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

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Humanities students tend to work with ideas, which help them hone useful skills for work in numerous industries.

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A number of jobs now require at least a bachelor’s degree—a rise that has affected how people think about and choose their college major. Some majors (like business, computer science, or civil engineering) are considered more practical because they help prepare graduates to work in certain industries, while others (like English, history, and gender studies) are considered more theoretical because they help graduates develop valuable skills, like critical thinking and creativity, which could be applied to a number of career paths.    

A humanities major falls under the latter category. Students in the humanities tend to work with ideas, and through that practice, they hone useful skills for work in a number of different industries. Let’s dive deeper into the humanities major and the kinds of careers you can pursue after graduation. 

What is a humanities major? 

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. 

A humanities major can take one of two degree tracks: 

  • A Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in the humanities that includes studying a number of interdisciplinary subjects, including history, culture, religion, literature, and philosophy 

  • A Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in a specific subject that falls under the larger umbrella of the humanities, such as art history, women’s and gender studies, literature, philosophy, or a foreign language

Skills you can develop as a humanities major

Students interested in a specific career path tend to major in a subject that correlates with it. But as a humanities major, you can expect to advance your critical faculties and refine valuable interpersonal skills, potentially developing the following skills:

  • Critical thinking

  • Problem-solving

  • Communication

  • Collaboration

  • Research

  • Leadership

  • Empathy

In fact, LinkedIn’s list of the 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]. 

What's more, 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 a philosophy major can offer a unique perspective that helps them discover new insights into their user base.  

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, teaching, as well as many other types of work. 

Some common career paths for humanities majors include: 

  • Editor 

  • Marketing analyst 

  • Public relations specialist 

  • Event planner

  • Teacher 

  • Translator

  • Career coach 

  • Entrepreneur

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.

Typical skills:

  • Communication

  • Attention to detail 

  • Collaboration 

  • Ability to work independently  

  • Time management 

  • Project management 

  • Problem-solving 

Salary + job outlook

In 2020, the median annual salary for writers and authors  was $67,120, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the job is expected to grow by 9 percent over the next decade, which is as fast as average [3]. 

2. Legal assistant 

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 + job outlook

In 2020, legal assistants earned a median annual salary of $52,920 per year, according to the BLS. Those who worked for the federal government usually earned the highest wages, with a median salary of $69,490. In the next decade, the need for legal assistants is expected to grow at a rate of 12 percent, which is faster than the average career field [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 + outlook

In 2020, the median annual salary for a human resources specialist was $63,490 per year, according to BLS. Human resource specialists who work in professional, scientific, and technical services tend to earn the most. In 2020 their median annual salary was $71,960. The need for human resources specialists is expected to grow at a rate of 10 percent, or faster than average, between 2020 and 2030 [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 + job outlook

In 2020, school and career counselors made a median annual salary of $58,120 per year, according to the BLS, and jobs were expected to grow by 11 percent or faster than average [6]. Mental health and substance abuse counselors made a median annual salary of $47,660 per year, and jobs were expected to grow by 23 percent or much faster than average [7].

Next steps

With a humanities major, you may find a number of career possibilities. You can apply to earn your Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of North Texas. The degree is available in eight concentrations, including social wellness and community, media innovation, and consumer behavior. 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. 

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Article sources

1. 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 February 16, 2022.

2. BBC. “Why 'Worthless' Humanities Degrees May Set You up for Life, https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190401-why-worthless-humanities-degrees-may-set-you-up-for-life." Accessed February 16, 2022.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Writers and Authors : Occupational Outlook Handbook,  https://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm." Accessed February 16, 2022.

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Paralegals and Legal Assistants : Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/paralegals-and-legal-assistants.htm."  Accessed February 16, 2022.

5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Human Resources Specialists : Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists.htm." Accessed February 16, 2022.

6. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “School and Career Counselors and Advisors : Occupational Outlook Handbook,  https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm." Accessed February 16, 2022.

7. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors : Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-behavioral-disorder-and-mental-health-counselors.htm." Accessed February 16, 2022.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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