What’s even the point of getting a humanities degree?
It’s a question that’s thrown around quite a bit when talking about college majors. With student loans rising exponentially, college is now seen as more of an investment than a center of knowledge. We’re spending so much money in order to get a job. The assumption is that our career will make up for that investment eventually.
That’s why a liberal arts degree is often seen as worthless or ‘just a hobby.’ It’s not something that is meant to be pursued professionally. And it’s an assumption that’s extremely misguided. By its definition, the humanities is the study of people. What are our beliefs and how do they translate into our way of life? A college education, at its core, is a chance to immerse yourself in many different topics. The humanities allow you to do this to a large extent. The human experience is as diverse as it is complicated; we are continuously learning about it. By viewing ideas from multiple perspectives, individuals can make more informed decisions. A humanities background allows an individual to not just understand themself, but to understand others.
As an aspiring English major, I’ve received my fair share of judgement for my decision. I’m supposedly spending out-of-state tuition just to learn how to read and write. This judgement comes from the fact that a humanities degree doesn’t have a direct correlation to a job field. By gaining a degree in STEM, there is usually a clear path. If you major in biology or neuroscience, you most likely want to go to medical school. If you major in a field of engineering, you want to be an engineer. The point being that these majors have a definitive end result. But that doesn’t make a non-scientific degree less valuable.
When most people hear I’m majoring in English, they assume I want to be an author. It’s the same one-track way of thinking that leads people to assume history majors want to be teachers. And that art majors want to be painters. Or that theatre majors want to be professional actors. When many times, these assumptions are just simply incorrect. The unique thing about life is that there are many different paths you can take. And your field of study has little or nothing to do with it.
When companies make hiring decisions, they are making an investment. They choose an employee because they can add to the company in a new way. Employers value liberal arts degrees because of their creativity and critical thinking skills. A humanities background allows a person to understand real world problems. These skills are valued and utilized in most job fields.
There is a stigma against humanities majors, and it’s ridiculous. It implies that one degree is more valuable than another. Yes, college is an investment towards a high-paying career. But it’s first and foremost a school. And all academia prepares students for the real world. It’s pretentious to assume otherwise.