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3 Myths About Degrees in the Humanities

By Kelly Larson on Thursday, November 17, 2022

Student art on walls

Most people pursuing a college degree hope to have a career in their field of study. Yes, we want to love what we do, but we also have practical needs. “The humanities” according to Britannica is the study of all languages and literatures, the arts, history, and philosophy.

Here are a few concerns expressed by students and parents considering these disciplines:

There are no jobs available

With technological advancement, there is a greater need for workers in the STEM fields. You might think a degree in the arts and humanities is irrelevant but data shows otherwise.

Two Microsoft executives recently wrote: “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.”

Minors or second majors in arts and humanities are an excellent way to compliment other areas of study. They are very flexible, so they can lead to increased career opportunities. These versatile degrees provide a solid foundation for careers in many industries. In fact, research shows a shockingly high percentage of graduates that work a job unrelated to their major.

The jobs don’t pay well

Employers value innovation, critical thinking, communication skills, and problem solving above a major. Traits like integrity, intercultural skills, and the ability to apply knowledge to real situations are an asset. Employers are more likely to hire candidates without a degree directly related to the job if they have these skills.

Second, in In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endures David Demming says, “Though STEM majors have a big advantage in terms of their first jobs, by age 40 the earnings of people who majored in fields like social science or history have caught up.” The same argument is found in the Wall Street Journal article Good News Liberal-Arts Majors: Your Peers Probably Won’t Outearn You Forever, and the Forbes article That ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket.

Finally, consider that money is not the most important factor. One CNBC study shows that 61% of graduates would go back and change their major to pursue their passions.

You can’t make a difference in the world

During times of depression, has reading encouraged you? Have you picked up a new hobby like crafting, cooking, or guitar for self-enrichment? During hard times have you turned to music to get you through? Have you learned something new from a documentary? All these experiences were brought to you by creative people in the arts industry.

Countless articles have been written on the power of art, music, and literature in a time of crisis. History gives us information from the past to make good decisions for the future. World languages allow us to connect across cultures and communicate shared experiences.

George Anders, a senior editor at LinkedIn, puts it perfectly: In a tech-dominated world, the most needed degrees are the most surprising: the liberal arts.

Find more information in the Occupational Outlook Handbook put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or explore career possibilities at O*NET OnLine.