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Event explores career options

Eva Binda | Wednesday, September 27, 2006

While many English majors may wonder what to do with their non-technical degree, the answers were potentially right in front of them at Tuesday evening’s English Major Career Night.

The event – open to all Arts and Letters students – featured Notre Dame alumni and other professionals who discussed why an Arts and Letters major makes a perfect fit for various careers in speechwriting, non-profit leadership and financial services.

“Events like this are an opportunity for students to explore the vast career choices that are out there and possibly even make networking connections for future internships or jobs,” Associate Director of the Career Center Anita Rees said.

“We don’t pay [guest speakers] to come,” she said. “They come because they want to talk to Notre Dame students.”

Senior English major and event organizer Claire Ewersmann said financial services are one of the most surprising career fields represented at the English Major Career Night.

“Financial Services sounds like a business major job,” she said. “However, you use analytical skills you gain as an English major and apply that to a business in order to improve it.”

“[The Career Night] is a really great opportunity to explore diverse interests,” event organizer and junior English major Jessica Morton said. “As an English major, you get asked a lot if you’re going to be a teacher.

“While that’s great, there are lots of other jobs out there.”

Morton, who began her career at Notre Dame as an economics major, said she holds “business consulting” as one of her career prospects.

English majors are not the only students questioned about their future careers.

Many Arts and Letters students are plagued with questions as to what they can do with their major and how the financial compensation compares with other majors.

The facts and statistics can look intimidating.

A job/internship search on the Career Center online tool “GoIrish” – an online database of jobs and internships posted by hundreds of companies and only available to Notre Dame students – produces about 498 results for Business majors/concentrations compared to about 375 results for Arts and Letters majors/concentrations.

Despite the fact business majors seemingly possess more opportunities, there are approximately 1,600 undergraduates in the Mendoza College of Business (spread over seven majors) compared to approximately 2,900 undergraduates (spread over 30 majors) in the School of Arts and Letters, according to the Undergraduate Admissions website.

The Mendoza School of Business website reports the average salary for a graduate the undergraduate program is $48,500, a figure based on 2005 placement surveys that does not include bonuses.

No such figure is published on the Arts and Letters website, and Rees declined to give the average dollar amount.

He said he feared too many students would take the figure out of context and only read the dollar amount, without consideration of students who go to graduate school or that salaries vary by major.

“If your passion is art, you know you aren’t going to make as much as an accountant at Ernst & Young right out of college,” Rees said.

She also said it is important to realize that with time, that same student could be making just as much as the business graduate.

“Why not follow your passion if you could make a decent living and eventually […] increase it in the future?” Rees said.

So how worried are the Arts and Letters students about getting jobs after graduation?

“I’m not that worried. I plan on going to law school and if that doesn’t work out, there are lots of things I can do with my major,” sophomore anthropology major Allison Ciesielski said. “I actually was a business major and I hated it. It wasn’t for me so I found something that was a better fit.”

Freshman business major Jon Lagoy offered a different perspective.

“I came in as a history major but after two weeks, I started thinking about the next four years and decided I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Lagoy said. “Everyone kept telling me all I could do was teach or work in a museum.

“I liked history but I didn’t like what it offered career-wise. It didn’t seem to have good job opportunities so I switched to business.”

Arts and Letters students are encouraged to decide what areas interest them.

“It is also important for Arts and Letters majors to remember that employers recruit differently,” Rees said. “Most opportunities for Arts and Letters majors are in the spring, while companies geared toward recruiting business students recruit in the fall.

“Arts and Letters students may feel that no one wants their major, but it’s not true. We have all the tools to go after the employers.”