A bachelor’s degree in literature from American University prepares majors for a wide range of careers because the program stresses flexibility and creativity in thinking, a breadth of knowledge and a highly refined skill in writing. The texts literature majors read and discuss teach them about the complexity of motivations and experience and how to see past appearances, understand underlying causes and interpret data. Graduates of the literature program display a unique ability to synthesize and analyze data and to apply theories in the practical world.
With careful planning, an internship can enhance the academic component of the literature major and make a student competitive in any professional market. As part of a wider student body that has been ranked “The Most Politically Active” by The Princeton Review, literature students have interned for the government, including the State Department and at the National Endowment for the Arts, and for various non-profits, such as an organization protecting battered women. Through such internships and on-campus activities, literature majors become involved in politics and non-profit and volunteer organizations. During a presentation at American University in 2006, Eric Iversen, Manager of Public Affairs at the American Society of Engineering Education, said that an English degree is the best way to a satisfying work life. Literature training, he said, produces “metaphorical thinking, yoking disparate elements together to form new wholes,” a habit of mind that leads to innovation.
Since most jobs in the twenty-first century involve language, interpretation, argument and information management, literature majors bring to their workplaces an indispensable set of skills. This flexibility is evident in the diversity of careers AU literature students have pursued after graduation, in fields such as business and marketing, government, law, journalism, publishing and education. AU alumni who began with a bachelor’s in literature have worked their way up to becoming CEOs, partners in law firms and deans at colleges. Graduates also have worked for Congress, The Washington Post, the Washington Redskins, Walt Disney, Discovery Channel, the Smithsonian Institution, and non-profits such as Teach for America, the Special Olympics, and the Human Rights Campaign Action Center.
Titles held by alumni of the AU Literature program in specific fields include:
- Business/Marketing — Chief Executive Officer, Media Bureau Networks; Editorial Director, Washington Redskins; Senior Marketer, The Princeton Review; Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Disneyland; bookstore owner, account executive, analyst, business manager, project manager, property manager, financial administrator and senior media buyer
- Media/Publishing — Assistant Managing Editor, The Washington Post; Marketing Coordinator, Penguin Group; Associate Editor, SmarterTravel.com; Senior editor, Child Magazine; publisher, film producer, videographer, news reporter, features writer, photojournalist and graphic designer
- Government/Law — Federal Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Legislative Director, U.S. House of Representatives; Management Analysis Officer, U.S. Department of Defense; Senior Attorney, U.S. Government; prosecutor and public policy coordinator
- Education — Director of Education, Georgetown University; Dean of Teaching and Learning, Lake Sumter Community College; Principal/Director of Adult Education, Frederick County Public Schools; Professor, University of Texas, University of Maryland, George Washington University and California State University; librarian, college English instructor, middle and high school English teacher, and academic adviser
- Non-Profit — Vice-President of National Action Strategies, America’s Promise–Alliance for Youth; Senior Editorial and Web Content Manager, Human Rights Campaign Action Center; Grassroots Coordinator, The Fund for Animals; Marketing Assistant; Special Olympics International; and Development/Special Events Coordinator, Campaign to End Childhood Hunger
- Other — Café manager, museum educator, membership director, artistic director, caterer, copy editor, massage therapist, police officer, psychotherapist and rabbi
AU Literature Department alumni also have pursued graduate education at top-notch schools. The department has sent students to MA and PhD programs in literature at schools such as Yale, Princeton, Duke, Brown , NYU, UCLA, George Washington, Catholic, Maryland, and California–Berkeley. Literature graduates also have been accepted to law, business, and medical schools nationwide, including Vanderbilt Law School, and the London School of Economics.