Degrees in the humanities have a lot to offer

The view that studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines is the only way to secure employment often surfaces in high school. I remember my math and science teachers lecturing students on how prioritizing their English readings over their math homework was setting them up for failure.

At university, I’ve heard people say things like “English majors will never get jobs” or “an art history degree isn’t going to prepare you for anything.” While I was studying statistics, I would tend to get compliments on how I had chosen a worthwhile degree. When I later mentioned to a professor my plans to switch to a more humanities-focused program, he cautioned me against it. 

Urging people to pursue a path that will set them up for a fulfilling life is commendable. However, assuming you know how successful a person will be based on their major represents a limited understanding of the role academia can play in people’s lives.

It may be true that most humanities degrees don’t feed directly into specific career paths. However, the lack of direct correlation between what someone studies in school and what career they pursue doesn’t mean their education did little to prepare them for life after graduation. 

Studying humanities has the ability to teach students how to absorb and react to different perspectives with a critical eye and an open mind. Pursuing an education that teaches you these skills is crucial to contributing meaningfully to one’s workplace and can greatly increase someone’s employability across a variety of fields.

A humanities education is also an exercise in empathy. Having the tools to learn from and engage with the opinions of others is a vital skill for collaboration in the workplace. Being able to engage respectfully with other worldviews is an important part of leading an informed and compassionate life.  

There’s no single right way to seek personal development through academics. It’s impossible to judge someone’s life prospects or work ethic based on their degree program. As peers and classmates, we owe it to one another to have respectful attitudes and open minds towards the different academic paths we all choose to take. 

Rebecca is The Journal’s Graphics Editor. She’s a second-year student in the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics program. 

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