English is often called a "pre-professional" major because it provides an excellent foundation for graduate study in the humanities, social sciences, law, business, and public administration. Each year, graduating English majors from Ithaca College apply to and are accepted in one or more of these fields. Some graduates enter programs such as the Peace Corps and Teach for America. But in fact, most English graduates go on to careers directly from their Bachelor's degrees. Surveys of Ithaca College graduates who majored in English find them successfully working as administrators, entrepreneurs, journalists, writers, editors, managers, and consultants.
A survey a few years ago asked Ithaca College English alumni how being an English major had helped them in their careers. The answers suggested that an English major is in itself virtually an entire liberal education, since in the course of understanding literature, students learn about many other fields. The skills of critical thinking and writing are transferable to a wide variety of careers. The English major encourages inquisitiveness, imagination, and clear thinking- ablities in demand in the working world. One respondent wrote that as an English major he had learned to "analyze thoroughly, think rationally, reason effectively, and argue cogently." Another said, "The older I become, the more I believe that being an English major provides one with a very valuable sense of human nature." These skills often enable people with degrees in English to respond more flexibly to changes in the job environment, to rise higher in their fields, and to experience greater job satisfaction than people with professional degrees.
Each year, the Sigma Tau Delta honor society sponsors a panel
discussion on careers for English majors at which recent graduates
return to campus to relate their experiences in the "real world."
In the past few years, alums in fields such as law, publishing,
administration, civil service, and communications have spoken to
large audiences of students about the value of their English major
in their careers. Students have found these discussions to be very
valuable for advice about job hunting and career planning, as well
as for making contacts.