Great American Smokeout

Why Major in English?

Alumni of English programs listed the following reasons:

  • "Mastery of language gives you pleasure in life along with success in business."
  • "What better way is there to learn about life?"
  • "It helps in all areas of any career path you choose--writing, speaking, listening, creating, thinking."
  • "It gives students an opportunity to explore who they really are."
  • "As an English major . . . you have the ability to communicate ideas clearly, think on your feet, and read Middle English in the original language. Okay, that last one I haven't had the chance to use yet, but I'm ready!"
  • "I would not have enjoyed studying anything else as much--there's just so much to embrace in English."

Source: Beidler, Peter. "What English Majors Do Out There, How They Feel About It and What We Do About It." ADE Bulletin 133 (2003): 29-35.

What Can You Do with an English Major?

The most common alumni response: "Anything you want to." English majors are non-profit administrators, corporate executives, wine consultants, restaurant or film reviewers, attorneys, secret service agents, stand-up comedians, musicians, librarians, governors, writers, editors and much more. Minors and internships can supplement traditional English coursework and help students develop a specific set of skills that can give them an edge in specialized job markets.

Source: Conboy, Katie. "What Can You Do with an English Major?" ADE Bulletin 125 (2000): 24-28.

Famous English Majors

  • Actor Jodie Foster
  • Actor Matt Damon
  • Actor Vin Diesel
  • Actor David Duchovny
  • Actor Harrison Ford
  • Actor Paul Newman
  • Actor Julia Stiles
  • Actor Sigourney Weaver
  • Actor Reese Witherspoon
  • Astronaut Sally Ride
  • CEO Michael Eisner (Disney)
  • Coach Marty Shottenheimer (San Diego Chargers)
  • Coach Joe Paterno (Penn State University)
  • Comedian Conan O'Brien
  • Comedian Johnny Carson
  • Director Steven Spielberg
  • Director James Cameron
  • Director Martin Scorcese
  • EPA Director Carol Browner
  • First Lady Laura Bush
  • Mario Cuomo, Governor of New York
  • Pete Wilson, Governor of California
  • Musician Sting
  • Newscaster Barbara Walters
  • Newscaster Diane Sawyer
  • Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus (Medicine)
  • President of Nickelodeon Networks and MTV, Herb Scannell
  • Radio Host Garrison Keillor
  • Superman (Christopher Reeve)
  • Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice
  • World Wildlife Fund Director Kathryn Fuller
  • Douglas Adams, writer of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, writer of The Anniad and A Street in Bronzeville, and the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize
  • Tom Clancy, writer of The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and The Sum of All Fears
  • Allen Ginsberg, writer of HOWL and Beat poet
  • Stephen King, writer of The Shining, Stand By Me, and Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption
  • Arthur Miller, writer of The Crucible and Death of a Salesman (and ex-husband of Marilyn Monroe)
  • Toni Morrison, writer of Beloved, Sula, Jazz, and The Bluest Eye, and first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize for Literature
  • Philip Roth, writer of American Pastoral, The Human Stain, and The Plot Against America
  • Amy Tan, writer of The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife
  • John Updike, writer of The Centaur and Rabbit at Rest
  • Eudora Welty, writer of Delta Wedding and short stories "A Worn Path" and "Why I Live at the P.O."

Source: “Famous English Majors.” Central Washington State Dept. of English.  1 March 2007. <https://www.cwu.edu/~english/FamousEnglishMajors.html>.

 

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