Why Major (or Minor) in History? Employers Want Good Writers!

This isn’t really news if you’ve been paying attention to recent surveys of employers, but it’s worth seeing again — this time from business cable network CNBC: (H/T Kevin McGrew)

Books on writing
Licensed by Creative Commons (Kristin Nador)

Can you tell a pronoun from a participle; use commas correctly in long sentences; describe the difference between its and it’s?

If not, you have plenty of company in the world of job seekers. Despite stubbornly high unemployment, many employers complain that they can’t find qualified candidates for the jobs they do have.

Often, it turns out, the mismatch results from applicants’ inadequate communication skills. In survey after survey, employers are complaining about job candidates’ inability to speak and write clearly.

…In a 2011 survey of corporate recruiters by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the organization that administers the standardized test for business school, 86 percent said strong communication skills were a priority—well ahead of the next skill.

While the CNBC article describes one response as companies investing in writing training for their employees, another answer is that those seeking business careers should strongly consider majoring in a writing-intensive humanities field like History, English, or Philosophy — or at least taking the five or six classes necessary to complete a minor in one.

Improving communication skills (not just writing and speaking, but listening) is a core objective of Bethel’s History Department. And our graduates tell us that it pays off:

  • In a 2010 survey of recent alumni, 96% said that their history coursework at Bethel improved their writing skills (the same percentage said the same thing about critical thinking; 99% said they were better researchers as a result of studying history at Bethel)
  • Then in a separate survey of recent alumni conducted earlier this year, we asked graduates to assess their abilities in writing and other skills on a five-point scale, with 1 being “Not skillful” and 5 being “Very Skillful.” On average respondents described themselves as mediocre writers entering Bethel (3.15 on short papers, 2.19 on long ones) and skillful writers on leaving Bethel (4.23 and 4.19, respectively).

So if you’re a prospective or new Bethel student worried about getting a job out of college… Talk to one of our faculty about declaring a major or minor in History!

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