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Your thoughts about humanities major? >>> Stop Worrying About the ‘Death’ of the Humanities

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Replies to: Your thoughts about humanities major? >>> Stop Worrying About the ‘Death’ of the Humanities

  • TheGreyKingTheGreyKing 2070 replies99 postsForum Champion Williams College Forum Champion
    edited July 8
    Unfortunately, I could not read the article due to the paywall, so I am responding only to the topic and the other posters’ comments.

    Proud parent of a future history major!

    Undergrad is an amazing, possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend four years entirely devoted to studying interesting topics just for fun.

    From Williams College, majors in all subjects from economics to biology to philosophy to French land all sorts of interesting jobs on Wall Street (consulting, investment banking) and elsewhere right out of college. Other students go on to get advanced degrees in an area that matches their career goals. One’s major is irrelevant to many jobs, and the skills of thinking, analyzing, and writing learned as an undergrad are helpful in any job.

    I do agree that which college one attends may impact the options that a humanities majors has. Someone who went to somewhere like Harvard or U Michigan at Ann Arbor will be well-regarded by employers regardless of their major. Also, there will be alumni connections to help you find a job. The point about internships above is a good one, too (for students at any college). And the field matters too— some require specific training before you begin, whereas others just require the types of skills any successful college grad will have at the start and then you can learn specific job-related skills on the job.

    I am interviewing elementary teaching candidates this week (for a public school district), and resumes where someone majored in something other than education, while still meeting their requirements for certification and showing a passion for teaching, always catch the committee’s attention. It is a sign of intellectual curiosity and vitality, which is something we value.
    edited July 8
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  • SuperSenior19SuperSenior19 173 replies7 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    If I'm being honest, there are some majors I've crossed off the list because it's "too hard to get a job"....but then again, I'm not sure that there's a major left on Earth that doesn't have a gloom-and-doom article written about its terrible job prospects. So it's all relative, in a way.
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  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom 1110 replies1 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    @TheGreyKing nice to hear that! Mom to a double major S17 - elem ed and history. Always thought the double major was a good idea because if he decides not to teach, he has a degree in something else.
    As a Sociology major myself, from a no name state directional, having worked my entire career in the financial services arena, all it takes is that first job.
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  • warblersrulewarblersrule 9981 replies170 postsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited July 9
    On top of that there are not many funded humanities graduate programs, unlike those in the sciences and engineering.
    Most PhD programs in the humanities are fully funded; MA programs are hit-or-miss. Regardless, the job prospects are terrible.
    edited July 9
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  • JHSJHS 18324 replies71 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 9
    I graduated with the mushiest of humanities degrees from a top college more than 40 years ago. So did lots of my classmates -- back then, English and History were the two most popular majors. My wife double-majored in Psychology and American Studies; anyone who looked at her transcript would have recognized that she had combined the two majors to create what would now be called Gender Studies.

    I don't think anyone ever actually worried about our ability to support ourselves. We were really smart and really competent, and college basically confirmed that. But even back then -- being smart and competent -- we figured out that no one was going to hire us to pontificate about literature or women's liberation. We had practical courses and practical internships on our resumes. The need for that may have intensified in recent years, but it was plenty apparent a generation ago.

    The other thing that is really not new news is the importance of graduate degrees. When I look at my college cohort, it is extremely hard to find people who did not pick up some sort of graduate or professional degree within a decade or so of college graduation. The few who didn't were (a) people with substantial inherited wealth who went to work in the family business (although many of those people got MBAs at some point), (b) some very successful journalists (a career path that has almost vanished), and (c) a few creatives in music or theater, and a handful in arts management. Only one of the engineers I knew never got an MSE, MBA, JD, or PhD. In theory, we could all get jobs with our BAs, and I certainly had some perfectly fine offers. In practice, graduate degrees were already becoming nearly universal.
    edited July 9
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77080 replies671 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    JHS wrote:
    In practice, graduate degrees were already becoming nearly universal.

    Perhaps among your college peers, but not in general. Of Americans age 25 and older, about 35% have a bachelor's degree, but only 13% have a master's, doctoral, or professional degree.
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  • homerdoghomerdog 4839 replies88 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 9
    Many of our friends from NU undergrad did not get graduate degrees and many are very successful having made good decisions going to work for start ups or they are in sales or traders. Many have already retired and are in their mid-50s. Some have hung their hats on their first careers and now do the work they’ve always wanted to do in non-profit. They can afford it because they did well for themselves in the for profit world in their 30s and 40s.
    edited July 9
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 2806 replies36 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don't think most graduate degrees in law are a good financial investment these days. For some, it works out, but there is a tremendous oversupply of lawyers. And MBA schools are much easier to get into these days as there is decreased demand by employers, and very few employers reimburse the cost of the degree. So I'm not sure graduate degrees are the safety net they once were, and they seem rather unpopular in the tech industry.
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  • bclintonkbclintonk 7651 replies31 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don't think most graduate degrees in law are a good financial investment these days. For some, it works out, but there is a tremendous oversupply of lawyers.
    This is correct as far as it goes, but it's perhaps misleading without some additional context. Newly minted JDs from the top law schools are much in demand once again, except possibly those at the very bottom of the class. Many T14 grads are landing jobs with Biglaw firms with starting salaries as high as $190K., but other employers are hiring, too. Beyond the T14, most quality law schools, including most of the better state flagships, are reporting strong placement results after some dismal years during the recent Great Recession. But many graduates of second- and third-tier law schools are still struggling---though again, those at the top of the class have better prospects than those at the bottom. There's also still an overhang of those who graduated during the recession and weren't able to land full-time entry-level legal jobs, a kind of "lost generation" who still aren't in great demand, apparently because employers prefer to take a chance on newly minted JDs over those who never found work in the field, which they fear might signal some kind of problem. So yes, there's an oversupply, but mostly it's an eversupply of graduates of less-than-stellar law schools, those who didn't do well in law school, and those who had the misfortune to graduate during the recession.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 2806 replies36 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Not entirely. Of those new t14 grads entering big law, over 80% will be gone within 5 years. That is both expected and normal-big law firms do not make many partners from their entering associate classes, it used to be about 2 out of a class of 50. Most of those departing go in house, to the government, or to smaller firms, at lesser salaries.
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 26656 replies174 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    not sure the numbers are quite as positive as your post seems to infer, bc. The fact is that we mint 2x the number of JD's that the nation can absorb. That trend has continued from before the recession. Thus, at least half of all JD's will not obtain a job for which they just spent the last three years of their lives and possible hundreds of thousands of dollars. (The COA for T14 is starting to exceed $100k per year.) Secondly, while you are correct that most T1e grads are doing well finding a job, the quality of life is about as bad as it can be. For $190k, the work hours are soul-crushing, so most leave within a few years. Moreover, getting into a T14 requires excellent grades and test scores. (While I realize that everyone at Lake Wobegone is above average, that is not true for all of the cc population.) Finally, the average law school's grads make no where close to six figures, so it makes no sense to incur a bunch of debt to attend. (OTOH, attending an excellent regional LS on big merit scholarship in an area that one wants to practice can be an good strategy.)
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77080 replies671 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    bclintonk wrote:
    There's also still an overhang of those who graduated during the recession and weren't able to land full-time entry-level legal jobs, a kind of "lost generation" who still aren't in great demand, apparently because employers prefer to take a chance on newly minted JDs over those who never found work in the field, which they fear might signal some kind of problem.

    This can occur at the bachelor's degree level as well, and is likely one of the reasons that graduates in economic downturn years tend to have depressed career and pay prospects even decades beyond.
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  • shortnukeshortnuke 517 replies10 postsRegistered User Member
    I was reading an article the other day that I think indirectly helps to explain why humanities majors are facing challenges in the job market. The focus of the article was the rising cost of college tuition from 1980 to 2018. It included stats on the percentage of the population with Bachelor's degrees. The number rose from 11-12% in 1980 to close to 35% in 2018. The percentage of the population between 25-29 with a Bachelor's degree is closer to 37%.

    Simply having a college degree is not enough for new graduates to distinguish themselves to employers the way it was 30+ years ago, particularly in an environment that is becoming exponentially more technical. For example, the critical thinking and communication skills typically associated with Humanities majors need to be augmented with more technical skills such as analytics, automation, information systems, and decision support technologies.

    That doesn't mean that Humanities are dead. It means they need to evolve in ways that incorporate STEM aspects. For example, Carnegie Mellon has several programs within the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences that include options for studying machine learning, statistics, organizational theory, etc. Vanderbilt's Peabody College offers a Human and Organizational Development major that I thought sounded really interesting when we visited (although D ended up going the Engineering route).
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