The Humanities: What Went Right?

20130703-210100.jpgThe search for what went right might take a hard look at the job market for our graduates. One recent survey, by the Web site payscale.com, paints a somewhat depressing picture of salaries, with humanities majors typically earning from $5,000 to $15,000 less than those with undergraduate professional degrees. Fifteen years after graduation, however, the recipients of terminal undergraduate degrees in the humanities are doing much better: Classics majors ($75,900) are outperforming accounting majors ($74,500); English majors ($65,500) are outperforming those in multimedia and Web design ($64,900); and history majors have caught up to nursing majors, at $70,200.

Undergraduate professional degrees frequently lead to relatively high starting salaries and relatively flat pay scales thereafter. Humanities undergraduates may struggle more in the first few years after graduation, but in the long run they frequently find career paths with greater long-term growth potential; the skills in reading, writing, and critical thinking that we all talk about turn out to have real-world uses. Students and the general public legitimately worry about employability, but there’s no reason for us to surrender to the mistaken belief that humanities degrees are a poor investment. —The Humanities: What Went Right? – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education.