Put That Humanities Degree to Work!

The summer before I left for college I had a conversation with a distant uncle that I imagine is fairly typical of recent high school graduates. “So what’s your major going to be?” he asked me. “History” I proudly replied.  My answer was met with a brief silence and a confused stare until my uncle was able to muster out “History, huh,…well…what are you going to do with that?”  I was stumped.  Maybe I would go to law school, maybe I would teach. The idea of a post collegiate world was too distant and abstract for me to comprehend.  I chose to major in History because it interested me.  Fast forward to the summer before my senior year.  I was terrified. No longer was the post collegiate world some distant, abstract, idea.  It was a reality looming ever closer on the horizon. What on Earth could I possibly do with a History degree? All of the typical options (law school, grad school, teaching) were available but none of them appealed to me. I had no interest in running up more (a lot more) student debt, nixing the law school and grad school routes, and the thought teaching, being trapped in front of dozens of adolescents, terrified me.  What was I to do? Little did I know at the time but the increase in white collar and service jobs made my humanities degree much more desirable than I ever could have imagined.  My humanities classes taught me how to read and comprehend complex materials and endowed me with the ability to express my ideas through clear, concise, and coherent writing.  There are dozens of industries that value these abilities.  When searching for a job it is important to remember to market the skills you have gained from a humanities curriculum.  For those of you who, like me, are looking for a career that takes you in a direction other than the traditional grad school or teaching route I have outlined several non-traditional careers and why humanities majors are attractive to them.

Non-Profit Management
If you believe strongly in a cause and are interested in a job where you can make a tangible difference, non-profit work is for you.  Humanities graduates are attractive to non-profit organizations because they have the ability to problem solve, and think critically, logically and effectively.  In management you will be able to put your creative abilities to work developing fund raising initiatives and events.  As a manager you will be responsible for supervising and organizing volunteers.  This will require you to clearly and concisely communicate the organization’s goals and objectives, as well as the individual duties of each volunteer.  All those hours spent writing and re-writing your thesis papers will finally be paying off.  Although non-profit positions tend to pay lower salaries than their private sector counterparts, you will hardly notice the difference if you are truly passionate about, and inspired by, the work you are doing.

If you have always enjoyed a good detective story the prospect of actually becoming the detective should have you foaming at the mouth with excitementThe FBI (or Bureau for those of us in the know) offers exciting careers for humanities majors with a passion for criminal justice and a penchant for hands-on work.  Humanities graduates are attractive to the FBI because of our ability to analyze and synthesize important information.  Jobs with the FBI also require the ability to deal with mountains of paperwork.  Remember that 1000 page Tolstoy novel you had to read in a week? Well your ability to read long, complex, materials will be a major asset as you will have to read countless voluminous reports.  A career with the FBI offers humanities graduates the opportunity to be the detective in a real life crime drama.  Your humanities based education has prepared you for the hours of research required to bring the bad guys to justice.

Publishing houses are often interested in hiring people who have the ability to read, write, and speak in a concise and well organized manner.  Publishing offers humanities graduates a career tailored specifically to their interests and skill set.  Your love for literature and language will be satisfied as most careers in publishing involve reading and editing manuscripts.  Humanities graduates ability to read long, complex materials quickly as well as their knowledge of literature and firm grasp of the English language make them extremely attractive to Publishing houses.  Entry level jobs are plentiful in the industry and your humanities background makes you the perfect candidate.


The key to putting your humanities degree to work for you is to embrace the skills and lessons you learned during your college years.  Whether you  are a Philosophy, English, History or any other humanities major your ability to comprehend and communicate complex arguments makes you an attractive candidate for almost and white collar or service based career.  Be sure to present these skills in your resume and interview.  Do be afraid to look outside the box when considering your career options.  There are many more viable career choices than those listed here.  The most important thing to do when searching for a job is to identify and market the skills you have.  The sooner you are able to do that the sooner you will be able to put that humanities degree to work!

My Take
In the current economic climate it is important to identify and market the skills you have.  Earning a humanities based degree is not easy.  It requires the ability to read and digest complex arguments and ideas.  It also requires the ability to synthesize and communicate those ideas in clear and concise language. There are many careers out there which treasure a humanities graduate.



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