In recent years, studying the Humanities has become increasingly less popular in favor of technical educations in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Many leaders across the country, in an effort to increase the number of graduates in STEM programs have proposed controversial alternatives to help bolster the number of STEM graduates.
Just last month, Kentucky governor Matt Bevin told the press that he wanted to redistribute the state’s higher education funding, allocating more money to universities which proved to produce the highest numbers of STEM graduates. In doing so, the republican governor believes he will be able to solve Kentucky’s STEM graduate shortage.
Bevin is just the latest of many to buy into the myth of the unemployable humanities major. As Wilson Peden of the Association of American Colleges & Universities has pointed out numerous times, “Earning a degree in English, philosophy, or art history will not condemn you to a lifetime of unemployment and poverty.”
In fact, in studying the humanities, you learn a variety of skills which employers value most in the new graduates they hire. Rather than looking for technical, job related skills, most employers instead seek out employees who have excellent written and oral communication, critical thinking, and problem solving skills–precisely the sort of skills students who study the humanities tend to possess.
With the sometimes overwhelming pressure to find employment immediately after graduation, many considering studying the humanities are considering the possible benefits to obtaining a degree in this field. Here are four reasons to consider studying the humanities.
1. The unemployment statistics aren’t as bad as you’ve been told
The unemployment statistics for humanities majors are stereotyped as being abysmal. But when compared to other majors, the statistics aren’t nearly as grim. In fact, some studies show that those who graduate with business degrees are the more likely to become unemployed, given that it’s difficult to find a career after graduation without obtaining an MBA first.
As noted by Business Insider, “The average unemployment rate for new graduates across all of the humanities is 9 percent, right on par with computer science and math (9.1%) and not too far off all majors combined (7.9%).”
As with any major, the chances of getting a career in your desired field increases as you gain experience and additional schooling, but statistically speaking, you’re just as hirable after obtaining a degree in the humanities as most other areas of study.
2. Studying the humanities gives you a necessary global perspective
In an ever-evolving global economy, business owners and civic leaders can turn to humanities majors in an effort to better understand, historical, sociopolitical, and cultural differences when interacting and expanding globally. In fact many large, well-known corporations have failed to expand into overseas markets because they didn’t take cultural differences into consideration.
“Some of the most successful American companies, including Walmart in Germany and TJK in Holland, have failed overseas because they did not understand how cultural differences would affect their business models,” explains Professor Harry Lane of Northeastern University’s School of Business, who has spent the past 30 years teaching individuals how to adjust to overseas markets. “Thanks to globalization, an executive deals with more organizations, governments, and people, many of which are vastly different from the entities the executive is accustomed to and from each other.”
People who have spent time studying the humanities, whether it be politics, sociology, anthropology, or languages are more accustomed to studying the history and culture of a region, adding helpful insights which may help for a smoother transition for business owners, leaders, and politicians in unfamiliar territories.
3. Those With High GPAs and The Right Degree Don’t Always Get The Job
Although GPA and specific degrees are important in some industries, many employers are looking to other factors before hiring employees. Google, for example, has moved beyond simply evaluating a candidate’s interview, test scores, and GPA, and have instead turned to behavioral interviews to assess qualified candidates. In fact, Laszlo Bock indicated in an interview with The New York Times that as many as 14 percent of the team at google had never even gone to college.
So, what are employers looking for if GPA and degree have become less of a consideration?
Some companies have begun to seek out employees whose skill-sets are adaptable and value those who possess high levels of social and emotional intelligence, especially when hiring managers. All of which are skill-sets students learn when studying the humanities.
Employers are also considering how candidates will fit into their already cultivated company culture more than ever, considering candidate’s personality assessments, and considering a candidate’s predisposition to uphold corporate values.
4. Short-Term Thinking About Shortages Oversupply the Workforce
According to The Washington Post, a generation ago, lawyers made more money than investment bankers. Fast forward to the present and the workforce is oversaturated with law graduates, while investment banks complain that there is a lack of talent to fill positions in their industry. While America may be currently facing a STEM shortage, reducing funding for humanities programs could ultimately oversupply the workforce.
While America does need to produce STEM graduates in higher numbers, there also need to be people equipped with soft skills that can push innovation in other sectors.
written by Danika Kimball