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What Are the Humanities?

The humanities are a multidisciplinary field that involves the study of human culture and the human experience. Students may earn a bachelor of arts in humanities subjects, including history, religion, philosophy, literature, and cultural studies.

They may also major in art history or languages. Any of these majors require students to think critically and produce their own interpretations.

This guide explores what the humanities are and the careers you can pursue with a humanities degree.

Humanities in the Classroom and Workplace

As a humanities major, students spend a lot of time researching, reading, writing, working through abstract scenarios, and learning to defend their thoughts. This type of education typically appeals to people with creativity, curiosity, and an appreciation for diverse perspectives and interpretations.

The humanities also teach the soft skills that today’s top employers value. LinkedIn’s list of the top five soft skills requested by employers in 2020 included adaptability, collaboration, creativity, emotional intelligence, and persuasion. These, in addition to critical thinking and communication, are the skills developed as a humanities major.

The following demonstrates three of the many possible career paths for graduates with a humanities degree.

Writers and Authors

Writers and authors create content for various media, including magazines, books, screenplays, blogs, and newspapers. These professionals work in almost every industry, such as business, tech, education, and marketing. Many writers work as freelancers and may pursue roles as copywriters, novelists, speechwriters, and biographers. Writers typically need a bachelor’s degree.

Median Salary: $69,510

Museum Curator

Curators oversee museum displays. They may authenticate artifacts and research the collections. Some curators create educational programs and conduct tours. Additional duties include acquiring and recording items, planning budgets, and negotiating loan terms. These professionals typically need a master’s degree.

Median Salary: $60,110

Policy Analyst

Policy analysts research problems and recommend solutions. They may write policies and programs based on research and evaluate their effectiveness when instituted. These professionals often work for government agencies and private organizations like think tanks. Some positions require a master’s or doctoral degree.

Median Salary: $60,880

Frequently Asked Questions About Humanities

Are the humanities a good major?

For students who enjoy exploring the human experience through its history, culture, and belief systems, a humanities major may offer an education that propels them into a rewarding career. A study commissioned by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences Humanities Indicators found that almost 85% of graduates with a bachelor's degree in the humanities reported job satisfaction in 2019.

Students may major in humanities or one of its disciplines, including English, philosophy, history, or foreign languages. Choosing a humanities degree that reflects their interests can help qualify students for positions well-suited to their career goals. Learn more about the best online liberal arts programs.

Unlike rote memorization, humanities are known for engaging students in critical thinking and problem-solving. They may explore fundamental questions and beliefs about the human experience and learn more about themselves and their place in the world. They study different cultures, belief systems, and events that shaped humanity's course.

Students also spend a lot of time reading, researching, and sharing their insights. This type of education builds strong communication skills and prepares students to shape society, whether through art and literature or as a policymaker, activist, or teacher.

Whether an on-campus or online program, earning a humanities degree can prepare students for personal and professional success. Some humanities majors favor more specific career paths, such as earning a bachelor's degree in a foreign language. Others offer broad career opportunities.

According to Payscale, some of the best jobs for humanities majors based on salary potential include proposal manager, content marketing manager, content strategist, and director of development. That said, entering a field that you feel passionate about makes going to work an adventure rather than a chore.

Because of its broad interdisciplinary nature, you can find students with a humanities degree in nearly every industry. This includes business, education, government, law, and art and design careers. Those with a passion for persuasion may pursue careers as public relations specialists, copywriters, and marketing managers. Graduates drawn to helping others may find rewarding positions as human resources specialists or teachers.

Students interested in languages may become linguists, translators, or teach English in foreign countries. Other graduates use their writing and research skills for roles in publishing and journalism. The possible career paths for liberal arts majors are diverse and numerous.

Humanities cover many disciplines, including philosophy and religion, languages and literature, cultural studies, and history. These disciplines explore how humans develop cultures and societies and interact with each other, enriching a student's knowledge of humanity and the world. Students typically take humanities classes as part of their general education requirements.

Some core courses may include art history, English, modern or ancient philosophy, and cultural and ethnic studies. Students may also choose courses in music, communication, theater, and theology. Common humanities classes include world mythology, Shakespearean literature, ancient Greek philosophy, and art appreciation.

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