The Pragmatic Humanities Major

With admissions season well under way, we thought we would take a moment to consider briefly the benefit of a degree in the Humanities. Let’s start with a quote: According to John Kroger, the president of Reed College, “College shouldn’t prepare you for your first job, but for the rest of your life.” And, since people are generally living longer and changing jobs more frequently, the transferable skills you need to take with you from job to job, i.e. critical thinking and organizational skills, discipline, and self-reflexivity– all of which feature prominently in humanities and liberal arts studies– become even more financially valuable when paired with job experience and field expertise. Right now, the Prime Minister of Canada holds a B.A. in Literature. The Governor of California majored in Classics at Berkeley. Fortune 500 CEO Andrea Jung has a B.A. in English Literature. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, has a degree in English. Although there is much wisdom in pursuing a degree that gives you a specific set of skills for a specific career in a specific field, being able to communicate clearly and thoughtfully also makes you a highly marketable job candidate across a broad range of career options. Frankly, the skills that employers value most are the ones in which humanities majors shine: problem-solving, written and oral communication, critical thinking, creativity, and empathy. If you are 17 or 18, and not sure what you want to do with the rest of your life, concentrated work in a humanities field, such as English or History, can help you figure out who you are and what your priorities are, as well as giving you widely marketable professional skills. Job prospects for humanities majors look great. Please feel free to check out the links below for more perspectives on this issue.