What Is a Humanities Major? (And What You Can Do With This Degree)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Humanities students tend to take classes that study culture and society, which help them hone useful skills for work in numerous industries.

[Featured image] A young woman with curly hair leans over a table with a laptop on it, holding a pen, and smiles into the camera.

Many jobs today require at least a bachelor’s degree, even if the job role itself has little to do with a person's chosen major. This rise has affected how people think about and choose their college major. Majors like business, computer science, or civil engineering are considered more practical because they equip graduates with technical skills to work in specific industries.

Others, like English, history, and gender studies, are considered more theoretical because they develop critical thinking and creativity. These majors, often considered humanities, could be applied to a number of career paths but are not well-suited for those who know they want to become a mechanical engineer.

Let’s dive deeper into the humanities major and the careers you can pursue after graduation. 

What is a humanities major? 

A humanities major is an interdisciplinary field that studies human society and culture. Humanities majors include art history, English literature, history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, foreign language, gender studies, political science, and theology. A humanities major is typically a bachelor of arts degree.

Many four-year colleges and universities require students to gain a liberal arts education during their first two years of study. Known as general education requirements, this coursework is meant to help students think about complex problems from a critical perspective. 

As a humanities major, you’ll continue this training by studying a field or subject from a historical or theoretical standpoint. The emphasis is less about developing industry knowledge or career skills, and more about being able to generate and analyze ideas, which in turn can help you produce other important skills. 

Read more: What Is a Bachelor of Arts and What Can You Do With It?

Skills you can develop as a humanities major

Students interested in a specific career path tend to major in a subject that directly correlates with it. But as a humanities major, you can expect to refine valuable skills, such as the following:

In fact, LinkedIn’s top five workplace skills that employers requested in 2020 are all skills that you would develop as a humanities major: creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence [1]. 

The humanities have become increasingly important in tech, finance, and other industries where “critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills” have become critical for growth and development [2]. For example, a tech company might have a glut of computer science majors but an anthropology major can offer a unique perspective that helps them discover new insights about their users.

What can you do with a humanities major? 

A humanities major often prepares you to pursue roles that require an understanding of people, creativity, communication, planning, problem-solving, and teaching, as well as many other types of work. 

Some common career paths for humanities majors include: 

  • Writer, journalist, or editor 

  • Marketing, social media, or public relations specialist

  • Event or experience planner

  • Teacher

  • Counselor or social worker

  • Translator or foreign language interpreter

  • Career coach 

  • Entrepreneur

  • User experience (UX) designer or UX researcher

  • Consultant

  • Historian or museum curator

  • Non-profit worker

4 jobs you can pursue with a humanities major

Beyond the roles listed above, let’s take a closer look at four specific jobs you can pursue as a humanities major. 

1. Writer 

Throughout your humanities major, you'll do plenty of reading, writing, research, and editing, which can prepare you for work as a writer. Writers work in a number of areas, including journalism, tech, finance, business, and marketing—to name just a few—and often focus on communicating important or interesting information to audiences.

Typical skills:

  • Communication

  • Attention to detail 

  • Collaboration 

  • Ability to work independently  

  • Time management 

  • Project management 

  • Problem-solving 

Salary and job outlook: The median annual salary for writers and authors is $73,150, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the job is expected to grow by 4 percent over the next decade, which is as fast as average [3]. 

2. Legal assistant (paralegal)

As a humanities major, you'll have the opportunity to gain skills in research, writing, and critical analysis, all of which are valuable to the legal field. Legal assistants help lawyers with a variety of tasks, ranging from document preparation to communicating with clients and witnesses. 

Typical skills:

  • Attention to detail 

  • Communication

  • Organization 

  • Research  

  • Teamwork 

  • Time management 

Salary and job outlook: $59,200 per year. Those who worked for finance and insurance usually earned the most, with a median salary of $73,050. In the next decade, the need for legal assistants is expected to grow at a rate of 4 percent [4].  

3. Human resources specialist 

In the way that a humanities major can prepare you to work with people and their problems, it can also prepare you to help a company find, retain, and grow talent. A human resources specialist assists with everything from interviewing and hiring to helping employees manage their benefits packages. 

Typical skills:

  • Attention to detail 

  • Communication

  • Decision making  

  • Ethics

  • Organization

  • Problem-solving

Salary and job outlook: $64,240 per year. Human resource specialists who work in professional, scientific, and technical services tend to earn the most. The need for human resources specialists is expected to grow at a rate of 6 percent [5].  

4. Counselor

Majoring in the humanities can help you develop unique perspectives about the pressing issues facing different individuals or social groups. Becoming a counselor can be an excellent choice if you enjoy helping other people solve their problems, though it may require additional credentials or training beyond a humanities major. 

Typical skills:

  • Collaboration

  • Compassion

  • Patience

  • Problem-solving 

  • Research 

  • Trustworthiness 

Salary and job outlook: School and career counselors make a median annual salary of $60,140 per year, and jobs were expected to grow by 5 percent [6]. Mental health and substance abuse counselors made a median annual salary of $49,710 per year, and jobs were expected to grow by 18 percent, which is much faster than average [7].

Get a degree in humanities

With a humanities major, you may find a number of career possibilities. If you’ve previously earned college credit, you may qualify to transfer up to 45 credit hours toward your degree and shorten the length of time it takes to earn. Take a look at Coursera's catalog of reputable bachelor's degrees in humanities.

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Article sources


LinkedIn. “Upskill Your Employees with the Skills Companies Need Most in 2020, https://www.linkedin.com/business/learning/blog/learning-and-development/most-in-demand-skills-2020." Accessed January 22, 2024.

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