The Pros and Cons of a Literature Degree

04/10/2019 Discussions, Literature, Personal 7

Back in 2011, when it came time for me to decide what to study at university, English Literature was the obvious choice for me. It was the subject I had enjoyed the most all the way through school and college, not to mention the fact that I consistently got high grades in it (as opposed to my more average grades in Maths and Science…they were so not my subjects!).

And you know what? I loved studying Literature at university! I combined it with Creative Writing, and so got to spend my days reading and writing, and talking about books with other like-minded people. It was definitely hard work, but I really enjoyed it, and have never regretted doing it.

But at the same time, there have definitely been some cons to having studied literature at university, so I thought I’d write a post about my experiences, and I’d loved to hear about other people’s!

So here are the pros of having studied Literature:

It allowed me to develop valuable skills.

Through studying literature I developed so many valuable skills that are transferable to many areas of life, namely research skills, analysis skills and writing skills. I also had to do presentations and discuss my ideas with other students, which was really beneficial (but also terrifying!) for me, as someone who’s naturally very shy.

I definitely felt that by the time I graduated I had grown massively as a person, and improved my skills in so many areas.

I discovered some amazing books through it.

Another great thing about studying literature was being introduced to lots of books and texts that I might not have otherwise have stumbled across. Books like In A Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu and The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells are ones I might not have read if it hadn’t been for my studies, but I’m so glad I did!

I got to tailor my degree to my interests.

One of the great things about studying Literature at university level is that unlike school and college, you aren’t treated like a child and get to make a lot more decisions. I guess if you’ve decided to pursue your studies in Literature to that stage, they figure you must have specific interests and allow you to tailor your degree to some extent, instead of making everyone read the same few books (for example, most people I know studied Of Mice and Men at high school!).

Whilst there was a few core modules you had to study, I got to pick a majority of my university modules, and so was able to take classes about Shakespeare, Gothic literature and fairy tales, which was so interesting, and a lot of fun!

It doesn’t lock you into one career.

Another good thing about studying literature is that the skills you gain are transferable to a lot of jobs. Whereas some degrees are training you specifically to do one thing (Graphic Design, for example, is so you can be a graphic designer, and Engineering is so you can be an engineer), English Literature is more general, so it doesn’t lock you in to one specific career.

And the cons of studying a Literature degree;

Required reading.

Whilst I got to choose which modules to study, and did discover some great books through my literature degree, there was inevitably some books I had to read that I didn’t enjoy. And not only did I have to force myself to read them, but then had to discuss them, analyse them, write about them…there was definitely a few books I was sick of hearing about by the time I finished my degree!

It doesn’t lead to one specific career.

Whilst I said that a Literature degree being pretty general was a good thing because it doesn’t lock you into one career, this can also be a bad thing, as I’ve discovered.

Around the time I graduated, everyone started asking me ‘so you want to be a teacher then?’ As I learned, one of the most common uses for a literature degree is to become a teacher, and to be honest, the very idea of being a teacher horrifies me. School was a torturous enough experience for me as a pupil, so I wouldn’t want to be the one in charge of all those kids…I have so much respect for teachers, as they do such a tough job!

The problem is that whilst I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher, I didn’t really know what I did want to do. I hadn’t had to make that choice before university, because I was studying something so general, so I was kind of at a loss after graduation. I ended up applying for all sorts of random things, and in the end just stuck at my retail job for a few years, before becoming a postwoman…in short, I’ve only actually held jobs that I could have got straight out of school or college. I was just a person with a degree and no specific training.

So whilst I enjoyed studying Literature at university, in some ways it was kind of pointless? It didn’t lead me down any specific career path (although a lot of this is down to my own indecision, to be fair!), but on the bright side I gained some valuable skills from it and had a great time along the way.

So if you studied Literature, I’d love to know what you think the pros and cons are? Did you like or hate all the required reading? How did you decide what to study, and how has it helped you?

7 Responses to “The Pros and Cons of a Literature Degree”

  1. Angela

    I didn’t study Literature, but I did study History, which I think is kind of similar in some ways. Unless you’re going to be a teacher or go on to law school, there’s no set career path. I loved learning about different time periods and countries, but a class in the French Revolution definitely had no use in my career after college. I worked as a historian for a few years, but it’s such a small field and I ended up getting laid off. Now I work as a paralegal, so the history degree helped somewhat, but I still had to go back to school at night to get a paralegal certificate.

    • Laura

      Yeah, I imagine history is very similar in that way. That’s great that you got a qualification to be a paralegal though. I bet that’s a really interesting job! 🙂

  2. ShootingStarsMag

    My college degree is in English Literature too – then I got a Master’s in Library Science, which is to be a librarian. Unfortunately, while the second degree is specific, it doesn’t help with jobs because library jobs are SO tough to get unless you want something part time…so here I am, still a part time academic librarian after three years. I’ve applied and interviewed for all sorts of jobs – librarian related or not – but it’s still tough to find something. I like what I studied, but I think I should have gotten a Master’s in something else. English Lit as a BA was fun though, and I did learn a lot and grow.

    Lauren

    • Laura

      I imagine a Masters in library science was interesting! That’s actually something I considered as well, as I liked the idea of being an academic librarian. It sucks that positions are so hard to come by though!

  3. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    How interesting!! Yes, I would imagine that there are some real advantages and disadvantages to this type of degree. I actually got a theater degree (in acting), which is obviously VERY specific, but I didn’t end up pursuing acting for long out of college because I wanted more stability (and I didn’t want to be gone 6 out of 7 nights a week for rehearsals). I worked at a hotel for a while and then worked at a software company! Having a degree did help me get the job at the software company, believe it or not, but just by nature of having gotten a degree at all.

    • Laura

      I think sometimes it can work like that where just having a degree qualifies you for certain jobs, so at least that’s something.
      And that’s so cool that you got a theater degree! I bet that was so much fun to study! 🙂

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