English and the Business Career
“I wouldn’t have traded my English major at Notre Dame for any other major,” says English alumnus Greg Miller, ’87, a managing director at Greenhill and Company, an investment bank in New York City.
The answer to the question "Does an English major have any business going into business?" is yes. In fact, business is second only to law as a career for English majors.
Recent English graduates (some double majors) are working at Morningstar, J.P. Morgan, Abercrombie and Fitch, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Xerox, Epic Systems, Bank of America, Deloitte Consulting, BNP Paribas, International Paper Co., General Mills, Aon Consulting, ExxonMobil, Target and a variety of other companies.
Why English? Our graduates cite the training the major gives them in analytic thinking, communication, and writing as invaluable assets in the business world.
How to go into business. English majors get into, and prepare themselves for, the business world in a variety of ways. While you are in college it can be useful to take some basic business or economics courses (see the business courses for non-majors), and you can also seek out business internships (see the main career page on the latter). The Career Center also offers a "Business Boot Camp" for Arts and Letters students. After college, those seeking business careers have made use of the great Notre Dame network, entered management or similar business training programs at major corporations, and obtained an M. B. A. degree. Having a secondary field of expertise such as information technology can be valuable as well.
Notre Dame English Majors in Business. Here’s a sampling of what Notre Dame graduates have told us about the role the English major has played in their career:
Throughout my career, my English education provided me substantial advantages over my colleagues with more traditional, technical business undergrads. There is nothing like analyzing Hemingway's prose, Fitzgerald’s characters, or Shakespeare's sonnets to hone analytical skills. When I started out in business, the analytical skills developed when analyzing literature served me well when assessing business issues and investments. An education in English provided me an the ability to see the forest before the trees, something I quickly discovered colleagues could not always do. Several times in my career, I have been the first woman to achieve a senior level position. I rose to positions at higher levels than colleagues, who had technical undergraduate degrees. English also provided me with the ability to decipher massive amounts of material in business to quickly get to the critical kernel of information. Mary Fran Callahan, Class of 1983 Managing Director Investment Opportunities, General Board of Pension and Health Benefits,
“My successful sales pitch (rationale for my choice of majors) for initial interviews after graduation was that ‘if I could learn to communicate thoughts and ideas effectively then that would be a valuable tool that I could bring to the marketplace...’” Matt Murphy, Creative Director, UniCom Marketing Group, Class of 1991
“I would let students interested in an English major know that the business world craves liberal arts majors. . . most companies provide the necessary relevant business training needed. What they can’t teach, or don’t teach, is how to communicate—other than “Death by PowerPoint.” David Wallace, Maryville Technologies, Class of 1977
“I’m often called on for my editing skills and I think my written and verbal communication skills serve me well in working with customers from different cultures and parts of the world.” Melissa Hurd, Marketing, Boeing, Class of 1995
“Sure I am a business manager and a product designer which at face value has very little to do with reading and writing, but so much of actually getting things done in business has to do with interpersonal communication, and in these days of the ubiquity of email, with written communication, I leverage my reading and writing skills every day.” Steve Hemkens, Divisional Manager, Orvis Rod and Tackle, Class of 2001
“I work next to another English major . . . in my office and we both consider ourselves lucky to have been able to study English in college. . . . In consulting, our deliverables are typically “paper-based.” I submit proposals, write up results from our analysis, or document recommendations to improve a business process every day. Being able to flawlessly put together these materials that are organized in a compelling and insightful way can be directly attributed to the dozens of times I did this in my undergraduate English courses. The subject matter is no longer Milton or Chaucer (sometimes I wish it was…), but the process of performing analysis on a given subject, then effectively communicating the results of one’s analysis is certainly common to what I do in our consulting business.” Gordon Braun, Director, Protiviti (risk and business consulting), Class of 1999
“My experience as an English major was phenomenal, and as I speak with college students / aspiring finance professionals today, I can’t emphasize enough how much my liberal arts education has influenced me both personally and professionally.” Mark Miller, Glencoe Capital, Class of 2005