Updated on Wednesday 27 February 2013
The time to choose a degree can be a trying one for international students. A literature degree just could be the right one for you for a number of reasons. This article will help you answer the question “Is a degree in literature right for me?”
Many international students coming to study in America will think about getting a degree in literature. As with any chosen area of study, this decision should be made with some sincere thought. Is a degree in literature right for you? After all, a degree in literature in the US isn't as clear a path to a certain profession as, say, a law degree is to a prospective lawyer or a medical degree is to an aspiring doctor. Let's look at some of the issues around the decision to give you some help.
The first step for international students considering a degree in literature in the US is to acknowledge that they are actually interested in literature or its related fields, and that starts with understanding what literature covers. A literature degree examines all sorts of expressive English writing, from novels and other fiction to plays, poetry, and even nonfiction. Beyond just exposing international students to these works, the study of literature focuses on using many theoretical frameworks — feminism, ethnic perspectives, genre, etc. — to deepen our collective understanding of literature and the connections between works. Literature programs usually also offer concentrations, letting students focus on a specific niche of literature or even branch out into more writing-heavy fields like Creative Writing. So is a degree in literature right for you? Well, if the above material sounds intriguing to you, you're well on your way to answering yes!
The next thing for prospective literature majors to consider is how much they'd like the actual classwork. Here's something that should come as no surprise: a literature degree will mean a LOT of reading. If reading isn't a passion or even a strong point for you, things might get a little dicey down the literature degree road. A degree in literature in the US will also mean a lot of writing, with the majority of courses' graded work coming in the form of written papers rather than tests. International students who enjoy writing or just want an option other than rote memorization and bubble tests may like the very intellectual option of literature.
Okay, so you've looked into the education part of a literature degree and decided that it seems appealing to you. Now it's important to think about what you want to do in the future and whether a literature degree can help you get it.
Seeing as they develop very strong reading and writing skills, literature degrees are actually very flexible. But of course, the jobs they prepare students best for are the ones that directly relate to reading or writing. Want to be a creative writer, a technical writer, or even a writing coach? A degree in literature with a writing concentration will set you up perfectly. Want to teach English at any level, work in the publishing industry, or be a literary critic? Get a literature degree and focus especially on getting in as much reading as you can.
Plenty of students also won't know exactly what they want to do when they leave school, and that's fine — the flexibility of a literature degree means it's one of the best options for students ultimately unsure about their careers. While you may need to add on some graduate study to your literature degree, a degree in literature in the US can be a precursor to a successful career in business, law, and many other professions.
Is a degree in literature right for you? That's a tough question to categorically answer, and in the end international students will just have to make a judgment call based on how they feel. But knowing some of the above things about a degree in literature and what it can help you do will go a long way in your decision-making process.