The Value of an English Degree in the Digital Age
Over the past couple of decades, communication has become more and more abbreviated. People used to write letters, but then they discovered the convenience of emails. More recently, emails have been supplanted by even quicker forms of communication, like texts and instant messages. The difficulty of pounding out texts on tiny phones has resulted in a whole new vocabulary of abbreviations. And now, with the rise of emojis, we have evolved (or devolved, some might say) to a point where people aren’t even bothering to use words when they communicate. If you’re someone who values words – like, say, an English major – this slide toward wordlessness can be a little depressing. It can even make students wonder where English majors, the proud standard-bearers for the English language, fit in this digital age.
“The digital world has redefined the use of an English degree,” said Dr. Jonathan Wilson, former Program Chair of the Bachelor of Arts in English at Ashford University. “Traditionally, students who obtained English degrees proceeded down the teaching track or went into the fields of publishing or editing, but the value of an English degree has expanded greatly within the scope of new and emerging technology.”
Indeed, new technology has given the business world many new ways to communicate with customers, employees, and others. Most companies have websites and maintain a presence on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. Some organizations also maintain blogs and post content such as whitepapers or ebooks. Those businesses need wordsmiths who can create communications for all of those sites. That’s where English majors can come into play.
“In addition to giving students a solid literary basis, an English degree at the modern university trains students in critical thinking, rhetorical analysis, and effective writing and articulation to communicate in the business and professional worlds,” Dr. Wilson explained.
If anything, the skills acquired during an English program have become more rare and valuable in the digital world. We have all become so used to receiving texts and emails that are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors that it hardly raises an eyebrow anymore. But that sort of sloppiness is frowned upon in the business world. Poor communication can be confusing, misleading, or even offensive. In short, bad communication is bad for business. Even though everyone from children to great-grandparents can pound out a 140-character tweet, few people are proficient at putting together a professional business communication – even a communication as brief as a tweet or text. And the longer and more complicated the communication is, the more difficult it is for most people to handle.
“As we have seen in the last 10 to 15 years, both the business and professional worlds are utilizing web-based platforms and forums, such as blogs, discussion boards, and uploaded content,” Dr. Wilson said. “Thus, an English degree is a significant asset in a world that is quickly moving online and/or to a hybrid web presence.”
So turn that frowny face emoticon into a thumbs up emoji: the rise of new digital outlets is actually good news for English majors. New outlets equal new opportunities. As long as there is a need for businesses to communicate, there will always be a place for confident communicators to put their knowledge to work.
For more information about on-time completion rates, the median loan debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please visit ashford.edu/pd/obaen.
Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education