There’s a lot of noise out there about which majors make the most money and are most employable. These lists tend to celebrate a few select disciplines—namely, engineering or medicine. They very rarely include anything outside of the STEM fields. With all this clickbait chatter in the background, it can be difficult to proudly declare yourself a humanities major.
There is also a lot of skepticism out there when it comes to what a career path may look like for those who study the humanities. As a former English major myself, I had to learn how to answer small talk questions. I learned how to answer, “What do you plan on doing with that major?” with a confident, “I plan on doing whatever I want.” All that noise about which majors are most employable is just that: noise. Despite the push for STEM and business degrees, graduates with humanities degrees are just as skilled as their quantitative counterparts.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at recent job postings across a variety of fields, whether it’s consulting, medicine, or data analytics… A survey conducted by LinkedIn ranked the most important qualities employers are looking for when they review résumés and cover letters for open positions. You might notice a surprising pattern. Strong communication skills and risk management are consistently sought-after requirements. In fact, “creativity” ended up as the most sought-after soft skill for employers. No matter what field you end up in, these skills are essential.
Humanities programs pride themselves on teaching students how to think, not just what to think. It is exactly this distinction that makes humanities majors so appealing on the job market.
Best of Both Worlds
All of this info isn’t meant to pit STEM fields and the humanities against each other. Contrary to popular belief, STEM fields and humanities programs aren’t as incompatible as some folks would have you believe. Pairing your humanities classes with other “hard skills”—a statistics course or a marketing analytics course—can make you even more appealing to employers.
There are plenty of ways to pursue a liberal arts–based education while also incorporating science and technology fields. There has been an increase in medical humanities programs, meaning a higher demand from students in prehealth tracks interested in taking liberal arts courses. Our own NYU Langone Medical Center Medical Humanities Division has been ahead of the curve when it comes to blending science with other disciplines. And at our Tandon School of Engineering, students have the option to pair their studies with an English minor. This track allows students to tinker with their writing skills and build a bridge between writing and engineering. These initiatives encourage cross-disciplinary engagement and create a more well-rounded work force for employers.
Choosing a major can be tough, especially if you’re fresh out of high school, where you don’t always have the chance to experiment with classes. As you prepare for college (and beyond), it is important to think about your passions but also how these passions will give you a useful skill set to pursue your goals.
If you are undecided, you should reflect on what skills you hope to gain from college. Think about what you actually want to learn. This will make college much more enjoyable, and in turn, make you more successful. Hard skills change all the time; a liberal arts education will prepare you to be nimble for any career you choose.