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What I'm doing with my English degree, and it isn't teaching

Emily Wong Posted by Emily Wong, Digital Editorial Intern, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


"Your majoring in English/Literature? So you're going to be a teacher then.

"Your majoring in English/Literature? So you're going to be a teacher then."
I cringe every time I hear this response after I have told someone my major. Mostly because this is always the response I get and I know the conversation that is about to take place. First of all, let me say that I dislike the idea of becoming a teacher. I don't have the patience to deal with students nor do I have any desire to try and teach people. Teaching in a class room has never appealed to me, though the idea of summer vacation certainly does.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of teachers. If not for the amazing English teachers I had I might not have chosen the career path I did. They poured gasoline on my love of books and writing. They made me see that this love could be more than a hobby. I could go into a self analysis segment here about how the hidden subconscious reason I don't want to be a teacher is that I don't think I could measure up to those great teachers I had but I'll spare you from having to go into my mind that deep.

The second thing that bugs me about this response is that it shows that people don't see how much I can do with my degree. At least that's the way most people in my home state of Michigan feel. Most just assume that people with English degrees will become teachers when the fact is that my degree opens the doors to lots of jobs. Although I would love to be a crusader and spend the rest of this blog going over these jobs that's not what this post is about. I will save my crusading on behalf of other English majors for another time. Today I just want to focus on what I chose to do.

I chose to enter the world of publishing. But not just any kind of publishing, I wanted to help publish books. I knew from any early age that one of the loves of my life was books. My family nicknamed my room "The Library" cause of all the books I have. A sore subject for my father whenever we moved and I insisted that all the books had to come with us. "No, Dad reading them once wasn't enough and no, there is none that I want to get rid of." I would reply as he carried boxes and boxes of books out of my room.

"So you want to go into publishing, like magazines?"
This is next question that always follows. Again I must deny that person a "yes" answer. When I then explain that I want to work with books I get the "really?" look. In a world of video games, tv, radio, internet, and music, my passion for reading has made me somewhat misunderstood among my peers. I'm not saying I don't enjoy those other things, in fact most times at 2 am you will find me glued to my laptop when I should be sleeping. But books were my first love and the affair has carried on to this day. I'm not saying that I would be opposed to working for a magazine or even newspaper but I just know my passion is books.

So there you go, with my English degree I am choosing a career in the BOOK publishing world. While I may not know exactly what I want to do I have a pretty good idea and I hope that my internship here at Berrett-Koehler will help me decide for sure. But I do know that I will not become an English teacher.