What careers do Comparative Literature majors have?

Princeton University majors in Comparative Literature go on to all sorts of fascinating careers, as you can see at the LinkedIn Princeton University Comparative Literature page. 

A third go into education, becoming professors or teachers (~32%). Among professors, they are all over the world, teaching at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Oxford, Brown, New York University, Brandeis University, the University of Michigan, the University of California San Diego, the University of Auckland, Yonsei University, America University in Cairo, and many more. Others pursue careers in university education, including working in alumni relations, being in development, running writing programs, and advising students in various capacities (some even at Princeton). Others go into educational testing and college advising.

Another third go into business (~30%), including computing, development, marketing, consulting, finance, entrepreneurship, product management, project management, human resources, and quality assurance. Among those in business, many rise to positions as partner or director, such as those at the Boston Consulting Group, Fiduciary Trust Company International, McKinsey & Company, Frontier Venture Capital, and so on. Others have such jobs as senior marketing executive at Pepsi, investment banking analyst at Credit Suisse, software engineer at Simon Data, and venture capitalist on many corporate boards.

Some work as writers or editors (~12%). To name just a few of those in editing, they include the editor of The New Yorker, an editor at large at People Magazine, editorial director at St Martin's Press, associate editor at Simon & Schuster, an assistant editor at Oxford University Press, and so on. Some work as television writers, screen writers, playwrights, novelists, and journalists. 

Quite a few become lawyers (~11%), some rising to become attorneys for United States Attorney's Offices in the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of New York; others becoming general counsel or special counsel for various businesses; and others found their own law firms.

Some become doctors (~6%).

Others go into film, art or media (~4%), becoming film directors, actors, story producers, graphic designers, and curators. One is associate director of audience development at San Francisco Ballet.

So, current COM majors are pursuing a degree with a future. Many graduate programs and businesses are interested in students like COM majors who have studied interactions across linguistic and regional boundaries, in the context of the economy, political dynamics, cultural movements, historical shifts, religious differences, the urban environment, international relations, and public policy. Students learn useful research skills while reading literature in the original languages and in translation, including critical analysis, cross-cultural communication, and international understanding, which are attractive to a wide variety of employers. 

A study in the 2010s of 525 Comparative Literature graduates from Princeton found that about 30 percent are in business or finance, 27 percent are professors, 12 percent are writers or editors, 11 percent are lawyers, 6 percent are doctors, 5 percent are teachers, and 4 percent are artists, poets, or actors.

What Do They Earn?

Some research shows that it is a myth that "computer science and engineering majors have better employment prospects and higher earnings than their peers who choose liberal arts." In fact, the "advantage for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors fades steadily after their first jobs" in part because "skill obsolescence and increased competition from younger graduates work together to lower the earnings advantage for STEM degree-holders as they age." By contrast, a liberal arts education, which develops "soft" skills such as initiative, problem-solving, and leadership, serves students better in a constantly evolving job market. In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure (NYT Sept 20, 2019)

While engineers and computer scientists are common, those workers who are adaptable and have cultural competence are rare. Employers need those who can talk to anyone anywhere, communicate difficult ideas clearly, and be at ease in multiple cultural and linguistic contexts. That's the COM major. 

What Are Princeton COM Majors Doing Now?

The following is just a sample of what they are doing in 2019:

In the Arts

Chai Vasarhelyi '00 is a filmmaker who won the Academy Award for best documentary in 2019 and recently spoke at Princeton. She developed her senior thesis film into her first award-winning documentary. 

David Remnick '81 is the editor of the New Yorker

Silas Reiner '06 is an award-winning dancer who collaborates with the choreographer Rashaun Mitchell on site-specific dances and immersive theatrical experiences.

In Education

Karen L. Thornber '96 is Professor of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages at Harvard University.

Caroline Levine '92 is David and Kathleen Ryan Professor of the Humanities at Cornell University.

Tili Boon Cuillé '93 is professor of French and Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis.

Emma Boettcher ’14 won Jeopardy and is a librarian at the University of Chicago.

Karen Emmerich '00 is associate professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton, her alma mater. 

In Law and Medicine

Alexandre Montagu '87 is a lawyer who founded his own law firm, MontaguLaw, and published a novel in 2019 The Riddle of the Sphinx.

Adair Iacono '00 is associate general counsel at the Vera Institute of Justice, which works on the injustice of U.S. mass incarceration.

Allison Derbes '00 is a radiologist.

In Business or Nonprofits

David Risher '87 is a former Amazon executive, and co-founder and president of Worldreader, which gives away millions of e-books to kids around the world.

Patricia Valderrama '11 works as the Schneider Sustainable Energy Fellow in the Climate & Clean Energy Programs at NRDC, a not-for-profit organization.

AV Ryan ' is at Tillett Lighting Design Associates, a sculptor and writer, and a consultant on the lighting of sculpture in the landscape.

Cara Sheffler '04 is a NYC Tutor of the SAT/ACT, French, History, Literature, Math.

Jocelyn Miller '08 is a writer and curator based in New York who works as part of MoMA PS1's curatorial team.

Recent Grads

Hilary Dobel '12 is a widely published translator, a contributor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, and a candidate for an MSW in clinical social work at Boston College. 

Yessica Martinez ’15 is doing an MFA in creative writing at Cornell University after winning the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

Lara Noorgard '17 is founder of Arte memoria magazine, with a focus on representing writing, music, and art that resists and remembers authoritarianism.

Michelle Yeh '19 is company dancer for Attack Theater.