English Graduates' Profession
In Brandon, Manitoba, I was sitting on a couch of a commercial bank and waiting for my wife, who was talking to a teller. My wife went to the bank for documents. I was browsing the net on my cellphone and it might be sometime already passed. My silence was broken, and it was the bank manager. He was asking, "How can I help you today?" Instantly, I replied in the negative and explained that I was there for my wife. Towards the end of my replying sentences, I said, "Yeah! You can! I am a student, but your bank is charging me each month for my chequing account. You can stop it." Then the manager welcomed me to his desk and started to ask questions about my education, major, etc. I mentioned that I finished my MA in English from the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, and am starting my PhD in September 2023 at the same university.
While the manager was working on my files, he asked me the million-dollar question, "What do people with an English degree do after graduation?" You know my reticent nature. I do not reply quickly. I gave a smile. The manager continued, "Yeah! What do you do? Oh! Yeah! You can be a writer. Yes! You can be! I believe that is your profession." I was staring at the man while he was speaking and suggesting with confidence and authority in his expression. I answered, "Yeah! Thank you. Good to know! Yeah! Your Bank is charging me."
This is a critical issue for students of English literature. We all stumble when we are asked this question. There should be a clear professional path for us. It is not like biting the bush. An English graduate can be a civil servant, a writer, a journalist, a freelance fiction writer, or an administrator. It is mentioned like anything else. Sometimes, a graduate can be an English teacher, though I do not know exactly what a graduate needs to be an English teacher in Canada and s/he should take some other necessary courses to complete for English teaching or if only an English literature degree helps.
This area needs a visionary leader for English students. (It is not in my personal interest. I have a job back in my country, and here in Canada, I am here to study only. During the stay for my study, I am working for anything available, I do not mind to work to survive). The students should be informed while we are getting admission that our number-one profession is that one. The curriculum has been designed for that one.
When I was an undergraduate student in the 1990s, I heard English graduates would be gentlepersons or gentlemen (the word was used in a gender-neutral way). An English graduate should know the best manners, etiquette, morals, empathy, etc. In the professional world, English graduates have to survive competitive public examinations. I do not know what the major changes will be in the 2020s.
Today, earning money and maintaining individual dignity are very important for each English graduate, like other graduates. A history graduate can be a historian, an economics graduate can be an economist, and a biotechnology graduate becomes a biotechnologist. There can be a long list, but not for English graduates. Thus, an English graduate requires a professional name. An English graduate can become a "creativist," "critic," "humanist," or any other profession. Whatever the name is, we do not mind; we demand a professional name and a curriculum to follow the path so that both the questioner and the answerer know what the reply is. Whatever career path the Department of English can prescribe us, that will be our career goal. Other career paths, you mentioned above, may be by-products.