When thousands of English professors gathered in Austin, Texas earlier this month for the annual Modern Language Association (MLA) convention, they were rather pessimistic about the future of their profession, with one small but notable caveat.
“English majors do go on to a variety of jobs but do not become baristas,” Robert Matz, of George Mason University, said in a panel on the aforementioned subject. “The percentage that go into the category that baristas would be included in—food service—is effectively zero.”
Matz, an English professor at GMU, makes a point of tracking such data. “The data isn’t as bad as the popular myth has it,” he says.
Nonetheless, he observes, “Data show that business majors do have higher lifetime earnings, $300,000 or more, but what if you hate business?”
Nevertheless, for English majors, he said, “the lifetime earnings are not great but not bad.” He claims that the unemployment rate is all among high school graduates, “so get a degree, even a BA.”
He draws on data from the Hamilton Project at Brookings and the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce. Both get their data from the Census. “Neither source is very flattering to Humanities majors,” he avers. “They try to put a good face on it but they’re both like, ‘Get a job instead.’”