The 6 Most Valuable Lessons from an English Degree

June 23, 2014 Renee Masur
From Public Relations to Communications, I asked people who completed an English Degree what they learned that they thought were the most valuable. These are are the lessons they learned: 

1. See the World from a Different Perspective

Sunsetting in the sky for a new perspective

“All great writers are also great thinkers. You can be a great thinker without being a great writer, but the opposite is impossible. That’s the biggest lesson I learned. Thinking a certain way is a talent that cannot be acquired. Treat it as one and be confident in your ability to see the world a certain way, or differently. Those who aren’t great thinkers and writers will crave having access to someone who has those talents. ”

Danny Groner —Freelance Journalist

Degree: English 

“I learned how to think critically, and how to write prose that engages and entertains. I use my writing skills every day at my job, and I’ve found people very much appreciate having a team member who can write well. I don’t exactly analyze literature every day here, but I do have to think of new angles and tie-ins every time I write a pitch or a press release. ”

Eva R Gantz —Marketing and Publicity Associate at Cleis Press

Degree: English Lit 

“My degree was instrumental in teaching me the skill set of how to organize, formulate and communicate my thoughts. Learning how to compose persuasive arguments through an analytic approach to engaging ideas eventually served me well when I made the decision to attend law school after undergraduate studies. ”

Matthew Reischer —CEO of Legal Marketing Pages Corp.

Degree: English Rhetoric & Composition  

2. Keep Writing & Don’t Stop 

keep writing

"The greatest lesson is to sit your butt in the chair and write. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid), brevity is best, evoke emotion always, shut up and listen (you’ll learn so much more), revision is crucial, work on your craft continuously, take risks, and read, read, read."

Kimberly Llewellyn—Award winning & best-selling Author 

Degree: English  

3. Learn How to Communicate with Any Audience  

communicate with your audience

"The most valuable lesson and skill I learned through attaining my degree is that everyone does not use the same communication style, and I’ve learned to adapt to others’ communication styles so that I can get my message across in the most effective way possible." 

Brian Kearney—Editorial Intern & president of Driving Force Public Relations  

Degree: Public Relations

"My most valuable lesson is the power of transparency in a crisis. ‘No comment’ erodes trust, your reputation and brand loyalty." 

Holly Rodriguez—Founder of H-Rod & Associates 

Degree: Mass Communications

"Communication is key to success in ANY field, and many people lack even the most rudimentary skills in this area. Become a company’s ‘go to’ expert communicator. Be a clear and succinct writer and speaker and coach others. Short and clear is always better, whether it be in an email, an article or anything in between." 

Susan McLester—Journalist and Consultant  

Degree: English

4. Tell a Story that Matters

Telling a story that matters - sokanu blog

"Creative Writing requires the ability to show, not tell. Words must be used to paint a visual picture. Writing that tells readers what’s happening is boring. Good writing causes the reader to see what’s happening."

Tangela Walker-Craft—Founder and CEO of Simply Necessary, Inc

Degree: Creative Writing  

"The key perspective I developed with this degree was rooted in the notion that theme is not crafted by an author, but emerges from the experiences of a reader. As an English major, I developed relationships with texts, and mined for examples that linked with the themes that resonated for me. This point-of-view has helped me in several ways professionally. For one thing, I understand that every experience, every content with which I am presented, is colored through my perspective; another strength is I am able to find supporting evidence for innumerable arguments because anything can be supported, and I can discern others’ perspectives speedily without bias.'"

Matthew Ratz—Teacher & Professor  

Degree: English Language and Literature

5. Never Give Up  

Time Management

"What grad school taught me was that life is about collaboration and revision — lots and lots of revision. Learning to negotiate and being able to enter a new context and rapidly recognize the politics in play was an added educational bonus; not always comfortable but really useful life skill."

Christy Oslund—Coodinator of Student Disability Services at Michigan Tech

Degree: MFA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Rhetoric and Technical Communication

"I learned that even if the English teachers give you C’s and D’s, they aren’t magazine or newspaper editors. I’ve been published in more than 75 magazines, newspapers and several books. Every time I get published, I thumb my nose at all those English teachers who made me read authors who wrote prose and poems that nobody could understand. I’m glad I didn’t give up my dream to be a writer because of them."

Karen Robertson—Retried Teacher, Success Coach & StandUp Comedian  

Degree: Education  

6. Develop a Love of Reading

love reading

"The studies for my degree prepared me by developing the patience to read large volumes of material. Today, I edit book manuscripts for authors, as well as writing them myself. In addition, my minor helped prepare me by teaching me to think on my feet, which is important when you do interviews with the media."

Barry Cohen—Editor 

Degree: English

"By reading great writers, particularly the Classics, you learn how great writers perform their craft. Additionally, the best writing experience that I ever had was writing articles for two science encyclopedias aimed at the grade school level, before I had even graduated from college. As a long time mentor said to me, “If you can explain these scientific principals in a way that your grandmother understands them, then grade school children will understand them, as well.” It was the toughest writing that I ever did, but well worth the experience."

Paul A. Dillon—President and CEO, Dillon Consulting Services 

Degree: English Literature and Philosophy

"I started on the editorial side and then transitioned to publicity, where I’ve grown my career since. Being an English major, not only broadened my love for books, but also taught me how to read for more than just a story. I learned to analyze and to find different meanings and interesting angles. It taught me how to tell a story which is essential in crafting pitches to the media. Most importantly it honed my writing skills. As a manager, this is one trait I’ve found very lacking in many junior employees over the years. This love of books, helped shape my career promoting them!"

 Tess Woods—Principal at Tess Woods Public Relations  

Degree: Major in English, Minor in Creative Writing

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About the Author

Renee Masur

Renee Masur is the Community Manager for Sokanu and Island girl living in Vancouver. She loves people and their stories.

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