A: In the back of the mind of every higher education student is the looming question: will I be able to feed myself and my family after I graduate? The exorbitant costs of higher education and the dwindling job prospects in many traditional fields have put a crushing weight on students to study something that is assuredly marketable. There are no guarantees. Most people, no matter their education, are finding themselves shifting careers multiple times throughout their working life. Given the likelihood of working in multiple fields, it makes sense to gain educational skills that are useful no matter what you’re doing. That makes English and Humanities degrees a great pick, because of how transferable what you learn is. In a rapidly automating world, empathy, communication and textual analysis are all highly desirable, and still the domain of humans.
English and Humanities graduates can find themselves working in politics, communications, PR, advertising, journalism, reporting, arts administration/management, editing, education, library science, research, copywriting, marketing, social media management, finance writing, publishing, media and much more. Careers in English and Humanities aren’t always what you might expect, and prospective students shouldn’t necessarily get hung up on some diminishing traditional fields like print and journalism. Instead, students can look at the English and Humanities programs as an opportunity to build skills that can be used in a variety of fields, organizations and throughout their likely multifaceted working and personal lives.
Students interested in steady employment should emphasize the overlap between English and Humanities skills and the reliably exploding tech fields. Being able to describe, explain and convince others on the merits of developing technology, industry and innovation is extraordinarily desirable, and top employers like Google are reflecting that in their hiring decisions. Major tech companies once coveted STEM degrees above all others, but are quickly finding out that without a stable of right-brain dominant employees, it will be hard to operate at maximum efficiency. These organizations are increasingly relying on employees with strong emotional, social and communication intelligence, especially in managerial and outreach roles.
There’s been a precipitous decline in students seeking English and Humanities degrees recently, but it may be the result of melodramatic reporting on the job prospects for graduates. Studies from 2013-16 found that Humanities and English graduates faced similar unemployment numbers to majors in math, computers, psychology and social work. In 2013, only 5.4% of graduates with a bachelor’s in Humanities were unemployed. Research found that unlike other fields, male Humanities graduates with bachelor’s were slightly more likely to be unemployed than female grads. Among those with higher English and Humanities degrees, there was a negligible relationship between the genders and unemployment. It also found that graduates of English and Humanities programs weren’t that much more likely to be unemployed than those who graduated with degrees in other fields.
Remember, a glut of people rushing to earn degrees in business, computer science, engineering and math means other fields, including Liberal Arts studies become less desired, which decreases competition and increases their value.
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