By Jonathan Hogan
If you’re a humanities major, you may have received some pessimistic or rude comments about your choice of major. As a German major, I am personally sick of people thinking that all I do is study the language of German, and I’ve heard people tell English majors that they’re “majoring in a language that they already speak fluently.” Regardless of your humanities major, whether it be History, Gender Studies, a language, or something else, I hope you haven’t internalized the discourse that demands that your prospects are dim. As this article will demonstrate, humanities majors have the widest array of careers to choose from, making your problem not a lack of opportunities, but rather the difficult decision of which path to take.
Before delving into some of the main career paths taken by humanities majors, it’s worth mentioning that one of the distinct specialties of those holding humanities majors is finding niche positions to work in that likely won’t be enumerated because of their specificity. Thus, if nothing listed is in your interests, don’t fret! This is merely a broad and by no means an exhaustive list. If you know with all your heart that you want to work as a religious advisor at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, then go for it!
One of the most common majors that apply and are accepted to Law school is English. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as both humanities majors and law degrees require a mastery of language, as well as the ability to analytically read and critically think about texts. If a law degree sounds interesting to you, click this link to read an article on the first step to applying for law school—the LSAT.
Similar to Law, the field of publishing plays into a strong connection with written language. In comparison to Law, publishing places more of an emphasis on a love of books, networking abilities, and editing skills. For an article on what it’s like to work as an editor, click this link, and for an article on how to break into the relatively tight-knit industry, click here.
Okay, NGO can mean a lot of things, ranging from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative political think tank, to Médecins Sans Frontières; however, the humanities can also mean a lot of things, making NGOs a potential place of work for essentially any major. The Center for Reproductive Rights, for example, would pair nicely with the Butlerian gender theorist out there, and Public Allies, an NGO dedicated to social justice through representative leadership, would pair nicely with a History major, or really any major that focuses on inequality in general.
Another popular path for humanities majors is journalism. Because of the broad range of subjects that are written on, the only real requirement for Journalism is strong writing skills; however, Journalists are most effective when they can pair their strong writing skills with deep background knowledge in another area. For this reason, humanities majors are especially well-positioned to go into the field, as they typically command a deep well of knowledge on a specific topic, as well as immaculate writing skills.
For those of you who have read the above career industries and are struggling with the idea of giving up theorizing and researching for more general use of skills developed at Lawrence, academia might be for you. One of the major advantages of going into academia is that, if a doctoral program really wants you, they will ensure that you aren’t losing money when pursuing your degree through fellowships and undergrad teaching positions. That being said, academia in general, is going through a major upheaval in the U.S. and the humanities appear to be suffering more than STEM and Social Science Departments. When asking your favorite professor for advice about pursuing a doctoral program in a humanities field, a question that will likely come up is: “would you still choose to pursue your doctorate even if you knew that it wasn’t going to lead to a job in academia?” If the answer is no, then it’s probably advisable to find a different outlet for your passion. If the answer; however, is yes, then you’ve just determined your next step for after Lawrence.
A short list of five broad industries in which humanities majors typically find themselves working likely has not solved all of your professional development problems; however, hopefully, it has pointed you towards an industry that you might want to learn more about. In the worst case, however, this article can serve as a good tool for fending off anyone who’s mocking your decision to major in the humanities—just say you’re planning on going to law school 😊.
Jonathan is a Third Year German and Government major. He works as a Peer Educator to assist students in the CJW and GLI career communities. In addition to professional development, Jonathan is interested in the cultural construction of the modern nation-state, normative constraints on rational behavior, and all things German. You can schedule an appointment with him here to improve your resume, learn more about the CJW and GLI career opportunities, and work on anything else professional development-related.