The myth of the unemployed Humanities Major

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Humanities majors are often caricatured. Sometimes it is said that liberal arts students go to college to ultimately end up asking “Do you want fries with that?” Other times people make jokes asking “Why do so many homeless people know about Nietzsche?” A myth exists that humanities majors are unemployed and unsuccessful. This could not be farther from the truth.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has been tracking differences in the employment of graduates from various disciplines for years, demonstrating that all graduates see spikes and troughs in their employment prospects with the changing economy. And AAC&U’s employer surveys confirm, year after year, that the skills employers value most in the new graduates they hire are not technical, job-specific skills, but written and oral communication, problem solving, and critical thinking—exactly the sort of “soft skills” humanities majors tend to excel in.

A humanities degree cultivates the skill sought after by employers. Liberal arts students engage in problem solving routinely and must communicate their ideas clearly and effectively. The abilities they cultivated as students has already prepared them for the job market. Where other prospective employees may have a steep learning curve, humanities students come in better prepared with a breadth of experience.

These skill are recognized by employers, which is why humanities majors are not jobless – contrary to the myth.

In 2013, the unemployment rate for Americans whose terminal degree was a bachelor’s degree in a humanities discipline was 5.4 percent. That is slightly higher than the 4.6 percent unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders across all disciplines that year.  But it’s significantly lower than the 9 percent unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma or equivalent.

Humanities majors also have high wages.

The median salary for those with a terminal bachelor’s degree in the humanities was $50,000 in 2013—a little lower than the median salary for all bachelor’s degree holders ($57,000), but still much higher than the median salary for those with just a high school diploma ($35,000).

Don’t believe the myth! Humanities majors are employed and earn money!

You can read this piece here at aacu.org (Association of American Colleges and Universities)

 


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