The Viability of the English Major in the Current Economy

Amanda Hiner

Abstract


In an April, 2012 Wall Street Journal article titled “Wealth or Waste? Rethinking the Value of a Business Major,” national reporter Melissa Korn explores an intriguing fact: the business major, the most popular major on college campuses for over 30 years and the discipline believed to be most economically viable by prospective college students and their parents, is in crisis. Employers and corporate recruiters, Korn reports, increasingly believe that business degrees “focus too much on the nuts and bolts of finance and accounting and don’t develop enough critical thinking and problem-solving skills through long essays, in-class debates, and other hallmarks of liberal-arts courses.” This perceived lack of critical thinking and communication skills among business majors is causing many recruiters to seek “candidates with a broader academic background” who exhibit “flexible think[ing]” and “exposure to multiple disciplines” (Korn). Ironically, however, while business employers and corporate recruiters are seeking broadly-educated graduates trained in critical thinking, analysis, and communication, universities are rapidly expunging many humanities majors from their curricula and are shifting their course offerings towards more vocational and technical tracks. In a New York Times article titled “Making College ‘Relevant’,” Kate Zernicke reports that during the recent “Great Recession,” colleges and universities have struggled to make their liberal arts and humanities majors seem relevant, viable, and attractive to prospective students and to parents who want to see evidence of a clear correspondence between a chosen major and future gainful employment. Some universities have cut their philosophy and classics departments altogether, and most colleges and universities have had to scrutinize intensely their curricula to determine whether they match perceived trends in enrollment and job placement (Zernicke).

Keywords


jobs; program development

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