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Justin Trudeau and 5 Other Successful English Majors


On October 19, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party won a decisive victory in the Canadian national election. The prime-minister designate assumes office in November, and has already started movement on his campaign promises, but even if you don’t care about Canadian politics (or any politics) there are a few interesting things to note about Canada’s next prime minister. For starters, liberal arts majors can rejoice, because Trudeau has, among other degrees, a bachelor’s in English literature from McGill. There’s an answer, the next time your parents ask you, “What are you going to do with that English degree?”


(Photo via Fordham University English Department)

From English major to PM? It’s not as strange a journey as it seems. Many of the world’s most successful leaders majored in liberal arts. In a recent post explaining her own decision to study English instead of STEM, Havannah Tran points out that, for example, 63 percent of tech CEOs have degrees in liberal arts fields.

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“I think having an English degree will make me equally, if not more, in-demand as an asset to a start-up company,” Tran writes.

Here are a few examples of famously successful people who prove her point:

1. Andrea Jung, Former CEO of Avon

andrea jung

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Degree: English Literature, Princeton University

The first female CEO of Avon, Jung held the role from 1999 until 2012. The Avon Foundation for Women raised nearly $1 billion during her tenure, making it the largest philanthropic organization in the world focused on women.

2. Sally Ride, First Female Astronaut


(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Degrees: English and Physics, Stanford University

Who says STEM and liberal arts are mutually exclusive? Sally Ride earned two bachelor’s degrees in 1973, one in English and one in Physics. She stayed on at Stanford, earning master’s and PhDs in Physics, before earning a spot in NASA’s astronaut program in 1978. She beat out 1,000 applicants.

3. Ken Jennings


(Photo Credit: The Nerd Patrol/Flickr)

Degree: Computer Science and English, Brigham Young University

Arguably the all-time champ of Jeopardy, Jennings holds the record for the longest winning streak on the show, and the second-highest winnings. He also has a pretty hilarious Twitter feed.

4. and 5. John Paul Stevens and Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justices


(Photo Credit: Jeff Kubina/Flickr)

Degree (John Paul Stevens): English Literature, University of Chicago

Degree (Clarence Thomas): English Literature, College of the Holy Cross

“You can always go to law school.” If you’re hearing that a lot, you can always reply, “Yeah, and maybe from there, I can go to the Supreme Court!” (Or you can point out that law school isn’t necessarily the surefire backup plan it once was, but it’s up to you how snarky and/or factual you care to be.)

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How did you choose your major? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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