So you have a degree…now what?

what_do_i_do_now__by_ashlinfaySo this post is a rather selfish cry for help from those who have succeeded with an English degree. As a recent graduate I have struggled to find what exactly I want to do with my degree. I imagine that everyone else who has invested themselves in their education comes out of college planning to use that education to survive and thrive in this world. I am no different. My school (a microscopic Jesuit University) taught me great things. They taught me to care for people regardless of their past history. They taught me that if I strive to change the world for the better it will return the favor. All of these things are what I believe in, which is why I decided to fork out the extra money and attend. It certainly was a great four years, but one thing that college did not prepare me for was discovering just how I wanted to use my education to do something meaningful with my life. Sure, some of my friends that graduated have plans and they knew just what their dreams were when we turned our tassels on graduation day.

As I’m sure people have noticed from reading some of my other posts I absolutely adore books. Do I know where this obsession came from? Books allowed a severely shy and introverted child to have adventures in the safety of her own room. I’m sure that’s why millions of people love books: because they allow us thousands upon thousands of adventures. They give us characters that we fall in love with, and role models that we can carry with us for the rest of our lives.

snoopy writer

While that’s fantastic, I have trouble understanding how books can have a greater impact on the world around us. Books are such a mental exercise that it is sometimes hard to see how those words on a page can change our outlook on life.

Does that mean I write for my living? I have taken a few swings at writing, but I certainly don’t feel as if I’ve hit a home run. There are many famous writers who have harnessed the power of writing to say something about the world around them.  I would want to create something that says something about the society I’ve grown up in, and how, in a broader sense it shaped the minds of a generation. But can one person make that kind of an impact? At my age? At any age in my life?

Anyone who hears that I have a Bachelor’s in English assumes I will teach.

English teacher

Honestly, children terrify me.  I don’t understand the way their minds think, and I tend to lose my patience very quickly. So, unlike some of my friends who want to teach I don’t have the serenity in myself to handle children.

Another dream that I had was to own my own bookstore. That was before I met my fiance and signed up for military life. I don’t regret that decision. It just means I will have to wait about twenty years before that dream can become a reality. What I’m concerned about is the time in between now and then.


So for anyone who loves literature and tried to make a life out of it, what have you done? Have you succeeded? Or did you end up doing something you didn’t think you would do, but you love it anyway? Or am I just a young hopeless dreamer who is too blinded by her dreams to see the reality of life? I desperately want to retain my optimism because I believe that you shouldn’t throw out your dreams just because you grow older. Although, a little perspective would certainly be helpful, because I certainly can’t change the world with a pipe dream unless I have some drive.


“What Do I Do Now” photo courtesy of:

Peanuts photo courtesy of:

Teaching photo courtesy of:

Bookstore photo courtesy of:

5 thoughts on “So you have a degree…now what?

  1. LOL! It’s every book-nerd’s dream to own a bookstore, but take my word for it – retail sucks! I owned a retail business and will NEVER make that mistake again.

    So, what to do with your BA in English? Depends on what you like. I went into the field of technical writing (I write computer guides and training materials). Some people think it’s boring, but I love it. I work from home, get a nice salary, I’m always learning, and I make money as a writer. Then I can do creative stuff when I want.

    Another option for an English major is paralegal work. I had taken some paralegal courses and tried to break into the field (very nepotistic where I live), but wound up finding a good tech writing job instead. Anyway, I found my paralegal studies to be really interesting. If you like to write and do research, could be a good match.

    Finally, anything in communications is a possibility, but I would avoid journalism. Media is about to take a hit, in my opinion. Let’s face it, most of us get our news from twitter or facebook now.

    Well, that’s all I have. Good luck and congrats on your engagement.

  2. Hmm. I haven’t finished, so I can’t be sure. But I understand there are plenty of jobs for English majors, including editing (which is what I want to do) and, as Jeff said, mass comm. I also know that quite a few English degress have led to careers in television, in one way or another (channel 13’s Kai Jackson, for instance). I wouldn’t really sell journalism short, though. Hard copies are on the way out, but Facebook is no substitute for a good news site. You’ll just be doing it online, I think.

      1. No problem. Oh…I didn’t mean to separate “television” from “mass comm.” I just meant to narrow it down. 🙂

        I could have mentioned radio, too. I had to do a presentation in my editing class last year on the “Top Ten Editors in Baltimore” and found that some radio personalities started with Bachelor’s in English degrees. Kai Jackson I know about because he was the guest speaker at a presentation for the Honors Program at CCBC – Essex when I was there. He said he did his internship at a local TV station (not channel 13) and when he graduated they just let him stay.

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