Is a liberal arts degree a waste?
When it comes to finding a job, is it better to major in English – or business?
NEW YORK (FORTUNE MAGAZINE) - Dear Annie: I'm about to graduate with a bachelor's degree in English, and about half of the required courses for a marketing minor. I've had a few good internships in academic publishing, and I have solid references from every job I've held. I also have excellent written communications skills, strong computer skills across platforms, and I'm not bad at math (pretty good at statistics, in fact).
Still, I'm worried that business employers will see a degree in English as useless and irrelevant. Should I have majored in business instead? Is anyone going to want to hire me? -Second Thoughts
Dear ST: Don't worry, you're a lot more marketable than you think.
In fact, you should be in the catbird seat, says Steven Rothberg, who speaks with hundreds of corporate recruiters every year as founder and president of CollegeRecruiter.com, an online matchmaking service that connects new grads with employers.
"Most employers look for candidates who are bright, well-rounded, and have some practical experience under their belts," he says. A liberal-arts degree, plus good communications and computer skills, signal to recruiters that you'll be adaptable to a wide range of jobs.
"It's the students who graduate with very specialized degrees and little job experience who struggle to find a position," he says. "You really should have your pick of great opportunities."
Indeed, strong communications skills are the single most important attribute a candidate can have -- and also the one most lacking among job applicants, according to a recent poll of hiring managers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
"An English major with good work experience, who can think critically and write effectively, is a very attractive candidate," agrees Brad Karsh, head of JobBound (www.jobbound.com), another site for college grads.
Karsh, a former history major and author of a new book, Confessions of a Recruiting Director: An Insider's Guide to Landing Your First Job (Prentice Hall, $14.95) adds: "You shouldn't have a major problem landing a job as a general-management trainee, or in marketing, public relations, consulting, or retail."
Feel better now?