All the useless things you can do with a BA in English

Absolutely nothing

As an English Literature student, the question everyone always asks me is ‘what can you do with your English degree?’ The West End musical Avenue Q even featured a song about this universal concern. To soothe ourselves and our parents, we English students desperately offer up careers that require what we haughtily call ‘creativity’.

Journalism? Teaching? Writing?  Most newspapers are free nowadays, teaching involves bratty small humans, and are you ever going to recover that 2011 Word document that contains what you thought was an ingenious opening chapter to an angst-ridden novel?

What’s more, an English degree doesn’t prepare you for the real world. I still hesitate to tell the time on an analogue clock, even though I can spell ‘analogue’ without hesitation. So, what can you do with an English degree?

An English Literature student’s favourite sport: extreme skim reading

Skim reading

All those scientists who doubt the merits of an English Literature degree, doubt no longer. You may not think it’s a valuable skill when you’re learning to cure cancer, but when you’re confronted with a 1000 page text book and only a week to read it, you’ll wish you can skim read too.

English students have a reading list longer than ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, so we’ve got it down to an art form. One book a day, pick out the key words, and then consolidate your patchy knowledge with the synopsis on Sparknotes.

Buy loads of books

We don’t have to spend money on a Christmas Tree

Being an English student gives you a legitimate excuse to buy books. Bookworms worldwide, remember those days when your heart would sink because that new hardback novel was £14.99?  Now that you’ve graduated from amateur to professional reader, your parents can buy those books for you. “But Mum, it’s on my reading list.”

Edit other people’s work

“Can you check my essay?” is a well-worn phrase. I already have plenty of my own essays to edit, I don’t need to read anymore. Yet we reluctantly agree that an English degree has given me an uncanny ability to insert Oxford Commas, turn passive verbs into active ones, and delete that surplus ‘in order to’.

Pretend to be smart

So you don’t know anything about modern politics because you’re too busy reading about the 1832 Reform Act in ‘Middlemarch’? Pay £9k a year and learn how to trick the experts with lengthy words and impressive jargon. You don’t know what a triumvirate is, but you know it is Latin and you understand the etymology so you can have a bloody good guess.

Winning quiz shows

Alexander Armstrong read English at Cambridge and now he’s providing a platform for minor celebrities to find an obscure word beginning with the letter ‘d’. That English degree is worth it when you rattle off ‘dactylic’ and ‘defenestration.’

And who can contain a shiver of delight when you reach the pinnacle of academic excellence by correctly answering a University Challenge question?

English students have no common sense, but we have an endless amount of skills that make for impressive party tricks but have no use whatsoever outside the academic sphere.

Don’t despair. Although you’ll regret fighting off your mum’s suggestion that studying Law is more beneficial, you can rest assured that when you’re unemployed and can’t afford to heat your house, you’ll have enough books to burn that you won’t freeze to death.