think such encouragements are helping me much because my fear remains the same.

            Have I damned myself with the pursuit of an English degree?

 

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