Why the humanities?
For those who are passionate about the beauty of language and literature, the profundity of the human intellect, and the exploration of the intricacies of the human experience throughout the ages, the most obvious answer to that question is, "Why not?" Those of us who love the humanities believe that the primary purpose of a university education is learn everything we can about what it means to be human and to challenge ourselves to grow into better citizens of the world—to become better human beings.
Such an admittedly idealistic answer is, of course, often met with skepticism, especially in an economy where a college education is increasingly necessary to career success. The common assumption is that humanities degrees have outlived their usefulness and have become irrelevant in the new millennium, and that choosing a major in English, World Languages, History, or Philosophy is tantamount to choosing a life of perpetual underemployment. All the good jobs are going to STEM majors, right?
Wrong. While it's true that STEM skills are, indeed, valuable in an economy based upon the exchange of information and upon technology itself, those are not the only skills that employers find valuable. In fact, employers in a wide variety of fields are actively searching for candidates with other essential skills, such as:
- Critical thinking and analytical skills
- Strong verbal and written communication skills
- Creativity and innovation, especially in regard to problem solving
- Flexibility, especially the ability to approach an issue from a variety of perspectives and the ability to learn and adapt quickly in company- or industry-specific training programs, even without a highly technical educational background
- Greater ease in working collaboratively, especially in working with others from a variety of cultural backgrounds
Sound familiar? The skills humanities students develop and refine in class are the EXACT skills that employers are searching for in young job applicants. While your future employer may never ask you to recite a Shakespeare soliloquy from memory or discuss "The Allegory of the Cave" in a project meeting, your passion for the humanities can be personally and intellectually fulfilling AND professionally rewarding.
Want to learn more? Click on the links below to see what the professionals are saying.
- Tuajuanda C. Jordan, "Thinking Outside the Box," US News and World Report, January 12, 2015.
- George Anders, "That 'Useless' Liberal Arts Degree has become Tech's Hottest Ticket," Forbes, August 17, 2015.
- Yoni Appelbaum, "Why America's Business Majors Are in Desperate Need of a Liberal-Arts Education," The Atlantic, June 28, 2016.
- Abby Jackson, "Robots Threaten Jobs from Truck Driver to Wealth Manager - and It Changes How Graduates Should Approach the Working World," Business Insider, February 16, 2017.
- Peter Salovey, "Why we need the humanities more than ever, by the President of Yale," World Economic Forum, March 23, 2017.
- George Anders, "The Unexpected Value of the Liberal Arts," The Atlantic, August 1, 2017.
- Jeffrey J. Selling, "Six Myths About Choosing a College Major," New York Times, November 3, 2017.
Ready to join us? Check out our wonderful humanities programs:
If you would like more information about career preparation for humanities majors at U of M, please contact our Humanities Career Specialist, Jamel Major.