What is the study of humanities?
Humanities is an academic discipline that teaches students about human society and culture. The emphasis is on teaching students to think, critique, and persuade, often in areas where there is not much analytical data available, according to George Anders in his book "You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a "Useless" Liberal Arts Education." Depending on the subject, different methods can be used including historical, textual criticism, conceptual elucidation, and the synoptic method. Students learn how to learn, a highly transferrable skill that can lead to long-term success in any field. Humanities majors also develop skills in research, reading, writing, as well as work through abstract problems being able to defend their own deductions.
Online degrees in humanities can be a convenient way to earn this degree if you are already employed or have other commitments that keep you from being a full-time, on-campus student.
What are the kinds of subjects in a humanities degree?
Because the humanities is a multidisciplinary academic field, students in this field get to study subjects like philosophy, art, history, sociology, political science, ethics, music, language, religious studies, just to name a few. The specialized skill sets learned in a humanities degree has become particularly important in a technology-driven workforce and can serve to your advantage as you consider a future career.
Transferrable skills learned by humanities majors are often valued by employers in a variety of settings. These skills can be analysis, communication, cultural literacy and foreign language proficiency, emotional intelligence, leadership, managing qualitative information, planning and organizing, research, and systemic thinking, according to the University of Maine.
Wanted: Humanities Majors
Long the butt of jokes and disparaging remarks, the humanities major has gotten a bad rap for its perceived inability to lead to a decent job, creating what Bracken Darrell, the CEO of Logitech, calls an "endangered species." The ability to think and write well, along with interpersonal skills, problem-solving and analytical abilities, and other high-touch skills such as empathy are all highly valued by today's best employers, and they're found sorely lacking among today's college graduates. After all, these soft skills can't be outsourced or automated.
In what is becoming a technology-driven workforce, companies are not looking for finance or technology prowess from new hires. The skills that employers put on top of their most wanted list are communication and critical thinking skills.
Microsoft president Brad Smith and EVP of AI and research Harry Shum in their book "The Future Computed" note,
"As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions."
In a June 2019 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research on the growing importance of social skills in the labor market, David Deming remarks, "labor market rewards to performing routine tasks have fallen, while the returns to workers' ability to cooperate and adapt to changing circumstances have risen.
Maybe that humanities major isn't looking so bad now, huh?
While majors like engineering, or nursing can translate into a specific occupation field, a humanities major can teach you skills that can translate into a wide range of careers and equip you with the long-lasting skills to adapt to change in a transforming workforce.
"I say, 'Get me some poets as managers,'" said the late multimillionaire, philanthropist, and Newsweek owner Sidney Harman. "They contemplate the world in which we live and feel obliged to interpret and give expression to it in a way that makes the reader understand how that world turns. Poets, those unheralded systems thinkers, are our true digital thinkers. It is from their midst that I believe we will draw tomorrow's new business leaders."
Jobs with a Humanities Major
According to a Georgetown study, English majors comprise the highest share of liberal arts and humanities majors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019), a few of the top-paying jobs for English majors include public relations specialists, writers and authors, and editors.
- Historians are expected to grow at a rate of 6 percent between 2016 and 2026. In May 2018, the mean annual wage was $66,380.
- Public Relations Specialists are expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent between 2016 and 2026. In May 2018, the mean annual wage was $68,440.
- Writers and authors are expected to grow at a rate of 8 percent between 2016 and 2026. In May 2018, the mean annual wage was $73,090.
Combining your humanities degree with a specialization that aligns with your career interests can open up diverse careers. For instance, if you're looking for business positions you may want to acquire a business minor and gain experience through part-time jobs or internships. Humanities majors can also be found succeeding in graduate and professional schools since learning how to learn is one of the transferrable skills that humanities major acquire.
The infographic below describes:
Jobs with a terminal bachelor's degree in the humanities
- More than 50 percent were employed in management, professional, and related occupations in fields such as education, business and financial operations, and management
Jobs with a master's degree in the humanities
- More than 35% were employed in teaching positions, with the rest mostly employed in arts and media, as well as management positions
Jobs with a doctoral degree in the humanities
- More than 50 percent were teachers in the postsecondary education system
For more detailed information, please take a look at the infographic.
A long list of incredibly successful businessmen and women began their careers as liberal arts majors. Mitt Romney; Peter Theil, co-founder and CEO of PayPal; Ken Chenault, CEO of American Express; former Disney CEO Michael Eisner; CNN Founder Ted Turner; former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy; and FDIC Chair Sheila Bair are just a few of the notable names that hold degrees in the humanities.