Why Major in English/CW? Here’s What the Data Says

When the University of Illinois started collecting data last year on what students plan to do after graduation, we didn’t know what to expect. More data is better than less data, but we weren’t sure how this particular data would reflect on our department and what we do. After all, we’ve all seen the memes, the knee-jerk reactions, the popular assumptions: people in “impractical” majors like English are unemployable, right?


Turns out this is what the data looks like:


How about that.

If you’re getting a BA in English or Creative Writing, you’re just about as likely to graduate with a job in hand as someone with a BA in Math/Statistics or Economics, and you’re more likely to be employed than someone with a BA in Political Science/Global Studies/Area Studies, Pychology, Astronomy/Physics, or Biology.

Obviously, these numbers aren’t the whole story. They probably over-represent students with post-graduation plans, as they are more likely to fill out surveys like this. They don’t differentiate between students who are going directly to high-paying corporate jobs and those who are planning to wait tables all summer while looking for more permanent professional work. They also don’t say anything about starting salaries or long-term goals.

What they do say, however, is what those of us teaching in these disciplines and talking to our alumni have known all along: majoring in English or Creative Writing can lead to a a job, same as any other major.


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