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  • Why major in English?

    Choosing a major subject has a tendency to raise questions: What am I interested in learning? What do I want from my college experience? And what will I do once I earn my degree? For most people, college is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so it’s important to consider all of these questions carefully.

    In the English major, you will of course read, discuss, and respond to poems, plays, novels, and other works of literature, but the range of what you’ll learn goes far beyond the page. Just as the English language is much more than the language of England, English literature is more than fiction and verse: it’s a broadly encompassing record of human life. It has been influenced by countless traditions, from ancient myths to online chat, and it includes the stories of people from around the world and from a vast diversity of experiences, from Aphra Behn to Zora Neale Hurston. Studying literature, one could say, is a way of studying everything at once. Arguably the most important aspect of the English major, however, is not what you learn but how you learn it. Literature by its nature tends to be skeptical, thoughtful, and resistant to easy assumptions or trite answers; we hope that in studying it you too will learn to look beneath the surface of the text of everyday life and to find truths that might otherwise be missed.

    College students are often urged to choose a major that will equip them with practical skills, especially when jobs are hard to find. Sometimes, reading poetry is even singled out as an example of an impractical pursuit. But what is a practical skill these days? Our economy depends more than ever on the production, dissemination, and exchange of information. Employers in many fields are looking for people who can understand, analyze, and manipulate texts, who are comfortable with abstract ideas, and who can express themselves clearly. Majoring in English develops all of these skills and, above all, improves one’s writing ability. Therefore English majors are well prepared for a wide range of careers, including publishing, teaching, journalism, entertainment, public relations, and advertising. The intellectual habits you’ll learn from studying literature are also essential in academia, law, or medicine, and they will serve you well as you prepare to write graduate entrance exams such as the GRE, LSAT, or MCAT. As an English major at NJCU, you can choose among four concentrations that accentuate particular skills, depending on your interests and career plans: Journalism, Creative Writing, Literature, or English for Teacher Certification.

    Ultimately, most English majors choose it because they love literature. If you like reading, if you take pride in your own writing, if you find joy in well-constructed sentences, engaging stories, and thoughtful discussions, then majoring in English may be the best way for you both to enjoy and profit from your college degree. Visit or contact our department to find out more.