I might have been brash to attack my own (dying) degree but reality does affirm that English Studies (BAES, UP Diliman) has zero profitability. Survey the graduates of our batch and not one (aside from those who are teaching) has found a field to which the core concepts of the program can be applied. Most have graduated with law degrees, some are in call centers, and others in random corporate work.

This year, a number of our majors have graduated and face the real world. Interesting to find out what careers they will pursue. I wouldn’t be surprised at the diversity of choices.

Over the years, I’ve seen fellow alums struggle to find jobs and careers to which the learning in the program can be directly applied. This greatly limits the number of choices that would fit the applicability and profitability criteria. Compare the jobs to which our graduates have access and most of them offer wages in the lower salary ranges. A fresh graduate of our program is lucky to even get half of a fresh graduate with a different degree (like an engineering or a business degree) is offered.

As for possible career paths, teaching is obviously a ready application but immersing oneself in the academe in this country is more of a self-sacrificing act than a profitable move. The university offers no real opportunities as well since language studies does not necessarily sell itself for both government and corporate grants.

Writing textbooks for royalty money is a good alternative though but the program still does not prepare students for such a task. One cannot be expected to ride EFL and the Korean boom for long. Enterprising two-bit professionals have saturated the market robbing those capable of the premium which they should have been able to command.

The other theories studied in the program do have applications, particularly in mass communications and organizational communications. While both industries can be profitable, the problem with the program with respect to these industries is the lack of practical instruction. Electives are scarce and limited and compared to graduates, our graduates face a steep learning curve that needs to be conquered on the fly.

The fact remains that a graduate of the program needs to have at least one practical skill in order to work. The problem is that the program does not teach students any concrete skill. Scholarship skills can only go so far and with the learning profile of the Internet generation, it would only be shorter strides compared to the leaps and bounds one can achieve through proper apprenticeship.

In reality, graduates are forced to supplement and augment their in-school training in order to progress professionally. Graduate studies and other professional degrees like (law and medicine) are still the moves of choice. Short-courses, seminars, and on-the-job training factor in as well. Still, the bottom line is still simple – What’s the use of investing four years in a degree that promises nothing? Have I just proven the program’s obsolescence?

As I constantly re-assure my students – our business is co-operation. We’ve been defining “langauge” using a modified version of Trager and Bloch. No work is done without communication and co-operation and as language specialists, you should bets know how to make people work. Fault me for saying this, but with all the negative (yet valid) comments that are raised in criticism of our program, we, in the discipline could use a pep talk.

But how about something practical? Quite a lot of our graduates have achieved much for those accomplishments to speak for themselves. Learning skills combined with drive can widen the avenues for professional opportunities. Personally, I am far from being a made man, but I am confident that, with what I have achieved so far, I would be able to delve into different fields and operate in them with proficiency and ease. I was able to quickly learn the language of trade, sales and marketing because of training I had.

And it’s not like those who run the program are not aware of this need. Over the years, special courses and electives have been instituted to provide for students’ professional expectations. Plans for new courses have been proposed but the process is just too complicated and too long to address the immediate needs.

In addition, our story is not the only story of its kind. Graduates of other degree programs have similar stories. Their graduates may have quick access to higher paying jobs upon graduation but surviving in competitive environments require more skills that are beyond one’s in-school training. Things like soft skills, attitude and mental and psychological grit. On that note, there seems to be an inevitable leveling bound to happen.

There are a great number of factors why these issues cannot be immediately remedied (like university policies, politics, funding and other bureaucratic matters) so this serves more as a critic of personal drive and the stifling bonds of academic bureaucracy than of any particular degree program. Until these bigger issues can be resolved, diplomas only hint of opportunity and not necessarily guarantee profitability.

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